The Health Benefits of Raw Honey:
Honey is a delicious, nutritious, and medicinal superfood and sweetener from the animal kingdom. It has an amazing array of health benefits, especially in its raw form.
Raw honey stimulates release of the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, the hormone melatonin, and the vitamin B₃.
This golden substance is rich in antioxidants and natural sugars. It supports heart health, balances blood sugar levels, promotes restorative sleep, and assists with seasonal allergies.
Raw honey is healing and beautifying topically as well. It can be incorporated into natural cosmetics, where it provides moisture and minerals to the skin. In addition to this, it also helps to heal burns and wounds.
The Nutritional and Medicinal Content of Raw Honey:
The History of the Use of Honey:
For millennia, human beings have harnessed the nutritional and medicinal benefits of honey and other the substances produced by honey bees.
Honey has a long history of use in traditional fermented beverages such as mead and jun tea. It was also the staple sweetener in many traditional cuisines, before sugar became widely available.
Today, honey is still regarded as a health food and is a popular sweetener for teas and in cooking and baking.
The Nature of Honey Bees:
A honey bee colony consists of the queen bee, the female workers, and the male drones. The queen is the heart of the colony and mother of all its bees. The worker bees have different tasks including foraging for food, feeding the colony, attending to the queen, building the honeycomb, and guarding the beehive. The drones live only to mate with the queen and die after mating.
The honey bees' procuration of plant products provides pollination for the plants and after their alchemy has worked its magic on their harvest, the bee products that results are a distillation of the ecosystem that the bees live in.
In addition to honey, bees produce propolis, beeswax, bee pollen, bee bread, and royal jelly. These bee products have various uses in the beehive.
Honey bees dance to communicate and are able to convey complex messages to each other. They can communicate the distance and direction to food sources, as well as the amount of food available. They do so by performing a dance that symbolize the location in which the food is located and how much of it is to be found there.
Historically 11 species of honey bees were recognized. In the 21st century, 7 species remain, of which there are 44 subspecies.
The Bounties of the Beehive:
Honey: honey bees produce this sweet food substance from flower nectar. They use it as food supply, especially during the winter, when the flowers they forage for are out of season. Humans use honey in foods, medicines, supplements, and cosmetics.
Propolis: honey bees produce this resinous substance by mixing saliva and beeswax with plant exudates like saps and resins from eg. evergreen trees. They use propolis in the construction and maintenance of the beehive. Humans use it in medicines, supplements, and cosmetics. It has antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to this it has been proven to fight parasites, combat cancer, battle herpes, prevent colds, treat candida symptoms, and improve female fertility. It is made up of resins, waxes, essential oils, pollen, and various other organic constituents. It contains polyphenols, amino acids, and other beneficial compounds.
Beeswax: honey bees produce this wax substance in scales secreted by glands in their abdominal region. They use it in the creation of cells for honey storage, as well as in protection of pupae and larvae within the beehive. Humans use it in foods, medicines, supplements, and cosmetics, and for candle making, arts and crafts, and polish for wood and leather. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, emollient, and humectant properties, among many other benefits.
Royal jelly: honey bees produce this protein-rich jelly-like substance by glandular secretion. This white secretion is like mother's milk for bees. It is fed to all of the honey bee larvae in the colony during the first three days of their lives, after which worker and drone bees are fed a diet of pollen and honey, as opposed to the queen bee larva, whom receives a diet of royal jelly only. Humans use it in medicines, supplements, and cosmetics. It has antioxidant, antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-aging, anti-allergenic, and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to this it has been proven to provide digestive support, strengthen bones, boost the immune system, regulate blood pressure, fight diabetes, balance cholesterol levels, and improve male fertility through increasing serum testosterone levels by accelerating conversion of DHEA-S. It contains vitamins B₁, B₂, B₃, B₅, B₆, B₇, B₈, B₉, and B₁₂, micro minerals copper and zinc, macro minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium, 17 of 22 amino acids, 10-HDA (queen bee acid), natural hormones, nucleic acids, probiotics, peptides, as well as water, carbohydrates, protein, fat, and other beneficial compounds.
Bee pollen: honey bees produce this pollen substance by packing flower pollen tightly together into pellets. They use it to produce bee bread, the main protein source of the colony. Humans use it in foods and supplements. It contains around 40% protein, provitamin A, and vitamins B₁, B₂, B₃, B₅, B₆, B₁₂, C, D, E, and K, micro minerals boron, copper, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, silica, and zinc, macro minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and sulfur, and antioxidants, amino acids, enzymes, and co-enzymes.
Bee bread: honey bees produce this pollen substance by adding secretions and honey to their bee pollen, packing it into empty honeycomb cells, and fermenting it. They use it as a protein source and for feeding eggs and larvae. Humans use it in foods and supplements. It contains around 20% protein, provitamin A, vitamins B₁, B₂, B₃, B₅, B₆, B₁₂, C, D, E, and K, micro minerals boron, copper, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, silica, and zinc, macro minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and sulfur, antioxidants, amino acids, enzymes, co-enzymes, and beneficial bacteria and fungi.
To be(e) or not to be(e), that is the real question:
Honey bees have been around for much longer than human beings. The oldest bee fossil found is about 100 million years old and it is estimated that the first bees existed around 130 million years ago.
Today, their very existence is threatened by the activity of humans, especially that of agriculture. This practice is deeply problematic, being the number one cause of deforestation, as it makes space for planting monocultures and raising livestock.
Deforestation takes away the homes of many wild species, both animals, plants, and other life forms, and thereby damaging the biodiversty of the ecosystems and the ecology at large.
Monocultures greatly harms the natural flora of an ecosystem and weakens it, as "...a field of identical plants will be exquisitely vulnerable to insects, weeds, and disease."¹
The planting of monocultures is not only harmful to natural plants. It also harm the soil itself, as planting the same crops repeatedly drains the soil of nutrients. In addition to this, most monocultures are treated with pesticides, which is one of the greatest threats to honey bees and other pollinators.
These destructive agricultural practices disrupts the ecology with devestating effects on the health and longevity of the planet and its wild species.
The detrimental effect that pesticides have on bees have been attributed especially to neonicotinoids, a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine. In april of last year, these were finally banned in the EU.²
In the bigger picture, this is a small victory on the way to a sustainable ecology and planet, as other pesticides and certain synthetic chemicals needs to be totally banned worldwide, in order to truly care for the health and longevity of the Earth.
The decline in bees is a result of pesticides, parasistes, diseases, poor nutrition, climate change, and loss of habitat. For wild bee species these challenges are greater, leaving these at the highest risk from these causes.
Some species are endangered and some have become extinct. Since wild bees are not bred, their numbers cannot be controlled to such an extent as with domestic bees.
Colony collapse disorder is the term coined for when the majority of a colony suddenly leave their hive, queen, larvae, and honey behind. CCD is less common today than when it began being reported back in 2006, and the decline in domestic bees has actually been levelling out.
Domestic honey bees are not nearly as threatened as native bees, in spite of facing many of the same challanges as their wild relatives. This is due to the fact that they are bred in large quantities.
It's yet still high time for human beings to truly start caring for Mother Nature, our beloved Earth, our home planet. In order to do so, we have to realize the importance of the honey bees, among other things.
Honey bees perform about 80% of all pollination worldwide and in turn make every one in three bites of food possible for us humans. "70 out of the top 100 human food crops — which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition — are pollinated by bees."³
So, in order for us human beings to be, the honey bees have to be as well.
Save the Bees Campaigns:
Vanishing Bees: https://www.vanishingbees.com/
Friends of the Earth: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/bees
Pesticide Action Network: http://www.savehoneybees.info/
1. Pollan, M., 1998, "Playing God in the Garden", The New York Times Magazine, <https://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/playing-god-in-the-garden/>.
2. New Scientist staff and Press Association, 2018, "The European Union has decided to ban bee-killing pesticides", <https://www.newscientist.com/article/2167537-the-european-union-has-decided-to-ban-bee-killing-pesticides/>.
3. Greenpeace, 2018, "Save the Bees: Bee the Solution to help protect bees in crisis", <https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/sustainable-agriculture/save-the-bees/>.