Honey has been used since ancient times both as a food and as a medicine. Apiculture, the practice of beekeeping to produce honey, dates back to as early as 700 BC and it is known to have been a valuable medicine in Ancient Egypt, Greece, Russia and China.
In the last decade research has confirmed that honey has strong antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimutagenic, antitumor and wound-healing properties and honey derivatives are increasingly used in mainstream medicine. Studies have also shown that honey does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels in the same way as other sugars, and produces more liver glycogene than any other food on a per gram basis, which has lead to its use in both diabetes management and sports nutrition.
TYPES OF HONEY
Honey comes in a range of colors including white, amber, red, brown and almost black. Its flavor and texture vary with the type of flower nectar from which it was made and it can be made by other insects as well as bees.
Manuka Honey from New Zealand is considered to be particularly pure and concentrated, has been shown to have medical efficacy, particularly in wound healing and is the type taken by Djokovich (Serve to Win 2013 – see book review). Tualang Honey, a Malaysian jungle honey has also been extensively studied and has been found to have particularly high levels of beneficial phenols and flavonoids. Tupelo Honey from Georgia/Florida boarder has an unusually high fructose content (vs Sucrose) and is also sort after by athletes but there are many wonderful pure brands that have not been selected for research trials but will have their own benefits. For example see www.boquetecoffee.com where incredible honey is harvested, by my sister, on her coffee farm in the Cloud Mountains of Panama. To get an idea of some of the risks people take to harvest honey in other parts of the world, see Jimmy & the Wild Honey Hunters below.
Although the strength of the scientific research is not conclusive, many people swear by honey as a hay fever cure. As bees travel from flower to flower collecting nectar, they also collect pollen spores, some of which get transferred to the hive and end up in the honey. The theory is that these pollen grains can act like a vaccine, introducing small amounts of the pollens that cause hay fever and allowing the body to build its natural defence – a process called immunotherapy. Local honey is generally accepted as the best variety to use for immunotherapy as being produced within a few miles of where the person lives, there is more chance that the varieties of flowering plants and grasses that are giving the allergy sufferer trouble will be visited by the bees.
Like with most foods not all honey is made equal, cheap honey can come from bees fed sugar or worse corn syrup and honey can also be diluted with sugar solutions after harvesting. The Manuka Honey Association in New Zealand issued a statement earlier this year stating that “there is potentially huge fraud”. They believe that 1,700 tons of Manuka honey is sold in the UK every year, 10,000 tons world wide and yet only around 1,800 tons is ever made. Honey can also be contaminated with herbicides and pesticides and honey from India and China has been found to contain heavy metals and antibiotics leading to restrictions on imports into the EU and USA.
Further information about the amazing and extensive health benefits of Honey can be found in Nathaniel Altman 2011 book ‘The Honey Prescription – the amazing power of honey as medicine”. Lake books. USA.