Recently, when pollution hit an alarmingly high level, just like last year, we hit an even higher note of concern. And, just like the previous year, the government did squat about it. So we all set ourselves to finding cures for it. From helping in skyrocketing the sales of air purifiers to stuffing our houses with camphor and snake plants to the rafters, and gulping down jaggery by the kilo, we did everything in an effort to keep our lungs somewhat healthy or at best, least diseased.
Another natural product I turned to was honey, if not to fight pollution but at least to keep my cough at bay. Honey mixed with roasted ginger and black pepper is the best grandma’s cure for a cough, one that now finds scientific backing to suggest it may be even better than certain cough syrups in the market.
Don’t forget that honey is essentially stored bee food so it is naturally high in calories but it can still be marginally healthier than sugar, especially for diabetics. Sure honey isn’t quite the vitamin and mineral source (or fat, fibre and protein source) that many marketing claims make it out to be but it is rich in certain plant-origin bio-active compounds, which are good for us. It is also rich in antioxidants, an idea that is the single most important revenue-churner for the ‘reverse ageing’ cosmetic industry. But more than just reducing wrinkles, antioxidants can reduce chances of heart-related issues, and can even be anti-carcinogenic. It lowers LDL and blood pressure—two things that are good to sustain a healthy heart.
Clearly, the extra calories that honey brings to the mix are easily offset by the benefits it provides. So how does one choose a good brand?
Well, organic certification is always a good measure but it is an expensive one. So many producers may prefer to save the change and invest it in ensuring healthier beehives. One way to do this is the same way as McDonald’s does it, choosing the right location. The higher one goes in altitude, the more verdant and nature-rich the surroundings become, which allow bees’ access to better raw material. So you can have honey from all sorts of flowers to fruits like the Indian blackberry or even mustard.
Purity is a concern but don’t bother doing the burn test or the ‘does it hold shape when poured into water’ one. Most honey brands will ensure compliance there. Bees can make honey even in crowded cities but the quality isn’t great. Maintaining hives in high altitude farms is costly so when you see honey priced differently, apart from the pretty packaging, you may be paying for the difficult sourcing costs being incurred by the maker.
Sadly I don’t know much about reliable brands out there. Beechworth honey from Victoria in Australia remains a high reference point for me and every honey I try is compared against them. Locally, Societe Naturelle is made by a very health-conscious marathoner friend, who supplied me with some versions. It was much richer than any of the big brands out there. But expensive is not always better. Smaller producers stand a better chance of cornering this market. The writer is a sommelier.