Produced by Apis mellifera bees, honey is an aromatic, viscous, and sweet product from the nectar of plants, which the bees forage and modify into a thicker liquid and finally they store it in their honeycombs. Honey contains up to 77-78% sugars (mostly fructose and glucose) and, due to its relatively low water content, it does not favor the development of microorganisms. It is liquid in its initial form, but it becomes crystallized when stored for too long. It is mostly composed by two simple sugars, dextrose and laevulose, with sometimes a presence of more complex carbohydrates (mostly laevulose) and it always contains mineral substances, some enzymes and pollen grains. Dark-colored honey has the most invigorating properties, e.g. pine honey, which is rich in mineral trace elements.
Honey is one of the healthiest, most valuable and most nutritious foods for humans. The longevity of famous beekeepers is attributed to honey consumption: they live for 80-90 years. It provides energy for the muscles, clarity of mind, it disinfects and it regulates the digestive system. When consumed regularly, it provides vigour to the body and it contributes to a longer life. Hippocrates, as well as all of the doctors in ancient times, recommended it as a medicine in many occasions. This is a popular opinion in the entire world and, most importantly, it is also proven by scientists; today the therapeutic value of honey is recognized. In an attempt to determine honey’s effect as food and medicine in various clinical occasions, the following were observed:
- Honey has an action against fatigue by storing its contained fructose in the liver as glycogen. There it is transformed into glucose, thus increasing the blood’s glucose content. It facilitates calcium absorption and activates ossification.
- It helps fight anaemia, adenopathy as well as exhaustion and weakness of the human body due to its iron content. Honey consumption may increase the body’s percentage of haemoglobin, especially in children, mostly due to its iron and copper content. One tablespoon of honey contains 0.1 mg.
- It contributes to good bowel health. Honey is considered as one of the best natural laxatives. Its fructose content is hardly absorbed and, along with choline, it stimulates the bowels and prevents constipation. Also, its high percentage of fructose, along with the enzymes contained in honey, helps those under the influence of alcohol to recover faster. For this purpose, have 2 tablespoons of honey in some lemon juice.
- Honey contains 17% water, hence its hydrating effect.
It heals or soothes:
- Internal disorders
Honey has a positive impact on patients with chronic wounds and stomach ulcers. This is due to its sugar content, which absorb the wound fluids, thus suspending the growth of microbes, which need humidity to survive and multiply.
Honey is considered soothing and relaxing. According to the experts, one tablespoon of honey in some lukewarm milk facilitates sleep.
- Sore throat
Honey prevents the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. To soothe a sore throat, add one or two tablespoons of honey in a cup of hot water.
- Some heart diseases and generally beneficial effect on the heart; honey increases haemoglobin and muscle power.
Honey sugars, especially glucose, are indispensable for the heart muscle systoles and constitute a source of energy for the heart. Also, honey, with its sugar and acetylcholine content, helps dilate blood vessels and helps reduce high blood pressure. Therefore, increased honey intake by people with cardiac disorders may help improve their state.
- Antiseptic and antibacterial
Honey contains glucose oxidase, which promotes hydrogen peroxide production, a substance with mild antiseptic properties. Its antibacterial properties are largely due to the antioxidant pinocembrin which is greatly beneficial to the human body. Research data show that some of its antioxidant components (such as caffeic acid, caffeic acid methyl, caffeic acid phenethyl and caffeic acid phenethyl methyl) have great anti-cancer action. Namely, scientific research has shown that, when administered to laboratory animals, these antioxidants suspended the multiplication of neoplastic bowel cells.
- For external use, thanks to inhidinewhich transfuses it with bacteriostatic properties, honey heals:
- Nose and pharynx infections.
Various studies have shown that honey is a new antibiotic
- A study conducted at the Pediatric Clinic of the University of Bonn in Germany in order to compare honey with existing antibacterial drugs and which has already used honey on patients who did not respond to treatment, has shown that some of the patients began to have positive results. Patients were often children, whose immune system had weakened due to chemotherapy, leaving them with wounds susceptible to infections. 1/3 of said children were administered antibiotics while their wounds were nursed with honey. One child had wounds infected by a fatal type of staphylococcus aureus, which is resistant to strong antibiotics. The child’s body could not react to the drugs, but eventually he was cured from this resistant microorganism 48 hours after having received honey treatment.
- Honey for cough instead of syrup?
Hippocrates recommended honey solution for bad cough and irritation of the pharynx and larynx. Much later, this method was also used by our grandmothers. It seems they were right since nowadays this is supported by scientific findings. Recently, in an interesting study, doctors from the University of Pennsylvania studied the anti-cough action of honey in children and teenagers of 2-18 years old and observed that a small dose of honey before going to bed offered children great relief from cough as compared to dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant contained in many anti-cough medicinal drugs.
Therefore, honey is the basic product of beekeeping, but it is also a valuable ally of the human organism which provides us with energy since it is the source of simple and complex carbohydrates.
Does honey make you fat?
Honey does not make you fat; it makes you healthy.
Some people believe honey helps increase weight due to the calories it contains. However, when taken in proportion, it only does us good.
A tablespoon of honey provides about 60 calories, i.e. as many as a fruit. What is more, it has no fat, but it contains 15 grams of carbohydrates, the intake of which is necessary on a daily basis – carbohydrates need to cover 50% of the daily energy intake of adults. Honey provides about 4 kcal per grams, a lot fewer than any corresponding fatty sweet such as chocolate, for example, which provides about 9 kcal per gram. Hence, it would be recommended to replace fatty snacks in our diet (croissants, chocolates, etc.) with yoghurt with honey for instance. Honey is also rich in simple sugars (glucose) which are the basic fuel of the brain. Therefore, honey consumption within a balanced diet not only does not make you fat, but it also ensures that your body functions properly. You consume fewer calories, but receive valuable nutrients and you satisfy the feeling of content you look for in a food.
Crystallization is a natural biological phenomenon of natural raw honey. It does not cause any alteration to the nutritional and biological properties of honey. Therefore, crystallized honey is neither rotten nor impure. If honey is crystallized, place the honey jar in some hot water of 45ºC until the crystals are dissolved.
Other products of the hive
(<προ + πόλη – “before the city” in Greek.) Propolis is a resinous substance which protects tree sprouts. Bees collect it, mix it with pollen, enzymes and beeswax and use it to fill crevices, fix and varnish honeycombs and sterilize cells before the queen starts laying eggs there, in order to avoid the parasites entering the hive and to ensure a healthy surviving environment in general. Propolis is thought to be a natural antibiotic and conducted research proves so. Propolis contains wax, balsam, resins and essential oils in very large quantities. Wax transfuses it its healing action and the resins, balsam and essential oils transfuse it its antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Propolis seems to stimulate the immune system by activating the body’s natural defences. It is also good for the digestive system. It exists in various preparations, such as tincture, ointment, capsules.
A multivitamin formulation. Pollen is produced in flower anthers where bees collect it to use it in young bee breeding. Pollen is mostly known due to the allergies it causes, but it is rarely known that its grains are an extremely natural nutritious product with stimulating properties. It is a natural food richest in protein, vitamins and amino acids. It contains an average of 23% protein, 5% lipids, 27% carbohydrates, almost all Β complex vitamins, vitamin Η, vitamin C, vitamin Α, vitamin Ε and it is also rich in minerals. Pollen may be obtained in various forms. Beekeepers, right after collecting it, may freeze it and sell it packaged in jars. This is the purest product. However, people can also find dehydrated pollen in powder form, in glass jars and in dehydrated grains which may be added to fruit juices, yogurts or salads.
- In bee food for producing spawns when there is a drought.
- In human food
- In cosmetics production
- In pharmaceutics
- In allergy research
NUTRITIONAL VALUE FOR HUMANS
- 15 grams (a tablespoon) of pollen a day cover an average-weight human’s needs in protein, vitamins and minerals. Pollen consumption must begin with a small quantity until the stomach gets used to it.
- It is a product with action against thalassemia, since it contains iron which favours the formation of blood components.
- It increases capillary vessel resistance (protection from brain haemorrhaging)
- It enhances cardiac
- It has diuretic action.
- It confines inflammation and discomfort in patients suffering from benign inflammation of the prostate
It strengthens weakened organisms (it promotes the body’s good natural state).
It is a creamy natural substance secreted from the glands in the hypopharynx of bees. Worker bees exclusively produce royal jelly to feed the queens and larvae. It is indicative that the queen lives fifty times longer than the mere worker bee and manages to lay up to 2,000 eggs every day. Many scientists believe that this is due to the daily consumption of royal jelly. Royal jelly is rich in mineral salts and mostly calcium, potassium and magnesium. It is a source of vitamins, enzymes and a group of components which remain undefined up to date.
The royal jelly’s content in all of these nutritional elements makes it a food with many beneficial properties:
- It boosts tired and worn out bodies and expedites their recovery.
- It enhances the immune system.
- It is said to be boosting sexual desire.
- It contributes to good skin and tissue health.
- It has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties.
Beeswax is another product of honey bees with many beneficial properties. It is produced by the wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments of worker bees. A clear liquid comes out of the outer surface of the abdomen and it becomes solid in the form of scales, which are then processed to build honeycombs. For beeswax to be secreted, carbohydrates need to be consumed: 20kg of honey to produce 1kg of beeswax, with which bees can make 80,000 cells and build more than ten frames.
Bee venom (apitoxin)
Bee venom (apitoxin) contains enzymes, protein, peptides, minerals, organic acids, folic acid, antibiotic properties and cysteine. It constitutes bee society’s main defence weapon. Produced by the venom gland at the rear part of worker bees’ abdomen, bee venom is preserved in the venom sack. When the bee realizes a hostile attack towards her or her hive, she stings using her stinger. The stinger penetrates the intruder’s skin and its hooks are trapped in its muscle tissue; as a result, when the insect tries to escape, the entire stinger system detaches. The bee, having lost an important part of her body, dies, while the stinger in her victim convulses until the venom sack is emptied.
Although the bee venom is a deterring factor for many not to preoccupy themselves with bees, it is nonetheless used by the pharmaceutical industry for the production of immuno-therapy preparations for people who are allergic to bee venom, as well as for therapeutic purposes with positive results in cases of rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, research has shown that bee venom may be used for curing vascular diseases, acme, asthma, ulcers, cancer, neurodegenerative conditions and chronic pains. In Europe, bee venom is only officially used as a component of medicinal products in immunotherapy; however, for several centuries its beneficial effect was used with direct stings from bees. Bee venom therapy is particularly known in Far Eastern countries with bee venom acupuncture.
Apart from its therapeutic properties, bee venom also creates some reactions to our body, such as pain, redness, swelling, itching and some lymphatic idiopathic problems. When such symptoms occur after a sting, they do not constitute an allergic reaction, and in general, there should be no worry. What should be alarming is when no symptom occurs, or when a swelling occurs far from the sting site. If there is no pain on a site after a bee sting, the site must be chilled or/and some propolis ointment or some swelling ointment should be applied. Some stings may allow the venom to enter in an artery and, consequently, there may be some minor allergic symptoms such as fatigue, sleepiness and high fever as well as an allergic shock. In that case, the patient MUST seek medical assistance, even if the symptoms are mild, because the condition may become severe very soon. If someone knows he/she is allergic to bee venom, he/she must always bear first aid medicine with him/her recommended by his/her doctor. Usually these medicines are a special self-administered adrenaline injection, tablets of antihistamines and cortisone. The allergy can be diagnosed from the descriptive details provided by the patient to the allergist, and then by special skin tests and special blood tests. The only radical treatment for this problem is specialised immune-therapy or desensitization (vaccinations), conducted by allergists.