Thursday, April 21, 2016

**ApothaCare** My Love of Honey

I'm going to do a little bit of a series on honey. For this first post, I figure I'll just go over how & why I came to love honey, then I can go into some general information about it. But, first, a little prelude:

When I was still getting used to not being as healthy as I had been pre-illness, I knew I wanted to explore a more natural lifestyle. Growing up, I knew of (or was even related to) people who relied heavily on "natural" medicines and remedies for just about everything health and beauty related.

"Back home", there were people who had a mouthful of healthy teeth well into their elder years (and they'd never used anything but tar or tree branches for dental hygiene); pregnant women ate more of certain foods while avoiding others (to benefit their unborn); women doctored pre-existing cosmetics - or just made up their own (because what they needed didn't exist); and I know that there were many herbs and oils used regularly that we ignore today. (By the way, here is one person's story of the healing power of honey.)

Of course, I also come from a line of people who didn't have the best diets. People in my family have died of various cancers, complications from high blood pressure, and heart disease. This was a big factor in my wanting to do things differently.

I no longer eat pork like it's a daily dose of nutrition, I stopped indulging my chocolate cravings on a regular basis (bye bye Snickers!), and I gave up soda a long while back in my late thirties. I refuse to give up my beloved java, and a couple of less-than-healthy habits are.... well, that's always going to be a battle.

The biggest health decision I made in the past few years was to work really hard at what I can control while fighting the good fight against tougher bad habits.

Now, what I am good at is learning to like things that are healthy for me. Eating more vegetables and "good" foods is never a struggle for me. Exercising gets easier as I lose more weight. And, of course, I just love some things that can be healthy. This brings me up to my love affair with honey.

Honey is, basically, good for me. In moderation. If it's the good stuff. If I use it right.

I can (and do) regularly use honey as a food, a medicine, and a hair and beauty product. It's usually both affordable and readily available where I live. In addition to the "Desert Honey" I've talked about, here are some of my favorite types of honey:

1 - The Really Raw brand of really raw (seriously) honey is probably my all-time favorite (my "mostest" favorite!) The texture is so beautiful. I joke that it's probably as about as raw as you can get without licking the butt of a bee.

What I really love about this is that there are actually pieces of the honeycomb (and the propolis and pollen) in the jar. The label tells you about chewing these crunchy little "cappings" like gum and that's exactly what I always do! I can never wait to get a new jar home so that I can scrape some of the surface where these pieces rise and settle. Yum.

Another reason I favor this honey is the price. Even for Alaska, it's affordable and reasonable. For the 8oz jar that I usually get, the price is around $12. Not bad, right? Also, because it tastes so good and feels really nutritious, I never use a lot at one time. Some people like to use their honey on toast, but I no longer eat much bread. What I like to do with this one is fight a craving for junk-like food by slowly eating a small bit off the spoon. (Note that I don't use this for my honey-water drinks. Those cappings that taste so good, aren't very appetizing when floating around in water. Plus, it's not as much fun if I can't just chew those pieces!)

Finally (and this is something I never noticed until I was writing this post) the jar is labelled with this info: "Really Raw Honey never spoils, it lasts indefinitely." I do need to start paying more attention to things!

 2 - Y.S. Organic Bee/Eco Bee Farms brand of organic raw honey is my standard fave. When I am super tightly budgeted, I can always get this in one of the various sizes. For the 8oz jar, I pay about $10. I really trust this brand as much as I trust Really Raw.

It might upset some people to know that I'm not a fanatic about things being "organic", but I am a complete maniac for raw honey.

When I was first using a lot of honey, I shopped purely based on prices. I'd go to Walmart and grab the biggest bottle of honey that I could find. I needed to be thrifty because I was using that honey for all my needs - food, face and hair.

Once I learned how unreliable the quality is for most brands of honey, I became a lot more picky. I still use the cheaper stuff for my hair and face, but I prefer saving up and very carefully using the good stuff for my nutritional needs.

This raw honey is really yummy and creamy and just so nice for any kind of food use.

 For folks who do care deeply about things being organic, this qualifies, I think. Mainly, I just really trust the brand and like the taste of this honey. It's the honey that I use in my honey-water when I do my once-a-month liquid fasts (which I outline at end of post).

By the way, for calorie counters, in my opinion, I think honey makes a nice substitute for white (and even some other types of) table sugars. When I eat honey, I think of the calories as being "nutritious calories".

3 - My jar of Tupelo Honey is also from Y.S. Eco Bee.  Despite loving the heck out of the Van Morrison song, I find this honey almost too sweet. That's not a bad thing because I love to put that sweetness to good use. When I am drinking green teas (which I need to drink more of), or doing a honey-water fast, I can add the tiniest bit of Tupelo honey and get all the sweetness I need in that little shot.  (And.  trust me, if you use certain teas in your honey-water fast, you will want some sweetness...) This is probably the best honey ever to sweeten hot cereals with. Just remember that a little bit is all you need!

 4 - This Antioxidant Power Honey is one of the special blends from YS Eco. I like it for 2 main reasons: first, it's raw and, second it's a blend of 4 types of honey that I can't afford to buy separately.

I have never tried Buckwheat or Manuka honey of any type, but I've had various other floral honeys. I get this one especially because it contains Manuka honey. (I will talk a lot about Manuka honey in the next post.)

The next image explains some about the benefits of certain types of honey.

 So, those are my staple honeys. As much as I have used honey for the healthy benefits, it wasn't until recently that I started to look into details. Some of what I have learned was pretty interesting:

  • The reason you shouldn't feed honey to infants less than a year old is because it could cause infant botulism. Go ahead, check out the info for yourself.
  • One of honey's components is... hydrogen peroxide. To clarify, honey contains an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide. Still... Wow, Who knew? Not me.
  • It is Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-fungal: “All honey is antibacterial, because the bees add an enzyme that makes hydrogen peroxide,” said Peter Molan, director of the Honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.(source(I will get back to to part of this point in the post on Manuka honey.)
  • Honey might possibly help with memory retention. Key word: 'possibly'. (source)
  • Helps wounds heal. (I remember my mother and other elders using honey for this when I was young.)
  • Is good for hair and skin care.
  • Is generally more nutritious than sugar (even though it's usually higher in calories).
  • Eating honeycomb is common, but you can cause yourself serious stomach problems if you eat too much of it!
Another thing I learned while researching some of this is that there are many, many more types and varieties of honey than I ever imagined. Right now, I'm pretty thankful that between my local health food store and my Amazon Prime membership, I can surely find whatever kind I want to try.

Since there are so many kinds of honey, it's easier to list where you can do your own research than it is to list the honey. So...
If you are interested in honey, I hope this was a good start to the series. Next up will be


P.S.: About my honey-water-tea fasting

Honey-water fasting is something I find really easy and simple to do about once every other a month. I need to work up to doing it more often and for longer periods of time, but... baby steps... 

For 1 or 2 days, I will attempt to go without solid food. I'll just sip on honey-water with maybe a tea bag thrown in the mix. If I am just super hungry, I'll drink a little warm chicken broth until the craving for something heavier passes. I know that some people do this for weight-loss reasons. For me, it's just a nice and (pretty much) easy way to let my body rest from the inside. Surprisingly, I never even thought of these days as fasting days. I always just thought that I was making myself depend on the nutrition of the honey and hydration of the water and teas to beat fatigue. Maybe because honey tends to be one of those "whole foods", I don't usually feel hungry enough to break the fast for anywhere from 12 to 30 hours. Having the broth helps because it has so much flavor after hours and hours of nothing but honey, tea and water! 

The best thing about this is that, for a day or two, I can let my body sort of clean itself out. It's great when I've been hitting the fast food or a lot of meat (okay, pork) for mealtimes. I guess because I don't set such strict guidelines for doing it, I never feel as if I'm suffering. Like I said, if I do get hungry, I can eat something really light and healthy. I will usually eat a little bit of honey (the Really Raw kind)  off of a spoon. Now if I could only do my fasting for prayer and meditation so well!