12 March 2012

Prep30: Store Less, Accomplish More, part 8: Honey

This is part 8 in the Store Less, Accomplish More (SLAM) sub-set of posts within our Prep30 series. Each post in the SLAM "mini-series" focuses on a single preparedness item that you can stock and use in many different ways. Whenever possible, we've selected items that store very well, either lasting indefinitely or at least several years.

If you're setting aside a half-hour a day for "Prep30 time," use today to become familiar with today's SLAM item, which is Honey.

Humans have been collecting honey from bees for at least 8,000 years, and since then it's been a source of sustenance, utility, and even religious significance.

Honey comes in many varieties, classified by geographical location and the source of the nectar used to make the honey. Many commercially available honeys are blended from two or more different varieties of honey. [Update: Per this Food Safety News article, more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn't exactly what the bees produce, with the pollen frequently has been filtered out of products labeled "honey." Consider organic! Tip of the hat to our friends at Bushcraft and Survival Skills for reminding us about this article!]

As a food source, honey can provide nutrition on its own when eaten. Or, it can be used as ingredient in cooking, often substituting for sugar.

What's more, honey has a broader range of uses, including medicinal and skin care applications (as evidenced by Burts Bees products). Some uses related to preparedness and self-reliance include:
  1. Natural Cough Suppressant: A 2007 study by a Penn State College of Medicine research team found that honey may offer parents an effective and safe alternative to over-the-counter cough medicine. The study found that a small dose of buckwheat honey given before bedtime provided better relief of nighttime cough and sleep difficulty in children than no treatment or dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant found in many over-the-counter cold medications.

  2. Lip Balm: You can make your own lip balm from almond oil, beeswax, and honey.

  3. Moisturizer: You can use honey and herbs (e.g., lavender, rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, mint, sage, etc.) to make your own homemade honey lotion (check out the Herbal Honey recipe on this page).

  4. Energy Booster: Add honey to almost any drink for a quick energy boost (tastier than sugar too). Of course, if you're working hard or need energy for hiking, etc., you can eat a tablespoon or two of honey before (or during) your activity.

  5. Antiseptic:  Because of its antimicrobial properties, it can be used to treat wounds and burns. When applied to a wound, the glucose in honey is diluted and gradually releases hydrogen peroxide, which facilitates faster healing. Due to its consistency, honey also prevents wounds from sticking to the dressing.

  6. Mead: Honey is the main ingredient in the alcoholic beverage mead, which is also known as "honey wine" or "honey beer". Historically, the ferment for mead was honey's naturally occurring yeast, but you can make modern mead by adding yeast for fermentation.

  7. Preserving Fruit: You can preserve fruit in a honey sauce using one part honey to ten parts water. (Get the details here.)

As mentioned, there are many more "alternative" uses for vinegar; you can find 15 here and 20 here. Other good (free) honey resources include the National Honey Board's website (www.honey.com), the HoneyO website (www.honeyo.com), and The Honey Book (a free online ebook available at www.honeybook.net).

Remember, however, that you shouldn't give honey to children less than a year old. Here's the explanation from the National Honey Board:
Honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores that can cause infant botulism - a rare but serious disease that affects the nervous system of young babies (under one year of age). C. botulinum spores are present throughout the environment and may be found in dust, soil and improperly canned foods. Adults and children over one year of age are routinely exposed to, but not normally affected by, C. botulinum spores. Honey is safe to consume during pregnancy and lactation. While infants are susceptible to the infant botulism, adults, including pregnant females, are not. The concern for babies stems from the fact that infants lack the fully developed gastrointestinal tract of older humans. Since the mother is not in danger of developing this condition, the unborn baby is protected. 
The great thing about honey is that it doesn't really go bad. Again, from the National Honey Board:
Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! ... For practical purposes, a shelf life of two years is often stated. Properly processed, packaged and stored honey retains its quality for a long time.
So, honey is a great SLAM item because it's very versatile and has a long shelf life, and is pretty inexpensive. But, a bonus is that you can "make" your own honey through beekeeping too, meaning you can ultimately replenish your supply when you run out.

You can learn about beekeeping at a variety of sites across the Web, including learningbeekeeping.com or honeybeesandme.com. There are also a number of beekeeping resources available at www.beeculture.com.

So, how about you? Do you have any unique or innovative ways to use honey?

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