A brief history
Honey bees are ancient creatures that have inhabited the Earth for more than 130 million years. The incredible diversity of plants is largely due to the humble honey bee and its role in pollinating plants. Scientists and nature lovers rightly fear the impact that any decline of bee populations would have for life on Earth and we, at Art of Honey, share that concern and strive to support and develop sustainable honey harvesting.
Honey is magical. It is a natural and organic sugar that contains no additives. It is easily digested and yet it can be stored indefinitely. In fact, honey has been used by human beings in a plethora of ways; we adore eating it raw or as an ingredient in cooking, we bathe in it, fix our wounds and have even traded with it. However, the first human contact with honey is hard to gauge.
The first recorded evidence for the harvesting of honey dates to around 6000BC. A rock painting in Valencia (Spain) depicts a honey seeker robbing honey from a wild bee colony. The bees appear to be driven away by smoke and the hive is looted by breaking it open and probably destroying the colony.
Archaeologists have discovered tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs who were buried with honey comb which was perfectly persevered and still edible after thousands of years in silent storage.
In the Old Testament, the land of Israel is called “the land of milk and honey”. Honey features in the Bible on many occasions. God nourished Jacob with honey from the rock. He bestowed upon Israel fine flour, olive oil and honey. John the Baptist was said to eat locusts and wild honey. Furthermore, honey is mentioned in the Talmud, the scrolls of the Orient and in the Quran.
The famous Greek physician Hippocrates, who lived 2500 years ago, wrote an essay called “About Wounds” and which included honey is a key ingredient. The Romans made full use of honey’s healing properties; they used it to heal battle wounds. Hannibal, the scourge of Rome, famously made his soldiers eat honey and vinegar as they crossed the Alps to invade Rome.
During the 10th Century AD, England’s monarchs drank fermented honey wine called mead; a heady brew indeed! The Edmeades family famously produced the best mead in the land.
We aim to revive the traditional use of honey for its health benefits as we believe it can greatly benefit modern society. We hope to reap benefits of honey that our ancient ancestors knew to be true.
The Nutritional Qualities of Raw Honey
To make one pound of pure honey, honey bees have to collect pollen from two million flowers. The water content of honey is typically 18%; the lower the water content the higher the grade of honey. What is more, honey does not require special storage or refrigeration and can be used straight from the jar.
Honey glories in having hundreds of types, each with a unique flavour and colour depending on the blossoms visited by the honey bees. The percentage of fructose, and glucose, as well as the amount and type of amino acids and organic acids vary by floral source which in turn determine the final flavour and hue of the honey.
Single varietal honeys result when the honey bees gather nectar from the same type of flowers. Bee keepers aid the process by strategically locating hives in an orchard or adjacent to a single type of flower and then carefully monitoring the collection of the honey.
It is commonly believed that polyfloral honey (honey obtained from more than one variety of flower) provides more benefits than monofloral honey. Therefore, blended honey, is therefore considered to be healthier than non-blended honey.
Honey is the embodiment of nature. Honey is sweet; however, it is more than simply a natural sweetener. Also, although a tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories, it has a healthy glycaemic load of that of a banana. Therefore, raw honey does not, unlike white sugar, cause a sugar spike and elevated insulin release.
Digestibility of honey is 100%. This high-caloric product (about 328kcal/100gr) is a valuable source of carbohydrates that contains almost all vitamins and minerals that people need; minerals, antimicrobials, useful enzymes, hormones and essential oils. This is what makes honey a functional food, meaning that it brings added health benefits.
Honey contains 75-79% fructose and glucose and 15-18% water. The remaining 10.3% comprise enzymes, minerals, cane sugar, organic acids, vitamins and tannin. Thanks to high content of glucose, approx ~ 36%, fructose ~ 40%.
Organic acids lend honey its distinct flavour. The most common acids are citric, malic, lactic and gluconic ones. Acidity of floral honeys (pH) is around 3.78, acidity of honeydew is around 4.57.
The constituency of raw honey is impressive. It contains 22 amino acids, 27 minerals and 5,000 enzymes. The bundle of minerals it contains include; iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, selenium and zinc.
Honey teems with vitamins too including, B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and thiamine B1, B2, B3, pantothenic, nicotine (PP) and ascorbic acid (C). Furthermore, honey’s nutraceuticals neutralise harmful free radicals.
Honey’s enzymes included Invertase (carbohydrate-digesting enzyme), and Diastase. (transforms starch into maltose and then into glucose), Catalase (very important enzyme in protecting the cell from oxidative damage by reactive oxygen species), Lipase and others.
The Application of Healthy Honey
The application, ‘know-how’ of honey for our health is primarily found in traditional medicines or folk medicine. When it is adopted outside of its traditional culture, traditional medicine is often called alternative medicine. The unique components of each type of honey means its health applications vary.