“ honey is a wonderful gift of nature and stands almost alone as a pure natural sweet, perfect in itself ”
-Samuel Simmins, a modern bee farm and its economic management, 1887-
Treasured for more than ten thousand years, the use of honey parallels the evolution of human society. Honey has been used as a source of food by nearly every culture and it has also been a part of religious and healing ceremonies in many corners of the world. Honey is the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of plant sucking insects on the living part of plants. There are several hundred species of bees that produce honey and even wasps are known to store different kinds of honey as food reserves but Apis mellifera is the most common.
photo courtesy of Claudia Selz @vitaimpatto1
Honey can come from the nectaries of flowers and plants (blossom or nectar honey) or it can come from the excretions of insects that suck the sap of plants (honeydew honey). The composition of honey is predominantly sugar (approximately 80%) with a low level of water (less that 20%), as well as organic acids and different active ingredients depending on the food source provided to the bees. Honey has a long history in the treatment of wound healing, however it is not a uniform product and apparently its chemical composition contributes to its antimicrobial use in veterinary medicine. Thanks to its natural acidity honey produces an unfavorable environment for antimicrobial growth and helps to reduce local inflammation associated with tissue injury.
According to Dr. Cooper, professor at the Centre for Biomedical Sciences of Cardiff Metropolitan University, manuka, chestnut and clover honeys contain additional active ingredients that contribute to their antimicrobial action preventing the creation of a biofilm on the skin. The antimicrobial action of honey presents an opportunity to avoid antimicrobial treatment in a world of increasing antibiotic resistance but clinical evidence for its antibacterial activity has to be increased. For sure there are no evidence of toxicity.
Some scientists suggest not using “table honey” at all because they are not licensed for use in clinical setting. On the other hand, some scientists of the Weipers Centre for Equine Welfare in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, have investigated the effects of 28 different honeys (the majority of which were purchased at a local market) on infectious agents recovered from equine wounds. They first tested the honeys for the presence of infectious agents and then tested those considered uncontaminated in a laboratory on ten different bacteria isolates from equine wounds. Interestingly, the “medicinal” honeys weren’t necessarily the most effective, in fact, the best performance came from local heather honey, which inhibited the growth of all ten bacterial isolated at very low concentrations…. Much more interesting, from the holistic point of view, is the connection with the Bach Remedy Heather. Heather is the remedy for whom latch onto people just like bacteria on the skin does! ….
Based on principles of TCM, bee honey (蜂蜜 feng mi), has sweet and neutral properties and it’s associated with the Lung and its paired Large Intestine meridian that governs the skin. Its application on the skin it could be associated with the “surround the dragon” acupuncture technique. It involves placing fine acupuncture needles around the lesion, inserted at 2cm intervals subcutaneously at 25 degree angle to the skin and left in place for 30 minutes.
Dr. Kennedy, a vet with a particular interest in bees medicine and member of the British Bee Veterinary Association (BBVA), highlights in a BBVA meeting review the importance to protect and preserve bees, appreciating the survival and prosperity of such an important specie, promoting for example to grow bee-friendly plants on our gardens. Experts, indeed, warn that the bees are at risk due to the changes in agricultural practices using more pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. These harmful agents are changing both human and animal physiology and metabolism. We are so connected with bees, not only for honey but because many of our foods require pollination by bees. Let’s honor the bees by giving them a gift in return, planting flowers and plants without pesticides.
According to bee experts at the Davis University of California, under normal conditions, a healthy colony of honey bees can have surplus hive products removed without overtaxing the colony. Beekeepers do not need to put pressure on the bees to perform as they perform at a high level any way due to their nature.
photo courtesy of Claudia Selz @vitaimpatto1
A good advise could be to buy honey by local beekeepers at farmers’ markets. Small producers, indeed, who do not produce honey as a first business take care of bees avoiding taking off the comb just taking the excess. Even better, supporting your neighborhood bees means supporting re-bust pollination for your local food system.
So leave weeds like dandelions and clover in your yard as a tasty snack for local bees! …
Plant a friendly-garden growing a variety of blooms over the season is like giving your friendly neighborhood pollinators a delectable buffet…lavender, rosemary or sage are also very useful medical herbs for you and your dog! …
Keep pesticides out of your garden and yard preferring natural remedies as these chemicals can harm everybody.