This sweet natural substance not only helps the medicine go down, it can actually be the medicine! The annual flu season is underway so you may want to consider honey the next time you get that itch in the back of your throat.
History of Honey:
Honey is produced by honey bees and is derived from the nectar of flowers. It is a mixture of sugar and several other substances. The taste and texture of honey can vary, both due to the type of flowers that the bees access, as well as how the honey is processed.
An ancient cave painting in Spain shows women collecting honey from beehives. Although first gathered as a food source, honey was also used as an ingredient in religious rituals. The ancient Egyptians held honey in high regard, as it was offered to their goddess of fertility and used prominently in baked goods of that era. The Egyptians even used honey in the embalming process of their dead.
In the Western hemisphere, the Mayans collected honey and believed it to be sacred. The sweet substance is mentioned in the literature of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Honey in Folk Medicine:
In traditional Chinese medicine, honey is recommended for invigorating the health of the lungs, spleen and stomach. Herbal doctors in China would also give patients honey to treat dehydration, pain, fatigue and boost Chi energy. Other folk and herbal medicine traditions used honey for coughs, bronchitis and bolstering immunity. Honey was also added to other medicinal ingredients to improve taste and make it more palatable to patients.
Most scientific studies on honey have looked at its effects on coughs, bacterial infections and damaged skin. It has been used for centuries as a throat soothing elixir, natural cough suppressant and decongestant. The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine published a study of 100 children (between the ages of 2 and 18) with upper respiratory infections who were given either buckwheat honey, dextromethorphan or nothing at all. According to their parents, the children who received the honey had the best relief from symptoms compared to the other methods.[i]
The University of Ottawa conducted a study using Manuka honey, which is sourced from New Zealand’s Manuka bush. Using this honey, scientists were able to destroy bacteria involved in the development of chronic sinusitis, which inflames the nasal cavity and may impact sufferers for months.[ii]
The immune system of a honey bee contains a protein called defensin-1, which gets passed into the honey when bees create it from flower nectar. Scientists believe this is the major antibacterial property within honey. The success of honey as an antibacterial may help develop new types of antibiotics that can overcome current drug-resistant bacteria.
Honey should NOT be given to infants under 2 years of age, as it can contain botulism spores. The immature digestive system of an infant can’t kill these spores and could lead to poisoning and death. Consult a qualified health care professional on using honey for medicinal purposes. Honey made from Rhododendron flowers can be toxic, so if the source of honey is not known it is wise to avoid eating it.
Decline of the Honey Makers:
Since the late 1990s, beekeepers around the world have observed the mysterious and sudden disappearance of bees and report unusually high rates of decline in honeybee colonies. The loss of commercial honeybees in the United States since 2006 was 40%, in Europe since 1985; 25% and in the UK since 2010; 45%.[iii]
Bees are more important than just as honey makers – they are key to food production as they pollinate crops. Bumblebees, other wild bees and insects like butterflies, wasps and flies all provide valuable pollination services. A third of the food that we eat depends on pollinating insects, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, edible oils and many more. In Europe alone, the growth of over 4,000 vegetables depends on the essential work of pollinators. Currently more and more bees are dying and their decline affects mankind. Human lives depend on bee lives, which has given rise to a poster with a bee saying, “If we die, we are taking you with us!” Perhaps an exaggerated statement, but the facts are there to show that if all bees die much of the human food supply would disappear.
While you sip your tea sweetened with honey, don’t forget to help prepare your body for the cold and flu season by regular chiropractic adjustments. Your nervous system plays an important role in the function of your immune system. By keeping your nervous system free of subluxations, your body can harness its maximum innate power to fight bacteria and viruses.
[i] Effect of Honey, Dextromethorphan, and No Treatment on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Coughing Children and Their Parents – Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(12):1140-1146.
[ii] An investigation into the effects of Manuka honey on protein expression in meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus using 2D electrophoresis –Society of General Microbiology, Autumn Meeting, 7–10 September 2009.