Commonly referred to as the sweet nectar of life, man has been sourcing and utilizing honey for over 8000 years. Not only has it been a traditional culinary ingredient and important dietary staple, its velvety sweetness has extended itself to beauty regimes and religious practices. Made from bees and the nectar they extract from flowers, the art of beekeeping and honey production has also become paramount in the preservation of our environment. The symbiotic relationship between this species and the ecosystem, relative to cross-pollination and the reproduction of plants, is currently threatened by mass agriculture and pesticides. All is necessary to human survival and thankfully beekeepers have been able to somewhat domesticate the honey bee through artificial beehives consisting of one queen and large number of drone and female worker bees. lt’s fascinating to know that bees will travel up to 55,000 miles and visit more than 2 million flowers just to make one pound of honey!
Creating honey by digesting nectar and depositing remains in the honeycomb, bees were just as important in ancient times as they are today. As the world’s top produc-
er, beekeeping in China is so entrenched in history that its origins cannot be dated.
Although ancient Egyptians used honey for embalming the dead, the wealthy wives of pharaohs found more esthetic uses via hair depilatories and skin moisturizers. The Greeks of long ago created legislation in accordance to safety measures and commercialization of their honey while Romans, with a penchant for sweets, used the golden nectar for its sugary component. Evidence found in both Veda and Ayurvedic texts proves the people of India used honey in both spiritual and therapeutic practices. This is also evident in Christian, Hebrew and Buddhist art as well as in Mayan depictions.
lt’s also not surprising that ancient healers prescribed it medicinally as an ointment for rashes and burns and orally for coughs and ulcers.
Today honey is just as widespread, used in skin and hair care products, baking, cooking and in beverages. For the health conscious it has become a sugar substitute and regardless of its natural fructose content it has many benefits such as boosting energy and reducing allergy symptoms. Although it comes in many forms such as raw, pasteurized, crystallized and filtered, not all honey is made equal so you need to do your homework. There are also varying grades which can be measured by taste, fragrance and consistency and high quality honey should flow from a spoon in a steady stream without faltering. Your best bet is to purchase honey from a farmer’s market, a natural food store offering organic varieties or right from the beekeeper. Be sure to choose a brand that is raw, unfiltered and 100% pure and most importantly remember that too much of a good thing can be a detriment. Moderate your honey consumption!