Winnie the Pooh knew what’s up. We’re not just talking about his kind, carefree, and pants-optional lifestyle. But also his fondness for and seemingly-endless supply of honey. This liquid gold is more than a delicious sweet to slather on bread and douse on cereal, waffles, and ice cream. It’s also a powerful medicinal that cultures around the world have used for thousands of years.
Here’s a bit of background on one of Mother Nature’s sweetest gifts.
How Ancient Cultures Used Honey
Honey played a crucial role in many ancient communities, and beekeeping was a prevalent practice among the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese, among others.
Some of the earliest evidence of honey harvesting, according to Smithsonian magazine, was recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphs, as well as a rock painting in modern-day Valencia, Spain, dating back to 6,000 B.C.
Recently, archaeologists also found extensive chemical evidence of honey harvest in the form of beeswax used in Neolithic pottery. Mélanie Roffet-Salque, the lead author of an extensive research study published in 2015 in Nature, shared with the Washington-Post that she and her team looked at more than 6,400 pottery pieces used by Neolithic people. They believe the objects may have been used to extract honey or the wax may have provided lamp fuel. Alternatively, the vessels may have served as artificial hives, Roffet-Salque suggested. Among the beeswax pottery they discovered were objects dating as far back as 7,000 B.C. in Anatolia, 5,500 B.C. to 4,500 B.C. in the Balkans, and 5,000 B.C. in North Africa.
Aside from crafting ceramics and satiating the sweet tooth, ancient cultures used honey for various other purposes.
In ancient Egypt, it was offered as a gift to appease gods, as currency, and in embalming fluid. Pharaohs were even dubbed “Bee King” (among other titles).
Greeks, too, gave honey cakes as an offering to hangry deities and numerous ancient recipes involve honey for sweetmeats and cheesecakes.
And your honeymoon? You can thank the Babylonian bees for that. In the month after a couple’s wedding, the bride’s father was obliged to provide his new son-in-law with honey to fuel his amorous endeavors.
Of course, honey was also widely used for its medicinal properties.
Honey in Ancient Medicine
Ancient people used honey to treat ailments, including wounds, infections, pain, gout, burns, fevers, and gut and bowel disorders, among other problems. Its healing benefits are mentioned in the Qur’an, Ayurvedic writings, and the Smith papyrus, among other texts.
Unlike some old-school remedies, our ancestors were on the money with this one.
Today, we know that all kinds of natural honey have antibacterial and antifungal properties due to the presence of hydrogen peroxide. More than a wives’ tale, honey’s medicinal potential is a fact well-documented by numerous scientific studies.
Its prevalence in medicine declined around the Middle Ages and to a much greater extent in the 1960s with the advent of antibiotics. But many cultures and individuals (looking at you, grandma) hung onto the knowledge and continued to use honey in medicinal practice.
Due to the growing antibiotic resistance crisis and an increasing interest in natural remedies, more people (including doctors and scientists) are turning to honey once again.
In 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration even approved it as an alternative for wound treatment.
While all honey varieties have antibacterial and antifungal properties due to the presence of hydrogen peroxide, one type, Manuka, is uniquely powerful.
Why Is Manuka Honey Special?
Manuka honey is extracted from the Manuka bush, indigenous to New Zealand and certain parts of Australia. Being home to the Lord of the Rings and the world’s coolest Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, it’s not too surprising this beautiful island nation is also home to the most precious plant nectar on earth.
The nectar contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which bees convert to methylglyoxal (MGO) using enzymes in their spit. MGO is mostly what gives honey its antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Manuka honey’s antibacterial capabilities are far greater than those of other varieties, which scientists believe is due to its high concentration of MGO. We’re not talking just a smidge either. Manuka’s concentration of MGO is about 100 times that of other honey.
Manuka honey is unique for its source, but also because it is not processed as extensively as many other varieties. Processing and heating can strip essential enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Every batch of Manuka honey is verified for purity and contains a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) number to confirm its authenticity and quality.
To learn more about this superfood’s benefits and how Bespoke Extracts uses it to complement our CBD products, click here.