Naturally sweet honey has been used for centuries to make food and drinks taste great, plus as a traditional medicine for everything from healing wounds to boosting immunity. Although you’ll get plenty of those perks from pretty much any honey you prefer, there’s a certain type known as Ikarian honey that’s hailed as the holy grail for longevity by locals who eat it every day.
As the name suggests, this honey comes from the island of Ikaria off the coast of Greece. The region is one of the infamous “blue zones” from across the globe where residents commonly live happy, healthy lives well into their 90s. In fact, Ikaria has specifically become known as the place where people “forget to die.”
Along with a diet full of potatoes, dairy, and coffee, the Ikarian locals credit a daily spoonful of freshly harvested honey for staying physically and mentally strong. Local chef Diane Kochilas told CBS News, “What was it in Mary Poppins? – ‘Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down’? Well, a spoonful of honey, you don’t need medicine!”
She also explained that the purity of their honey is likely what makes it so beneficial for longevity. There are none of the chemicals, pesticides, or preservatives you typically find in other commercially produced honey. It’s also unpasteurized and doesn’t go through any heating or filtering processes. As Kochilas succinctly sums up, “It goes from the bees to somebody’s mouth.”
Take a look at the video below to hear from a 109-year-old woman who swears by Ikarian honey and learn more about its seemingly magical healing properties:
If you need further evidence, Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest (Buy on Amazon, $11.99), wrote about his visit to the island back in 2012. He shared how a man named Stamatis Moraitis was diagnosed with lung cancer in his mid-60s and instead of seeking treatment, he moved back to his hometown on Ikaria.
Moraitis wasn’t expecting a miraculous recovery, but simply wanted to enjoy the sunshine and sea air before passing away and being laid to rest with his ancestors. Yet even without any treatment, he beat the cancer and went on to live to 98. Buettner lists the local honey as a staple in Moraitis’ diet along with other factors like a less stressful lifestyle for helping him stick around much longer than he expected.
All types of honey contain a ton of antioxidants, phytonutrients, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, prebiotics, and more amazing health benefits — so it’s not too surprising to learn that such a pure form of it can help boost longevity, too!
If you can’t make the trip to Grecian island to stock up on jars of honey, you can find options online like Klio’s Ikaria Thyme Honey (Buy from Klio, $25.95). It’s definitely more expensive than the kind you’d pick up at the grocery store, but also totally worth the investment if it helps you celebrate more birthdays.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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