honey: a food product that is also medicinal

Honey: food and medicinal product effective against inflammation, cough and hoarseness

We understand a viscous, hygroscopic and very sweet-tasting fluid that bees produce in their bodies (Apis mellifera, Apis cerana). Honey is a food, a condiment and a medicinal product. Bees suck nectar from flowering plants through a proboscis (fig. 1) or the excretions of certain insects that eat plant sap (hode). These juices are enriched with bee enzymes and inhibin to prevent the growth of bacteria and yeast. Its water content is also reduced. Honey is produced only when the performance in the hive exceeds the current needs necessary for raising and feeding the offspring. Only when the filled cells are closed with a layer of wax can the beekeeper harvest the processed honey (fig. 2). Honey flows on its own from open combs or is collected by centrifugation (extraction). Man has used honey since the Stone Age as a food and natural sweetener. It was the industrial production of sugar from sugar cane and sugar beets that largely displaced honey for this use. Obtaining honey was initially carried out in holes in trunks and holes in the ground where wild colonies of bees lived. Later, wooden logs were provided for the bees to facilitate harvesting. Around 2400 B.C. In Egypt bees were domesticated. In ancient Egyptian reliefs and wall paintings, beekeepers are depicted working with bees.


1: Apis mellifera honey bees suck nectar from flowers to make honey

2: Honeycomb with cells filled with honey and covered

Artificial beehives have been used in Greece since 800 BC. to obtain honey. The Bible says that the honey was found “on the surface of the field” and consequently called it “honey from the rocks” (1 Samuel 14:25) (fig. 3). It also includes numerous comparisons of the sweetness of honey «Your lips drip like a honeycomb, O wife» (Song of Solomon 4:11). In China, the first records of beekeeping date back to the Han era (25-220 AD). At that time there was very little honey, so it had to be brought in large quantities from Samarkand1. Until well into the 17th century, most of China’s honey continued to come from wild colonies. Today honey is produced in this country in large quantities and is even exported. The multiple varieties of honey differ from each other in flavor, smell, color and composition depending on their botanical origin. In addition to flower honey, there is also honeydew honey (forest and leaf honey) which is less viscous and darker. Medicinal honey is honey with specific healing effects.


3: Wild bees at the source of the Jordan produce honey on the rocks

Traditional use of honey

The origin of the use of honey probably dates back to the Caucasus and northeastern Turkey. Since ancient times, honey has been used as a medicine and toning elixir. The Egyptians praised honey as a delicacy of the gods and a source of immortality. Numerous medicines containing honey are mentioned in the ancient papyri. Apparently it was especially effective for eye diseases, burns and other injuries. Hippocrates recommended honey ointments to reduce fever. In the Old Testament (1 Samuel 14, 24-30) Jonathan reports that eating honey gave them renewed strength to fight against the Philistines. Honeycombs were previously consumed raw as a delicacy. But honey was also used as an ingredient in meat and vegetable sauces. Honey wine (aguamiel) is a highly appreciated drink that is made from fermented honey. In the Middle Ages the production of honey was taken over by the monasteries. The original beekeeping in the forests thus passed to beekeeping in these areas. Monastery medicine used honey as a base and fundamental ingredient for numerous medicines and ointments. In Chinese medicine, honey has been used since time immemorial as a medicine; For the manufacture of pills it continues to be used as an excipient to this day. Honey was also an important component of “immortality drugs”1.



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