How sweet it is! Honey’s a killer substitute for refined sugar and can even help treat minor wounds. And thanks to its unique chemical makeup and sticky texture, honey’s the bee’s knees (couldn’t help ourselves!) in plenty of other situations, too. Here are four unexpected ways to use the sweet stuff.

  • Honey Bee

    Take an endurance-boosting energy shot. In for the long haul? Instead of reaching for packets of carbohydrate-rich gels or shots, try a spoonful or two of honey. Studies show honey’s unique blend of natural sugars can be just as effective as packaged shots when it comes to powering the body through endurance exercise Low vs. high glycemic index carbohydrate gel ingestion during simulated 64-km cycling time trial performance. Earnest, C.P., Lancaster, S.L., Rasmussen, C.J., et al. The Cooper Institute Center for Human Performance and Nutrition Research. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2004 Aug:18(3):466-72.. Pack along a few tablespoons in a plastic bag and squeeze out on the trail.

  • Soothe chapped lips. Mix sweet almond oil, beeswax, and honey for a soothing lip balm that protects against dryness. But be warned: Like other balms, this sweet concoction could be addictive.
  • Calm a cough. It’s not just an old wives’ tale: Research suggests honey is an effective treatment for coughs and sore throats, especially before bed. In fact, honey may be just as helpful as conventional cough syrups Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Paul, I.M., Beiler, J., McMonagle, A., et al. Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University, Hershey, PA. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 2007 Dec;161(12):1140-6.. Just be sure not to give honey to children under one year, as they could be at risk for infant botulism.
  • Treat dry skin. Honey’s an especially good home remedy for those problem dry spots (like elbows). That’s because the sticky solution creates a moist healing environment and can also reduce inflammation Potential of honey in the treatment of wounds and burns. Molan, P.C. Honey Research Unit, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. 2001;2(1):13-9.. Apply to irritated areas and leave on for 30 minutes — just don’t forget to wash away before it gets too sticky (and definitely before heading near any beehives).