A brief history of the food and medical applications of honey


“The only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey…and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.”

 Said Winnie the Pooh

 The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
A brief history of the food and medical applications of honey


Jim Gardner                                                                                                


Despite the Pooh bear’s self imposed limitations on his use of honey, for thousands of years we humans have used honey not only as food, but also medicinally.


And it’s served us well as a food by providing caloric value, trace vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And, as the Pooh bear can tell you, it’s sweet. From a medical standpoint many claims have been made, but probably honey’s most notable and well documented contribution to date has been its use in wound care.


Honey has been used over the ages to fight disease and internal ailments, probably most often to address gastric problems. However, today much debate exists regarding the effectiveness of ingesting honey to address internal ailments.


Because most all honey contains hydrogen peroxide, which in a limited way inhibits bacterial growth, it’s been used since ancient times for wound care. However, a more recent discovery shows one particular form of honey is an especially powerful addition to the care of wounds. It’s made by bees that gather nectar from the flowers of the plant Leptospermum Scoparium, of the myrtle family, and commonly know as the tea tree or Manuka bush.  The honey is most commonly known and sold as Manuka honey. But more about that later…


The History of Honey


Ancient cave paintings, estimated to have been made between 7,000 and 8,000 years ago, show wild honey was gathered by humans. There is even some evidence to suggest that birds were followed by early humans to locate wild bee hives. Excavations of ancient Egyptian burial sites have show evidence of honey, along with other foods, being stored to support the trip of departed potentates into their afterlife.


It is also known that in ancient Greece beekeeping for honey production was heavily employed.

In fact, honey was used extensively by both the Greeks and ancient Romans in their diet.


Beekeeping itself dates so far back that little is know about who used it first. It is known that not only the ancient Greeks kept bees and harvested their honey, but it was also practiced in areas of the Middle East and Asia. Honey was so widely used in early human history that it became ingrained into our religious documents. Honey is mentioned a number of times in both the Bible’s Old and New Testaments, and in the sacred writings of many other religions. No doubt the Pooh bear would like this one from Proverbs 24:13: My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste.”


Next time “Why Manuka honey from New Zealand differs from other honey”

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