By Christopher Cudworth
That said, I don’t expect all that much from my honey other than it sweetens cereal and oatmeal for breakfast.
There are people, especially some honeymakers and beekeepers, who like to make claims that honey does all sorts of things for the body. One honey maker I’ve met even claims that it prevents or cures cancer. She sells organic honey out of her home on a backstreet in our hometown. When you drive up to her place the bees are buzzing all around the flowers out front of her home. She sells the honey she gathers in oversized jars for $15 a jar. On the jar she wraps a sheet detailing all the ways that honey can cure diseases if used correctly. I’ve read it, but don’t know what to think, exactly. I like honey because it tastes good.
The bold claims of health benefits from honey seem to stretch things a bit. The evidence of what honey can do to promote good health (WebMd article) seems to boil down to a few proven benefits.
Honey really can help with cough suppression, and a form of honey that is treated with ultraviolet light, called Medihoney, is also helpful in curing wounds. Never knew that. Perhaps cyclists should be rubbing honey into their road rash to heal up quicker? Why not give it a try? You’re already sticking to your clothes anyway…
The science of honey
I consume honey nearly every day. Some people claim it helps suppress allergies. Still others actually take bee pollen for similar reasons. Only the science doesn’t exactly line up. The type of pollens collected by bees when they’re wandering around sipping nectar to make honey do not align with the type of pollens blowing around on the wind, released by plants such as trees and ragweed.
We all know tons of people with allergies and how they suffer through the various types of pollen seasons. Many runners I’ve known over the years struggled through the early part of fall cross country season until the first frost when their allergies would finally clear up. In fact our team had to run back the course after one race to find one of our teammates that had collapsed from lack of oxygen while running. It gets that bad.
Begging for a cure
So one can hardly blame allergy sufferers for trying to find remedies, especially natural remedies, to combat the sneezing, itching, wheezing (sounds like a commercial I’ve heard…) of allergy season.
But honey isn’t that remedy, most likely. It does go well in hot tea, which I use to soothe a sore throat and to warm my up the sinuses if a cold catches me off guard. I much prefer the use of zinc to ward off colds, and have turned that process into something of a fine art. But if I start the zinc too late and the drainage signaling a cold starts making red marks on the back of my throat, hot tea is a good counter remedy and the honey somehow seems to help as well. Throw in some chicken soup and you’re good to go.
Overtrained, and honey didn’t help
Back when I was a chronically overtrained distance runner it was common to have 2 colds per season, spring and fall. The first cold would come on after too many speed workouts early in the season, and would not be too bad usually. The second cold would slam home late in the season if I got worn down. That’s how I learned so much about warding off colds and treating them once they hit. That’s how zinc, not honey, came to be the principle tool in warding off colds. I use it because it works almost every time.
Excuse me honey
But the transition to using honey in place of sugar or brown sugar on my cereal took place gradually. Refined sugar is an odd substance anyway. All pasty white and shit. That can’t be good for you, right? Yet we eat tons of the stuff hidden in all kinds of foods. Even crackers for God’s sake. Sugar is everywhere. We eat 95 to 100 lbs. of the stuff every year.
Diabetics know these facts. They monitor their sugar intake and blood levels and apply insulin to manage it all. Those of us free from such worries go merrily along our way chomping up sugar like it is the food of the gods. But it isn’t. It is the food of Satan, if you believe in such things, causing all sorts of health problems, especially obesity and contributes to heart disease, cancer and a host of other illnesses. Yikes. And despite the contentions of the Rolling Stones, brown sugar is not much better for you. Although I used to think it was. And the lyrics of that song make you want to at least visit New Orleans.
Against the granular
So rather than play the granular sugar game I gradually switched over to honey and somehow feel a little less guilt putting a tablespoon of sugar on my cereal each day, or a little on toast. An organic peanut butter and honey sandwich on wheat bread is a pretty sweet treat. You get some plant protein and a honey fix at the same time. Plus, something chemical happens between the honey and bread and peanut butter, making the honey crystallize somewhat into the bread. I think it’s magic, but I haven’t look that up yet. Try it, you’ll see.
All told, honey is just a liquid form of sugar with a whole lot of mysterious other mostly natural ingredients mixed in. But they say that feeding honey to infants in a no-no. Apparently there are small amounts of baddies like E.Coli and salmonella that creep into honey. Our grownup bodies can fight these with antibodies built up from years of eating crap that’s not good for us. But a baby’s system doesn’t have those antibodies, so it’s best to avoid giving honey to babies.
For all the gels and drinks and everything else on the market, I’ve come to believe that the best thing I could do before a long ride or run is gobble down some honey. It digests fairly easily, provides some natural go-juice and doesn’t make me barf along the way. And that’s a honey of a deal no matter how you look at it.