September is Honey Month and deserves a few words directed to this great product. The major actor in this story is the honey bee. There are only eight surviving species of honey bees among the twenty thousand known species of bees. We will be most familiar with the Western Honey Bee or Apis Mellifera. These little guys are responsible for most of the North American plant pollination. According to the USDA, one in every three bites of food we take comes from pollinators that are mostly bees. Directly responsible for over 100 different crop productions.
Several things are remarkable about this creature. They have the uncanny ability to communicate among themselves in what is referred to as a dance. It turns out that their movements are not all random but rather a concise series of descriptors indicating location, quantity and quality of food patches. These industrious insects are all about work.
The honey bee produces the golden elixir that has been prized unanimously by all nations. As a foodstuff, honey is considered a treat. Honey is composed mainly of complex sugars and bio-active plant compounds that are highly antioxidant, and can promote good health by reducing risk of heart disease. Some studies argue that honey also enhances visual acuity, as well as being less harmful to diabetics than processed sugars.
In addition to these advantages, there are other helpful gains from the consumption of honey. These are some: the reduction of blood pressure; the increase of "good" HDL cholesterol and reduction of the "bad" LDL. Studies have shown that honey helps in reducing triglyceride levels when used as a sugar substitute. Honey is also quite effective in promoting healing of burns, wounds and especially diabetic ulceration when applied topically. It is also antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Finally, honey has become a heuristic for cough suppression in children since recorded time. A perfect salve for both child and parent in the fight against upper respiratory infections.
This explains, in part, why we have always gone to great lengths to acquire this amazing produce. Our earliest recording of bee keeping is somewhere between the fourth and sixth millennium before the common era, when humans first discovered the benefits. The Egyptians constructed many apiaries, even mobile ones on ships along the Nile, and used beeswax in their art as well. This technology was eventually disseminated from Africa to Northern Europe and then Asia.
The jump from Europe to America came when the honey bee was introduced to America in 1622. This permitted the settlers to introduce new pollination dependent foods. The honey bees then headed west and were there when the settlers arrived. The Rockies ended the North American expansion of the species until they were brought to the West Coast by ship in the mid-19th century. Today, honey is produced in every state in the U.S and most countries in the world.
There are many varieties of honey that acquire their taste depending on the region and blossom on which the bees feed. Widely available are the clover, orange and sage honeys. Some others include buckwheat, blueberry, raspberry, lavender, thyme, acacia and eucalyptus. This a natural food that has a direct benefit to our health and is sometimes taken for granted. I suggest that you celebrate Honey Month by topping your cereal, pancake or dessert with this ubiquitous comestible. You may also want to savor the flavor of honey in your snuff. My favorite is right here. Happy snuffing.