12 November 2014

Curses and Cures: Honey and bees

By Michelle Styles

Honey is one of the oldest foods. One of the oldest rock cave paintings is of gathering honey. We know that the first farmers kept bees. And that the bee and its honey has often had a place in religion.
8000 year old cave paint of honey gatherer source:Wikipedia
For example beeswax has been used  to shape figures and offerings as well as candles to provide light in holy places. Beeswax does not smoke in the same way as tallow. In Medieval Europe beeswax was considered pure because of the chasteness of the worker bee. 

The light was seen as symbolic of the awakened soul.The candles were made into specific shapes -- tall perchers  for altars and ceremonies and square Quarerres for funerals.  It was believed that the dead could be only at peace if watched over by the living. Beeswax candles were burnt in their memory, a custom which continues in many Christian churches today in the form of votive candles.
honeycomb source:Wikipedia

Honey was also used in many medicines. For example, the ancient Egyptians used a concoction of honey, herbs, oils and onion applied to a woman's vagina to stop miscarriages. And for contraception, they used crocodile feces, honey and saltpeter.

Honey has been used to sweeten many medicines and considering what the medicines were made of, is it any wonder?

However, one of the most effective cures  with honey was the use of honey on open wounds. When honey mixes with body fluids it produces hydrogen peroxide which in turn inhibits the growth of bacteria. Even today, certain hard-to-heal wounds do respond to honey dressings.

Honey is also useful with gut problems and with tooth ache. A mixture of cloves and raw honey can be used to cure toothache. Honey can also help with allergies and colds but it needs to be raw because ultra heated honey has lost its pollen.

Mead or fermented honey was also used a transformative. drink. Among other things, it was supposed to be a cure for impotence and the drinking of mead just after the wedding, gave rise to the term honeymoon. Drinking mead was also supposed to give a long life.

As well as honey, bee prooplis was used by the Romans to treat ulcers and tumours. Propolis is the glue  bees make to seal up their hives.  It was also used to draw out stings and foreign bodies.

Because of its importance in agriculture, both honey and the bee have long figured in medicince and cultural beliefs.


Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance. She also keeps bees. Her next book Taming His Viking Woman will be published in Feburary 2015. You can learn more about Michelle and her book on www.michellestyles.co.uk 

2 comments:

marinajulianeary said...

Thank you for the marvelous article. Too bad, honey bees are disappearing. Something needs to be done to save them.

Michelle Styles said...

Yes it is very worrying that the honey bees are disappearing.
If you can't keep bees, the next best thing is make your garden as bee friendly as possible -- lots of native flowers to attract bees and butterflies. Because of immaculately trimmed lawns many urban areas are deserts/no go areas for bees.