Honey is the most natural sweetener that we can use and without doubt, man has eaten it since the dawn of being man. Of course, we have to battle with the bees to get it. In the BBC series The Human Planet, we saw the tremendous lengths native man goes to in order to get honey – including free climbing trees a couple of hundred feet high, with considerable risk to life. Apart from anything else, it demonstrates what lengths we go to to satisfy our sweet tooth.
As pointed out in the video and elsewhere, honey has been used medicinally for thousands of years, being the first recorded antiseptic and antibiotic in recorded history.1 The video focuses on Manuka honey, the healing properties of which it claims are resistant to heat, storage and light. It also says that Manuka honey differs from other honeys in having a unique compound, unique Manuka factor or UMF in it, and it is this number, that runs from 0 – 30, that can be seen on the outside of jars of Manuka honey. The video says the medical grade, of most value for healing, is 16.
The other sort of honey to try to source is raw honey, preferably from local hives. This will contain pollen from the locality which is full of nutrients2. Raw honey is a good source of digestive enzymes, amylases, which helps with carbohydrate digestion. Amylases are present in saliva – a good reason for chewing our food well – but raw honey helps bump these up. Sally Fallon suggests that if eating a slice of bread with raw honey, we should leave it for 15 minutes to allow the honey to partially digest the bread, making it more digestible and slightly less bad for us. Unless the bread is made according to ancient methods, of course. See footnote. 3
The above video goes into the anti-bacterial qualities of Manuka honey and how it is starting to be used as an alternative to anti-biotics in dealing with infections. Because it works in a different way to anti-biotics – by drawing the water out of the bacteria, so causing it to die – Manuka honey is effective against resistant bacteria such as MRSA. Manuka honey is effective against many gut issues and also against many skin conditions, such as slow healing, acne, insect bites or athletes foot.
A brief word of warning – honey should not be given to babies under 1 since they lack the digestive fire to process it.
So maybe honey’s time is coming again. If raw honey cannot be sourced, then Manuka honey is a good alternative. Certainly the usual heat treated honey readily available in the shops carries very little health benefit and is essentially just another sugar, with all the attendant problems of sugar. And we still have to guard against our natural sweet tooth running riot and, by eating honey regularly, leading us developing a sweeter and sweeter tooth. Mind you, the one thing that protects most of us against excessive Manuka honey consumption is the price of it. Instead of being stung by bees, we get stung by the price.
- Radical Medicine. Louisa L Williams M.S, D.C, M.D [↩]
- Nourishing Traditions. Sally Fallon [↩]
- Sally Fallon is not against eating bread – but she does say we should soak the whole wheat or rye to counteract the anti-nutrients in it and leave it for a long slow fermentation period. The length of time involved to make bread is about 3 days. Yup, that really is going to happen. [↩]