"Hast thou found honey? Eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste." Such is the sage advice as found in Proverbs, one of many diverse places where in ancient times honey was revered and a sought after prize. In the last two weeks in the columns "The buzz on bees" and "Sweet as honey" we have seen how bees swarm as a means of reproducing colonies and what kind of honey is typically produced in Chautauqua County as these industrious creatures pollinate so many of the crops for which we are dependent on as our food source. Beyond all these foods however, are many "secrets" in the honey itself that many cultures around the world have known for centuries. As promised, some of the simple yet wonderful benefits of this "nectar of the gods" follow for those so inclined to get back to the "yesterdays" of what nature has to offer for a "todays" remedy for what is ailing.
A long healthy life is what most people wish, and honey can play an important part in accomplishing that. Don't reach for the processed and ultra-filtered jar on a supermarket shelf where the heat and pasteurization procedure has robbed it of its nutrients. Choose instead the jar from a local beekeeper where the honey still has everything in it that was intended by nature. Even though we may be conditioned to think that honey has to be clear, it's the raw and less filtered honey that has all the good "stuff." One fascinating study of people who lived a long life, even centenarians, found that among other things, most ate honey every day. In fact, many were beekeepers who ate the "scrapings" of the hive, the mix of beehive deposits that included pollen, propolis, and wax along with the honey. This combination offers numerous vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, amino acids, bioflavonoids, and a mix of fructose and glucose that also packs a powerful energy punch; all of which come in a predigested solution from the honeybee, making these countless substances ready for our metabolism and great for our immune system.
A simply fantastic book called "Honey, Nature's Golden Healer," in addition to its beautiful photos and summary of the aforementioned study, lays out some of the miraculous medicinal benefits of honey. It points out that even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said that food should be our medicine and believed honey was the great golden healer. Propolis, which bees obtain from the gums and resins of trees and plants, along with the combination of other hive substances, has an antibacterial and antifungal property that naturally fights infection. There is no bacterium that has become resistant to honey, which is important now as ever with the overuse of antibiotics. Hospitals have found great success using honey to treat MRSA, which is no surprise considering honey was used to treat wounds and burns through the ages as a disinfectant and for pain relief. It was used on bandages (honey dressings) by grandmothers, but dates back many centuries and was a treatment used on many battlefields. As the book explains, honey is a "smart" germ killer because it sucks out water from the bad bacteria, dehydrating and destroying the germs.
Two frames full of honey from a Warre hive can produce nearly two quarts of honey. The darker coloring on some areas of the comb is propolis, a protective coating the honeybees cover all around the hive.
The internal benefits of honey are so plentiful and are being rediscovered today. Two to three teaspoons of honey are daily recommendations. The secrets of "yesterdays" and described in many sources including "Nature's Golden Healer," claim that honey is good for such conditions as gastric ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation (mild laxative), water retention, colds, sore throats, calcium deficiency, insomnia, aching joints, blood pressure, diabetes, depression, fatigue, weight loss, and of course to boost immunity. Most people with seasonal allergies will find relief by ingesting local honey (or pollen capsules) and then building up immunity because it has traces of pollen in it. Many other benefits come from honey, all of which require specific research by the interested individual, including the details of how to use honey for each remedy.
One quick recipe (in metrics) offered in the book is an energy drink. Pour two liters of pre-boiled water into a large pan. Dissolve 200g of unprocessed honey and 3g salt with the juice of 1-2 lemons. Store in refrigerator and drink chilled. It offers a great taste and boost of energy. Athletes have apparently known the secret of honey for years and the energy it can deliver. The glucose in the honey gives quick energy, but the accompanying fructose converts extra glucose into a reserve in the liver for when the brain or body needs it later and is not stored as fat like sugar in processed foods!
Royal jelly, pollen, beeswax, and propolis are other products of the honeybee hive with additional magnificent benefits. Propolis in particular, which is a mix of tree resin, wax, pollen, and saliva used by the honeybee to protect the hive from disease and infection, has also been used for centuries for wounds, skin disorders, and such things as gum inflammation. Ancient and worldly traditions praise such attributes of the honey bee hive in volumes of health, beauty, and religious works. "And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." Is it any wonder that the wise men, as recounted in Matthew, presented two gifts that were tree resins known for their healing abilities? The miracle of the honeybee is so extensive that once again it could not be all covered. Next week and yet to come, some beauty secrets and some dangers the honeybee faces.
Make it a good week and consider putting into practice what Hippocrates said about food being our medicine. Enjoy the fruits of your own garden and the bounty that can be found in our local farmer markets. For more information about the Chautauqua County Beekeepers Association, you may contact the secretary, Laura LaMonica at 782-4579. They meet once a month and members are a resource for beginning and maintaining bee hives. Consider also conducting some of your own research including such books as Nature's Golden Healer, which has a wealth of information and was shared in this column.
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