Winnie-The-Pooh and I share at least one thing in common, a love of honey. As a kid I spent several summers on a Mennonite farm where they grew their own food and traded between families for the things they didn’t produce: milk, meat, eggs, apple butter, veggies and fruit. I remember going to Uncle Alfred’s to watch him extract honey from his combs. We took a jar home and I ate it drizzled on slivers of cheddar cheese, no bread required.
We’ve all watched bees traveling between flowering plants, collecting nectar – a sugary liquid – and carrying it back to their hives. It’s extracted using a bee’s long, tube-shaped tongue and then stored in its crop. While there, the nectar mixes with enzymes that transform its chemical composition and pH, making it easier for longterm storage. Upon return to the hive, it gets passed from one bee regurgitating the liquid into another bee’s mouth. This process is repeated until the partially digested nectar is finally deposited into a honeycomb.
To remove the excess water from the honey, bees fan the honeycomb with their wings to speed up the process of evaporation. The bees then seal the comb with a secretion of liquid from its abdomen, which eventually hardens into beeswax. Protected from air and water, honey can be stored indefinitely, providing bees with a consistent food source over the winter.
There are several hundred types of honey which vary in colour, scent and flavour based on the flowers they came from. Manuka Honey is made by bees in New Zealand that pollinate the Leptospermum scoparium bush. It flowers for just a few weeks, so is highly desirable and its price tag reflects its quality.
I remember my mum giving me hot water with honey and lemon juice for a sore throat, but I had no idea of its other benefits. In addition to its use as a natural sweetener, honey can be an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial.
Honey has been used for centuries to treat a variety of health issues in both people and animals. In the late 19th century researchers discovered its natural antibacterial qualities.
Benefits Of Honey
- Broad-spectrum antimicrobial against antibiotic resistant bacteria
- Provides a protective barrier to prevent the infection
- Enhances circulation and healing
- Reduces pain and inflammation
- Low pH levels inhibit microbial pathogens
- Natural source of hydrogen peroxide
- Protects against bacterial damage
- Enhances specific cells that can repair damaged tissue
Uses For Chickens
Not all honey is created equal. Antibacterial abilities depend on the type of honey as well as when and how it’s harvested. Some kinds may be 100 times more potent than others. Don’t just grab an imported jar from your local grocery store, whose unregulated contents may not actually be derived from pollen. Organic honey is made from flowers not treated by pesticides, but may have been heated, destroying the medicinal benefits of honey. Look for North America honey (preferably local), which is labeled with the following tags: raw, Manuka, medical grade or unpasteurized.
Credits: College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois; Live Science; Mayo Clinic; Science Direct; WebMD.