Honey is a naturally sweet substance made by bees by concentrating plant nectars. Bees traveling to and from the hive may cover a distance of 40,000 miles and visit over 2 million plants in their quest to find the finest plant nectar.
The most common of all bee products, honey has been used for many centuries for its ability to heal wounds, treat infections and provide fast energy.
Many people use honey as a natural sweetener, and it is important to understand why honey is a far healthier alternative to processed sugars.
Sugars provide us with energy. All carbohydrates, whether simple sugars or complex carbohydrates, must be broken down to glucose, or blood sugar, before our bodies can absorb them and use them as energy. Honey combines glucose and fructose, when compared to white sugar, which is sucrose. The basic sugar types in honey are more easily assimilated into the bloodstream and thus yield their energy giving properties more quickly and efficiently than with white sugars. The glycogen in a spoonful of honey is said to pass into the bloodstream in ten minutes to produce this ‘quick energy’.
Many people refrain from using honey in the belief that it is high in calories and may cause unwanted weight gain. An average teaspoon of honey contains only around 25 calories, and as mentioned above it converts quickly and efficiently into ‘energy’, unlike white sugar.
What is the chemical composition of honey?
Honey is so much more than glucose and fructose, it is a nutrient rich substance with an impressive array of vitamins and minerals with trace amounts of amino acids and antioxidants. Honey contains proteins, carbohydrates, hormones, organic acids, and anti-microbial compounds.
At the University of Florida’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Dr. Susan Percival found honey contains important nutrients, including vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin and pantothenic acid.
Minerals found in honey include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.
Dr. Percival writes- “……several different amino acids, the building blocks of protein, have been identified in honey.”
The vitamin and mineral content of honey is:
. Vitamin A
· B-complex vitamins (complete)
· Vitamin C, D, E, K
Raw honey also contains a rich supply of live enzymes and like the other bee products, some substances in honey cannot be identified. Honey may contain other medicinal compounds, depending on the type of plant from which the pollen was taken.
Honey and our health- Scientists in Istanbul have experimented with Honey in an effort to reveal potential benefits in the operating theatre. They have established that honey applied to wounds post surgery can prevent the formation of tumors and prevent the growth of cancerous cells.
Work is underway at the Mayo clinic into discovering potential uses for bee products in the medical field. This and other ongoing research into the medicinal uses of bee products is extremely encouraging. The only surprise is just how long it has taken the medical community in the USA to show serious interest, whereas the rest of the world it seems has known for years.
There are several factors that may account for honey’s healing properties:
• Bacterial infections require water to thrive. The sugars in honey attract water, and may deprive the bacteria resulting in diminished activity from the virus.
• Bee pollen and propolis enzymes are present in even the purest of raw honey. These possess anti-viral and antibacterial properties that work from within the honey to sterilize wounds and assist healing.
• Glucose oxidase found in honey combines with water and produces hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide has antiseptic properties.
Dr. Paavo O. Airola, has written the book ‘Health Secrets from Europe’. In it he writes about the natural therapeutic effects of honey and states: “Honey is a perfect food. It contains large amounts of vitamins, minerals, being particularly rich in vitamins B and C. It contains almost all vitamins of the B-complex, which are needed in the system for the digestion and metabolism of sugar.
Honey is also rich in minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, silicon, etc……some types of honey may contain as much as 300 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams.”
Honey often plays second fiddle to other of the substances from the beehive such as royal jelly and bee pollen. But it should not, as it also plays an important role. Where people consider bee pollen for weight loss and stamina, they may see honey as being harmful when on a calorie restricted diet, where really it is not.
Royden Brown in his book ‘Bee Hive Product Bible’, provides invaluable insight into the properties of bee products. He writes about the use of Honey to treat respiratory ailments, and relates to exhaustive research conducted in Bulgaria:
“We found Honey has bactericidal, anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties that insure the body an immunobiological defense and give it the capacity to regenerate its attacked cells”
Dr. Peter Molan, MBE, is an Associate Professor in Biochemistry at the University of Waikato, in New Zealand. Dr. Molan has over 17 years of research into the medicinal and healing properties of honey. Dr. Molan has conducted extensive testing into the regional variations of honey, and how honey from different regions exhibit different medicinal properties.
The results from his tests have shown scientifically that all honeys have varying degrees of healing properties, mainly due to the antibacterial agent, hydrogen peroxide, which is found in all honey regardless of region
May R. Berenbaum, is an entomologist at the University of Illinois. Recent studies by Berenbaum show honey to possess surprising quantities of antioxidants. It was apparent that honey from different regions exhibited varying antioxidant properties, and that generally, honey which is darker in color was found to be more potent as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are important in their ability to fight toxicity in the bloodstream and may help fight off harmful infections.
How is honey processed for human consumption?
Honey is often treated with a pasteurizing process to minimize crystallization once packaged. This process may involve exposure to high temperatures that can destroy some of the valuable natural enzymes in honey.
Raw and unprocessed honey is generally preferred over honey which has been heavily processed. When honey crystallizes, it is generally a simple case of gently warming the product until it is re-liquefied. Temperatures of 110 degrees or less should be adequate to re-liquefy the product and at this temperature the live enzymes should remain unaffected.
This also has significance concerning the end use of honey, and there are conflicting opinions in this regard. Clearly, certain live enzymes are destroyed when the product is heated excessively, and therefore its nutritive and therapeutic properties must be diminished. So using honey in hot drinks, as so many people do, may not be yielding the full range of benefits from the product.
However, recent studies into how heating certain vegetable products may effect their nutrient yield is uncovering some interesting results that seem to go against popular opinion. In one study, carrots were analyzed for their beta-carotene, or Carotenoid content. Carotenoids are phytonutrients, the nutritional elements that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, giving them their distinctive yellow, orange or red colors. They are commonly believed to be powerful antioxidants that rid the body of harmful free-radicals. For many years nutritionists have told us that eating raw vegetables is the only way to benefit significantly from their nutritional properties, and that heating vegetables destroys their nutrient content. However, in a recent series of tests, carrots were heated through various stages to simulate a typical cooking process. At different temperatures the beta-carotene levels of the carrots was analyzed, and it was found that the levels actually increased through the heating process. At a certain stage the levels began to diminish, but never to a level below the raw, uncooked food.
Similar research has been conducted into the effect on honey. It was found that the antioxidant properties of honey may increase through heating: “When honey is cooked, it appears to acquire additional, functionally important antioxidants”, according to related studies at Clemson University in South Carolina.
So, to heat or not to heat? The simple answer is to use your honey straight from the jar by teaspoon, and use it in hot drinks also. That way you have the best of both worlds, unheated with its live enzymes intact, and its increased antioxidant levels when heated.
Honey is much more than just a sweetener, it has real nutritional properties that provide us with potent antioxidants and a host of other nutritional benefits.
By embracing honey into your everyday diet, you may help your body help itself – fighting and removing toxins, viral infections and providing useful energy that is not derived from harmful sucrose.
Honey acts as the perfect accompaniment to royal jelly - adding a touch of sweetness and flavor, and naturally preserving the liquid royal jelly, avoiding the need for refrigeration or preservatives.
Honey, mankind’s oldest sweetener, is being rediscovered as a natural source of energy with the added benefit of having potent medicinal and therapeutic properties.
There is clear medical research indicating that Bee Products are very special substances when it comes to their nutritional properties and your health.
Bees are perhaps the oldest living species on our planet, and it is no accident that they have remained unchanged in their existence for many millions of years.
Mother Nature created a perfect environment when creating the honeybee, and at the same time equipped the honeybee with all of the tools required for longevity, come what may.
Fortunately for mankind, the industrious little insect with the gentle sting is more than capable of creating its nutritious produce in sufficient quantities for man to enjoy.
Perhaps the sting was designed to draw attention to the otherwise innocuous little insect, as a way of prodding and awakening us to the power of its wares.
Take the time to seek out and enjoy quality bee products, embrace them into your every day diet like you would with any conventional foods, and enjoy the energizing, protecting and invigorating power of the beehive.