What about Honey?
Author: Linda Sinden Date Posted:15 July 2020
With the increased awareness of the negative impact of white sugar do you find yourself looking for alternatives to sweeten your drinks or to add to your baking? It is understandable if you have chosen to substitute with honey thinking you are making a healthy choice. As the Winter season deepens, you may find yourself wanting to have a lemon and honey drink with turmeric, ginger and cinnamon to help with sniffles or just because it tastes good!
What do the Ayurvedic texts say?
In the Charaka Samhita, the authoritative writings on Ayurveda, verse 243-248 Charaka explains that improper intake of honey causes the most severe ama (impurities). In particular, if honey is heated above blood temperature Ayurveda guides, it can be fatal due to its association with poisons.
When taken correctly, the medicinal properties of honey are ‘yogavahi’ - able to act as a carrier or agent that enhances the properties of the food or nutrients taken with the honey. The traditional formula Chyavanprash is ‘yogavahi’. It is traditionally used to help promote lung health, as a tonic for energy and vitality, to boost natural immunity, support bone and heart health, fertility, memory, digestion, metabolism and healthy liver function. This formula is beneficial at this time of the year if Vata is strong in you by nature and if you are in the Vata stage of life - over 50 years of age.
Fresh, raw honey is considered a medicine that helps reduce Kapha and congestion, and in small amounts helps to balance Vata too.
What happens when honey is heated?
When looking to understand further, I came across an interesting story. When a Beekeeper needs to calm the bees of a hive before tending to the hive or harvesting honey, they spray honey water on the hive. The bees become more docile, and the Beekeepers can go about their work safely. When honey water used heated honey, an unexpected thing happened; over the following days, all the bees in the hive died. In contrast, when the Beekeeper made honey water from unheated honey, the hive was calmed, and no unusual deaths of bees occurred over the next few days.
When honey is heated or stored for a long time modern research explains its properties change caused by a browning effect called the Maillard Reaction; where the sugar and fructose change their chemical composition, and the production of a toxic substance 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) increases. HMF levels increase when honey is heated or caramelized, as a glaze on baking, or used in heated breakfast cereals, bread, cakes, slices and other baked or cooked foods.
Interestingly modern research indicates that when honey is heated much of the nutritious benefits of the pollen in honey - amino acids (22), minerals (28), enzymes (11), fatty acids (14) and carbohydrates (11) are lost—another good reason to take honey no warmer than lukewarm.
How is honey used traditionally?
Honey was considered a precious gift of bounty from nature with unique nutritional and medicinal properties. Traditionally honey is deemed to
- Be a boon to those with weak digestion
- Support all the organs in the body
- Be an all-purpose medicine or tonic
- Be helpful with constipation or hyperacidity when taken first thing in the morning:
- One spoon of fresh honey, juice of ½ lemon mixed into a glass of lukewarm water. (The water feels the same temperature as your skin.)
- Honey-lemon juice water fast can be used for obesity without loss of energy and appetite
- It is also traditionally recommended to support heart health and health of the arteries
- Help with building of healthy blood due to the iron, copper and manganese it contains and helps support the right balance of haemoglobin and red blood cells if there is a tendency for anaemia
- Support lung health and some texts recommend the honey be one year old to help balance respiratory issues. Interestingly one text suggests if a jug of honey is held under the nose of a person having asthma, and the person inhales the air that has come into contact with the honey, then breathing can become more relaxed and deeper for about an hour or so. This result could be due to the vapours from honey’s ‘higher’ alcohols and ethereal oil, providing a soothing and beneficial effect. The honey can also be eaten or taken either in milk or water.
- Be useful when applied externally to wounds and sores, burns and carbuncles, helping to soothe pain, hasten healing and provide an antiseptic effect.
- Provide a soothing effect on inflamed mucous membranes and thus be useful with irritating coughs or difficulty swallowing.
- Be helpful for getting to sleep. One recommendation is to mix two teaspoonfuls of honey with a big cup of lukewarm water and drink before bed.
- Aid in keeping the mouth healthy as it has mild antiseptic properties. Honey can give a sparkle to teeth, help prevent decay and the deposit of tartar at the base of teeth and increases the vascularity of gums to help keep them healthy. With mouth ulcers, honey helps in the early healing, reduces bad odour and is useful as a gargle to help reduce inflammation of the gums.
- Help improve eyesight and is traditionally considered helpful with itching of the eyes, conjunctivitis and other eye issues.
- Support proper digestion and maintain the health of the stomach and may help in the prevention of stomach disease. Interestingly it also helps to decrease the overproduction of hydrochloric acid and is therefore helpful with nausea, vomiting and heartburn. If ama (impurities) have accumulated in the digestive tract taking honey helps to clear waste out from the alimentary canal.
- Provide energy and heat to the body in old age also helping to dry up phlegm and mucus that can build up at this stage of life. Taking one or two teaspoons of honey in a cupful of boiled water cooled to lukewarm is both refreshing and strengthening.
Isn’t it amazing the health benefits of honey! When precious Ayurvedic herbs are mixed with honey at a low temperature over several months then something pretty special is created - Amrit Kalash Nectar which is one of the components of the Amrit Kalash Duo. That is why the Amrit Kalash duo is the foundation product in our Longevity Club. To learn more about the Longevity Club select here>
Wishing you the bliss of balance today and always.
Linda Sinden and the Get Balance Team