Honey is an ancient food, in more ways than one. Honey was used in prehistoric times—cave paintings indicate that human beings were already using honey in their diets 8,000 years ago, and honey residue has been found on vessels in the Caucasus that date back five millennia. In addition, honey is one of a very small number of foods that, properly stored, does not spoil. Those ancient honey deposits are just as good as honey harvested last week.
Perhaps it is this longevity that inspired physicians of antiquity to look to honey to heal and preserve people. Honey was used to dress wounds and in medical compounds, and the ancient Greeks consumed it in an effort to live longer. In fact, many religious traditions use honey to represent health, long life, and the pursuit of the eternal.
Modern science has actually confirmed some of this ancient knowledge, and added more discoveries to the list. Honey has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, meaning its use in wound dressing actually has sound science behind it. This same property also means honey is good against ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders caused by bacteria. On the other hand, honey is also a good choice to help maintain and replenish the good gut bacteria that are needed for proper digestion. In addition to that, honey is a good source of antioxidants, meaning that it can help prevent heart disease. Honey’s precise mix of sweeteners helps regulate blood sugar, and makes it the best choice for athletes in training. Possibly one of honey’s best known benefits is in fighting cold symptoms and easing sore throats, especially in hot tea.
It’s not all good news, however. Honey is hypoallergenic, meaning that honey allergy, though possible, is extremely rare. However, there is a slight chance that honey will carry botulism spores. Adults generally shrug these off—those good gut bacteria neutralize the spores so they don’t do any harm—but in infants, these gut bacteria are still developing, meaning honey and products containing honey can be dangerous to infants under 12 months.