Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Honey as Ancient Medicine?

In my book Northern Lore I introduced a chapter on Herblore, which I promised I would expand on in a future volume, and am now writing.

The new book is titled Northern Plant Lore - A Field Guide to the Ancestral Use of Plants in Northern Europe, and is scheduled to be released worldwide this Fall. Please visit the Facebook Fan Page for updates and to "LIKE" it.

That brings me to an article from Northern Lore on Honey I wanted to share; although Honey is not a plant or herb, it was an ancient, and now proven medical treatment for certain conditions, like burns and infection. It's this kind of valuable information that I want to share in my upcoming book.

Our ancestors had thousands of years to experiment with different plants, herbs and compounds, so unsurprisingly, many of them have now been proven to work by the medical and scientific community. Of course there were cures that were not effective, but I think they did pretty well.

Honey Comb

Latin Name: Mel Millis
Part used: Syrup
Taste: Sweet

Historical Notes: Honey collection is an ancient activity dating back  at least 10,000 years ago. In Ancient Egypt, honey was used to sweeten cakes and biscuits, and was used in many other dishes. Ancient Egyptian and Middle-Eastern peoples also used honey for embalming the dead. In the Roman Empire, honey was possibly used instead of gold to pay taxes. Honey is mentioned as a component of several cures in Bald's Leechbook - an Anglo Saxon medical text from the 9'th Century. For at least 2700 years, honey has been used by humans to treat a variety of ailments through topical application, but only recently have the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of honey been chemically explained.

Actions: Antibacterial, antimicrobial,

Modern findings: Wound gels that contain antibacterial raw honey and have regulatory approval for wound care are now available to help conventional medicine in the battle against drug resistant strains of bacteria MRSA. As an antimicrobial agent honey may have the potential for treating a variety of ailments. Antibacterial properties of honey are the result of the low water activity causing osmosis, hydrogen peroxide effect, high acidity, and the antibacterial activity of methylglyoxal. Honey appears to be effective in killing drug-resistant bio-films which are implicated in chronic rhino-sinusitis.
When honey is used topically (as, for example, a wound dressing), hydrogen peroxide is produced by dilution of the honey with body fluids. As a result, hydrogen peroxide is released slowly and acts as an antiseptic.

Honey is cheap, making it potentially useful for treating wounds in earthquake-stricken and war-torn areas where running water is scarce and often contaminated. It is being used in Iraq to treat burn wounds in children. - Unknown

Preparations & Dosage: As an anti-septic, apply honey to the wound or burn before bandaging.
Active constituents: glucose, fructose, minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulphur, iron and phosphate. It contains vitamins B1, B2, C, B6, B5 and B3 all of which change according to the qualities of the nectar and pollen. Besides the above, copper, iodine, and zinc exist in it in small quantities.

Cautions: Infant botulism is a rare but serious paralytic disease caused by the microorganism Clostridium botulinum. The National Honey Board, along with other health organizations, recommends that honey not be fed to infants under one year of age

I hope you enjoyed this short article, and if you're interested in reading more, please pick up a copy of Northern Lore now, and Northern Plant Lore this Fall.

 - Eoghan Odinsson

Odinsson, E., Northern Lore - A Field Guide to the Northern Mind-Body-Spirit, Createspace: Washington D.C., 2010; Chapter 5.