Raw honey is an amazing, natural product that we can consume as a tasty part of our diet while also gleaning many health benefits. If you want to know how beneficial the properties in raw, unfiltered honey are, consider the medicinal role it has assumed throughout history. Looking back, we can gain more insight into how it has helped human health throughout the years and can continue to do so in the future. Learn about the history of honey in medicine below.
Uses in Early Civilization
Some of the earliest evidence of honey consumption dates as far back as the Upper Paleolithic period, roughly around 25,000 years ago. Methods of collecting the natural substance were much more dangerous at that time, although they did develop some strategies, such as smoking the hives, to lessen the guard bees’ response. The earliest evidence of honey’s use for medicinal purposes exists in Stone Age paintings dating back to 8,000 years ago. Since then, scientists and nutritionists alike have recognized it as one of nature’s great wonders, as it is entirely natural and offers so many benefits for human health. Overwhelming amounts of evidence suggest that humankind has appreciated honey as both a food and a medicinal remedy since ancient times.
Records indicate that of 900 different remedies the Egyptians actively used, 500 of them included honey. The Smith Papyrus, an early text dating from somewhere between 2600 and 2200 B.C.E., describes a prescription for a wound salve using a mixture of honey, grease, and lint. Many of ancient Egypt’s medicines contained a mixture of honey, wine, and milk. Recognizing that honey held many preservative properties, the Egyptians made offerings of honey as sacrifices to their deities and used it in the embalming process for their dead. They made extensive use of its antibacterial properties, as well, by employing it to heal infected wounds. A topical ointment, similar to a lotion, was one more use the Egyptians found for honey.
The history of honey in medicine continues into the culture of Ancient Greece. The Greeks strongly believed that consuming honey provided significant benefits. Greek mythology tells of a food (and sometimes drink) known as Ambrosia that was rich in honey. There was, however, a real beverage the ancient Greeks frequently consumed made of honey and unfermented grape juice known as Oenomel. In Greek culture, the drink has persisted as a folk remedy for ailments such as gout, nerves, and anxiety.
Many historically notable people of Ancient Greece had a strong belief in honey and its health benefits. The scientist Hippocrates believed it was healthy to maintain a simple diet that utilized honey mixed with vinegar to minimize pain, honey and water to quench your thirst, and honey as an additive to other medicinal substances as a fever treatment. Hippocrates even believed in honey to treat baldness, topical wounds, eye diseases, scarring, cough, and sore throat, and he endorsed its use as both a contraceptive and a laxative. Other philosophers, such as Homer and Aristotle, also believed in honey’s healing abilities and used it in various pills, jams, and salves.
Honey has a significant presence in the history of Chinese medicine. In China, there has long been a strong belief in the vitality of balance, and they recognize honey as having a very balanced nature. One of the most important books in Chinese medicine, The Compendium of Materia Medica, references honey as a substance that contains neither “yin” nor “yang.” This book, written during the Xin Dynasty around 1596, further recommended the daily consumption of honey to maintain internal and external vitality. This directive implies that they believed honey had the ability to promote energy and strength within and outside of oneself.
Roots in Indian History
The use of honey in Indian culture dates back to ancient texts known as the Rigveda and Upanishads, which discuss the mutual relationship between bees and humans. They indicated that there was some deeper meaning in the idea that bees could provide a beneficial natural product like honey for humans. The ancient Vedic civilization of India referenced a text called Ayurvedic Medicine. The word “Ayurveda” means the “knowledge of life.” This text further depicted honey as incredibly beneficial for bad digestion and an irritating cough. They also believed it could keep your gums and teeth in good health and found it useful in treating insomnia. Experts in Ayurvedic have recommended it for treating skin disorders, burns, and other wounds. They also claimed that daily application of it to the eyes could improve eyesight.
In Islamic Culture
Amazingly, some cultures even use honey in religious practices. The Islamic medical system considers honey to be a healthy drink. The Quran indicates that honey is a holy gift in that the Lord inspired the bee to create it for the good of humankind. The Muslim prophet Mohammad, himself, spoke of honey as a wise treatment for some ailments. Nearly 1,000 years ago, the famous Iranian scientist and physician Avicenna believed in honey as a key remedy for tuberculosis, one of the worst respiratory diseases of the past.
By the late part of the 19th century, scientific researchers had discovered honey’s natural antibacterial qualities. Many of the beliefs of cultures from long ago now had scientific research and facts to back them up. They had been onto something all along. Over the last several decades, modern scientists have continued to perform tests that have supported the fact that honey exhibits significant antibacterial activity far surpassing almost any other natural product. The bactericidal activity from raw honey can combat organisms such as Salmonella, E. coli, H. pylori, and others of similar nature. On top of this, natural honey has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and other healing properties that can heal wounds, prevent infections, and help fight many illnesses.
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