Thursday, February 26, 2009

Healing With Honey

The ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans all considered honey a basic component of any first aid kit and today, we're hearing more and more about honey's healing power, from helping to suppress a child's cough to aiding in weight loss.

Recently, my son had croup. Actually, we were struck with it twice this winter, along with a slew of cold viruses. I had read that honey is an effective alternative to cough syrup for children and I decided to give it a try. Of course, he was thrilled to have a big tablespoon of honey (squeezed right out of the "honey" bear) and it really did seem to help his cough.

Researchers at Penn State tested honey against dextromethorphan - the active ingredient in cough medicines - as a cough suppressant for children and found honey to be more effective. It seems that honey's "sweetness" is its active ingredient for coughing. "The brain part that registers sweet tastes and the part that causes coughing are located near each other so sensing the sweetness may affect coughing" states the author of the study. The research went on to be published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The only caveat to this is the age of the child. Honey should never be given to a baby less than a year old due to the risk of botulism.

The verdict is still out on this next "sweet" honey benefit but the research has been published. A 2008 study in the Journal of Food Science linked honey to weight loss! Scientists reported that rats that were fed a honey-sweetened diet gained 23% less weight than those that ate foods spiked with refined sugar. The rats were tracked for one year. The lead researcher did add that the honey that was used for the study was high in antioxidants. Most of us use the most common honey - clover. The clover "honey" bear is quite cute, particularly for children, but this type of honey doesn't have many more antioxidants than refined sugar.

We live in one of the best parts of the country for honey. There is simply no reason to buy honey at our grocery stores when it is produced locally. Try a new variety for yourself and for your child (for medicinal or just enjoyment purposes!). The downtown Sunday Farmer's Market (located under the freeway) has a great honey vendor who has several varieties of local, luscious honey (and he even has bear shaped, plastic containers!).

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