The tradition of dipping apples in honey as a symbol of our hopes for a sweet new year is shared by Jews throughout the world. Adeeper look into the biological and medicinal qualities of honey may reveal why, out of all the sweet tastes in the world, specifically honey was chosen as the symbol for a good, sweet year.

Honey has been used since ancient times as both food and medicine. Today, honey is recognized for its antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, antioxidant and cleansing properties. Some research has shown that honey boosts the immune system, possesses friendly bacteria, and a daily intake of honey raises protective antioxidants levels in the blood. Consumption of honey may promote better blood sugar control and is believed to provide relief from diarrhea and dysentery, is easily digested by the most sensitive stomachs, and helps the kidneys, liver and intestines to function better. Honey is a known blood cleanser and is an age-old treatment of persistent coughs and sore throat. Certain phytonutrients have recently been found in honey and propolis showing to possess cancer-preventing and anti-tumor properties.

Honey’s most promising medicinal quality, however, might be its wound-healing capabilities. For centuries, honey has been used topically as an antiseptic therapeutic agent with superior results in the treatment of ulcers, burns and wounds. When applied topically, honey absorbs water in the wound, drying it out and thereby inhibiting the growth of bacteria and fungi.

The cosmetic properties of honey have been known for centuries, and when used as face masks, honey helps in rejuvenating the skin, reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Honey’s ability to absorb and retain moisture makes it an ideal ingredient in skin care products as it helps keep skin hydrated and fresh. With its natural antioxidant and anti-microbial properties, honey revitalizes and restores depleted dull skin, leaving it feeling silky soft and supple. Honey’s magnificent cleansing properties also aid in the treatment of minor acne by absorbing impurities from the pores, and it has been reported to help lessen acne scaring.

When buying honey, make sure it is 100 percent pure, or, even better, look in a health food store for raw honey that has not been pasteurized, clarified, or filtered, organic being the best.

So as you dip your apple in honey this holiday, take a moment to remember that a sweet new year starts with good health.

Warning: Honey should not be fed to children under 12-months-old, due to risk of infant botulism.

Health Tip: The best way to add honey to your daily skin care routine is by using it as a facial mask. Dampen your face with warm water, and gently massage in one teaspoon of honey. Leave the mask on for 15 minutes, and then rinse it off with warm water. To turn this into an even more beneficial scrub, add a teaspoon of granulated sugar to the honey, mix well and use as above. Honey easily dissolves when washed off, so there is no need to fear having to deal with a sticky mess.