Honey is the sweet product of the extraordinary work of the honey bee hive. Honey bees, Apis mellifica, transform plant nectar and other plant secretions into a stable sugary substance; this glowing serum is full of extraordinary beneficial components. Honey bees produce honey to support their hive and when given space and resources, they can build beyond the needs of their hive (Sammataro and Avitabile 2011). Honey is sustenance not only for bees and humans, but other animals consume honey as well.
Honey that has not been treated, heated or filtered is called raw honey. Honey that is not raw may have been exposed to heat and processed in various ways. Heat reduces live enzyme activity in honey and alters some of the beneficial qualities.
In a fresh state honey is fluid, but as soon as honey is separated from the honeycomb, it may divide into two layers. Certain types of honey granulate faster than others (Sammataro and Avitabile 2011:174). As honey ages and begins to separate, often there is a solid granular lower layer and a more liquid upper layer (Green 2000:244). The granular layer is composed of more sugar while the upper layer contains more water. Some consider honey that has become granulated to be spoiled, but hold on to that jar friends! It is perfectly usable and can be gently recombined by placing the honey jar in a pan of warm water until the crystals have dissolved and are reincorporated into the mixture.
A blend of a variety of sugars, trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids, raw honey is nature’s perfect sweetener (Sammataro and Avitabile 2011:169). Raw honey is a functional food, meaning it is a natural food with health benefits. In addition to having antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties, raw honey promotes the growth of good bacteria in the intestine.
Studies have shown that a daily dose of raw honey raises levels of health-promoting antioxidants in the body. Raw honey has been used as medicine since ancient times. It boosts the immune system, acting as a preventative against any number of diseases. It’s also a great energy boost, and has been called “the perfect running fuel.”
Raw honey is a great wound and burn remedy. Due to its antimicrobial properties, honey deters bacterial growth and can help keep wounds clean (Sammataro and Avitabile 2011:175). Honey adds a protective layer to wounds that are in the process of healing, acting as a buffer between the germy outside world and the open wound. Honey stimulates new tissue growth helping to reduce scarring.
With its antiviral, antioxidant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and emollient properties, honey brings aid to a wide array of situations. Honey brings aid to wound care, respiratory issues, relieves dryness and pain in the throat, treats coughs, and can be applied to blemishes to reduce inflammation and helps as a medium in topical herbal applications such as an herbal plaster. Raw honey has unique properties making it an essential part of your kitchen apothecary.
When talking about honey, we can’t forget about honey bees. It is important to support bee health and create environments conducive to bees thriving. One way to lend a helping hand is to plant bee beneficial flowers. Some of the most bee friendly flowers include Allium, Borage, Coneflower, Cranesbill, Daisy, Heather, Helenium, Lavender, Sage, and Thistle. Let’s help pollinators thrive!
- Green, James. The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual. Crossing Press, 2000.
- Sammataro, Diana, and Alphonse Avitabile. The Beekeeper’s Handbook. 4th ed., Cornell University Press, 2011.
RAW APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
The word vinegar comes from the Anglo-French vinaigre, meaning “sour wine” (“A Short History of Vinegar”). Various types of vinegars are available, but raw apple cider vinegar is at the top of the healthful vinegar list. Prioritize organic vinegar when reaching for this salubrious ingredient, as apples are heavily sprayed fruits, which readily transfers to vinegars made from those fruits.
Raw apple cider vinegar has many health benefits, and as such, it has been both historically and currently popular with researchers and health care professionals. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is simply vinegar made from fermented apple cider. Unfiltered or raw ACV contains a murky substance called the “mother”, which contains enzymes, proteins, and good-for-you bacteria. Apple cider vinegar that is not raw, that has been heated or has removed the “mother”, will not contain the nutritional enzymes and bacteria. We choose organic raw ACV for making our products, as we want minimal processing and all the plant goodness in each bottle.
In addition to raw ACV having nutritious qualities in of itself, raw apple cider vinegar is excellent to extract healthful minerals, vitamins, and medicinal qualities (including antibacterial and antiviral properties) from organically rich plant ingredients (Green 2000:181). This makes vinegar a superb liquid from which to make nourishing herbal preparations. Vinegar is a good carrier for plant nutrients, meaning it extracts valuable phyto-nutrients that humans can readily absorb.
Raw apple cider vinegar has regained popularity over the last few years because of its glowing health benefits. Several studies have shown that taking 1 to 2 tablespoons of raw ACV before or during a meal significantly lowers post-meal blood glucose levels. A study shared in Diabetes Care found vinegar ingestion helped significantly improve insulin sensitivity by up to 34 percent in those with either type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance (Johnston et al. 2004). Vinegar can help keep blood sugar levels stable after eating.
ACV has been shown to help improve high blood pressure. Acetic acid a main component of ACV has been shown to improve heart health and reduce blood pressure. Regular consumption of raw ACV helps with satiety and has been shown to promote weight loss, alongside other healthful consumption choices (Link 2019). An old remedy for nausea from food poisoning, eating rich foods or overly fermented foods is small consistent doses of raw ACV (Pitchford 2002).
Raw apple cider vinegar contains probiotics and enzymes, which support gut health. Increasing beneficial bacteria in the GI tract boost overall immunity and absorption of nutrients from digesting foods. Acid reflux can be the result of low stomach acid; if you have low stomach acid, taking ACV with your meals can increase the acidity in your stomach facilitating digestion and the movement of food through your GI tract.
Consumed in moderation, with it’s sour and bitter taste, raw ACV can be helpful for liver cleansing (Pitchford 2002:205). Raw ACV is alkanizing to blood helping balance internal pH and can encourage lymphatic drainage making it a useful tool for gentle detoxing.
Raw apple cider vinegar is a meaningful part of your kitchen apothecary. With many uses as a daily tonic, it also stands in for more acute moments. Use as a gargle for a sore throat or taken with warm water and honey, it can soothe a dry throat. Dabbed on sunburn and poison ivy, it can help calm irritated skin tissue and it works wonderfully as a facial toner. Raw ACV is great to have on hand for whatever may come your way.Sources:
- Green, James. The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual. Crossing press, 2000.
- Johnston, Carol S., et al. “Vinegar Improves Insulin Sensitivity to a High-Carbohydrate Meal in Subjects With Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care, vol. 27, no. 1, 2004, pp. 281-282, doi.org/10.2337/diacare.27.1.281. Accessed 5 January 2021.
- Link, Rachael. “Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits and Uses (30!).” Dr. Axe, 28 May 2019, draxe.com/nutrition/apple-cider-vinegar-uses. Accessed 5 January 2021
- Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. North Atlantic Books, 2002.
- “A Short History of Vinegar.” Womersley Foods, Accessed 5 January 2021.
Rosemary, Rosamarinus officinalis, has a beautiful, ancient reputation in folklore as an herb for remembrance. Even Shakespeare found it worthy of noting; he wrote, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” It has also been shown to promote cognitive function and memory, relieve mental fog and depression. Rosemary was traditionally used in Europe for gaseousness, nausea, liver headaches, and biliousness.
Rosemary’s powerful antioxidant qualities make it beneficial for preventing arteriosclerosis and other types of oxidative damage. Rosemary acts on the metabolism, enhancing the burning and consumption of blood sugar and fats. Another benefit of its stimulating qualities is Rosemary’s effect on activating smooth muscles whereby it can influence arteries, stomach, intestines and gall passages; plus, Rosemary has the attribute of also relaxing voluntary muscles. A valuable plant indeed!
Rosemary has an affinity for the blood organs particularly the lover, heart, lungs, spleen and kidneys. For external use, Rosemary oil can be used in a liniment for bruises and strains, paralytic affections, and muscle tension and it has also been used to stimulate hair growth.
Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is an ancient Mediterranean remedy. Thyme stimulates the thymus gland, which can in turn strengthen immunity. Thyme’s potent volatile oils, including thymol, make it stimulating and diffusive. This is particularly helpful for respiratory issues of all types including bronchitis, coughs, stuck mucus, sore throat, laryngitis, post nasal drip. Thyme can act as a bronchodilator relaxing muscles in the lungs and widening narrowed airways. With its carminative qualities, Thyme aids digestion warming the stomach and stimulating gastric secretions.
Orange Peel, Citrus sinensis, has been traditionally used in both Western European healthcare and Traditional Chinese Medicine. With a long history of use as a carminative, it is used both as a tincture and a water infusion (tea). Orange peel is used in a variety of stomach complaints including: nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite. The strong properties of orange come from the essential oils found in the peel. Orange peel has an affinity for the Stomach, Lungs, and Spleen. Orange peel can be an ally for respiratory conditions such as a cough and chest discomfort. It can be used alone, but more commonly it is used as part of a respiratory or digestive formula.
Calendula, Calendula officinalis, brings sunny possibilities no matter the season. Known as inner sunshine, Calendula brings lightness to hearts and spirits. Originating in lands of current day Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa, this revered herb has been ascribed numerous medicinal attributes, used in traditional cookery, graced gardens and moved poets to write prose. In mild climates, Calendula has the capacity to bloom through all the months of the calendar, hence the origin of its Latin name. Calendula shines as a medicinal herb with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antiseptic and astringent qualities. Calendula is a long standing wound healer helping heal superficial skin complaints of inflammation, scrapes, cuts, insect bites, bruises, infections, rashes and diaper rash.
Garlic, Allium sativum, is an ancient but also enduringly relevant plant, garlic’s importance in the kitchen and in health is long standing. Notable herbalist Rosemary Gladstar says, “Were I forced to have only one herb in my kitchen, garlic would be at the top of the list.” The potent smell we attribute to garlic is due to its sulfurous allicin compounds that are stimulating, detoxifying and antimicrobial. While Garlic has strong antibiotic qualities, the sulphur in Garlic also stimulates the metabolic system. Garlic is nutritive making it both catabolic and anabolic. Meaning Garlic helps the body eliminate waste material, plus it supports proliferation of helpful bacteria and builds replacement tissue. When the cellular structures of Garlic are crushed an enzyme called alliinase is released, this eventually converts to a biologically active (and pungent) compound called allicin. Allicin is potent medicine, but it is deactivated by heat. Therefore, cooking Garlic makes it less biologically active.