As a young boy growing up in the Twin Cities, my favorite part of summer was always when my mother would bring my older brother and me to the Minnesota State Fair. What I’ll always remember, after the blur of sights and rides, of Fair food, and the noisy sea of faces, is walking into the Bee Tent.  Here, a person could find honey and beeswax products of all shapes and sizes. I used to beg my mother to buy us a small container of honeycomb; I don’t know why- perhaps it was the naturally symmetrical design of the bees, or the idea of honeycomb being an even messier treat than the regular honey that accompanied peanut butter in the only kind of sandwich that I’d deign to eat at that precious age.  And my dear mother, generous soul, would allow us to pick one out.  From her point of view, it may have been only slightly better than most of the other sickly sweet items that we little beggars pined for at such venues.  As I grew up, my fondness for this ancient delight never waned.  I’ve learned, too, that not all that’s sweet is necessarily bad for you…

Honey as a food for humans (and, as legend tells us, the gods) is older than written history- enjoyed by the Sumerians and Babylonians, who recorded use of this sweet substance in their cuneiform writings.  India and Egypt were also home to sacred writings about honey.

Honey was the first sweetener used by ancient man. Surely, you’ve heard phrases such as “the Land of Milk and Honey” or “the Nectar of the Gods.”  It was at one time considered to be so valuable that in the 11th century A.D. peasants in Germany used honey and beeswax as a currency to pay feudal lords. Beyond being valued for its flavor in food and beverages, it was used to make cement, as a medicine, and as a varnish for furniture. So it was, in fact, more than just a sweetener! Honey is actually quite good for you, too.  Here are some of the benefits of this historic and delicious gift from bees, the frequent use of which is vital to our health.

  1. 1. Honey is a natural, organic alternative to sugar.  It doesn’t have (or need) any additives, making it easier on your digestive system.  It is “predigested” by bees, requiring less labor from our stomaches.

  2. 2. Honey is a carbohydrate compound that is easily absorbed and incorporated into our body tissues.  It creates and replaces energy quickly, and helps to form new tissue as well.

  3. 3. Honey supplies our bodies with enzyme-forming substances that biologically ferment to promote oxidation.

  4. 4. It kills germs!  Honey has very distinct properties that allows it to act as a germicidal agent.  It is an ancient remedy used to help heal wounds-even very serious ones.  An enzyme added by bees creates a small amount of hydrogen peroxide, an effective deterrent of bacterial infections.

  5. 5. In some studies, honey was found to be effective against a particularly nasty strain of Staphylococcus aureus, the flesh-eating bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotics such as methicillin.

-Yusef Kazemzadeh