by Madelyn Morris, MS, herbalist and owner of Mickelberry Gardens
The honeybee worker is a master herbalist: she travels to a wide variety of flowers to gather nectar, and with the help of her sisters converts this nectar into honey. This process involves time, special enzymes in her saliva, and the fanning of many worker bee wings to evaporate moisture. The final product contains the essence of millions of flowers, tiny pollen grains, and healthful enzymes. Raw honey that has not been heated above 95-100° F keeps these elements preserved the best.
Local raw honey is a medicinal food and an excellent complement for many herbal preparations. Its sweetness is useful for helping disguise or improve the flavors of bitter, less palatable herbs—honey can be mixed with powdered herbs to form small pills; this enables bitter herbs to be consumed. Honey can also be used as the base for herbal syrups, complementing and enhancing the flavor.
My personal favorite preparation of honey and herbs is an oxymel, which is a combination of raw honey and raw apple cider vinegar that has been steeped with different medicinal plants. Honey is an excellent addition to herbal teas, to sweeten and provide soothing and relaxing qualities to the brew.
Honey can also serve as a gentle solvent for extracting the medicinal properties and delicate flavors of plants—fresh harvested rose petals infused into honey for several days or weeks, warmed gently, and strained makes a fabulous preparation called “Rose Miel”. This summer I plan to try making a Jasmine Flower Miel with the insanely fragrant star jasmine vines in my garden that begin flowering in late June.
Beyond being a natural and delicious sweetener, honey offers many natural benefits to the body. Honey is antimicrobial, so it can help fight viral and bacterial infections. Its thick, syrupy nature is soothing on inflamed tissues, making it a very useful application for sore throats and coughs. This effect occurs on honey’s journey down the esophagus and into the stomach, where it relaxes and soothes the digestive system.
In Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional system of natural medicine from India, raw honey is considered to help deliver the healing properties of herbs deeper into the body and to direct and guide the herbs to where they are intended to provide benefit. Ayurvedic texts are also very clear that honey should only be consumed raw.
Honey is also valuable for healing skin problems externally. Its antimicrobial and soothing properties are very useful in application to the skin, particularly to soothe burns and other types of skin wounds. Honey can be applied directly to the skin, and covered with a clean cloth or bandage as necessary.
Honey is an amazing gift from the bees that benefits our health and wellbeing in many ways and helps make our lives a little sweeter.
Recipe: Honey Nut AmazeBalls
Mickelberry Gardens was founded by the husband and wife team of Madelyn and Matt Morris in 2012. They provide organic and herbal bee products for your health in Gresham, Oregon. For more information visit www.mickelberrygardens.com.