Honey is produced in one of the busiest yet most efficient factories in the world.
Honey in Greek means “bee” is a bee product obtained by the transformation and processing of nectar by bees and stored in honeycomb cells to feed the hive population.
It is the soul of a field of flowers. Is the glow of beauty on the faces of striking women. The touch of healing in a thousand remedies around the earth. Honey itself is indeed synonymous with love itself. A beautiful blessing created in a mysterious way. An expression of love and a special gift to man.
‘’… and when at last the years have streaked our hair with grey and phrases like ‘darling’ and ‘sweetheart’ don’t fit anymore, it is the one expression of pure affection that never wears out between us, ‘Honey I Love You’…’’
History Of Honey
Honey was the first sweet substance used by man, being valued especially by priests in various rituals. There is sufficient evidence that in ancient civilizations honey was used, among other things, to prepare an alcoholic beverage to which was added pollen and yeast from honeycombs, but the oldest documents relating to honey are two fragments written in the Sumerian language. From the Egyptians remained testimonies on how to harvest and use honey. The Babylonians and the various ancient civilizations of India and China used honey both as medicine and in rituals and ceremonies. In the Old Testament we find “honey” written over 60 times. Much has been written about honey production in ancient Greece. Hippocrates recommended honey for the healing of diseases (gastrointestinal, renal, respiratory) and for the treatment of wounds. Hippocrates, the author of a five-volume book, “De Materia Medica,” treated fistulated wounds using honey in local applications. Pliny indicates honey in combination with fish oil to treat infected wounds. Muslims used honey as a good remedy for any disease. The use of honey in food (as food, drink, preservative), in medicine, in religious rituals was constantly growing until the discovery of cane sugar and beets. In 1871, invertase was discovered (an enzyme that accelerates the conversion of sugar into glucose and fructose).
– Flower honey, (floral), derived from the processing of nectar and pollen collected by bees from the flowers of honey plants,
– Honeydew honey (extrafloral), from other parts of the plant, apart from flowers; it can be of animal or vegetable origin.
According to the species of honey plants from which the bees collected the nectar:
– Monofloral honey, derived entirely (or mostly) from the nectar of flowers of a single species: (acacia, linden, sunflower, mint)
– Polyfloral honey, derived from the processing of a mixture of nectar from the flowers of several plant species.
By way of obtaining:
– in combs (delivered in combs),
– drained freely from the combs,
– extracted by centrifugation,
– obtained by pressing honeycombs,
– melted (the combs are heated).
– liquid (fluid),
– crystallized (sugared).
By colour: – colourless, light yellow, golden, greenish, brown or reddish.
By aroma: – According to the aroma, the various varieties of honey are appreciated by smell and tasting, indicating the name of the plant species from which they come.
The classification can also take into account: chemical composition, purity, calorific value.
Honey is a food with a sweet and fragrant taste, with a semi-fluid, viscous or crystallized appearance and a specific colour, with a high content of sugars and minerals, vitamins, enzymes, organic acids.
Colour. In relation to the coloured substances found in nectar and which are vegetable pigments – carotene, chlorophyll, xanthophyll – the colour of honey differs from colourless to black. Yellow nectar predominates. The honey collected in early spring has a bright yellow to orange colour. Over time, the honey loses its original colour, usually darkens in colour, and during crystallization it opens.
The production of honey by bees is a complex process of transforming the raw material into honey, starting with harvesting and ending with the capping of honeycomb cells. The worker bees collect the nectar or manna with the help of the buccal apparatus (horn) and store them for a while in the goitre, where they are mixed with saliva, and on arrival transfer the sugar content to the bees from the hive, which further processes it until the finished product is obtained.
There are many factors that influence the chemical composition of honey: the quality and composition of the raw material (nectar or manna), its abundance, climatic factors, how bees are exploited, how they are harvested, conditioned and preserved. The honey obtained will have specific characteristics to the conditions in which it was produced.
The major constituents of honey are water and sugars, which represent 99% of honey.
Normally, honey harvested, processed and preserved in good conditions has a humidity between 17-18%. The nectar brought to the hive has a high-water content (over 52%), but the filling is done only after the humidity is maximum 20%, the percentage of water in the honey being inversely proportional to the degree of filling of the combs. The high atmospheric humidity determines the increase of the humidity in the hive, as well as a high humidity of the honey, due to its hygroscopic properties.
Atmospheric humidity must not exceed 60% in storage rooms. Honey with a high glucose content, (such as rapeseed), will be more hygroscopic and will have a shorter shelf life, having to be kept in airtight containers and stored in dry rooms. Honey with a subunit glucose / fructose ratio, (such as acacia or clover), can be intended for longer consumption. Crystallized honey is always more hygroscopic than fluid or liquid honey. Increasing the humidity of honey over 20% leads to a decrease in its quality and promotes the development of yeasts that produce fermentation.
Honey can be considered a concentrated solution of sugars, due to the fact that the main components of honey are sugars:
Carbohydrates are aldehydes or ketones of polyvalent alcohols and depending on their ability to hydrolyse are divided into:
1. Non-hydrolysable carbohydrates, called oze, monoses, or monosaccharides (simple sugars). Ozones are oxydehydes or oxyketones derived from the oxidation of polyalcohols and are named after the number of carbon atoms, the most common being:
2. Hydrolysable carbohydrates, (capable of being broken down under the influence of acids or enzymes into simpler sugars), called oxides, which are divided into:
Olosides (which are composed exclusively of monosaccharides), being the most important for the study of honey, and of these:
Heterosides, (which include a carbohydrate and a non-carbohydrate component (or aglycone).
*Dextrin. In honey is also found in large quantities in other complex holosides or heterosides such as molds, gums, etc., improperly called dextrins. In honeydew honey, dextrins can exceed 5%. The presence of dextrins increases the viscosity of honey and gives it a sticky, unpleasant appearance.
Non-sugar substances are found in small amounts in the honey, about 1% of honey, and are not unimportant, contributing to the specificity of this popular product.
Ferments (enzymes or diastases) are biological catalysts originating in the living cell. From a structural point of view, they are organic compounds with a protein character, having a protein component, apoenzyme, (which gives it the substrate specificity) and a chemical group, coenzyme, (which determines the catalytic activity of the enzyme). The action of enzymes is reversible, and this property is exerted on both decomposition and synthesis reactions.
The activity of enzymes is influenced by several factors:
– The optimal activity temperature, (the enzymes are totally destroyed at 80 ° C, and at low temperature it is preserved)
– Environmental reaction, (honey enzymes have a pH between 4-7, low pH favouring the activity of invertase, and high pH, that of amylase.
– The presence of electrolytes can stimulate or inhibit the activity of enzymes.
– The influence of ultraviolet rays also has an effect on enzymatic activity.
The main ferments in bee honey are carbohydrates, and among them:
– Invertase and sucrose, acts on sucrose, breaking it down into glucose and fructose.
– Alpha amylase (dextrinogenic amylase), acts on the starch which it initially converts into dextrins and finally into maltose.
– Beta amylase (saccharogenic amylase), acts on the starch which it converts directly into maltose.
Mineral salts: The total mineral substances in bee honey vary within very wide limits due to many factors (nature of the raw material and its degree of impurity, climatic conditions, mode of extraction, processing and preservation, etc.).
The main mineral elements in honey are:
Sodium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, aluminium, manganese, iron, chlorine, sulphur, silicon, as well as some trace elements: beryllium, gallium, vanadium, zirconium, titanium, nickel, tin, lead, silver.
Vitamins: Honey is also valuable due to its content in vitamins, which come exclusively from plant pollen and nectar.
The main vitamins in honey belong to the two groups:
– Water-soluble: Vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), Vitamin PP (niacin), Vitamin H (biotin), Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), pantothenic acid, folic acid, rutin(routine).
– Fat-soluble: Provitamins A, Vitamin K.
Use of honey
Due to its nutritional qualities, it is considered a food of great value in the food of people of all ages, with wide uses in dietetics and therapy.
Honey is very often used in food, in the kitchen or as a medicine, being very appreciated by folk medicine. It also has important applications in artificial nutrition, in pre- and postoperative nutrition, in paediatrics and gynaecology.
Nutritional and dietary value
The nutritional value of honey consists primarily in its richness in sugars (70-80%), from this point of view, being an energy food par excellence. Most sugars in honey are simple sugars (glucose and fructose), which no longer require special processing by digestion, being directly assimilated and burned completely, to the stage of carbon dioxide and water, releasing energy in all stages of decomposition through which I pass. One gram of sugar in honey releases like beet sugar: 4.1 calories, but (unlike sugar), this energy is made entirely available to the body, so honey is an easily assimilated and digestible food. The essential difference between commercial sugar bee honey is its high content in some non-sugar substances (trace elements, enzymes, organic acids and vitamins), which exerts its positive effect both by regulating important functions of the body, but also contributing to conferring specific taste qualities (“honey taste”). Both the appearance, colour, consistency and taste make honey a much-appreciated food, but especially its specific aroma, due to its content in essential oils (volatile), the scent of honey being identical to the scent of the flowers from which it comes.
The therapeutic value of honey
Bee honey has not only nutritional qualities but, following studies, it has been shown that it also has an effective therapeutic action, which is exerted both on digestive disorders and in hepatobiliary, cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous system and urinary disorders. , in nutritional and infectious diseases, in blood and skin diseases.
With all its precious qualities, honey also has contraindications for patients suffering from obesity, diabetes, glycoregulatory disorders, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and for gastrectomized patients, as well as in certain allergic disorders.
Apitherapy indications will be made only by the specialist, as with any drug, and treatments will be applied under his direct supervision, taking into account the general and specific pharmaco-physiological actions of the apitherapy product, the patient’s condition and disease progression.