“Just as we do on Passover with the Seder plate, on Rosh Hashanah, we also eat symbolic foods. It’s not a law, it’s a folk tradition,” said Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin. Like honey, she added, the apples we eat also symbolize sweetness and abundance and evoke a sense of health and goodness.
Moses was said to have been conceived in an apple orchard, and honey is mentioned in the Song of Songs, said the rabbi.
Honey, she added, is a preservative and may also symbolize the fact that Torah and the Jewish people aren’t fleeting; they have longevity.
But honey’s importance is not only symbolic. Even in ancient times, it was recognized for its healing properties. Nowadays, those properties are once again gaining attention for their medicinal uses.
“The best science [supporting the medicinal use of honey] is in wound healing,” said Chris D’Adamo, Ph.D., at the University of Maryland Medical Center School Of Medicine. “Science has shown us that honey contains a variety of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that help with healing.”
D’Adamo said that local honey is also useful as a treatment for seasonal allergies.
“It’s best to use local honey because honey from your own area will give you a little bit of exposure to the allergens that are causing the allergy symptoms. Some people eat the honey, and some mix it with warm water or tea,” he said.
Honey has also been found to be extremely effective for reducing acute coughing in children.
“Serve it straight from the spoon,” said D’Adamo. “It will coat the throat, and it provides better relief than many cough medicines.”
While all honey contains nutrients and enzymes, D’Adamo recommends using raw honey to treat symptoms.
“The honey in the little bear container is not as good as raw honey because it’s been highly heated and filtered. A lot of the good stuff goes away in that process,” he said.
D’Adamo also suggests substituting honey for sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin.
“Honey has health properties and is better understood than these other sweeteners,” he said. “But don’t eat it by the gallon.”
Although some practitioners are currently recommending honey, bee pollen and even bee stings as treatments for ailments such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis among others, D’Adamo said, at this point, not as much is known about the effectiveness of those treatments.
According to the National Honey Board, honey is one of Mother Nature’s best-kept beauty secrets. Folklore tells us that beauties as notorious as Cleopatra used honey on their skin to maintain moisture and kill bacteria.
“Honey is a humectant, which means it attracts and retains moisture. This makes honey a natural fit in a variety of moisturizing products including cleansers, creams, shampoos and conditioners,” the Honey Board said.
For more about the use of honey, and some sweet recipes for skincare products made from honey, visit honey.com.
Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter — firstname.lastname@example.org