Have you ever wondered how bees keep honey that stays fresh and unspoilt, despite beehives being set up in an environment rich in bacterial interaction? More importantly, how does the food of bees, painstakingly collected molecule by molecule, become a medical superfood for the mankind?
Honey might be the sweetest medicine in the world and the earliest known use of it as a medicine is found in Sumerian clay tablets, which is about 4000 years old. Yes! It certainly is the best natural antibiotic known to man.
Here is how honey can benefit you –
How honey’s sweetness makes it a potent medicine – It is made up of two types of sugars, namely glucose and fructose, and only 17% water. The two types of sugars present in honey draws water and when bacteria, fungus, mold, etc. enters your body, it sucks out the water from these foreign bodies, therefore killing them. And, this is how honey’s sweetness makes it a potent medicine.
Honey as naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide – It is common to have honey diluted in water – honey is often used in teas, herbal juices, or other concoction. Glucose oxidase, an enzyme in honey makes hydrogen peroxide when honey is diluted with water. Interestingly, this naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide isn’t triggered immediately, but in a slow release, making it safer than applying H2O2 directly to wounds. Hydrogen peroxide serves as honey’s primary attack on microbes.
Honey is a natural antibiotic and helps in healing wounds – Antimicrobial agents can fend off attacks from harmful infection, but resistant pathogens can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics. Honey is considered as one of the most important alternative plant-based remedies in a comprehensive antimicrobial approach. In some cases, hydrogen peroxide is destroyed due to heat, or presence of other chemicals. However, there are other active compounds in honey that makes it powerful as an antibacterial agent. These include methyl syringate and methylglyoxal, antibacterial compounds found in honey from the manuka tree. Ancient Roman and Egyptian soldiers used honey as a battlefield dressing, and research has shown that honey is efficient in chronic wound infection treatments where conventional antibiotic treatment does not work. Manuka honey and Tualang honey are famous across the globe for their effectiveness against microorganisms.
What makes honey a great sweetener?
With so many benefits offered by honey, there is no doubt that honey is great sweetener. However, there are much more to just how you can benefit from honey. Here are certain aspects, which makes this natural sweetener great.
Doctors treating severe burns often report antimicrobial resistance, and honey’s numerous antimicrobial properties against antibiotic-resistant organisms, is seen as a powerful alternative remedy. At the same time, honey also serves as a nutritious tonic, providing naturally occurring flavonoids and other polyphenols, which may function as antioxidants.
Presence of Methylglyoxal or MGO – Found in certain natural honey (e.g. Manuka honey), which is recently found in Manuka honey, Methylglyoxal (MGO) is an antibacterial compound.
Presence of Bee defensin-1 – The food provided to the larva of the queen bee (royal jelly) contains bee defensin-1, a protein known for its antibiotic property. It is being considered as the basis for the new generation of drugs to treat burns and skin infections, as well as antibiotic-resistant infections. Even when hydrogen peroxide and MGO are neutralised in honey, bee defensin 1 maintains honey’s antibacterial activity. It is believed to protect both royal jelly and honey against microbial spoilage inside the hive.
Presence of pH – With a pH of around 3.5, diluted honey provides an acidic environment which slows down the growth of disease-causing bacteria. The combination of honey’s hydrogen peroxide content, its high viscosity providing a strong barrier to bacterial infection and its ability to speed up healing makes it a powerful natural medicine.
How to preserve this natural sweetener for several years?
Who would not want to preserve this natural sweetener that comes with a plethora of benefits for years and pass it on to their next generation? I am sure every one of us would want to do it and keep our loved ones healthy. With so many benefits, pure honey is scarcely available and if not stored properly it will not last long. In addition, the colour, viscosity, flavour, texture and its aroma changes if not stored properly. A lot depends on how and where you store it.
- Honey should be stored in a cool and dry area, away from the sunlight
- It should be stored in a place where there is minimum fluctuation of temperature
- Never use wet spoon in the container where you have stored honey
- The ideal or the best temperature of storing honey is between 70-80°F
- You can freeze hone because when it is frozen, it will never crystallize and lose its important nutrients
- It should be either stored in repurposed glass jars, glass canning jars, plastic food grade buckets, and plastic containers.
These are some of the ways to store honey for a longer duration; however, if you have bought a large quantity to use it for a long duration, it is better to store it in smaller as well as usable quantities in order to avoid crystallization.