Honey is a soothing, natural food. There may be many terrific reasons to recommend it, but not if your baby is less than 12 months old.

Raw and unpasteurized honey, the most commonly eaten honey, may contain a small amount of the spores that cause botulism, a potentially serious condition, particularly for infants.

Botulism and honey

Botulism is caused by a toxin that’s created in the gut by the C. botulinum spore.

The spores often live in dirt, where they can get on plants growing in the soil. A bee picks up the spores when it’s collecting nectar from flowers. The spores then come back to the hive, along with the nectar, and find their way into the honey the bees produce.

Rare, but beware

It’s important to note that most of the time, the amount of C. botulinum spores found in honey is very, very small. And it’s often not present at all.

Adults won’t usually be affected by the small amount of spores that are present because they have developed enough acids in their intestines to fight them off. Babies haven’t had the time to develop those acids yet and aren’t capable of fighting the danger just yet.

Honey is otherwise safe

Honey is not a choking hazard, typically contains no added chemicals, and has few, if any, other known safety hazards.

After about 12 months, it’s typically safe to give your baby honey. And there may be a lot of beneficial reasons to do so!

Honey and health

Most obviously, honey is a natural, wholesome sweetener. Honey is rarely ever pasteurized or processed.

Honey soothes a sore throat and can ease a cough so it’s a great alternative to cough syrups that can contain dyes and chemicals.

Honey has been used for about 2,500 years as a skin and hair treatment. There’s a reason the skin, hair, and beauty products made by Burt’s Bees are so popular and it’s all about the honey (and beeswax).

Honey is a natural antimicrobial and a popular way to help treat wounds. This should be done with caution, though. It can present the same risk for botulism as eating honey before a baby is 12 months old.

Finally, honey is used by some as an allergy treatment because they believe the pollen found in honey helps desensitize them to allergens in the air. The treatment is not recommended without the aid of a health care professional, however, as serious allergic reactions could occur.

How to get your honey

Honey is a great natural energy food, full of carbohydrates in the form of sugar. The National Honey Board has a number of snack recipes here that will keep children going through a long day of learning and play. Here are some other delicious snack ideas from around the web.

  1. Oatmeal energy bites don’t even require baking!
  2. This yogurt-based peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon sauce for dipping apples is full of great tasting, good for you ingredients.
  3. No-bake chewy granola bars let you customize your snack.
  4. Honey cinnamon roasted chickpeas might become your new go-to crunch break.
  5. Honey lollipops can be a snack, a sore throat soother, or a tea booster. So many options!

Honey all grown up

Honey pairs well with a lot of foods and makes a great addition to your cooking. Here are some excellent options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, too.

  1. A whole host of ideas are found at the National Honey Board’s website.
  2. Really, who doesn’t love a ham glazed with honey and brown sugar.
  3. There aren’t many warmer and more delicious ways to welcome guests than with baked Brie with rosemary, honey, and walnuts.
  4. Not your grandma’s Brussels sprouts, these use honey with chili pepper for a sweet and spicy kick.
  5. Honey and chicken together are magic and this health-conscious take on wings will keep ‘em coming back for more.

How to choose your honey

Buying honey from a local farmer means you are getting honey produced from the nectar of nearby plants. You can often taste the difference between honey that mostly comes from clover nectar, or from fruit plants, or from other flowering plants. Here are tips for choosing and storing honey.

  • Color: Different nectars give honey its shade, from deep, almost ruby-tinged brown to very light yellow.
  • Consistency: Pour room temperature honey from a spoon. If it dribbles instead of running down in a continuous line, then something has been added to it or it has been processed in some way.
  • Cooking: One beekeeper recommends using clover honey for cooking, since the taste is milder, while fruity honey works well in tea. Darker buckwheat honey has a similar taste to molasses and is good in baking.
  • Storage: Store honey in a cool, dry place and be aware that its color may change over time.

Honey in time

Honey may crystallize in its container after a while but there’s no need for concern. It’s still good and still maintains its healthy properties.

In fact, honey doesn’t go bad. The oldest honey residue ever found was in the country of Georgia and it is probably more than 5,000 years old. Archeologists even found edible honey that was 2,000 years old in Egypt…and they tried it!

So, as long as you wait until your child is about 12 months, you can consider honey a safe addition to their daily diet.