Although honey is best known for its delicious stickiness, it has other uses as well. Still-edible honey has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs centuries later. What makes this golden liquid last for hundreds of years? It’s all in how it’s made.
Honey is made by bees. Honeybees are the makers of the honey that humans consume, but there are a few other species that make it to feed their larvae as well. Honeybees just make a lot of it.
Bees collect nectar from flowers. Nectar has a high water content and low sugar content. The bees carry this in their honey stomach and transfer it to house bees when they return to the hive. The house bees add some enzymes to the nectar and deposit into a honeycomb cell in the hive. The bees will then work to evaporate the water from the nectar until it has a very low water content – usually below 18 percent. It is this very low moisture and high sugar content that gives honey the following special properties:
1. Wound care – Honey is naturally antibacterial and this can help cuts, scrapes and burns heal faster. The low moisture content inhibits bacterial growth and forms a moisture barrier giving your body protection while healing. If you cannot find an antibacterial ointment, put a few drops of honey on the pad of a bandage before applying to a wound.
2. Acne treatment – a dab of honey will inhibit bacterial growth. Often acne will irritate skin and honey will sooth skin by attracting moisture.
3. Care packages – When you are sending cookies or brownies to college students or service men and women, honey will keep your cookies moist. Honey is a humectant meaning that it draws moisture into itself.
4. Preservative – Honey never goes bad and this can help to preserve other foods such as fruits and cheeses and even in some cases, meats. This is an ancient idea and has newer scientific evidence behind it. Honey will produce low levels of hydrogen peroxide which can kill bacteria. Honey’s low moisture content and the physical barrier combined with the way the sugars break down into hydrogen peroxide, make honey an excellent preservative.
5. Weight loss and diabetes – Honey is a sugar but unlike most other types of sugar, honey contains many other nutrients. Check with your doctor about your diet, but if you are able to consume sugar, honey will make an excellent substitute.
To get the maximum benefits from honey, use raw, local honey, and keep in mind that heating or exposing honey to sunlight will change the properties of the honey.