Honey can be found in its standard amber state but may also be red, brown, and even nearly black. Made by bees in an elegant natural process, honey is designed for the bees’ nourishment. Incredibly, each bee makes on average about only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime.
Considering the tons of honey produced each year, that is a lot of bees at work!
The honeybee (Latin name Apis) first travels several miles to collect nectar from local flowers into their mouths. Enzymes in the bee saliva then create a chemical reaction that turns this nectar into honey, which is deposited into the walls of the hive. Incredibly rapid movement of their wings aerates the honey, which decreases its water content and makes it ready to eat.
Textures and flavor are dependent on which flowers the honeybees choose. Typical choices include heather, alfalfa, clover, and the acacia flower. Less common but well-known flowers that confer their own special taste characteristics on the honey include thyme and lavender.
Referred to in ancient Sumerian, Vedic, Egyptian, and biblical writings, honey has been employed since ancient times for both nutrition and healing medicine. For centuries honey has been a multipurpose food, used to give homage to the Gods and to help embalm the dead, as well as for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.
Some evidence suggests that despite the risk of bee sting, collection of honey has occurred since 7,000 B.C.E., and at least 700 B.C.E., beekeeping for the production of honey (apiculture) has been used. To the surprise of the Spanish conquistadors, the natives of Central and South America were already keeping bees for the purpose of collecting honey when they arrived.
Honey was considered a food of the rich for many years. More recently, honey has decreased in popularity as refined sugar, which is cheaper and sweeter, has replaced the sweet viscous liquid in common households all over the world.
Honey is a source of riboflavin and vitamin B6. It also provides iron and manganese. A 3 1/2-ounce (100 gram) serving of honey provides 304 calories, mostly as 82.4 grams of carbohydrate, almost all of which is sugar, 0.3 gram of protein, and 0 gram of fat. However, honey is more likely to be consumed by the tablespoon (15 grams), which provides 64 calories, 17.3 grams of carbohydrate, and 0.1 gram of protein.
The health benefits of a particular honey depend on its processing as well as the quality of the flowers the bees utilize when collecting the pollen. Raw honey is honey that has not been pasteurized, clarified, or filtered, and this form typically retains more of the healthful phytochemicals lost to the standard processing of honey.
Honey, particularly darker honey, such as buckwheat honey, is a rich source of phenolic compounds such as flavonoids, that exert significant antioxidant activities. A recent human trial showed that daily consumption of honey actually improves blood antioxidant levels and helps prevent lipid peroxidation.
Lipid peroxidation, the damaging of lipids (such as cholesterol) by free radicals is central to the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis. Honey’s ability to prevent this may translate into a protective effect against atherosclerosis, since oxidized cholesterol is a well-known risk factor for this cardiovascular disease.
Honey is an excellent source of readily available carbohydrate, a chief source of quick energy. In the time of the ancient Olympics, athletes were reported to eat special foods, such as honey and dried figs, to enhance their sports performance.
Recently a study involved a group of thirty-nine weight trained athletes, both male and female. Subjects underwent an intense weight-lifting workout and then immediately consumed a protein supplement blended with sugar, maltodextrin, or honey as the carbohydrate source.
The honey group maintained optimal blood sugar levels throughout the two hours following the workout. In addition, muscle recuperation and glycogen restoration (carbohydrates stored in muscle) was favorable in those individuals consuming the honey-protein combination. Honey appears to be a suitable source of carbohydrate that can help athletes perform at their best, and helps aid in muscle recovery.
The wound-healing properties of honey may be its most promising medicinal quality. Honey has been used topically as an antiseptic therapeutic agent for the treatment of ulcers, burns, and wounds for centuries.
Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain the wound-healing benefits that are observed when honey is applied topically. Because honey is composed mainly of glucose and fructose, two sugars that strongly attract water, honey absorbs water in the wound, drying it out so the growth of bacteria and fungi is inhibited. Secondly, raw honey contains an enzyme called glucose oxidase that, when combined with water, produces hydrogen peroxide, a mild antiseptic.
In addition to the glucose oxidase enzyme found in honey, which may help in the healing process, honey also contains antioxidants and flavonoids that may function as antibacterial agents. One antioxidant in particular, pinocembrin, which is unique to honey, is being studied for its antibacterial properties.
Darker honeys, specifically honey from buckwheat flowers, sage, and tupelo, contain a greater amount of antioxidants than other honeys, and raw, unprocessed honey contains the widest variety of health-supported substances.
Energetic and Magical Properties
Honey is readily imbued with energy of all sorts. This makes it a great carrier when an individual wishes to ingest a certain type of energy. It is especially helpful in cases of sickness where the honey being added to the tea can be charged with healing energy.
It is also a favorite offering of many Gods and Goddesses. If you do not know which kinds of offerings a certain deity or spirit likes, honey is a good go to. Deities and spirits of nature especially tend to enjoy this sweet gift.
When used in cooking magic it is used to represent the sweet things in life, and happiness. These properties make it perfect to add into dishes you are serving your loved ones if there have been quarrels lately. Simply ask the honey to bring happiness to all those who ingest it as you mix it into your recipe.
How to Select and Store
Honey is usually found pasteurized, although the more health-conscious consumers can find the raw versions as well. Pasteurized honey is usually translucent; honeys that are “creamy” are usually produced by mixing crystallized honey into the liquid honey mixture.
Darker honey is usually of a stronger flavor. flavors may also depend on the flower nectars from which the honey is produced, so it is fun to try honey made from various sources. The author’s personal favorite is a honey made from orange blossom nectar. It is very sweet and floral.
High sugar and acid content helps this liquid remain quite fresh for long periods of time. Honey does easily absorb moisture from air, and honey stored in an airtight container will keep almost indefinitely. Since cold promotes viscosity and changes honey’s flavor, it is best to not store it under cold conditions.
Tips for Preparing and Using
Honey may crystallize, but you can easily remedy this by heating the jar in hot water for fifteen to twenty minutes. Honey heated in the microwave might have an altered taste, as its hydroxymethylfurfural content can change through exposure to microwave radiation.
It can replace sugar, where 1/2 to 1/4 cup honey is equivalent to 1 cup of sugar. Honey is a bit sweeter, so you can use less. In addition since honey adds liquid to your recipe, remember to decrease the liquid by a quarter cup for each cup of honey used. Finally since honey browns well, reducing baking temperatures by 25 degrees F. will avoid over-browning.
Because honey can contain spores of Clostridium botulinum -the causative agent of botulism, an infection in infants- children less than 12 months old should not be fed honey. Honey is safe however for individuals over a year old due to their more mature digestive systems.
Allergic reaction is the most common side effect from bee products. If you know you are allergic to honey, bee pollen, or conifer and poplar trees, do not use bee products. Reactions can range from very mild such as mild gastrointestinal upset, to much more severe reactions, including asthma, anaphylaxis (shock), intestinal bleeding, and even death in people who are extremely allergic to bee products.
Honey contains small amounts of oxalates. Individuals with a history of calcium oxalate-containing kidney stones should limit their consumption of this food.
Nutritional Information per 100 Gram Serving
Carbohydrates: 82.4 g
Fat: 0 g
Protein: 0.3 g
Fiber: 0.2 g
Water: 17.1 g
Stearic Acid: 0.002 g
Oleic Acid: 0 g
Linoleic Acid: 0 g
Linolenic Acid: 0 g
Arachidonic Acid: 0 g
EPA: 0 g
DHA: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Monounsaturated Fat: 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Calcium: 6 mg
Copper: 0.036 mg
Iron: 0.42 mg
Magnesium: 2 mg
Manganese: 0.08 mg
Phosphorous: 4 mg
Potassium: 52 mg
Selenium: 0.8 mg
Sodium: 4 mg
Zinc: 0.22 mg
Folic Acid: 0 mcg
Niacin: 0.121 mg
Pantothenic Acid: 0.068 mg
Riboflavin: 0.038 mg
Thiamine: 0 mg
Vitamin A: 0 IU
Vitamin B12: 0 mcg
Vitamin B6: 0.024 mg
Vitamin C: 0.5 mg
Vitamin E: 0 mg
Vitamin K: 0.02 mg
Recipes which Include Honey:
This article was adapted from:
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno N.D. with Lara Pizzorno M.A. , L.M.T.
Pictures pulled from Google.com