Mead was the most sought after drink in the Medieval Times. Today, it is most commonly known as “honey”. Stories of Mead date back to the Vedas (the sacred books of the Hindus 1500-200BCE) when Indra’s eagle stole mead (madhu in Sanskrit, pronounced Made-Hu) from the heavens. In Greek Mythology, Zeus’ eagle stole the mead. Greeks used honey to increase their strength and stamina. Finally, in the stories from the Vikings, Odin took the shape of a bird and also stole mead from the heavens. Cleopatra, in Egypt took honey-milk baths to maintain her youthful appearance. It was also used as a form of payment in ancient times because it was so highly valued. In Greece, honey was offered to the Gods or to the dead spirits. The Bible speaks of honey as well. It talks of the promised land, Canaan which was a “land flowing with milk and honey”. The collection of honey first began around 7000 BCE, and the art of Beekeeping, or Apiculture started around 700 BCE. Eventually as the European population began to increase the population of the bees began to decrease. The demand for mead therefore increased, as the supply of honey decreased. Mead was very expensive and only the nobility could afford to use honey.
Today, according to the US Department of Agriculture, California has 400,000 honey producing colonies, the highest of all the states. New Jersey has 12,000 honey producing colonies. As a whole, the US has 2, 413,000 honey producing colonies.
THE HONEY BEE:
Apis Mellifera “Bee bringing Honey”: The honeybee we know today. It is from the insect order Hymenoptera. They are actually European honeybees. The Europeans introduced Europen honey bees to the United States in 1638. Bees make the honey as a form of food storage for the winter months. One bee, during its entire lifetime of 6 weeks, it makes only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey, after which it dies of exhaustion.
There are a total of four species of honey bees in the world. These include:
1. The Little Honeybee (Apis florea), native to southeast Asia
2. The Eastern honeybee (Apis cerana) native to eastern Asia as far north as Korea and Japan
3. The Giant honeybee (Apis dorsata) native to southeast Asia
4. The Western honeybee (Apis mellifera) native to Europe, Africa, and western Asia.
The Killer Bees: These are a subspecies of the Apis mellifera bees (Apis mellifera scutellata). They were created by a reasearcher who was trying to produce a variant of a European honey been that was better adapted to the tropics than the European honeybee. He imported the bees from South Africa, and they are also known as Africanized Bees. He accidently released them in Brazil in 1957. They produce honey much better in hot climates than their counterparts and they are much more aggressive than other bees. Getting too close to the nest of an Africanized honeybee can result in mass stinging by the bees in the nest. The bees did very well in the wild. They began to reproduce and broaden their range. They are now in South America, Central America, and Mexico. In October 1990 they were reported in Texas, California in November 1994 and Oklahoma in 2004. They can tolerate up to 3 1/2 months of freezing weather. They are not known to live outside of a tropical climate, however this has not been proven yet.
FROM RAW HONEY TO PROCESSED HONEY:
Bees pick up the nectar or pollen from flowers. They then mix this with the saliva in their mouths which have special enzymes, which changes the pollen and nectar into raw honey. This raw honey is then deposited in the hive. Processed honey is honey that has been pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys many enzymes and phytonutrients because of the high heat that is used. The best honey is honey that is not heated to more than 105 degrees. Some say that the best honey is honey that has not been heated at all (according to Ayurvedic Medicine).
One company that sells unprocessed honey with bee pollen and part of the comb still in the jar is a company called “Really Raw Honey”. Raw honey will not spoil. Honey is very stable and can last for centuries. It has only 18-19% H2O and has a pH of 3 or 4. Honey, if exposed to air, over time can ferment. When it does, it has an unpalatable taste. Bees actually seal the honey in the honeycombs so that the honey will not ferment.
TYPES OF HONEY:
There are various colors/shades of honey. Two of the most important factors that determine the color of honey are the nectar or pollen source, and the actual physical location of that source. The lighter the color of the honey, the milder is the flavor. Honey can come in amber (most common), red, brown, or even black.
In the United States there are over 300 types of honey. Some common flowers bees are drawn to are; Alfalfa, Heather, Clover and Acacia, Eucalyptus, Orange Blossom, Buckwheat, and Sage. Less common are Thyme, and Lavender.
There are 5 forms of honey:
1. Comb: Sections of waxen comb filled with honey.
2. Cut Comb or Chunk: Chunks of honey-filled comb filled with extracted honey.
3. Liquid honey: extracted liquid honey from the comb.
4. Crystallized honey
5. Creamed honey: extracted honey that has been whipped into a semisolid state like butter.
Honey is composed of:
Fructose, glucose, H2O, Enzymes, Vitamins, Minerals and Amino Acids (Calcium for Bones, Vitamin B6, amino acids, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, Copper, Fe, Magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, K, and Zinc, Na)
Flavanoids: also found in fruits and vegetables; these have high antioxidant properties that are important for human health.
Phytonutrients: Propolis which has anti-carcinogenic properties, as well as Royal Jelly.
Antioxidants: darker honey is high in antioxidants.
In the “Journal of Medicinal Food”, honey was shown to stimulate antibody production during primary and secondary immune responses.
In a study done, natural honey lowered plasma glucose as well as C-reactive protein and Homocysteine in healthy and Diabetic patients.
Aids in the growth of good bacteria, bifidobacteria.
Honey has been used in the treatment of burns, scrapes, sore throats, and for bacterial infections, stomach ulcers, canker sores, Hypertension, constipation, menstrual cramps, alcoholism
Cholesterol: Patients with hyperlipidemia have shown to have a decrease in their triglyceride levels versus patients who had plain sugar. Sugar increases the triglycerides.
Colitis: A study on rats has shown that honey acts as a protectant against colitis; the enzymes that protect the cells from being damaged are at a high level in patients who ate honey.
Cancer: In the “Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture”, some Croatian researchers showed a decrease in tumor growth of bladder cancer, as well as metastases in mice when honey was given orally or was given in the form of an injection. It was also shown to prevent Colon Cancer in animals by shutting down the activity of phospatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C and lipooxygenase. These are enzymes involved in the production of cancer producing compounds.
Menstrual Cramps: Honey has been shown to encourage the production of PGE1 prostaglandin as GLA (gamma linolenic acid). Taking 1 tablespoon of honey with hot water or herbal tea has been shown to help.
Wound healing: Honey has antibacterial and wound healing properties. It has been approved as a wound care gel in the treatment of ulcers, especially those containing MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staph Aureus)
Honey should not be used in children under 18 months of age. This is because honey has dormant endospores of Clostridium botulinum or botulism spores in it. Infants do not have the ability to kill the botulism spores, and intake of honey by infants could result in death.
Honey is still a sugar and should be used with caution in patients with Diabetes.
Do not keep honey for longer than 6 months, since it loses its antioxidant properties.
Do not refrigerate honey, because it absorbs moisture and becomes thick when it is cold. However, honey can be stored in the freezer.
COOKING WITH HONEY:
All the sources say to use ½ the amount of honey as the sugar you would normally use. They also say that when baking with honey, decrease the liquids by ¼ for each cup of honey used. They say to add ½ a teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of honey. The oven temperature has to be decreased by 25 degrees to prevent over baking or over browning.
CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder): When bees leave their hives and never return again. No known cause. It is being investigated. The Science Daily, on April 23, 2007 reported on Colony Collapse Disorder. An alarming number of honey bees are dying; about 50% of the hives have disappeared. This is detrimental to crop-growers and to beekeepers. On April 26, 2007, The Science Daily reported that scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and the University of California San Francisco had identified a virus as well as a parasite that may be the cause of the honey bee deaths. They used the IVDS (integrated virus detection system) to screen samples for pathogens, and found the virus and pathogens. The fear is that without honey bees to pollinate crops there could be a huge economic, and agricultural impact on the entire world.
Honey also has been known to have anti-aging properties, due to its humectants properties. It attracts and retains water and keeps the skin soft and supple. A recipe for a face mask is as follows:1 Tbsp of Honey, 1 Egg White, 1 Tsp of Glycerin, ¼ all purpose flour: Leave on for 10 minutes and rinse.
Americans consume 285 million pounds of honey a year.
There are even songs about honey:“Kisses like Honey”: by the Bee Gee’s
“Lips like Honey”: by Sean Dresman
Not only do bees make honey, but they also make a substance called Propolis, and Royal Jelly.
1. Propolis is a resinous substance collected from leaf buds and barks of trees, such as Conifer and Poplar trees. It is a yellow/brown waxy, bitter-flavored substance. Propolis has antibiotic qualities which helps the hive block out viruses, bacteria and organisms. It can also be used to treat colds, Gastrointestinal Infections, URI (upper respiratory infections); it is an immune enhancer, and a topical anti-inflammatory.
2. Royal Jelly is a thick, milky substance which is produced by worker bees to feed the queen bee. The worker bee mixes the honey and the bee pollen with an enzyme in the glands of their throats to produce the royal jelly. Due to the queen’s size, strength, stamina and longevity compared with other bees, the royal jelly may be a nutritional supplement.
101 Foods that could save your Life, by David Grotto, RD, LDN
The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Bowde
Top 10 Foods for a Younger You, by Sarah Merson
Healthy and Whole Foods, by Paul Pitchford 3rd Edition
The complete Guide to Health and Nutrition, by Gary Null
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, by Michael Murray, N.D.