Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Honey and Healing Through the Ages

Journal of ApiProduct & ApiMedical Science, Vol. 1 (1) pp. 2 - 5

Honey, along with other products from the hive, is once again becoming accepted as reputable and effective healing agents (Okhiria et al, 2009). This is not just amongst the general public but also amongst those that practice conventional medicine. This widespread acceptance and increased curiosity in the therapeutic powers of honey must be due to the increased awareness of the very positive and encouraging results that are being obtained in clinical tests. Amongst others some most noteworthy is the work being done by Professor Peter Molan in New Zealand and in Cardiff by Professor Rose Cooper.

It is known from evidence such as bees trapped in amber that the honey bee has been around for about 50 million years. Mankind, in recognisable form, has been around for less than 2 million years but, from the very beginning, it would not be hard to conclude that honey has figured somewhere in his diet.

Stone age rock paintings in several different locations show honey hunting and these have been dated 6000BC or earlier. Thus giving between 8 and 10 thousand years of international evidence that the human race has recognised honey as a precious product. In southern England there is evidence of honey being stored in earthenware pots around 2500BC (Crane, 1999).

It is difficult to know when honey became recognised as more than a welcome food supplement, a treat, or something used for special religious ceremonies. The oldest written record is a prescription written on a clay tablet from Nippur, the religious centre of the Sumerians in the Euphrates valley, circa 2000BC. This prescription states:

"Grind to a powder river dust and…(here the words are missing)... then knead it in water and honey and let plain oil and hot cedar oil be spread over it" (Kramer and Levey, 1954)

It is thought that this might be a cure for some skin infection or ulcer. There is certainly evidence from about the same period of similar medicines being used to treat eye and ear disorders. A honey and butter paste was often used after surgery, or to help the healing of stretched or pierced ears. Sometimes, depending on its purpose, the paste was enriched with other ingredients such as barley or herbs.

In Asia, where there are other sources of sweetness, honey has always been recognised as of prime medicinal value. It is mentioned as such in Chinese literature dating from about 2000BC.

The Veda, the sacred books of the people occupying the Indus and Ganges valleys about 1000BC, records: "Let one take honey …. to beautify his appearance, develop his brain faculty and strengthen his body" (Mullick, 1944)…

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