Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. You should always consult your family physician before beginning any herbal or over-the counter treatment for any condition. The information presented below is for educational purposes only and suggests items to have on hand when licensed medical care is not available.
A simple online search for the medicinal uses of honey yields dozens, if not hundreds, of hits, including all the health benefits of honey. It’s touted for helping with all manner of problems, from acne to weight loss. We’ll stick with what honey is most especially used for in a true medicinal sense. After all, our honey supply may be limited and taking a teaspoon every day for allergies or in the evening to sleep better will exhaust our stores quickly.
First off, studies have shown that honey is more effective at quieting a cough in children than any over-the-counter cough syrup. Parents also reported that their children slept better. However, honey should never, under any circumstance, be given to a child under 12 months of age. It should be noted that the FDA has recommended removing many children’s OTC cough syrups from the shelves because of adverse reactions. Fortunately, we have honey. Just a teaspoon or two is all that is needed. And it works for adults as well. Also, honey tea does a tremendous job soothing sore throats. Just remember, when making your tea, boil the water first, remove from heat, and then add the honey. Boiling honey will reduce or entirely negate many of its medicinal qualities.
Dr. Joseph Alton, author of The Survival Medicine Handbook, notes that honey was used to treat asthma in 19th century. Patients were directed to breathe deeply from a jar of honey, and improvement usually occurred within a few minutes. To decrease the number of future episodes, doctors advised drinking one teaspoon of honey in twelve ounces of water three times per day.
As far as healing wounds goes, honey works in much the same manner as sugar. Wounds, especially chronic wounds that aren’t healing, have an alkaline pH, which provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, especially MRSA. Honey (and sugar) are acidic, so they alter the pH and this kills the bacteria. Honey may be spread directly on a wound and over the surrounding edges, but it will probably be more comfortable for the patient if the honey is spread on some gauze first and then applied to the wound.
Honey is also an excellent treatment for burns, whether first- or second-degree, and may even be used with third-degree burns when there is no higher care available. After the burned area has been cooled with running water for 15 minutes (not just immersing the wound in water, but running water), apply a generous amount of honey. For third-degree burns, make sure this is very thick and covering the entire burn. Per Dr. Alton, cover the honey with cling plastic wrap (the colored stuff found around Easter and Christmas is thicker and easier to manage) or a waterproof dressing and tape in place. If the dressing begins to fill with oozing fluid, change the dressing. The worse the burn, the more often the dressing will need to be changed, but make sure to change the dressing at least three times per day. Continue for at least seven to ten days. Do not wash off the honey for at least 20 days (unless the burn has healed). Add more honey as needed, always making sure that there is a thick layer that goes beyond the edges of the burn to prevent infection and promote healing.
[Editor’s Note: The above paragraph requires a clarification. The human body continues to burn for at least one hour after exposure. Use of plastic wrap is only indicated after the burn has been cooled to below the body’s core temperature. This will take much longer than 15 minutes for anything more than a first-degree burn.]
So what kind of honey should you use? What is best? You can buy ridiculously over-priced manuka or Medihoney if that makes you more comfortable. Manuka is what is most often used in medical studies. But regular doctors like Dr. Alton and those who have taught the classes I attended say we can use *any* pure, raw honey. Your best bet for getting real raw honey is going to be from a local beekeeper. An awful lot of grocery store honey is adulterated with high fructose corn syrup, glucose solutions, or even just water. There are numerous tests you can perform at home to determine if your honey is pure or adulterated, but I’m not going to go into those. For me, the true test, the easy test, is if the honey has crystallized either partially or completely. The fake stuff will never crystallize. The real stuff almost always will eventually.
A couple of years ago my in-laws were going through their old food storage and were getting rid of two forty-year-old four-gallon tins of honey. They were planning to give it to their youngest daughter to feed to her livestock. Fortunately, my husband stopped by first and brought them home for us. (We have livestock, too, but not as much as his sister.) And to heck with the livestock, that honey was for *us*. So I asked Dr. Steve about using this really old honey medicinally on wounds. His reply was that as long as it was pure (the honey was completely crystallized), there was no problem at all.
In our trailer this summer, I found some older, unopened one-ounce jars of honey that I had totally forgotten about. They’re the little jars that come in gift baskets, or with room service in a hotel. Anyway, they had partially crystallized, so I knew they were pure and put them in our medical kit. If you have some jars or packets of honey lying around at home and you’re wondering about whether they’re pure, try putting them in the fridge or freezer. If they are pure honey, they will crystallize.
Note, again. Honey should never be given to children under the age of twelve months.
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The above article is by Jennifer Rader of PrepSchoolDaily, and is printed here with permission.