The Benefits And Risks Of Honey Consumption
Beekeeping is an ancient activity. There is evidence from rock paintings that suggests beekeeping was happening as early as 13.000 BC. The ancient Egyptians were excellent beekeepers, as were the Greeks.
Honey is produced as food by the honeybees to sustain them during the winter months. The bees take nectar from flowers, take it to the hive, and, by concentrating it, make honey. It is stored within the hive on structures called combs.
The flavour, aroma and colour of honey differ depending on the flowers from which the bee removed the nectar. Climate, humidity and altitude also have an affect on the characteristics of honey. Clear honey has a weak flavour and aroma. Dark honey is rich in proteins and minerals. Common flavours of honey include orange blossom, tupelo, buckwheat, clover, blackberry, and blueberry. In Australia, the most common honey comes from eucalyptus trees, such as red gum, yellow gum and stringybark. Other countries are also noted for their honey, including Tasmanian leatherwood honey, Greek wild thyme honey, and French lavender and acacia honey.
There are three forms of honey, liquid, partially crystallized and granulated. Honey can be used as a food, preservative, or medicine. As a food, honey is rich in fructose, sucrose and glucose, making it a natural source of energy. Its antioxidant properties make it ideal as a preservative in foods, including meat, poultry and pastry. For about 4,000 years, honey has been used as a medicine. The ancient Egyptians used it for the treatment of wounds. Today it is also used to treat burns and skin ulcers. As a dressing on wounds, it provides a moist healing environment. Honey rapidly clears infection and reduces inflammation. Honey kills bacteria and prevents yeast infections because neither can survive in its low moisture content. Thus wounds are protected from infections and they heal quicker, making skin grafting unnecessary.
Honey diluted with water has been used to treat sore throats and coughs, inflammations, some eye diseases, athlete's foot and fungal diseases, upset stomachs, constipation and diarrhea, cardiovascular disease and cancer. It is also effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as salmonella, and H. pylori, which cause stomach ulcers.
Honey is used extensively in the cosmetics industry in moisturizers, lotions, facial creams and bath and shower products. It is an anti-irritant, making it suitable for sensitive-skin and baby products. Honey is a natural humectant, which means it both attracts and retains moisture. Many hair care products include honey in their basic ingredients.
There are some downsides to honey. Commercially processed honey is filtered and contains few allergens. Raw honey, on the other hand, retains a greater amount of pollens and may cause a reaction in people who are allergic to pollen. The reactions are usually small, but severe reactions, although rare, have occurred.
There are also several types of honey which are toxic to humans. Bees can produce "Mad Honey" from rhododendrons, mountain laurels and azalea flowers. The nectar of these plants sometimes contains grayanotoxin, which is poisonous to humans but harmless to bees. Toxic honey also results when bees gather honeydew produced by vine hopper insects feeding on the tutu plant in New Zealand. This introduces poisonous tutin into the honey and as little as one teaspoon of this can produce severe effects or death in humans. To reduce the risk of tutin poisoning, New Zealand beekeepers are required to closely monitor tutu, vine hopper, and foraging conditions within three kilometers of their bee hives.
In addition, honey isn't for everybody. It contains Clostridium botulinum spores which cause botulism. While adults and children can safely digest the spores without harm, babies under one year of age cannot. They are susceptible to infant botulism, because their gastrointestinal tracts are not fully working.