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Honey for your Health

  Introduction
 Honey formation
 Harvesting honey
 Nutrition in Honey
 Purification
 Preservation of Honey
 Honey as food
 Medicinal uses of honey
 Purity of honey
 History
 Contaminated honey

  Introduction

    Honey

 Honey is a sweet and viscous fluid produced by honey bees , and derived from the nectar of flowers. Raw Honey is an Anti-Bacterial, Anti-Viral, Anti- Fungal substance and its unique composition makes it useful as an ant microbial agent and antioxidant. Primarily honey has been used as an energy source, but recent research has examined the use of honey as an ergogenic aid (a food or ingredient that helps an athlete's performance) and wound healing agent, both of which were once considered merely age-old anecdotes. 
  Ayurveda a holistic system of medicine practiced in India for more than 5,000 years observes that the use of honey not only for external application, but also as a medicine for treating various maladies, a cosmetic, a vehicle for dispensing other medicines, a part of regular diet and even as a tonic.



   Honey formation

 The process of making honey begins when the bees feast on flowers, collecting the flower nectar in their mouths. This nectar then mixes with special enzymes in the bees saliva, an alchemical process that turns it into honey. The bees carry the honey back to the hive, where they deposit it into the cells of the hives walls. The fluttering of their wings provides the necessary ventilation to reduce the honeys moisture content, making it ready for consumption.

 In the hive there are three types of bee:  the single queen bee, a seasonally variable number of drone bees to fertilize new queens, and some 20,000 to 40,000 worker bees. The worker bees raise larvae and collect the nectar that will become honey in the hive. They go out, collect the sugar-rich flower nectar and return to the hive. In the hive the bees use their "honey stomachs" to ingest and regurgitate the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested. It is then stored in the honeycomb.

  Harvesting honey

 For harvesting honey a  beekeeper first removes the frames from the hive. He remove bees from honey super by smoking the hive, using a blower. Uncapping the cells by hand using an uncapping knife the honey is extracted and filtered. This filtered honey is stored in pots

  Types of Honey

 1. Blended honey:Commercially available honey is blended, meaning that it is a mixture of two or more honeys differing in floral source, color, flavor, density or geographic origin.
 2. Polyfloral honey: Polyfloral honey is derived from the nectar of many types of flowers. 
 3. Monofloral honey: Monofloral or varietal honeys are collected in an area where the bees have access to only one type of flower, such as "orange blossom", "sage", "eucalyptus", "tupelo", "manuka", "buckwheat", and "clover".
 4. Honeydew honey:  Honeydew lacks the protein-rich pollen accompaniment gathered from flowers.  Bees can take honeydew, the sweet secretions of aphids, instead of taking nectar. 
 5.Organic honey: Organic honey is honey produced, processed, and packaged in accordance with national regulations. 
  Spanish researchers looked at 36 varieties of Spanish honey in two groups: clover honey, which bees make from the nectar of flower blossoms, and honeydew honey, made by bees from a sweet, sticky substance secreted by insects such as aphids that live off plants.

 

    Honey Bee
The bees feast on flowers, collecting the flower nectar in their mouths. This nectar then mixes with special enzymes in the bees saliva, an alchemical process that turns it into honey. Honey is stored in the  honeycomb

   Nutrition in Honey

 Honey is mainly carbohydrates as fructose (about 38.5%) and glucose (about 31.0%), maltose, sucrose, and other complex carbohydrates. Honey contains trace amounts of several vitamins and minerals.  In honey the nutritional value per 100 g  is   Carbohydrates - 82.4 g,  Fat- 0 g, Protein-0.3 g, Water- 17.10 g, Riboflavin (Vitamin. B2)- 0 .038 mg 3%, Niacin (Vitamin. B3) - 0 .121 mg 1%, Pantothenic acid (B5) - 0 .068 mg 1%, Vitamin B6- 0 .024 mg2%, Folate (Vitamin. B9)-  2 μg 1%, Vitamin C - 0.5 mg1%, Calcium -  6 mg1%, Iron - 0 .42 mg3%, Magnesium - 2 mg1% , Phosphorus - 4 mg1%, Potassium - 52 mg 1%, Sodium - 4 mg0%, Zinc- 0.22 mg2%. 

  Purification

  Raw honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, contains some pollen and may contain small particles of wax. It is purified by different process. 
   Filtered honey - Honey which has been passed through a mesh material to remove particulate material  without removing pollen.
  Ultra filtered honey -  Honey processed by very fine filtration under high pressure and  to 150-170 degrees temperature to remove all extraneous solids and pollen grains. Ultra filtered honey is very clear and has a longer shelf life, but eliminates nutritionally valuable enzymes, such as diastase and invertase.

  Heat-Treated honey -  Heat-treatment after extraction reduces the moisture level and destroys yeast cells. Heating liquefies crystals in the honey and reduces enzyme and also darken the natural honey color. 

  Ultrasonicated honey - Ultrasonication is a non-thermal processing alternative for honey. When honey is exposed to ultrasonication, most of the yeast cells are destroyed.

  Preservation of Honey

 Honey can be preserved for decades, and even centuries and is easily assimilated even after long conservation. A number of special prerequisites is, however, necessary to achieve the conservation periods of this order. These might include sealing the product in vessels of chosen material, kept in a favorable environment of specific humidity, temperature etc. By conventional preservation methods, it is not recommended to preserve the honey for longer than 2 or 3  years. To preserve for a long period, it is advisable to keep it in clean, hermetically sealed vessels. It is also advisable to keep it in darkened  vessels, or in dark store-places because in direct sunlight its lysozyme (antibacterial albuminous enzyme) is destroyed. Optimal preservation temperature is +4-10°C. The store-place should be dark and dry,preventing the honey from absorbing the moisture. 

  Honey should not be heated above 40°С lest to become toxic. Honey gradually become toxic when preserved in metal containers, therefore it should be preserved in glass bottles.

  Honey as food

  In the time of the ancient Olympics, athletes were reported to eat special foods, such as honey and dried figs, to enhance their sports performance. Today the main uses of honey are in cooking, baking, as a spread on breads, and as an addition to various beverages such as tea and as a sweetener in commercial beverages such as Sprechers root beer. Honey is the main ingredient in the alcoholic beverage mead, which is also known as "honey wine" or "honey beer" 
    Honey comes in a range of colors including white, amber, red, brown and almost black. Its flavor and texture vary with the type of flower nectar from which it was made. While the most commonly available honeys are made from clover, alfalfa, heather and acacia flowers, honey can be made from a variety of different flowers, including thyme and lavender.

 

   Medicinal uses of honey

 Ayurveda, a holistic system of medicine practiced in India for more than 5,000 years, which includes and emphasizes the use of body, mind, and spirit in disease prevention and treatment, has long known that honey helps to dry secretions, decreases corrosiveness and promotes binding.  In Ayurveda  there are hundreds of references  to the use of honey not only for external application, but also as a medicine for treating various maladies, a cosmetic, a vehicle for dispensing other medicines, a part of regular diet and even as a tonic. 

  Antibacterial properties:  It has been reported from various clinical studies on the usage of honey as a dressing for infected wounds that the wounds become sterile in 3 - 6 days. Honey used as a wound dressing has been reported to promote the formation of clean healthy granulation tissue allowing early grafting on a clean clear base . It has also been reported to promote epithelialisation of the wound.  
   Due to its antibacterial properties, honey dries up wounds quickly and even decreases swelling or edema in the surrounding skin. It also helps get rid of foul smell in wounds by rapidly decreasing dead, infected tissue and promotes the growth of healthy healing tissue. 
 Diabetic ulcers:  Topical honey has been used successfully in a comprehensive treatment of diabetic ulcers when the patient cannot use other topical antibiotics.
 Coughs and Colds:  Honey has also been used as a treatment for sore throats and coughs for centuries and according to recent research may in fact be more effective than most common medicines, specially for children
 .Reduces High Cholesterol:  In a series of experiments involving healthy subjects and those with either high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes, honey has proved itself the healthiest sweetener. It was observed that natural honey reduced total cholesterol 7%, triglycerides 2%, C-reactive protein 7%, homocysteine 6% and blood sugar 6%, and increased HDL (good) cholesterol 2%.

   Purity of honey

 The purity of honey can be easily detected using different methods. 
1. Aniline chloride test  : Aniline chloride is first prepared and then used for testing. Three parts of aniline and one part of concentrated hydrochloric acid gives us aniline chloride. Now a small ceramic vessel is taken and a small quantity of honey is placed in it. About 5-7 drops of aniline chloride is added to it and stirred well. If the honey is adulterated a crimson red colour appears. 
 2. Test with Ether:  Honey is taken in a test tube and equal quantity of water is added to it and stirred well. About 100 millilitres of this solution is taken and 5 ml of ether is added to it. This mixture is kept aside for some time in order to get a fine solution after stirring. The ether layer settling on the top is transferred to another small flat bottom vessel. The ether gets vaporized in a short while and to this resorcinol is added. This gives a red colour. This indicates that the honey has an adulterant. 
 3. Burning of Honey:  A cotton wick dipped in pure honey when lighted with a matchstick burns and shows the purity of honey. If adulterated, the presence of water will not allow the honey to burn, If it does, it will produce a cracking sound. Generally honey is adulterated by adding a syrup of jaggery.
 4. Solubility in water:  Pure honey does not dissolve in water but impure honey dissolves. So to test it mix a spoon of honey in a cup of water and find out whether it dissolves to check its purity. 
   Simple observation: One of the nutrients (sugar) in pure honey precipitates when it is subjected to cool weather. This precipitation gives an appearance of sugar crystals. The honey giving more sugar precipitates faster. Mostly this is mistaken for adulteration. But if the precipitated honey is kept in hot water it attains normal liquid state which shows that it has no adulterant.

   History

 Honey has been used since ancient times both as a food and as a medicine.   For many centuries, honey was regarded as sacred due to its wonderfully sweet properties as well as its rarity. It was used mainly in religious ceremonies to pay tribute to the gods, as well as to embalm the deceased. Honey was also used for a variety of medicinal and cosmetic purposes. For a long time in history, its use in cooking was reserved only for the wealthy since it was so expensive that only they could afford it. 

 Honey in Religion: The Old Testament contains many references to honey. The book of Exodus famously describes the Promised Land as a 'land flowing with milk and honey'.  In Jewish tradition, honey is a symbol for the new year – Rosh Hashana. At the traditional meal for that holiday, apple slices are dipped in honey and eaten to bring a sweet new year. Honey plays an important role in the festival of Madhu Purnima, celebrated by Buddhists. In the Roman Empire, honey was used instead of gold to pay taxes. In the accounts of the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I, one hundred pots of honey were equivalent in value to an ass or an ox. Egyptian and Middle-Eastern peoples also used honey for embalming the dead. In Hindu religion honey is used during worships and as a 'Panchamrat' in religious work.

   Contaminated honey

 CSEs Pollution Monitoring Laboratory tested 12 leading brands of honey sold in Delhi, including those made by Indian companies such as Dabur, Himalaya, Patanjali, Baidyanath and Khadi as well as by two foreign companies based in Switzerland and Australia. Scientists found high levels of six harmful antibiotics in 11 samples, with only the Indian Hitkari brand coming out clean.
 The contamination is the end result of a murky chain, which begins when antibiotics are fed to bees to prevent disease, promote growth and  increase honey production to meet commercial targets. When they make their way into your daily spoonful of honey, these substances could  damage the blood, kidneys, liver, bones and teeth. More importantly, they create resistance in the body to prescribed antibiotics when you really do fall ill, says the CSE report.

  Most developed countries have banned or strictly regulated antibiotics in honey, and Indian companies must meet those standards when they export their products. However, in a stinging example of double standards, most Indian companies are dumping their contaminated honey on the domestic market, since there are no regulations here, says the CSE. Dabur Honey — which has captured 75 per cent of the Indian market — had the antibiotic Oxytetracycline at nine times the level that is permitted for exported honey. It also had significant amounts of two other drugs completely banned for use in honey. If the sample was placed for export to the U.S. or the European Union, it would have been rejected. Nectaflor Natural Blossom Honey, made by Narimpex of Switzerland, had the largest number — five — of the six antibiotics that it was tested for, including the highest levels of ampicillin and erythromycin, both of which are not permitted for beekeeping in any country.  
  “It is clear that foreign companies are taking advantage of the lack of regulations in India. After all, if our government does not care about the health of its people, why should these companies care?” said CSE director Sunita Narain, at the release of the study on September 14, 2010

 

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