Posted June 12, 2008on:
Honey is the oldest sweet known to man. An English proverb says, ‘The history of honey goes with the history of mankind.’ In the Aranha Caves near Valencia, Spain, 9,000 year old mural paintings show a man gathering honey from a cliff face whilst being attacked by the bees.
Similar murals have also been found in South Africa and India. In ancient times, honey has been mentioned in the writings of the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Indians and the Egyptians. Both the Egyptians and the Ancient Greeks used honey as a sweetener and also used it in their religious ceremonies. For thousands of years Honey has transcended all cultures and has been associated with wealth, happiness, beauty and longevity. Its therapeutic properties have been renowned to strengthen, nourish and care for the physical body.
Today, more honey is produced and consumed than ever before and research into its beneficial properties is being carried out throughout the world. Islam accords honey a special place and encourages its use for a healthier lifestyle.
The Honey Bee
Bees are responsible for 80% of all pollination and can pollinate as many as 18,000 flowers a day! They may travel as far as 55,000 miles and visit more than 2 million flowers to gather up enough nectar to make just 1 pound of honey! They are able to navigate across long distances to locate sources of nectar and then return to the hive and communicate directions to fellow bees.
They prepare special food items such as royal jelly and beebread for their young. They protect their home by recognising and repelling intruders. They regularly remove garbage and other refuse from their hive.
They control the climate in the hive by ‘fanning’ fresh air. They also sprinkle water during the summer and cluster together for warmth in the winter. When their hives become overcrowded, they are smart enough to know that some have to leave and establish new colonies.
The honey bee is smarter than today’s most powerful supercomputers. While computers can carry out over 16 billion simple operations a second (such as adding two numbers), the honey bee performs the equivalent of 10 trillion operations per second!
Each bee colony consists of the Queen Bee, Drones (‘the idle bachelors’) and the workers (foragers). The worker bee stores the nectar it collects from the flowers in a special nectar ‘sac’ where special enzymes transform the sucrose of the nectar into the simple sugars fructose and glucose. Each bee carries up to half its own weight in nectar and flies at around 15 mph. When the forager returns to the hive, it delivers the nectar to one of the indoor bees. It is then transferred mouth-to-mouth from bee to bee until the moisture content is reduced from about 70 percent to less than 20 percent. This changes the nectar into honey. It is estimated that a worker bee will literally work itself to death in six weeks!
The excess of the colony’s requirements are extracted by humans for use as food. Liquid honey is approximately as sweet as sugar yet has 17% less carbohydrate and is over 90 calories less per each 100g and contains no fat! The average composition of honey contains carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, acids, and antioxidants including Pinocembrin, which is unique to honey.
The Average Composition of Honey
Vitamins- Thiamin, RiboflavinNiacin, BiotinB-6, B-12, C, A, D, E, Pantothenic Acid, Folate
Carbohydrates- Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, Sucrose, Kojibiose, Turanose, Isomaltose, Maltulose, Erlose, Theanderose, Panose
Minerals- Water, Sodium, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Potassium, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Selenium, Copper, Chromium, Manganese
Acids & Enzymes- Invertase, Amylase, Glucose Oxidase, Catalase, Acetic and at least 8 other organic acids. Proline and at least 18 other free amino acids.
Antioxidants- Pinocembrin, Pinobanksin, Chrysin, Galagin
Research & Benefits
Several studies have recently shown the unique properties of honey as a natural remedy. Honey has been shown to have special antimicrobial and antibacterial components, which can help prevent infections by inhibiting the growth of certain bacteria.
It is also an antioxidant, especially in the darker honeys and those with higher water content and may help eliminate reactive compounds in our bodies called ‘free-radicals’. These are believed to contribute to many serious diseases when left unchecked.
It is also a humectant, which means that when honey is exposed to air it draws in and retains moisture. When used in cosmetics it can help hydrate the skin making it feel fresh and ideal for moisturising products. Furthermore it may help in the prevention of scarring by keeping the skin moist and helping in the growth of new tissue.
Honey provides the body with quick energy, which can help in recuperation and help recover from fatigue. Honey has been shown to be an excellent post-exercise muscle recuperation and energy repletion supplement maintaining optimal blood sugar levels throughout the two hours following exercise.
Research around the world has shown that honey is an effective treatment for serious wounds and burns and the use of honey, as a wound dressing material, an ancient remedy that has now been rediscovered. In the past and increasingly today, it is being used as a natural remedy for several ailments. Studies are currently being carried out on the effect of honey on preventing tooth decay, allergies, treating ulcers, thwarting disease and ageing.