Can I eat honey? Isn’t honey an “animal by-product” since it comes from bees?
First, bees do not make honey. No, it’s true.
But bees do process nectar from the flowers that becomes honey. Here is how it works.
Honeybees fly from flower to flower collecting nectar. They have two stomachs: the honey stomach and the midgut. When the nectar is collected, it enters the honey stomach. It can take up to 1,000 flowers’ worth of nectar to fill a bee’s honey stomach. If a bee is hungry, the section between the midgut and the honey stomach opens and some of the nectar moves into the midgut. In this second stomach, the nectar is then converted to energy for the bee. Once the honey stomach is filled, the bee will return to the hive and the honey-making commences.
In the hive, the bee will regurgitate the nectar from the honey stomach and it is then passed, mouth-to-mouth, among the bees in the hive to reduce the moisture content. Each bee will chew the nectar for about a half an hour, using natural enzymes (invertase and glucose oxidase) to convert the complex sugar in nectar into simple sugar. Enzymes are organic compounds that speed up a biochemical reaction.
Nectar is about 80% water. Through this process, the moisture content of the nectar is reduced to about 20 percent. With the reduction in moisture and the help of the enzymes, honey is made. The glucose oxidase enzyme is a natural preservative which limits the ability of bacteria and other microorganisms to grow in the honey and spoil it. The honey is then stored in the cells within the hive until it is needed.
Fun Fact: Hydrogen peroxide is also made from glucose oxidase.
Honeybees do not hibernate in the winter. They remain in their hives, huddled together to keep warm, and feast on the sweet honey they have hoarded for weeks. Honeybees produce more honey than they will need to survive during the winter months, and it is the remaining honey that is collected by beekeepers and sold in stores.
Unlike a cow, whose milk is produced in a process that ultimately causes the mammary glands to make milk, the bee is simply a storage facility and manufacturing plant, if you will. The nectar is collected from the flowers and stored in the honey stomach. It is then processed outside the bee and the glucose oxidase is added, thus making honey.
One More Fun Fact: The oldest evidence of honey was found in ancient Georgia (Eastern Europe) in 2003 and was determined to be about 5,500 years old. It had been stored in ceramic vessels in the tomb of a noblewoman. Three types of honey were found—meadow flower, berry, and linden. Originally thought to be the oldest honey found, archaeologists found a jar of honey in the tomb of King Tutankhamun. They tasted it and found it to still be sweet. Its low water content and acidic pH kept it from spoiling.
When bees are on the search for nectar, flying from flower to flower, their bodies brush against the flowers and pick up pollen. In this way, bees transfer pollen enabling the different flower species to reproduce.
Raw honey has been used as a remedy for centuries and provides a number of health benefits and medicinal uses. Many of these benefits are specific to raw honey, as the process of pasteurization destroys many of the beneficial nutrients.
A Good Source of Antioxidants
Raw honey contains a variety of plant chemicals that act as antioxidants. These protect the body from the damaging effects of oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Antioxidant compounds called polyphenols can have an anti-inflammatory affect against conditions associated with oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between harmful free radicals and antioxidants, and can be involved in the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, as well as cancer and heart disease. Raw honey can also contain bee pollen and propolis which can have a protective effect for the respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.
One tablespoon of raw honey contains approximately 64 calories, 17 grams of sugar, and smaller amounts of micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, and zinc, among others. It is also a source of amino acids, enzymes, and other compounds. Honey also may have a slight benefit over regular sugar in blood sugar maintenance. However, while it may be slightly better for the diabetic than sugar, it still should be consumed in moderation.
Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties/Heals Wounds
The propolis in raw honey has antifungal and antibacterial properties and can be significant in the treatment of both internal and topical ailments.
These compounds in raw honey have been found to have immune-boosting and anticancer benefits. However, the pasteurization process can destroy these nutrients.
Help for Digestive Issues
Honey is sometimes used to treat diarrhea. It contains prebiotics, which nourish the good bacteria that live in the intestines.
Soothe a Sore Throat and Cough
Honey is an old sore throat remedy. Add it, along with some lemon, to hot tea when you feel a cold coming on.
The polyphenols in honey may be able to counter inflammation in the hippocampus, where our memories are stored, thereby being a benefit to brain health.
There is a risk that raw honey could carry harmful bacteria which could result in botulism poisoning. For this reason, raw honey should never be given to an infant less than a year old. In adults, there could be a short period of diarrhea and vomiting, followed by constipation and other, perhaps, more severe symptoms, such as blurred vision and muscle weakness.
Honey doesn’t expire quickly, but it can become contaminated. It should be stored in tightly sealed containers away from light and extreme temperatures. If the color of your honey has drastically changed or smells off, it should be thrown out.
Last Fun Fact: In 2017, bees produced 158 million pounds of honey in the United States alone.
Bee pollen is a mixture of flower pollen, nectar, enzymes, honey, wax, and bee secretions. It is loaded with nutrients, amino acids, vitamins, lipids, and over 250 other active substances. Bee pollen is produced by young bees, who then take it back to the hive and store it until it ferments. Then it becomes bee bread—the bread of the hive—which supplies food for the bees. But what does it do for man?
Used as a medicine, bee pollen contains antioxidants. It can lower the risk factors for heart disease, high blood lipids and cholesterol. It may boost liver function, and it can reduce inflammation and swelling.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure enlightening the eyes … More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:7, 8, and 10, last part
Why would God compare His law to the sweetness of honey were it not a clean food and healthful for the body?
Sources: livescience.com/how-do-bees-make-honey; mydelicioussweets.com/whats-the-oldest-honey-ever-found; healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/top-raw-honey-benefits; healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-honey; Wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxidative-stress; beeculture.com/the-chemistry-of-honey