Most of us have an old jar of sticky honey lurking at the back of a kitchen cupboard, but we could be making more of this incredibly versatile substance than just eating it on toast. Honey has been used for thousands of years as everything from a medicine to a beauty aid. Here are some ideas for using your honey.
Cooking and baking
Honey is around 80 per cent sugar, with the remaining bulk being made up of minerals and water. It contains around the same number of calories as sugar, so it’s not necessarily a healthier option – however, it is sweeter than sugar so you should be able to get away with using less of it.
Cakes made using honey tend to be are denser and moister than those made using sugar. In cakes with a heavier texture, such as fruit cake and carrot cake, experiment with replacing sugar with 2/3 of the quantity of honey and adding a little extra flour. Alternatively, make a delicious topping for cupcakes and muffins by combining cream cheese, liquid honey, orange zest and a little orange juice.
If you prefer savoury dishes, mix a teaspoon of honey with a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, a clove of minced garlic and two teaspoons of sunflower oil to make a baste for a grilled chicken breast.
Honey has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and a little dabbed on minor wounds and burns will stop bleeding and help prevent infection. Some honey, such as manuka, also has antiviral properties, so a hot drink of honey and lemon when you have a cold may be doing more good than just soothing a sore throat. A spoonful of honey dissolved in warm water will also help re-hydrate you after a stomach upset.
For hayfever sufferers, there’s some evidence to suggest that eating local honey can help to minimise the effects of seasonal allergies.
If you prefer to know exactly what you’re putting on your skin, then making your own beauty treatments with honey could be for you. It’s a natural humectant, meaning it draws water from the surrounding air, so it’s great for moisturising. To make a rejuvenating face pack, mix one teaspoon of honey with one tablespoon of natural plain yoghurt and spread it on your face. Leave it for around 15 minutes (you can always pass the time by eating the rest of the yoghurt!), then rinse off with warm water.
To make a gentle exfoliator, suitable for use on face or body, mix a handful of used coffee grounds with a tablespoon of honey, and use the mixture to rub your skin in a circular motion. This one does get a bit messy, so mix the coffee and honey in a pot and wait until you’re inside the shower to open it! The caffeine from the coffee grounds will give your skin a glow, too.
If you suffer from dry hands and ragged cuticles, mix a teaspoon of honey with a tablespoon of oil. Use a clean paintbrush or pastry brush to coat both sides of your hands with the mixture, then put a pair of old gloves on and sleep overnight. In the morning, your hands should be softer and more moisturised.
For shinier hair, mix a teaspoon of honey with a tablespoon of coconut oil. Comb it through your hair, leave it on for 20 minutes then shampoo and condition as normal.