|May 13, 2002|
What Is Honey?
Your throat feels scratchy. Swallowing hurts, and it's an effort to raise your voice above a whisper. You could suck on a cough drop or down some cough syrup, or you could choose to drink a cup of hot tea laced with honey.
Many professional singers and announcers reach for the honey jar to soothe the symptoms of an irritated or sore throat. But did you ever think of applying honey to a burn or a scrape? Scientists are discovering that the bee's number one commodity could be good medicine for us.
Honey is the combination of nectar secretions from the flowers of some plants and other sweet plant deposits that are gathered and modified by honeybees. Bees store honey in honeycombs and then use it for food in winter. A natural sweetener because of its high glucose and fructose content, honey is widely used in candies, cereals, and baked goods.
There are more than 300 types of honey, varying in flavor and colors (from pale yellow to dark amber), depending on the type of blossoms visited by the honeybee. Some common honeys are alfalfa, orange blossom, clover, buckwheat, and tupelo. Honey is produced in nearly every state in the country, but the top-producing states are California, Florida, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Here is some data on the number of metric tons of honey produced by the top three honey-producing states:
An Effective Healer
Because of its high sugar, low protein composition, honey acts as a natural "antimicrobial" that limits the growth of bacteria by cutting off the supply of water and nitrogen. When honey is applied to a wound, it is diluted with fluids from the damaged tissue and combines with an enzyme added by the bee to form hydrogen peroxide, the same disinfectant found in pharmacies. The naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide promotes healing and reduces scarring as it is slowly released into the wound.
Honey 1, Superbugs 0: Researchers in New Zealand found that honey actually killed a number of highly contagious antibiotic-resistant viruses ("superbugs") such as multiple-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). The team showed that "honey killed 100 different strains of methicillin-resistant MRSA..." While this looks promising for scientists, health care, and hospital workers, the New Zealand team has not yet identified the powerful antimicrobial agent they believe to be in honey.
Non-Stick Coating: Several studies show honey's effectiveness as a treatment for burns and other skin disorders. In a study of burn patients, doctors in India treated 52 patients with honey and 52 with silver sufadiazine, a standard burn-treatment compound. Of those treated with honey, 87% improved within 15 days compared with 10% treated with the silver sufadiazine. In Australia, honey has had the status of medicine since 1999 medicinal honey is available in pharmacies as a wound dressing. Honey used for medicinal purposes has not been pasteurized or heated, unlike most commercial honey.
Cleaning up the Body: In a study published last month,
University of Illinois researchers say that honey may act as a dietary antioxidant. In other
words, chemicals found in honey could help rid the blood of toxins or harmful substances.
This would make using it as a sweetener more beneficial than using sugar.
The Bee Line
Royal jelly: The queen's diet consists exclusively of royal jelly. This creamy substance, secreted by nurse bees (groups of worker bees dedicated to the care of the queen), aids the queen's growth and enhances her fertility level and longevity. The compound is 12-13% protein, 12%-15% carbohydrates, 5-6% lipids. Rich in vitamins and minerals, royal jelly includes the B vitamin pantothenic acid, which is thought to reduce stress. Gamma globulin, an amino acid that helps the immune system fight infection and disease, is also present in royal jelly. Some people believe royal jelly strengthens the immune system, improves skin tone, and increases energy. It is also believed to have anti-viral and antibacterial qualities.
Bee venom therapy: Currently, bee venom therapy is approved in the United States only for desensitization of persons with allergic reactions to bee venom. Supporters of this therapy claim it reduces inflammation in the body using natural anti-inflammatory agents, such as melittin and adolapin, found in the venom. They contend that bee venom can be used to treat systemic inflammations, such as arthritis and asthma, injuries such as tendonitis, and may even minimize some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.