Consciously and Mindfully
The use of honey as a healing agent is nothing new. It was an ingredient in medicinal compounds and cures made by Egyptian physicians five thousand years ago.
In India, ayurvedic physicians recommended using honey to promote good health, while the ancient Greeks believed that honey could promote both virility and longevity. Traditional Chinese healers started using honey thousands of years ago, and it continues to make up an important part of Chinese medicine today.
Although several hundred articles on the medicinal value of honey appeared in medical and scientific journals between 1935 and 1990, scientific research was often overlooked by physicians who focused on antibiotics, antivirals, and other drugs to treat human disease. But with the rapidly increasing spread of superbugs like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and other microbes like Pseudomonas and coagulase-negative staphylococci that are becoming resistant to antibiotics, modern medicine has taken a second look at the healing properties of honey.
Yet the story of the therapeutic value of honey is invariably connected with the amazing creature that produces it, the honeybee. While most of us think that bees are valued primarily as honey producers, their most important commercial value is that of pollinator. Honeybees pollinate most of the fruits and vegetables we eat: if it were not for their labor, these foods would never grow. The welfare of the honeybee and other insect pollinators is essential to our future well-being.
Unfortunately, the current methods of industrial agriculture — where animals, plants, and the land that sustains them are treated as disposable commodities designed to return the greatest profit for the investment — pose a threat to the future well-being of bees, especially in North America, Europe, and other developed nations of the world.
Honey is one of the most complex natural foods available today and contains a wide variety of nutrients. When added together, they are considered a valuable source of nutrition, which the body easily assimilates. Vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), while the most important minerals include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, chromium, selenium, and zinc.
Hydrogen Peroxide Activity
The antibacterial activity of honey is usually due to the production of small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, a clear, colorless liquid that easily mixes with water. Hydrogen peroxide is normally created in the atmosphere when ultraviolet light strikes oxygen in the presence of moisture. Hydrogen peroxide reacts easily with other substances and is able to kill bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses, and some types of tumor cells. The first medical use of hydrogen peroxide was reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 1888 and – along with therapeutic ozone and hyperbaric oxygen – has become a part of a group of a healing modality generally known as oxidative therapy or oxygen therapy.
Hydrogen peroxide occurs naturally within Earth’s biosphere, and traces of it are found in rain and snow. It has also been found in many of the healing springs of the world, including Fátima in Portugal and Lourdes in France. Hydrogen peroxide is also an important component of plant life, and small amounts are found in many vegetables and fruits.
When honey comes into contact with body fluids like saliva or moisture (exudate) produced by a wound, an enzyme known as glucose oxidase (introduced into the honey by the bee) slowly releases hydrogen peroxide, often in sufficient amounts to be effective against bacteria. This is a major reason why honey can kill an astonishing variety of bacteria and viruses, including “superbugs” like Pseudomonas aeruginosa and MRSA.
Yet glucose oxidase can be destroyed when honey is exposed to light or heat, which stops the production of hydrogen peroxide. That is the main reason why honey should be stored in a cool place, kept away from sunlight, and consumed at temperatures under 100°F (38°C).
At a time when healthcare consumers are looking for inexpensive, nontoxic, and effective remedies for both preventive care and to treat injury and illness, honey is a viable alternative to antibiotics and other medications. I hope that both the general public and members of the healthcare community will take a more serious look at the therapeutic potentials of honey. As a result, we can make more educated and intelligent decisions about the healthcare options available for ourselves and our families.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher: The Honey Prescription: The Amazing Power of Honey as Medicine by Nathaniel Altman, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT Copyright © 2010 by Nathaniel Altman, www.HealingArtsPress.com.
Nathaniel Altman has authored more than 15 books, including A Russian Herbal, What You Can Do About Asthma, Healing Springs, and The Twelve Stages of Healing. www.nathanielaltman.com.