HONEY AND ITS AYURVEDA RECOMMENDATIONS
A common joke about food is that anything that tastes good is probably unhealthy for you. Thankfully, honey goes against this thumb rule.
Known as madhu in Ayurvedic texts, this sweet substance is considered a superfood – apt, also because it is the only food, which when stored properly can last forever without spoiling – offering medicinal benefits through internal and external applications.
In combination with other ingredients and on its own, honey is used for everything from beauty potions and as a diet aid, to treating lung ailments, cough, phlegm, eye diseases, diabetes, vomiting, asthma, diarrhea, healing wounds and more.
So, what is the Ayurvedic take on honey? Various types of honey are used in over 600 Ayurvedic remedies. Apart from building immunity or ojus, honey, which is sweet and astringent, is also considered to help absorb the medicinal properties of other ingredients better and faster into the tissues, and stimulates the digestive fire or agni, helping break down the food we consume into nutritive and nourishing elements for the body.
How is this different from other sweeteners? In Ayurveda, sweeteners, such as sugars, maple syrup and others, are considered cold and oily and dampen the digestive fire, while honey, which is warm, ignites it. So a honey-based sweet, rather than a sugar based one, is the better way to end a meal. Even jaggery and molasses are good on this account.
Speaking in terms of doshas or physiological-mental break-up of each person as classified in Ayurveda, honey is known to balance the kapha-pitta doshas (kapha type is usually distinguishable as those with heavy-set bodies, which pitta is more muscular), which can be a cause for weight gain, fluid retention and allergies.
How much honey can be consumed in a day?
Of course, Ayurveda recommends everything in moderation and the same goes even for honey. About three teaspoons a day is a good upper limit. Honey has lekhana property which means it is good for combating cholesterol and general weight issues. The remedy is to consume a teaspoon of honey in lukewarm water on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning.
For coughs, a spoon of honey, good for its natural antibacterial qualities, at bedtime is considered a beneficial remedy. It can be mixed with ghee to apply externally on wounds.
But here is the catch, while the honey-ghee combo – which is a mix of warm and cold – makes for a powerful tonic, it must be carefully measured for internal consumption, or it can trigger digestive problems, manifest externally on the skin as boils and rashes, and reduce immunity. Honey and ghee should not be used in equal amounts in weight, but can be matched in volume, so a teaspoon of honey with the same amount of ghee is a nourishing substance.
Honey also becomes toxic if heated, as its chemical properties change. So, baking with honey would not be a good practice. It would be best to mix honey with lukewarm water or tea. And by the same principle, it is good to store honey in a cool place or in the fridge.