Honey: Historical Sweetness
To taste honey is to taste history. Stone Age paintings from as early as 8000 years ago depict humans endeavouring to steal this golden treasure from its vicious protectors. An excellent source of energy and remarkably preservable, honey has been central in the grand human history of foraging and agriculture. Archaeologists not only find evidence of honey consumption in myriad civilizations, they have even found ancient honeycomb in Egyptian tombs that is still edible.
Busy Bees: Honey Production
Honey is produced by honey bees. The bees collect pollen from various plants and return to the hive, where the pollen is broken down into two sugars: glucose and fructose. This nectar is stored in the cells of the wax honeycombs they make, where it gradually dehydrates and becomes the thick, sweet substance we know as honey. The pollen from different plants each produces a unique honey, with distinct tastes and health properties. A single hive can make up to 7 pounds of honey in a single day.
Golden Crop: Modern Beekeeping
The days of foraging for honey have long passed. Modern beekeepers are the product of a long tradition of beekeeping that stretches back to ancient times. Contemporary methods allow for greater control in the quantity and kind of honey produced. Bees are kept in a small, finely designed box and shepherded using scents. When the beekeeper needs to access the hive, smoke is used to calm the bees.
A Spoonful of Sugar: Medicinal Properties
Modern scientific evidence is helping us better understand the healing attributes that ancient writers and doctors ascribed to honey in their writings. In Ancient Egypt, honey was one of the most widely used medicinal substances, being mentioned in over 900 remedies in ancient papyrus writings. Honey continues to attract interest from researchers and health experts because of its wonderful and fascinating health properties. When consumed in sufficient quantities, honey contributes to overall health in multiple ways. Here are just a few:
Honey helps protect the body from the consequences of oxidative stress. In addition to its most prevalent compounds, fructose and glucose, honey consists of small quantities of potent amino-acids and micro-nutrients [1,2,3]. These nutrients lend honey its unique taste and health properties. Honey rivals even high quality olive oils in terms of its antioxidant properties, being a fantastic source of large quantities of polyphenols [4,5,6]. Consequently, they share many common health benefits, including protection against various forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disease.
Honey has long been used to treat maladies and infections. This is because it has properties that kill bacteria and microbes. One of the key components in raw honey that contributes to its antimicrobial effects is the Glucose Oxidase enzyme . This enzyme uses oxygen and glucose to produce hydrogen peroxide, a naturally occurring antimicrobial agent widely used in medical settings . While high levels of hydrogen peroxide can prove damaging to human and animal cells, the enzyme present in honey actually produces very small concentrations ; just enough to kill microbes, while still leaving human cells undamaged!
Anti-inflammation and Digestive Health
Honey has beneficial effects on your digestive system. Possessing unique and complex sugars known as oligosaccharides, honey has been found to act as a pre-biotic substance [9,10]. This property of honey helps support good bacteria that contribute to digestive health. Furthermore, research finds that honey has anti-inflammatory properties. Reduced inflammation in the digestive tract contributes to systemic benefits . The digestive tract is where all energy and vitality ultimately come from, and recent research continues to find links between gut health and a wide variety of illness [11,12].
Blood Sugar Levels
Honey is a special kind of sugar. Although consuming too much sugar is linked to several negative health outcomes [13,14,15], honey has been found to affect blood sugar levels much less than refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup [16,17,18]. This property is particularly helpful for diabetics, but also has much broader positive effects because high blood sugar levels damage the body through increased blood lipid levels , production of inflammatory biomarkers, and eventual development of insulin resistance [13,19]. Honey offers a healthier alternative, further bolstered by its innate anti-inflammatory properties.