The tradition of eating honey dates back easily 5,000 years. It is considered to be one of the best sweeteners by Ayurvedic practitioners, particularly for Kapha types. In addition, it has numerous medicinal uses.
Honey contains glucose, fructose, sucrose and a small amount of Dextrin. Together, these sugars restore the oxygen that is replaced by lactic acid when fatigue sets in, they build up tissue and make honey digestible. The latest research indicates that the pollen in honey contains all 22 amino acids, 28 minerals, 11 enzymes, 14 fatty acids and 11 carbohydrates,” as reported in the online article on “Traditional Uses of Honey in Ayurveda” on the Maharishi Ayurveda website. Unfortunately, most of these nutritive qualities are lost by heating the honey for commercial use.
To Heat or Not to Heat Honey
People who are severely allergic to bees should be cautious when consuming raw honey as bee body parts and occasionally bee venom may be contained in it. That said, Ayurveda teaches that one should never eat honey that has been heated, so pasteurizing the honey would definitely be unacceptable. If you’d like more modern reasons for not heating honey, consider this list from the Mockingbird Meadows website, entitled “5 Reasons You Should NEVER Cook With Honey.”
- Antioxidant content of raw honey is extremely variable, but the heat required for pasteurization (or baking) can reduce the amount by up to 1/3.
- Around the world most traditional medicine practices agree that heated honey has a negative effect on the human body. In the case of Ayurveda, it is believed that honey heated over 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) creates “ama”. Ama is the toxic residue brought on by inflammation and toxicity; it can easily be seen on the tongue.
- Honey that is heated becomes one-dimensional. It loses the subtle nuance of flavor that raw honey contains and becomes overly sweet and cloying.
- While the glycemic index of honey can vary depending on the type of nectar collected, it is in large part a low-glycemic index food. There is some evidence to support (the writer’s) belief that cooking or pasteurizing honey increases the glycemic index.
- Why pay high prices for honey that has been preserved in its natural, raw state only to take it home and kill it yourself?
Raw honey is universally seen as safe to use in hot tea or coffee, but it should never be heated. This includes baking it. Most honey purchased in stores, particularly those that are clear or do not state “raw” on the label, are pasteurized and heated to high temperatures.
What Is Honey Good For?
Honey is one of the finest sources of heat and energy, and is therefore, a boon to weak digestion. It is considered an all-purpose medicine for all types of diseases, including constipation and hyperacidity. Traditional ayurvedic experts recommend honey for cardiac pain and palpitation of the heart. It has also been used to build blood in cases of anemia, largely due to its iron, copper and manganese content. Its vapors were used traditionally to ease breathing in the case of lung imbalances, although honey aged for one year was typically used for respiratory conditions. Externally, honey soothes pain, acts as an antiseptic and hastens the healing of wounds.
Most of us know how soothing honey can be when we have a cough or a sore throat. It has also been used as a mild antiseptic for the gums and teeth; gargling with honey water is a useful way to prevent gingivitis. It tones the stomach to support proper digestion and decreases the overproduction of hydrochloric acid, thereby preventing symptoms like nausea, vomiting and heartburn.
It has been used for centuries to prevent insomnia. Babies generally fall asleep after taking honey. It can also be applied to the eyes to improve the eyesight and to prevent itchy eyes, glaucoma and conjunctivitis, to name a few.
Lastly, it provides energy and heat to the body in old age, simultaneously ridding the system of mucous while strengthening it.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.