By Health Coach Deborah Cox FMCHC, NBHWC
According to the beloved Winnie the Pooh:
“And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey.”
And then he got up, and said: “And the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it.” So he began to climb the tree.
Winnie The Pooh, Chp. 1, (1926) A.A. Milne
Every time I think of honey, I see this little rotund, and very astute, bear with his hand or head stuck in a HUNNY pot, and I get a smile on my face, a chuckle remembering my Grandma reading us stories of Pooh’s escapades when I was little.
Honey has been a part of human life most likely far beyond any type of record-keeping. We have more than 4,000 years of recorded uses of honey as medicine, as a sweetener, and as a sign of royalty. Cave paintings in Spain, possibly dating to 7000BC, show the earliest signs of harvesting honey. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used honey medicinally, as a sweetener, and as a gift to their gods; they also practiced beekeeping. The Egyptians used it as an ingredient in their embalming fluid, and they also buried honeycomb with the pharaohs as a going away gift as they presumably journeyed to the hereafter. When archaeologists found this honeycomb in the tombs of pharaohs it was, amazingly, still eatable! Not sure I would want to be the first person to eat something buried in a tomb for 1000’s of years!
Aristotle, Hippocrates, Pedanius Dioscorides (a Roman Surgeon), Roman authors – Bassus, Cato and Athenaeus, and Pliny the Elder all spoke and wrote of honey and its uses. Most of the religions of the world speak of and use honey in one way or another. Honey has also been used as currency; in the 11th century, German peasants paid feudal lords in honey and beeswax. It was also used to make cement and used in furniture polishes and varnishes. Honey was successfully used as battlefield medicine from the time of the Iliad to World War I, most notably as a wound treatment.
In the 17th century, European settlers brought honeybees with them to North America. There were native bees here, but they did not produce the quantities of honey that the bees imported with the settlers did. As natural medicine goes, honey lost its place as a medicine as western medicine came to the forefront, casting honey and other natural remedies aside as folk healing. Thanks to modern science many of these remedies are being brought back as they are proven to be useful in health and healing through laboratory studies.
Simply put, it is the nectar that bees collect from flowering plants and carry back to the hive where they deposit it into the honeycomb with enzymes that they secrete from their stomach and saliva. As the moisture from the nectar evaporates, what we know as honey begins to form. The bees cover each cell with beeswax after the moisture has evaporated to continue the process of honey formation.
Raw honey is a pure and natural substance and takes on the characteristics of the flowers/blooms the bees collect nectar from. These characteristics may include flavor, color, and nutrient content. Be aware that not all honey will look and taste the same or have the exact same nutrient content.
Raw honey offers many benefits to a healthy clean lifestyle due its unique composition. Honey is not just another sweetener; it is not just sugar in a different form; it is a whole food with an impressive nutrient composition. Raw honey contains 22 amino acids, including essential amino acids our body cannot make itself; 27 minerals including iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and selenium; vitamins, including vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin; and 5000 enzymes. Bee pollen and propolis are also found in raw honey, both of which pack an added nutritional punch.
When consumed raw, never heated, honey can be a great addition to your healthy diet. Here are a few ways that studies are finding raw honey to be beneficial:
Keep in mind that if you are allergic to bee venom you will probably want to steer clear of honey and all bee products. For the rest of us, honey is a great natural sweetener, with many potential health benefits when used in moderation.
Pure, raw honey will offer the most robust nutrient profile, so choose, if you can, a local raw, unpasteurized honey. These honeys will often times be opaque or hazy; this is normal. If you are dealing with a local beekeeper, or any beekeeper for that matter, here are a few things to keep in mind and to ask them so that you know you are getting pure raw honey.
Now, put your carefully sourced honey to work and make some delicious nut butter chocolate fat bombs!
Researchers at the University of Sydney found that wounds, especially of the legs and feet, healed relatively quickly when treated with Manuka honey. Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand and Australia by bees that collect the nectar of the Manuka bush. This honey has its own unique manuka factor (UMF) which measures its antibacterial strength. (There is no standard to measure the known antibacterial content of regular raw honeys.)
My husband uses a little honey when teaching horses to accept the bit when we go from hackamore to spade bit. It’s not so much a treat as a way to teach them to open their mouth and let the bit slide in without bumping their teeth, which can scare them and cause resistance to the bit. Most spade bits, when made in a traditional way, will have a “sweet taste” to a horse so, once in, they will happily learn to roll the cricket and relax. Honey helps us to keep things soft.
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