Home / TCM and Honey – A Perfect Match

TCM and Honey – A Perfect Match – Two months ago, I was food shopping when I suddenly had “a moment” – a flashback to 1984 when I was watching Robin Williams in “Moscow on the Hudson.” For those of you too young to have even heard of this movie, it was an American romantic comedy / drama film and tells the story of a Soviet circus musician who defects while on a visit to the United States.

The scene I am currently reliving is the one I which Williams’ character goes to a supermarket and gets so overwhelmed by the many choices of cereal available in the United States as compared to what is available in Russia that he suffers difficulty in breathing, sees the multitude of cereal brands and types spinning around his head and he ultimately collapses, sobbing, on the floor.

I’m in the aisle with a large sign above that says “HONEY”. Collapsing or sobbing is not an option, however I am sighing deeply and occasionally, a small whimper may be heard.

Not to self: if the entire grocery aisle is comprised of just varieties of honey, immediately understand this trip make take a while.

I have repeatedly written that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has changed both my life and the contents of my kitchen. TCM has made me more aware of what I put into my body. So, emboldened by a newly found respect for food and armed with a highly suspicious mind of anything artificially created, I followed the advice of my TCM doctor and decided to incorporate honey into my life.

In TCM, honey is known as Feng Mi and has the ability to nourish yin energy. Based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, “honey has sweet and neutral properties, and “is associated with the Lung, Large Intestine, Spleen and Stomach meridians. Its main functions are to tonify the spleen and stomach, to restore qi, and to prevent dryness.”

Wikipedia will further enlighten you that honey is also one of the most common ingredients of herbal pills, capsules and formulas, and is often added to herbal preparations to make them taste better and be easier to consume. Apart from its widely recognized nutritional value, honey is also the Chinese people’s favorite as a “neutral” food with medicinal properties.

The January 2015 edition of “Natural News”, documents honey’s ability to heal wounds and treat infections. Honey is known for its antioxidant, antibiotic and antiviral capabilities. Specifically, “honey is 18 to 20 percent water and is comprised of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose and vitamins A, B-complex, C, D, E, K and beta-carotene, as well as plenty of minerals and enzymes. Raw, unprocessed honey has the most medicinal and nutritional value. (The fructose in raw honey does not, in any way, have the same negative effect as fructose from corn syrup.)”

It is also a very important and valuable component of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In the “Compendium of Materia Medica,” the TCM classic by pharmacist Li Shizhen in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), “Honey can help dispel pathogenic heat, clear away toxins, relieve pain and combat dehydration.” Li Shizhen showed that eating honey regularly resulted in clear sight and rosy cheeks. He also wrote that eating honey every morning can help prevent constipation and it is a good choice for those who suffer chronic coughing.

Ideas on healthy eating stemming from Traditional Chinese Medicine have become so mainstream, even cooking magazines – complete with vegan and non-vegan recipes – have taken up the cause. The March, 2016 edition of “Serious Eats, states that “connected with TCM, Chinese diet therapy tells that drinking a cup of honey water is good for the body and it will keep you warm. But everyone’s body condition is different, so you need to choose the most suitable honey for yourself”

Ah – the million dollar question.  But how do you know which honey is the most suitable? For me, the first step was a step back to my acupuncturist’s office and a systemic cataloguing of my body’s needs. I already knew my taste preference – so – really – just how difficult could it be to pick up a jar of honey?

Hence, my 1984 flashback. Did I want Clover honey, Orange Blossom honey, Manuka honey, Sourwood honey, Buckwheat honey, Rosemary honey, Dandelion honey, Acacia honey or Eucalyptus honey?


Clutching the shopping cart with sweaty hands, I moved further down the aisle as it became clear that there was more to decide: Did I want raw honey, organic honey, or unfiltered honey? Did I want local, sustainable honey or did I just want to grab the squeeze bottle of the cute bear and bolt the store? Suddenly collapsing on the floor and sobbing was a viable solution.

Luckily for me, my local grocery store is a healthy store, one that trains its employees on its produce and products. Even more luckily for me, there was a gentleman who must have noticed my confusion, and he readily stepped in and explained some things to this “honey-dummy”.   I asked him my first question of a growing list: what are these “types” of honey?

“Raw honey” is honey that is pure, unheated, unpasteurized and unprocessed. According to my new best “Honey Friend”, raw honey provides the best health benefits because the final product has all of the natural vitamins and enzymes and other nutritional elements. He even went on to explain that raw honey has been scientifically linked to help with certain allergies, diabetes, sleep problems, coughs and wound healing.

One – and perhaps the most important – decision was made. I’d rather pay what looked to be a few dollars more for a healthier product to consume. The price was still far less than a co-pay for either an office visit or a prescription drug.

The ongoing decision about taste is simply another TCM journey I’ve decided to walk. I began by buying two of the smallest bottles of orange blossom and clover honey, decided which I like most and then bought a larger bottle of that. Once a month or so, I will try a new flavor in a small size – because trust me – not all honey tastes the same. There are both mild and intense flavors, and the only way to know if you like it, is to try it.

I have tried many different types of honey with my cider vinegar, lemon and hot water pre-breakfast drink. However, you have to play to your likes and dislikes; what tastes great over warm, sliced apples with cinnamon may not taste as great when used in a stir fry of vegetables flavored with turmeric or on fish or chicken.

I tend to stay with local products, particularly those products where the family has been in the business for a while, but as with everything else, there are some companies that are better than others.  I used my phone and took pictures of the local products on the shelves and then came home to Google the companies. I am a sucker for buzzwords like “organic” and “sustainable”, but I have to balance that desire with my checkbook.

Great bargain tip: if you go online to any of the many honey producers in South Florida and sign up for their email newsletters, many will send you coupons for their products, saving you money and allowing you to try one of those more expensive types of honey. I can truthfully say I no longer resemble a 1984 film character; sitting here, drinking my chrysanthemum tea, flavored with osmanthus scented honey, I feel a deeper kinship with Wonder Woman.

PS: Legend has it that osmanthus-scented honey is called “Golden Lotus” in China. It supposedly the type of honey chosen by women because it makes them look more and more beautiful. Who am I to ignore a centuries old legend?  Just another benefit of following the TCM thread to all things good for you – in so many ways.