(NaturalNews) Honey is an age-old food and medicine, dating back thousands of years at least. One would think that both believers in creation and believers in evolution would feel that honey is a symbiotic food and medicine.
Still, one could make the same assumption about drinking the milk of other mammals, but that one has turned out to be harmful to humans; particularly when processed, pasteurized or homogenized. The justification for saying milk is not really good for us has been that it is obviously unnatural to nurse off of another species. A similar argument has arisen over honey.
On the one hand, we have new-age vegans who firmly (albeit cavalierly) shrug off honey as an animal product and one involving the abuse of bees to boot. They say (very cavalierly) that honey is acid-forming, harmful to your health and damaging to any good healing food program or herbal medicine regime.
On the other hand, we have nature-watching herbalists who say that honey is the food of the gods. It breaks down mucus, feeds the body the highest quality glucose (the real fuel for cells besides oxygen), warms the blood, stops cravings, inhibits decay, inhibits bone loss and is a natural plant food which bees simply gather.
The opponents say that bees put saliva into the honey and also a "harmful preservative" that hurts humans who use it.
The advocates say that the bees simply gather flower nectar and dehydrate it as food.
The opponents say that the bees are abused and mistreated and robbed of the honey they work so hard for.
The advocates say that the bees have existed symbiotically with humans for thousands of years and when left alone have less chance of survival, not more. They say that bees always overproduce, even wild ones, and that if left to themselves they will swarm and will be in danger. The advocates say that honey is no more likely to have bee saliva on it than any other plant that insects land on and attempt to eat.
Opponents say that bees are fed chemicals and sugar that weakens them in modern beekeeping.
I am pretty sure that advocates have no recourse for this except that the equivalent happens to commercially grown plants and that is why we all should be selective of what plants we buy for food and the same is true of honey.
This argument has been going on since vegan diets emerged as a form of animal rights activism. The original vegans were hyper-critical and hypo-thoughtful. They tended to be very reactionary, rallying emotionally for a political cause. They were easily dismissed on the same grounds (that they were emotionally reactive and devoid of reasonable argument).
Today, however, vegan diets are used for healing. Instead of "Twinkie and Coca Cola" vegans, who just avoid animal products and are not necessarily enlightened at all, we have vegans who are eating all whole foods, sometimes all raw foods. These vegans are interested in making the best choices for both their bodies and for the world they live in.
The trouble is that there is no good line drawn between what vegans used to be and what they are today. Many of the false ideas have spilled over and are still damaging the health of otherwise healthy vegans today.
Meanwhile, arguing itself is definitely unhealthy to all parties and I think most people today are enlightened enough to know, at least intellectually, that it is much wiser to search for truth about our health and that of our world if we are to really make a positive difference.
Too many times anger and protest have made things worse, rather than better. Fighting, most people are aware, does not make the world better. A bumper sticker states, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." This is true for sure and on more than one level since the angry person really cannot see clearly to do any real good.
I went looking for some facts about honey so that I could give as much good information as possible and I have tried to keep bias out of the discussion for the reader's benefit.
Here are a few things I found:
1) Honey is nectar from flowers, containing mostly complex sugars and water. This nectar will be (as we shall see) broken down into simpler sugars and dehydrated. That is the final product. How that happens is discussed below.
2) Honey is not swallowed by bees and then regurgitated. Rather they have a second stomach (analogous to a marsupial pouch) that does not digest the flower nectar at all, but only stores it while it is being gathered. This sack will hold about as much honey weight as the bee weighs!
3) Specialized labor in the hive (worker bees) will take the unprocessed nectar from the gatherer bees and will "chew" it (mix and warm might be a better approximation) . In this process the sugars in the honey are broken down. It is a matter of some debate whether the sugars break down from the enzymes made in the plant that are warmed in the "chewing" process, or whether the sugars are broken down from bee enzymes, or both. Both is the most likely. We find in the herbivore portion of the animal kingdom an almost exclusive dependence on enzymes from plants and an inability to produce adequate amounts of enzymes when they are not found in the diet, we find no reason to think that bees are any different.
4) The simple sugars are not fully broken down as they will be when the bee eats them and digests them for its use. Rather, those sugars are primarily fructose and sucrose. When honey is placed in warm water, it immediately tests positive for glucose, meaning that this activates enzymes in the honey and makes it usable food for humans and bees alike. The bees will keep the honey cool and will dehydrate it so that it becomes concentrated sugar (which is not allowed to be converted to glucose until eaten). In this form it contains enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and some plant-based hormones. It is mostly sugar and water (always less than 18% water when finished) .
5) Is honey acidic? Well, every really sweet thing has a low pH because that is the nature of sugar. In our own testing, however, we have discovered that 45 minutes after eating honey the blood tests more alkaline. We have also discovered that diabetics have lower blood sugar 45 minutes after eating honey. This indicates that honey is very quickly and easily taken into the cells of the body for use as fuel, rather than sitting in the blood as refined sweeteners and processed food does.
6) The abuse of bees? Well, it is definitely disappearing. Many small operations are using only organic, natural medicines and many of those who do so have been rewarded by having their bees survive the recent die-off. A honey source I investigated does not ever feed his bees sugar but feeds them their own honey year round and never uses anything toxic on his bees. Some beekeepers feed their bees chemicals and sugar water to eat during times of low honey flow and are not kept in clean conditions. These bees are definitely abused by my standards.
7) The use of honey as medicine has long been done and works to boost immunity while the use of sugar definitely damages immunity.
8) We have found that for some people, the use of some types of honey will cause weak joints to hurt or get worse. Of course the same is true of some types of fruit (especially citrus fruit and especially grapefruit).
The above discussion is not conclusive, just exploratory and hopefully dispelling to common myths.
There are a few questions unanswered above. For example, what is the long-term effect of using honey? We can find the biblical reference of John the Baptist who apparently lived off of it. On the other hand, in more modern times we can easily demonstrate that it is far superior to table sugar, but we have no modern examples of long-term use as a staple instead of other sweetening options. Even beekeepers tend to use refined sweeteners and standard American dietary blunders and are not a reliable (or consistent) test group.
What we do know is that honey is easily used by the body - which is why it actually makes the body more alkaline and lowers blood sugar. The only real fuel that your body needs is ATP and that is made primarily from glucose and oxygen. The only sources of concentrated glucose are ripe fruit, honey, raw (non-starchy) vegetables and sprouts. These must all be raw since glucose does not really occur in the plant kingdom and you need enzymes in tact to convert the fructose and sucrose into glucose. If you want your cells to awaken, they need to have plenty of glucose available - more than any other nutrient. One would assume, on this basis, that honey would be beneficial in the long-term.
Another question is about the symbiotic relationship of honeybees to humans. Some people feel that a symbiotic relationship (where both parties benefit and maybe even are dependent on one another for life) is THE defining characteristic of a truly healthy food. If competition exists, such as when we kill animals for food, or when abuse exists, such as in chicken farms and dairy farms, then those foods are always unhealthy.
To this we can say that there are definitely symbiotic relationships out there but they are not necessarily the norm. Some beekeepers can be at one with the bees and can get the honey without any protective equipment and can keep the bees clean and healthy so that only the best results come to both bee and keeper. These are usually smaller operations but not necessarily.
On the other hand, some beekeepers are really only interested in money and have sacrificed the health of their bees and even the lives of their bees for a better bottom line. This certainly does not sound very symbiotic to me.
I don't really have an answer for you. I make herbal preparations that I would consider half as effective without the honey. One of these heals even the most severe burns and keeps them pain and infection free until they heal with little or no scarring. Another of these heals all calcium deficiencies in the human body and repairs tooth enamel.
As for myself, I have a supplier who runs about a thousand hives of bees and who is very reliable and I have quizzed him carefully in person to know exactly what he does. He sells his honey to me by five gallon buckets and it is very reasonably priced.
I will continue to use honey in my home, and I feel like I am getting honey that is produced symbiotically. I am completely vegan in my home except for honey and am mostly a raw foodist. My feeling is that my vital force energy is increased by honey. After my research on this subject, I am convinced that some bee enzymes are eaten in some quantity when honey is consumed. I feel that so long as the bee is respected, and not killed or harmed, this is still symbiotic.
Life surrounds honey when the beekeeper is responsible. Life energy leads to life in the body.
About the author
Kal Sellers, MH currently operates KalsSchool.com and teaches a 2-year curriculum for Natural Medicine, via live teleclasses. Kal is a Master Herbalist and holds several other certificates and licenses for hands-on healing modalities. He maintains a current practice in the Atlanta area. Kal and Traci have six children, the last four of which were delivered at home. They live now in Powder Springs, GA where they teach live classes on food and medicine. Kal is also a full time Chiropractic student.