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How do bees make honey?
Honeybees use nectar to make honey. Nectar is almost 80% water with some complex sugars. Honey bees suck the nectar from their tube like tongue and store it in “honey stomach” – one of the two stomachs they have. About 70mg of nectar is stored in their stomach. It takes visit of 100-1500 flowers to fill their honey stomachs.
Complex sugar in the nectar is broken into simpler sugar by various enzymes present in honey stomach. Simpler sugar is less prone to crystallization. This modified nectar is transferred to hive bee, who repeats the same process. This processed nectar is then stored in a cell of honeycomb allowing water to evaporate and making it thicker. Bees, fanning with their wings, help evaporation of water. As the water evaporates, the sugars thicken into honey. Once the honey is finished, the hive bee caps the beeswax cell, sealing the honey into the honeycomb for future consumption. A single worker bee produces only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. Working cooperatively, thousands of worker bees can produce over 200 pounds of honey for the colony within a year.
Types of Honey
Honey removed from the comb and presented in several forms, (1) liquid, (2) crystallized or granulated, or (3) partially crystallized. Honey can be classified based on sources of honey, which determines many attributes of honey. Accordingly, honey can be classified as unifloral honey (made from single variety of flower) or multifloral honey (made from various varieties of flowers). Honey comes in a variety of colors, from almost white down to darker colors such as amber, red, or brown. Similarly Honey can be classified based on geographic origin. Blends of various varieties of honey are also possible to get desired attributes like aroma, density, colour, taste, etc.
Honey can be further processed to give different forms of Honey. Deionized Honey (selected ions removed), Deproteinized Honey (protein removed), Dried Honey (dehydrated honey, through edible drying aids and processing), Honey Extract (any product formed by removing selected components from honey), Honey Spread (edible, extremely viscous honey products made from honey, blended with other ingredients like fruits, nuts, flavors, spices, sweetners), Natural Honey Flavor (honey extract which contains the flavor constituents of honey), Ultra filtered Sweetener derived from Honey.
Nutritional Value of Honey
One table spoon (21g) of Honey provides 64 calories.
Honey is composed primarily of carbohydrates and water, and also contains small amounts of a wide array of vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrate in Honey is in form of mainly monosaccharide glucose and fructose. Honey has approximately the same relative sweetness as that of granulated sugar. Protein content of Honey is very low. Honey contains minerals (like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulphur, iron and phosphate), vitamins (such as B1, B2, C, B6, B5, B3), trace elements (like copper, iodine, and zinc) as well as other amino acids. The nutritional properties, color and flavour of honey are determined by the types of flowers the bees pollinate. Honey contains a variety of flavonoids and phenolic acids which act as antioxidants.
Health benefits of Honey
A search for health benefits of honey will show that honey is extremely valuable and useful medicine on various diseases. Scientific research is also being done regarding health benefits of Honey, especially anti-microbial properties of Honey. The health benefits of honey are accepted all over the world.
Honey is natural energy booster
Research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that honey is as effective as glucose for carbohydrate replacement during endurance exercise. One tablespoon honey can offer 64 calories in contrast with natural sugar which offers only 50 calories. Honey has two types of sugar, glucose and fructose. Glucose is more willingly absorbed in the body so gives instant energy and fructose is absorbed slowly and gives sustainable energy. Hence, athletes use honey as it helps in sustaining blood sugar levels after hard work out. It has natural fruit sugars which help in avoiding fatigue throughout exercise. Honey is the perfect pre-exercise food.
Antimicrobial properties of Honey
There are many reports in medical literature of honey being successfully used for problems such as wounds, burns, skin ulcers, boils, infections. It has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties which helps control growth of harmful bacteria and germs. Waikato Honey Research Unit is investigating and has established health benefits of honey as antimicrobial agent. Honey applied to mouth ulcers helps them to heal faster.
Honey is useful for treating colds
Honey treat most persistent cold, cough and congested chest. Just take one tablespoon lukewarm honey and 1/4 spoon cinnamon powder every day for 3 days. Water vapors with honey in it, provides comfort during congested nose and chest.
Honey cures sore throats
One of most admired health benefits of honey is its capability to take care of sore throats. It tends to calm throat because of its anti-microbial properties. It also helps in demolishing bacteria which causes infection. Spoonful of honey with vitamin C, or orange, lemon juice is effective over sore throat.
Honey in arthritis treatment
Arthritis patients should take about one cup of hot water with two spoons of honey along with some cinnamon power regularly. If taken frequently even unrelieved arthritis can be treated.
Honey is good for heart
Honey decreases cholesterol in arteries and saves patient from heart attack. Regular use of honey strengthens heartbeats and relieves breathlessness.
Apply honey on insect bite
Paste created from honey and cinnamon powder reduced itching and irritation from insect bite.
Honey helps in weight loss
Honey with luckwarm water and lemon juice taken regularly helps in reducing weight and reducing obesity.
Skin Benefits of Honey
Honey mixed with ground almonds makes an excellent facial cleansing scrub. Honey whisked together with an egg white, along with glycerine and some flour is best home made skin firming mask. Honey along with milk makes a great moisturizing pack. Honey with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice makes a great lotion for dry patches of skin on hands, elbows, or other parts.
Cure Acne and Chapped Lips with Honey
Honey works well on chapped lips and for acne because it has antibacterial properties.
Benefits of honey for hair
Mixing one teaspoon honey with 4 cups of luckwarm water can be used as hair conditioner for dry hair. Crude honey is wonderful home remedy for dandruff, associated hair loss and its recurrence. In recent study, around 30 patients applied crude honey daily to scalp and left for 3 hours before washing with warm water. Within 4 weeks of treatment, scaling was reduced, itching skin was relieved and skin lesions were healed completely. If applied weekly, it prevents relapse.
Use Honey as Antibacterial Mouthwash
Mix 1 tablespoon of honey with a cup of warm water, and use it as a mouthwash. Honey cleans teeth and dentures, and kills germs in the mouth.
Books on Honey:
- Honey: and Its Many Health Benefits by Margaret Briggs
- Honey: Nature’s Magic – The Ultimate Practical Guide to 101 Things to Do with Honey, from Sweetening and Flavouring, to Polishing, Soothing and Healing by Jenni Fleetwood