Honey, I Have A Cold

March 6, 2011

Colds and flu are in season. Having recovered from the bug, now I am comforting two friends who have it. One has declared that honey is better than chicken soup.

Thinking this is heresy, I decided to investigate. Here’s why it can be true.

Hot tea with honey, like chicken soup, helps relieve a stuffy nose. In tea or from a spoon, it also coats a sore throat, plus it has antibiotic and anti-inflammatory benefits for sinuses under siege.

Using honey when you are sick has roots even more primal than chicken soup. The first sweetener known to man and his sweet tooth, long before cooking with fire, we enjoyed eating honey. By 5,000 BC, doctors in Egypt used it to treat respiratory ailments and sore throats, says C.  Marina Marchese in Honeybee, Lessons  From An Accidental Bee Keeper.

If you catch cold on a trip, or the flu strikes suddenly, add another plus for honey. Unlike with chicken soup, just reach for the jar, with no chopping, simmering or pot-cleaning required.

Every honey has its own taste. This is not just interesting for cooking, since the bold flavors of varietal honeys are bold enough to enjoy right through a stuffed-up cold. This provides blessed relief for the boredom of drinking hot tea in copious quantities for days.

Varietal honeys blossom with as many flavors and nuances as wine, as you can see at Red Bee, Marchese’s honey company. Personal favorites include tupelo and buckwheat.

Where you do not want a “honey” flavor, skip clover honey, ubiquitious at supermarkets. Instead, use wildflower, which has the most neutral taste.

Farmers market usually have local honey. For a unique taste of New York City, I love New York Rooftop Honey sold at the Union Square Greenmarket. The Honey Locator lets you find your local honey

How do you cook with honey?


Applechino With Honey

Chai spices, tangy cider, and honey make this hot drink adapted from Covered In Honey by Mani Niall perfect on a brisk day and anytime to comfort a cold. Good honey choices are rich Tasmanian leatherwood sold at natural food stores, faintly piney mesquite from Trader Joe’s, or exquisite, caramel-tasting Italian Sulla from Manicaretti, or mild-tasting wildflower honey.

Makes 4 servings

4 cups apple cider or unfiltered juice

2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

8 allspice berries or black peppercorns

1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, halved

2-4 tablespoons honey


Combine the cider or juice, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and ginger in a medium, stainless or other non-reactive pot. Set over medium-high heat until bubbles appear, reduce the heat, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Strain into mugs and stir in honey to taste. Strained Applechino can be stored, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 24 hours and reheated before serving.


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