Honey is one of nature’s most splendid gifts to mankind. It possesses unique nutritional and medicinal properties. It is a viscid, saccharine substance, semi-translucent liquid of a light yellowish-brown colour. It has aromatic odour and sweet acrid taste. After some time it becomes opaque and crystalline. Bees alone are capable of making honey and honey comb.
The word “honey” is derived from Arabic ‘han’. This became ‘honing’ in German and ‘huning’ in old English. The word is used in English language as a term of endearment.
Origin and History
In India, honey has been used for several thousand years as an ingredient for medicines. In Egypt also, it formed the basis of many medical preparations. The ancients Greeks attributed many virtues to it. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, prescribed it 2,000 years ago to his patients as a remedy for several ailments and himself also used it. He believed that honey combined with other foods was nourishing and health-giving.
Aristotle, the father of natural science, held that its use improved health and prolonged life.
It is well known that the ancient Egyptian and Greeks used honey to embalm their dead. It has a wonderful keeping quality. In a tomb of a queen of Egypt, who was buried over 3,000 years ago, was found a jar of honey which has not undergone any appreciable change in its chemical composition or in its original aroma. It has been recently found that honey retains all its qualities even after 22 years.
The sugars in honey are glucose, fructose and sucrose. Glucose is the simplest of the sugars. It occurs in the blood of live animals, in fruit and vegetables juices. Its restores the oxygen that is replaced by lectic and acid when fatigue sets in. Fructose, which is also known as levulose or grape sugar, crystallizes more easily than glucose and builds up tissues. Sucrose is a combination of glucose and fructose. Dextrine, which is a gummy substance, is found in small amount in honey, but it makes honey so digestible.
Latest research indicates that the pollen in honey contains all 22 amino acids, 28 minerals, 11 enzymes, 14 fatty acids and 11 carbohydrates. Unfortunately much of these nutritive qualities are lost by heating the honey to 1500F for commercial use. Filtering, bottling and cooling to protect its flavour remove the pollen grains and do not leave the honey as a pure product.
Natural Benefits and Curative Properties
Honey is one of the finest sources of heat energy. Energy is generated mainly by the carbohydrate foods and honey is one of the most easily digested form of carbohydrate. It enters directly into the bloodstream because of its dextrine content and this provides almost instantaneous energy. It is a boon to those with weak digestion. All organs in the body respond favourably when honey is eaten. The famous Roman physician, Galen has described honey as an all-purpose medicine for all types of diseases. It is now used as curative and preventive for several ailments.
One spoon of fresh honey, mixed with the juice of half a lemon in a glass of lukewarm water and taken first thing in the morning, is an effective remedy for constipation and hyperacidity. Fasting on this honey-lemon juice water is highly beneficial in the treatment of obesity without loss of energy and appetite.
A mixture of honey and alcohol is believed to promote growth of hair. It is said that Japanese geisha girls, who have luxuriant hair, mix several tablespoonful of honey with alcohol, stirring them together. They massage this mixture unto the scalp, allow it to remain there for two hours and then wash or rinse with shampoo thoroughly. It is said that regular use of this honey-alcohol mixture stimulates the hair follicles to grow into luxuriant tresses.
Dr. Arnold Lorand, an eminent nutrition expert considers honey as the best food for the heart. He observes, “Honey is easily digested and assimilated; it is the best sweet food, as it does not cause flatulence and can prevent it to a certain extent, promoting the activity of the bowels. It can be easily added to the five meals a day I recommend in cases of arteriosclerosis and of weak hearts. As it would be unwise to leave such a hard working organ as the heart without food over the long hours of the night, I recommend heart patients to take before going to bed a glass of water with honey and lemon juice in it, and also to take it when awakening at night.” Honey is useful in cardiac pain and palpitation of the heart.
Honey is remarkable in building haemoglobin in the body. This is largely due to the iron, copper and manganese contained in it. It is beneficial in the treatment of anaemia as it helps maintain the right balance of haemoglobin and red blood corpuscles.
Honey is highly beneficial in the treatment of all diseases of the lungs. It is said if a jug of honey is held under the nose of an asthma patient and he inhales the air that comes into contact with the honey, he starts breathing easier and deeper. The effects last for about an hour or so. This is because honey contains a mixture of ‘higher’ alcohols and ethereal oil and the vapours given off by them are soothing and beneficial to the asthma patients. It usually brings relief whether the air flowing over the honey is inhaled or whether it is eaten or taken either in milk or water. Some authorities recommend one year old honey for respiratory disease.
Honey, applied externally, is considered useful in the treatment of wounds and sores. Dr. N. Zaiss, a leading Vinnese physician before the World Wars, claimed to have treated successfully thousands of cases of wounds, sores and long standing ulcers with honey. Honey, according to him soothes pain, acts as an antiseptic, hastens healing and is especially effective in curing burns and carbuncles.
The use of honey is highly beneficial in the treatment of irritating cough. As a demulcent or soothing agent, it produces a soothing effect on the inflamed mucus membrane of the upper respiratory tract and retrieves irritating cough and symptoms like difficulty in swallowing. For the same reason, it is used in the manufacture of various cough mixtures. Honey gargles are also useful in irritant cough.
Honey is beneficial in the treatment of insomnia. It has hypnotic action in bringing sound sleep. It should be taken with water, before going to bed, in doses of two teaspoonfuls in a big cupful of water. Babies generally fall asleep after taking honey.
Honey is valuable in keeping the mouth healthy. Applied daily over the teeth and gums, it cleans and gives sparkle to the teeth. It prevents deposit of tartar at the base of the teeth and prevents decay and early falling of the teeth. Being a mild antiseptic, it prevents the growth of harmful micro-organisms. It also keeps the gums in the healthy state, increasing their vascularity. In case of ulcers in the oral cavity, honey helps in their early healing and prevents further sepsis and pyogenic infection related bad odour and pus formation. Gargling with honey water is very useful in gingivitis due to inflammation of the gums.
Honey is an excellent remedy for various eye ailments. Applied daily in the eyes, it improves the eye-sight. It is very useful in the treatment of itching of the eyes, trachoma, conjunctivitis and other similar diseases. Its regular internal as well as external application will prevent glaucoma in the initial stage of the disease.
Honey is valuable in the prevention of cataract formation. Two grams of onion juice and honey each, mixed together, should be kept safe in a clean bottle. It should be applied locally to the eyes with a glass rod. This is a very effective remedy for immature cataract. It resolves the already coagulated protein fibres as well as prevents further coagulation.
Diseases of stomach
Honey is useful in maintaining the health of the stomach. It tones up the stomach, helps in proper digestion and prevents stomach diseases. It also decreases the over production of hydrochloric acid thereby preventing symptoms like nausea, vomiting and heart burn. When putrefied faecal matter and undigested foods are present in the alimentary canal, honey acts as a laxative and emetic and clears the digestive canal of the waste matter.
Honey is specially useful in providing energy and heat to the body in old age. It dries up phlegm and clears the system of mucus to which a person generally falls victim to in old age. One or two teaspoonful of honey in a cupful of boiling water, taken while still warm, is a refreshing and strengthening drink.
Honey is a spermatogenic and sexual stimulant. It is regarded by many Asiatics as an aphrodisiac. They believe that it possesses a magical substance with influences the fertility of women and the virility of men. In ancient days, a simple honey potion was said to offer a feeling of rejuvenation. It was prepared by boiling three parts water to one part honey over a slow fire until two thirds remains. This honey potion is believed to promote a feeling of rejuvenation and youthful virility.
(Culled from Foods That Heal by H.K. Bakhru)
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