“Time for bed, Elise,” I tell my 3-year-old. “Go get your spoon.”

She knows exactly what I mean and races over, tripping in her haste to get to the silverware drawer. It’s time for her “honey medicine.”

We started the routine one cold winter night when she had a hacking cough that just wouldn’t go away. A friend suggested that we try giving her a spoonful of raw honey since studies have shown that honey is actually better than cough syrup — without all the yucky chemicals, too. (1)

We love honey at our house. I drizzle it over oatmeal, slather it on peanut butter sandwiches, and include it in my favorite granola recipe. But I like it because it’s also relatively good for you. Unlike refined sugar, honey has lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes. It has a lower glycemic index than sugar does, allowing for a more gradual (and better-for-you) release into the bloodstream. Honey has been valued for thousands of years because of its numerous health uses — in an article called “Honey and Its Uses,” a University of Florida (Gainesville) professor noted, “Honey has been used successfully as a wound dressing because of its bactericidal properties, the result of hydrogen peroxide produced by the enzyme, glucose oxidase. It is also superior first aid for burns; the honey seals off the injured area to air currents, reducing pain and possible infection.” (2)

Raw honey, like plenty of other raw ingredients, carries the risk of contaminants in it. But for our family, the benefits outweigh the risks of not actually consuming real honey. The FDA says that honey isn’t truly honey unless it has pollen in it, yet a 2011 study showed that a lot of the honey samples taken from major grocery store chains and tested by experts showed no pollen. (3) The fascinating article went on to explain that samples taken and tested from farmer’s markets, co-ops, and health food stores generally contained pollen, especially if they were labeled “raw” or “organic,” but many honeys at regular grocery stores didn’t because of an ultrafiltering process that removed all traces of pollen. Since pollen’s source is local blossoms, the article went on to explain that the type of pollens that are found in honey is what tells botanists where it originated — and with countries like China trying to offload cheap honey laced with yucky substances, the source is important.

Even if you’re not comfortable with raw honey, choosing a local, reputable source is a better bet for ensuring that your honey is real honey, with all the health benefits that go along with it.

And who knows, maybe you’ll start looking for a spoonful before bedtime soon, too.


1. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/08/01/peds.2011-3075.abstract)
2. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/aa154