Honey in Ayurveda: How to use? When to use? Why it is beneficial to use? Rules and Compatibilities.
I love honey in my tea, oatmeal, milk or salad dressing. As simple as this ingredient looks, it has so much of complexity layered into it in the way it is produced with so many varieties and rules to follow according to Ayurveda. Let this guide show you how Honey can be used in your daily life by following some basic but very important rules. Honey is produced by honey bees, especially by the species of Apis mellifera  as blossom honey by secreting nectars of flowers and honeydew honey (forest honey) is a type of honey made from honeydew secreted by plant-sucking insects such as aphids . Over 4000 years ago, honey was used as a traditional Ayurveda medicine, where it was thought to be effective to balance the three humors (wind, bile and phlegm) of the body. The ancients of Vedic civilization considered honey as one of nature’s most remarkable gifts to mankind. Honey is known as Madhu or Kshaudra in Ayurveda scriptures and is one of the most important medicines used in Ayurveda. Synonyms of bee’s honey in Sanskrit are Madhu, Madvika, Kshaudra, Saradha, Makshika, Vantha, Varati, Bhrungavantha, and Pushparasodbhava. Bees honey is categorized into different types in Ayurveda medicinal system. Sushruta Samhita mentions eight different types of honey and each variety has different purpose whereas according to Charaka Samhita there are four different types of honey such as Makshika, Bhramara, Kshaudra and Paittaka. (Let me know in comments if you would like to more about use of each type of honey). Properties of Honey The properties of honey are Madhura (sweet) and Kashaya (astringent) in Rasa (Madhura is predominant Rasa and Kashaya is less predominant Rasa), Ruksha in Guna (property), and Sheetha in Veerya (potency). Immature honey leads to aggravations of Tridosha (this is the central concept of Ayurvedic medicine, the theory that health exists when there is a balance between three fundamental bodily substances called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Honey as medicine Honey is extensively used in Ayurvedic and Unani system of medicines. It is used as blood purifier, a preventive agent against cold, coughs and fever and a curative for eye sores, for ulcers of tongue throat and burns  . The general medicinal and curative properties of honey were mentioned by Sampath Kumar et al.  as: Honey is useful as sedative. It stimulates digestion and regulates the acidity of the gastric juices. Honey can be taken either with warm milk or with lemon juice and radish juice as a remedy for cold. Honey in warm milk or water can give relief to sore throats. Gargling with honey is very useful in gingivitis. One spoon of fresh honey mixed with the juice of half a lemon in a glass of warm water taken first thing in the morning is very helpful in constipation, hyperacidity and obesity. A mixture of honey and rose petals when taken in the morning, at the initial stages of tuberculosis produces best outcomes Rules of Honey in Ayurveda 1. Never heat honey! Although the exact temperature is debatable, it is clearly written in the ancient Ayurvedic texts that honey when heated is a direct cause of creating toxins in the system. During the heating process the honey undergoes chemical transformation which is unrecognizable to the body, hard-to-digest and extremely congestive to the GI tract and other vital channels of the body. A good general rule for this is to avoid heating honey over 108 degrees. This means that you can still use honey in your tea, however the tea should be at a drinkable temperature before you add it in. The best way to avoid overheating the honey will be to perform the very official “pinky test”. This simply involves placing your pinky finger into the warm tea and holding it there for at least 10 seconds. If you are able to keep it in the tea comfortably for this extended amount of time, then the honey should be safe to be added. Other vital areas to avoid will be consuming any baked goods (e.g. bread, granola, cereal, cookies, bars, etc), cooked food, marinades or heated recipes that use honey as an ingredient. If you are adding honey to your porridge or oatmeal, once again the food must be cooled to under 108 degrees before mixing it in. Taking these essential steps will keep the healing powers of the honey strong and allow you to avoid unknowingly creating toxicity in your system. 2. Never take honey and ghee together in equal proportions by WEIGHT (not volume). Mixing ghee with honey in equal proportions by weight (e.g. 1 gram of honey to 1 gram of ghee) transforms them from healing substances to congestive toxic sludge as they go through the digestive process. Since honey is naturally heavier in weight than ghee, taking ghee and honey in equal proportion by volume (e.g. 1 tsp of honey with 1 tsp of ghee) will ensure the weights are unequal and the combination is safe to take in. If you are taking more ghee with less honey however, you will likely need to get a weight before consuming this mixture to avoid creating potential toxicity. 3. Honey should be avoided by Pitta types or by those with a Pitta imbalance. The sweet taste may be considered cooling in Ayurveda, but honey itself is heating. This means that Pitta types or those with a Pitta imbalance (hyperacidity, eczema, psoriasis, rash, etc.) should avoid using honey, especially regularly or in larger amounts. Some more suitable natural sweeteners that are cooling and therefore will reduce Pitta are maple syrup, dates, date sugar or coconut sugar. Please note that although honey is heating, it can often be used in small amounts by Pitta types if their Pitta is in balance. 4. Honey is a great option for Kapha types, Kapha imbalances, weight loss and detoxification. One of the main qualities honey possesses is known as lekhana, or its ability to scrape away accumulation in the system. Because of this, honey is considered a great medicine for Kapha types or anyone with a Kapha imbalance. Honey is often recommended to aid in weight loss, reduce high cholesterol levels, stimulate a sluggish digestion (manda agni), remove congestion and unclog the vital channels of the body. In order to be effective honey must be taken in moderate dosages* (1/2-1 tsp) and taken in the proper context. For example, taking 1 tsp of honey in warm water with several drops of apple cider vinegar or lime juice is a great way to enhance one’s digestion and metabolism, detoxify the system and promote weight loss. This should be taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and again 30 minutes before each meal. *As a general rule, it is recommended to avoid taking over 3 tsp of honey daily for these purposes. 5. Take honey with herbs to enhance their potency. Honey possesses another unique quality known as Yoga Vahi that allows it to enhance the healing properties of other substances (eg: Medicines or herbal powders) when taken together. This is due to the fact that honey acts as a vehicle (known as anupan) of sorts that will take the herb directly into the blood stream and allow it to penetrate deeper into the vital tissues of the body. Let me know in the comments below if you liked this blogpost. As always, the references are below if you want to read more on Honey in Ayurveda. References: Havsteen BH. The biochemistry and medical significance of the flavonoids. Pharmacol Ther 2002;96:67-202. 2. Adebiyi FM, Akpan I, Obiajunwa EL, Olaniyi HB. Chemical physical characterization of Nigeria honey. Pak J Nutr 2004;3:278-81. Vaidya Jadavaji Trikamji Acharya. Susruta Samhita, Sutrasthana, Dravadravyavidhi Adhyaya – MadhuVarga, 45/132-142. 7th ed. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Orientalia; 2002. Abrol DP. Bees and Beekeeping in India, Kalyani Publishers. India. 2009, 718. Sampath Kumar KP, Bhowmik D, Biswajit C, Chandira MR. Medicinal uses and health benefits of honey: An overview. Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research. 2010; 2(1):385-39. Svastha Ayurveda. https://svasthaayurveda.com/the-6-essential-honey-rules-of-ayurveda/