Recently, I had the good fortune to spend a few days at The Golden Door spa in Escondido, California, a Zen sanctuary for body, mind and spirit rejuvenation. Beyond experiencing tai chi on a mountaintop at sunrise, healing massage, sound meditations and more, I spent some time with their chef walking in the garden and exploring his beehives. His passion for beekeeping got me thinking about honey, especially after he told me that it takes about 10,000 bees visiting 1.5 to 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey.
Bees are magical and industrious. And their labor-intensive liquid-gold product is somewhat of a miracle in itself. Honey has been used medicinally for its antibacterial properties and beauty components for many moons. Pots of unspoiled honey have been discovered in the tombs of ancient Egyptians, still preserved after thousands of years. The Egyptians used it to treat the skin, eyes and wounds, along with adding honey to their milk baths or facemasks. Today, honey is being touted as a superfood and natural remedy for various ailments.
One cool thing I didn’t know about honey is that its enzymes create a natural hydrogen peroxide. Honey also has B vitamins, vitamin C, and minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, selenium, chromium and manganese.
But not all honey is equal. There’s a good chance those squeeze bottles on the grocery shelf you might be buying are either fake honey or tainted, as many are watered down with high fructose corn syrup. A good rule of thumb for honey seems to be: You get what you pay for!
Raw honey is the way to go, and lately, New Zealand’s manuka honey has been on the holistic radar. Made from bees pollinating the Leptospermum scoparium flower, or the tea tree bush, this honey is useful to sweeten my hot tea and may soothe a sore throat. What makes manuka so special?
Manuka honey is so highly regarded and in demand that it has its own rating system called UMF (Unique Manuka Factor), a number reflecting its beneficial attributes. For it to be considered therapeutic, manuka honey has to have a rating of 10 or higher.
The aromatic manuka honey has floral notes and a rich, caramel-like taste, so it’s a treat to eat. You can up its flavor by adding cinnamon. You can also use it in a rejuvenating facial or add it to your shampoo.
If you want to try this coveted honey, Trader Joe’s sells manuka honey with a 10+ rating for $13.99 for an 8.8 ounce jar. That same size jar on Manuka Honey USA jumps to $45 when it has a 16 rating. Research your manuka honey source, as when using food as a healing therapy, the quality is extremely important. And if you are allergic to bees, beware because you do not want to potentially trigger a reaction. Also, children under 12 months shouldn’t be given honey. As always, check in with your doctor.
But keep manuka honey on your radar, as it may be the solution to superbugs and so much more!
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Journalist Ann Wycoff has written about wellness, fitness, longevity, travel, spas, food and wine for the past 20 years for magazines like Shape, Fitness, Spa, Outside, Travel + Leisure, Coastal Living, Redbook, Modern Luxury, San Diego Magazine, Redbook, Marin Magazine and more. She lives in Encinitas, California.