Imagine a food so valuable that ancient Egyptians used it as money, ancient Sumerians wrote about it on their world renowned clay tablets, ancient Romans used it to pay taxes, and my mom insists on stopping at the farmers market to pick up a jar or two, even when it’s cold outside. This food does exist and is not caviar or sushi. . . it’s honey. Honey has a diverse range of uses, described in the Quran and current media, with two of the most well-known being medicine and food.

In the Quran it says, “And your Lord inspired to the bee, ‘Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and [in] that which they construct. Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you].’ There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought” (16:68-69). According to Hadith, the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him [PBUH]) said, “Make use of the two remedies: honey and the Quran” (Tirmidhi) and “Honey is a remedy for every illness and the Quran is a remedy for all illness of the mind, therefore I recommend to you both remedies, the Quran and honey” (Bukhari).


Honey as Medicine

The Prophet (PBUH) is known to have recommended honey for ailments. However, religion is not the only place where honey is lauded for its medicinal qualities. In the article “Honey’s Unknown Benefits,” Dr. Lindsey Duncan, a well-known neuropathic doctor and nutritionist, writes that honey’s antibacterial properties can help prevent infections, and its thickness can prevent dirt and bacteria from making their way into small wounds. Scientists have already begun to use honey as a way to prevent the proliferation of bacteria, and at the Society for General Microbiology conference in England, honey was discussed as a possible method for reducing antibiotic resistance, as described by reporter Cynthia Graber in the April 2011 issue of the Scientific American.

According to a report compiled by Reza Yaghoobi, Afshin Kazerouni, and Ory Kazerouni published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Honey has antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties […] can be used as a wound dressing to promote rapid and improved healing […] leads to pain relief in burn patients and decreased inflammatory response in such patients […].” The report goes on to say that these benefits can be attributed to honey’s hydrogen peroxide and antioxidant content, as well as its antibacterial action, high acidity, and osmotic effects. The report concluded by saying, “Honey has almost equal or slightly superior effects when compared with conventional treatments for acute wounds and superficial partial thickness burns.” However, it is recognized that more research is needed before honey has a solid recommendation for commercial medical use.


An Alternative Sweetener

The prospect of dabbing honey on an oozing cut isn’t particularly attractive; the culinary uses are much more appealing. With sugar substitutes such as Splenda and Equal being attacked by the health world, honey is praised as an all natural alternative. According to Women’s Health magazine, “Nicola Starkey, PhD, a senior lecturer at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, recommends that you substitute sugar with honey anytime you would normally go for the white stuff or artificial sweeteners.”

You can add a spoon of honey in your tea in place of sugar, but honey can also be used as a replacement for sugar in recipes. Since honey is sweeter than sugar, use about half or one third as much honey as the recipe calls for to replace granulated or table sugar. Honey contains more than 10 percent water (around 17 percent on average), so reduce the liquid needed in the recipe by one fifth. If baking sweets, the oven temperature should be reduced by 25 degrees Fahrenheit when honey is used. To keep honey from sticking to utensils, coat them lightly with a vegetable spray. It’s helpful to use honey in baked goods being shipped long distances, such as when mailed to your college student, as it can help foods retain moisture. Honey can also be used as a glaze on baked and roasted foods since it promotes browning or used as a seasoning for fish and cold meats. It is also useful for stabilizing salad dressings. Mix honey in your yogurt and you get a healing dose of antibacterials and probiotics. Raw honey also has its benefits. Honeycomb, the purest form of honey, has many of the same benefits as liquid honey, but can be eaten in the solid form. It tastes great when paired with apples or cheese. Honey right from the honey comb also has all the main amino acids.

Whether straight from the honey comb or out of a bear-shaped bottle, honey has loads of benefits. It’s delicious, sweet as sugar, and has enough medical benefits to be given a chapter in a medical textbook.

Taskeen Khan is an award-winning author based in the Chicago area. She also writes for The Glenbard and Islamic Horizons.