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The Healing Powers of HONEYA Complete Guide to Nature's Remarkable Nectar
By CAL OREY
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Cal Orey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Power of Honey
Honey comes out of the air ... At early dawn the leaves, of trees are found bedewed with honey ... It is always of the best quality when it is stored in the best flowers.
—Pliny (A.D. 23–79)
As a child, in my dreams I lived in a cottage with my father, a dedicated beekeeper, and mom, who did all cooking, canning, and baking with honey. In our garden I'd watch my father experiment with hives and establish an apiary on 10 acres. He shipped Italian queen bees across the United States and around the world. But my home was normal, because in reality I grew up in a middle-class suburb of south San Jose, California, a place once touted for its nectar sources—a honey bee's dreamworld.
My first encounter with honey was when I was five years old. In kindergarten I remember drawing a giant honey bee on a wildflower. (It didn't hold a beeswax candle to beekeeper Prince Cesi's microscopic drawing of the insect.) After art time, Mrs. Berry dished out graham crackers (sweetened with honey and developed by Sylvester Graham in 1829), milk cartons, and Mr. Bee-Good notes (little square papers with special kudos to three good students once a week). When I wasn't one of the chosen few, my mind wandered; What would life be like as a bee? My imagination soared with images of me morphing into an insect and flying from flower to flower to fill up on sweet nectar.
That was decades ago, and today I can look back at my life experiences and see how the honey bee and honey played a role in my real world. I wasn't raised by a beekeeper and his wife, nor as a kid did I put on a bee veil and visit bees. But I got a taste of honey and its healing powers throughout the years of growing up and traveling like a wayward bee.
Today, I sit here in my hive-like wood-paneled study and I feel the spirit of the honey bee as I work on The Healing Powers of Honey. My file cabinet behind me is full of material on everything from honeycomb to honey candies. In my kitchen pantry, honeys—dozens of healthful dark and light varieties—sit. The best part is, I have discovered the healing magic of honey, and a world I've called Honeyland that I want to share with you.
Honey 101: Nature's Gift
Honey, one of the oldest sweeteners, comes from flower nectar that has been consumed by the honey bee (Apis mellifera), which was originally found in Europe. (The Entomological Society of America uses two words, "honey bee," and the British use one word, "honeybee.") Known as "nectar of the gods," as far back as 5,000 years ago it was used for medicinal purposes, in cooking and as a preservative, as a medicinal agent, in cosmetics, and in soaps, and even the beeswax has been used for candles.
The Honey Makers: So, how exactly do honey bees make honey, anyhow? They diligently collect nectar from flowers and other plants and carry it to the hive. It's those honey bees that are responsible for transforming the floral nectar that they gather into honey by adding enzymes to the nectar and reducing moisture.
The honey bee full of nectar comes back to the hive and goes to work. Honey is stored in hexagonal chambers. The honeycomb structure of the hive also has rooms for the queen bee to lay her eggs. Before honey is available to put in your tea or on top of a muffin, the honey-covered walls of the hive are removed and placed in a spinner. Rotated fast, the spinner separates the liquid from the comb.
Once extracted straight from the hive, honey is a combination of fructose, glucose, and water. This sweet gift also contains other sugars, enzymes, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and, most important, many types of honeys boast antioxidants—the good-for-you compounds that can help keep your body inside and outside healthy and boost your life span.
... And Key Pollinators: Beekeepers know that honey bees provide another service; as second-shift workers they pollinate one-third of the food we eat. As a bee travels in search of nectar, it brushes against pollen-bearing parts of a flower and picks up pollen. When the honey bee goes to another flower for more food, some of the pollen from the first flower sticks to the second flower—and the flower is pollinated.
The honey bee pollinates more than 90 crops, including apples, blueberries, citrus fruit, and nuts—approximately four-fifths of the fresh fruits and vegetables we eat. Indeed, hardworking honey bee colonies (50,000 to 60,000 bees per hive, including workers, drones, and one queen) who work double duty (like hardworking humans) are man's best friends because they are vital to our planet.
"Honey bees are woven into our food chain. Without honey bees the whole food chain would be diminished in diversity and quantity for us," explains Hidden Valley Honey's beekeeper Chris Foster of Reno, Nevada, who lives 50 miles away from me—and showed me his colonies in action and their products, from buzzing bees to fresh honey in jars.
HONEY FORMS TO TASTE
Like more than 50 percent of American households, you may have liquid honey in your kitchen cupboard, but there are a variety of forms of honey available for both your health and enjoyment, too.
From Sweet Nectar to Super Honey
Not only are there different forms of honey to eat, but there are a variety of honeys, touted by people—from foodies to health nuts—as one of Mother Nature's superfoods (like antioxidant-rich chocolates and olive oils). And now healing honeys in a variety of flavors are making the news around the world and are popular in restaurants, beauty spas, and our homes.
Honey is not just a liquid sweetener that you put in your tea or on your toast. It's an ancient medicine that has been used to treat heart disease, respiratory ailments, skin ulcers, wounds, stomach problems, insomnia, and even "superbugs." Honey is also known to help curb sweet cravings and boost energy, which can help stave off type 2 diabetes, unwanted pounds, and body fat.
Top scientists, nutritionists, and medical doctors know stacks and stacks of research show some honeys contain the same disease-fighting antioxidant compounds that are found in fruits and vegetables, which fight heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and obesity—four problems in the United States and around the world.
SuperFoods HealthStyle co-author Steven G. Pratt, M.D., world-renowned authority on nutrition, points out that certain superfoods keep you healthy and stave off diseases: "Perhaps honey's most important health-promoting benefit is its antioxidant ability. We know that daily consumption of honey raises blood levels of protective antioxidants."
Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why, also praises raw, unfiltered honey: "Honey is pure alchemy. And it's precious stuff." It's common consensus among beekeepers that the real, raw, unprocessed, unheated, unfiltered kind of honey that you get you get straight from the hive—honeycomb—is the real deal with good-for-you antioxidants. Think pure apple cider vinegar, unadulterated olive oil, and quality dark cocoa: raw honey, like these antioxidant-rich superfoods, is the healthy stuff.
Most medical doctors and nutritionists I spoke with during my trek through Honeyland agreed that while honey is a sugar, it does contain disease-fighting antioxidants and other health virtues that make it the standout sweetener of choice.
Honey is made from a wide variety of flowers, trees, and other plants. There are hundreds of varieties found around the world. It's the darkest honeys that are the ones to write home about, because these are the superstars with medicinal value that deserve kudos in the human world.
The following 10 flavors of honeys—some of the top antioxidant-rich and medicinal ones—are listed alphabetically. These honeys are sitting side by side in jars (hex shaped to bear shaped) in my pantry. One by one, I encountered each flavor, and today I use each one of them for its unique healing benefits. I dish out more details for you about the honey varietals in my up close and personal experiences with you in chapter 7.
Healing Products from the Hive
Honey is healing, but its bee products straight from the hive also have healing powers, the practice of which is known as "apitherapy." While honey types and forms do come with health perks, four byproducts straight from the hive are also creating a buzz. I learned that these gifts for both bees and mankind can be and are used for health and healing and in the home. Thanks to the human honey producers, my pantry is chock-full of not only honey varietals, but also other bee foods that are making news around the globe.
Pollen: A protein-rich, powder-like substance. Honey bees gather pollen as food for themselves and their young. Bee pollen is packed with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids. It has more amino acids and vitamins that any other amino acid–containing product, like beef, eggs, or cheese, claim nutritionists. People in the honey world recommend starting slowly and building up to 1 to 2 teaspoons of pollen each day. Some people will use pollen in cereal, smoothies, and yogurt, and a few chocolatiers include it in their chocolates. Find pollen at health-food stores and specialty honey shops.
Propolis: A sticky, dark-colored, waxy sap collected by honey bees from the buds of trees. Used by honey bees to close up cracks. People use it as a disinfectant as well as to treat a number of health ailments, including an oncoming cold. It is found in different forms, including chews, a spray, tincture, raw chunks, and capsules. Chews and propolis are available at health-food stores and honey specialty shops. When I opened a jar of bee propolis raw honey product from Dutchman's Gold Inc. and Annie's Apitherapy I was greeted with a thin layer of dark stuff on top. At first, I thought, A bee gift of sorts. I assumed it was propolis but wanted to know before I took a nibble. The mystery black layer was bee propolis. (Nutritional consultant Angela Ysseldyk, www.beepollenbuzz.com, recommends mixing it in. Simply heat the honey [do not microwave it] by placing the jar in a pot on the stove until it begins to melt. Do this slowly and be careful not to overheat and accidentally pasteurize your honey.)
Royal Jelly: A creamy liquid made and secreted by nurse bees to feed the queen. This is a nutrient-rich natural jelly with proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, minerals, sugars, and vitamins. It's touted as a skin product and dietary supplement. Honey lovers and health enthusiasts believe it has many health benefits. I'm told some folks (not me yet) can handle eating royal jelly solo; others (humans, not bees) will mix it with honey to make it easier to swallow. Royal jelly is available fresh in little jars, like honey types, and capsules. (Check out chapter 5: "Honey, You're Amazing!" and chapter 11: "Home Remedies from Your Kitchen" to find its potential healing powers.)
Beeswax: The wax that is processed from the glands of the female honey bee's abdomen. Sure, this isn't for eating, but it is molded to make honeycomb. It can be used for all-natural cosmetics, candles, and furniture polish. (Refer to chapter 12: "Honeymania: Honey for the Household" to find out about these honey products for you and your home.)
10 Honey Buzz-worthy Bits
Since the honey bee and mankind are connected because of our food chain, it makes sense to dish out a spoonful of honey trivia to show you just how the honey bee is an un-bee-lievable man's best friend. Take a look at these 10 factoids that'll get you thinking about the amazing small creature and what it can do.
It takes about 2 million flowers for honey bees to tap to make one pound of honey.
1. The average honey worker bee makes a mere 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
2. Utah is known as the Beehive State.
3. Honey bees communicate by dancing. The waggle dance alerts other bees to where the nectar and pollen are.
4. A honey bee must tap about 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey.
5. On average, each person in the United States consumes about 1.31 pounds of honey each year.
6. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that there are approximately 3 million honey-producing colonies in the United States.
7. It would take about 2 tablespoons of honey to fuel a bee's flight around the world.
8. A worker bee visits about 50 to 100 flowers during each trip.
9. A honey bee flies about 15 miles per hour.
10. A hive of bees flies more than 55,000 miles to bring you one pound of honey.
(Source: National Honey Board.)
As you can see, the remarkable honey bee flies the extra mile so it can produce honey—a superfood (a food that has super health benefits) for people, like you and me—that can be enjoyed solo or in a cup of tea or both ways. Here is a perfect recipe to whip up and savor with a cup of tea and honey as you fly away with me on a journey into Honeyland.
Un-bee-lievable Healing Hints to Catch
Research, especially in the past decade, shows that quality dark honeys, which are derived from a variety of flowers, trees, and other plants, produce the nectar for the honey around the globe—and may help you to:
In this book, I will show you how using honey (paired with other superfoods) is one of the best things you can do for yourself—and your health. But note, many people will not want to reap the benefits of honey by indulging in the dark stuff by teaspoons (like dark chocolate, it's an acquired taste). But you can get your daily honey dose from a flavorful cup of tea and honey and in cooking and baking. I've included dozens of recipes to pamper your palate and to help heal your body, mind, and spirit. And versatile honey in foods, cosmetics, soaps, and lotions, medicinal dressings, candles, and furniture polish can do so much more for both the inside and outside of your body and your household.
But first, let's go way, way back into the past. Take a honey bee's-eye view of why and how honey is one of the ancient world's first—and most remarkable—natural medicines.
Chapter TwoAn Ancient Essential Elixir
The secret of my health is applying honey inside and oil outside. —Democritus, contemporary of Hippocrates
My second encounter with honey was when I was a budding tomboy who favored insects and furry creatures, big and small, rather than toys and dolls. My kindergarten fantasy of having a backyard with flowers, plants, trees, and weeds with butterflies and honey bees was no longer a dream. My dad landscaped both our front and backyard—complete with a large hour glass-shaped patio. In the spring and summer the backyard was my refuge. I was mesmerized by the long row of tall bright red bottlebrush plants—an attraction to active honey bees. Listening to the sound of daily buzzing was like watching The Sound of Music—an escape from the everyday world.
Not only did the sound and sight of bees in our yard captivate me, but on summer nights honey-glazed chicken sizzling on the barbeque pit was an attraction, too. The scent of a fresh-baked apple pie sweetened with clover honey—cooling on the kitchen counter—wasn't to be ignored, either. After dinner, I'd take a dip in the next-door neighbor's swimming pool. It may not have been Greece, but it was home. My dad sold insurance, not bees or honey. But honey bees in the suburbs were part of my life, as they were noticed in other people's worlds in the 20th century and long ago.
Excerpted from The Healing Powers of HONEY by CAL OREY Copyright © 2011 by Cal Orey. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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