Honey has long been touted as an all-purpose panacea, able to soothe sore throats, nourish convalescents, prevent infections, and give instant energy. In the days before widespread refrigeration, honey’s antibacterial properties made it indispensable, both as a preservative and an infection fighter. In the ancient world, a general killed in battle far from home would be submerged in a coffin filled with honey. Sealed, the coffin could then be transported back for burial without fear of putrefaction along the way. St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan from 347 to 397, was established as the patron saint of beekeepers.

In Jewish communities, honey had become an important component of festive occasions. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, was celebrated with apples dipped in honey, symbolizing a wish for a sweet year to come. Round loaves of challah (a braided yeast bread enriched with eggs) were spread with honey, and the meal ended with slices of spiced honey cake and honey-sweetened fruit compotes. On the first day of a boy’s enrollment in chadar, or religious school, letters from the Talmud (the collection of Jewish laws and traditions) would be written in honey on a slate and licked off by the new boys so as to make their learning sweet.

Wonder of Honey

Although many people recognize the nutritional properties of honey, not many realize that there is much more to honey than meets the eye. One of nature’s oldest medicines, scientists are discovering that honey has unique healing powers.

Honey is not only just a natural sugar substitute, but also certain strains of honey can actually help to heal wounds and kill bacteria. Honey has been used to prevent and cure illness for centuries. The Chinese used it to neutralize toxins and relieve pain, treat stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, and constipation. It is also perfect for dabbing onto burns and wounds to help heal the tissue

Not all honeys are equal in their goodness. New Zealand Manuka honey is one of the best, as it is harvested from native tea trees, a natural antibacterial agent in itself.

Curative Properties of Honey

Honey gathered from different flowers and from different parts of the world has different efficacies in treating different maladies unique to that region. Only a few of these remedies will be mentioned here:

Honey has potent antioxidant actions.

  • It enhances memory.
  • It heals wounds and burns.
  • It is effective in peptic ulcer.
  • It is effective in the treatment of gastroenteritis.
  • It is effective in treating inflammatory bowel disease.
  • It is effective in preventing carcinogenesis.
  • It is effective in treating herpes simplex lesions.
  • It is effective in the treatment of bullous kerapathy.

Common Kinds of Honey

It has long been known that honey differs not only in color, aroma, and flavor, but also in chemical, biological, and curative properties. The chemical composition of honey depends in a certain measure on the plants from which they are collected and even on the soil on which the plants grow:

Alfalfa (Medicago saliva L.) honey is collected from the lilac or purple blossoms of cultivated alfalfa.

Angelica (Archangelica officinalis Hoffm.) honey is collected from the flowers of angelica or archangel, which is widespread in the Ex-Soviet Union countries. This honey has a pleasant aroma and flavor.

Apple (Pyrus malus L.) honey is pale yellow with an exceptionally pleasant aroma and a delicate sweetness.

Asclepias (Asclepias syriaca L.- Asclepias cornuti Des.) honey is produced from the fragrant nectar of this valuable honey plant.

Barberry (Berberis vulgaris L.) honey is golden yellow with a pleasant aroma and delicate sweet flavor.

Bashkir (Ufa) linden honey is colorless and granulates into a white coarse-grained mass.

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) honey is reddish and possesses an excellent aroma and pleasant flavor.

Blackberry (Rubus caesius L.) honey is water-white and has a pleasant flavor.

Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) honey is one the best kinds of honey.

Blueweed (Echium ulgare L.) honey ranks among the best kinds; it is light amber in color and has a pleasant aroma and very fine flavor.

Borage (Borago officinalis L.) honey comes from the nectar of the beautiful big blue flowers of borage, cultivated as a valuable honey and medicinal plant.

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) honey is dark, ranging from dark yellow with a reddish tint to dark brown. In contrast to other types of honey, it has a peculiar aroma and specific flavor.

Burdock (Lappa tamentosa Lam. and Lappa major Gaertn.) honey is of a dark olive color and has a sharp spicy aroma and a high viscosity.

Carrot (Daucus carota L.) honey is dark yellow and pleasantly aromatic. It is made from the nectar of the fragrant white flowers of the biennial umbelliferous carrot.

Chestnut (Castanea saliva L.) honey is dark and has a faint aroma and an unpleasant flavor.

Citrus honey, one of the best kinds, has an exquisite aroma, similar to that of blossoming oranges, lemons, and tangerines, and an excellent flavor.

Colza (Barbarea vulgaris R. Br.) honey is greenish yellow, with a faint aroma and good flavor.

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) honey has a pungent aroma and specific flavor.

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus L.) honey is greenish yellow, with an aroma reminiscent of almonds and a peculiar, slightly bitter flavor.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale L.) honey is golden yellow, very thick, rapidly granulates, and has a strong odor and flavor.

Dragonhead (Dracocephalum moldavicum L.) honey is gathered from the blue-purple flowers of the annual essential-oil plant growing in the wild in the Caucasus, the Altai, the Ukraine, and in some other districts.

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules Labill.) honey has an unpleasant flavor but is highly valued because it is used in the treatment of lung tuberculosis in popular medicine.

Hovenia (Hovenia dulcis Thubg) honey resembles linden honey but is somewhat darker. It has a strong aroma and very agreeable flavor.

Heather (Calhuna ulgaris L.) honey is produced from the nectar in the tiny pink flowers of the heather shrub.

Hibiscus (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) honey, when freshly extracted, is of a dull yellowish color, turbid, and possesses a very unpleasant flavor.

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare L.) honey is light in color, with a delicious aroma and flavor.

Honeydew honey is produced not from floral nectar but from the sweet liquid excreted by plant-lice (Aphididae), jumping plant-lice (Psyllidae), and bark-lice or scale-insects (Coccidae). These insects feed on plant juices and their excretions fall on the foliage of trees like dew, hence the term “honeydew.”

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis L.) honey is regarded as one of the best kinds.

Lavender (Lavandula vera DC) honey is highly valued. It is of a golden color and has a delicate aroma.

Linden (Tilia) honey is one of the very best kinds and is highly valued for its exceptional flavor.

Maple (Acer platanoides L.) honey is light in color and has an excellent flavor.

Melissa (Melissa officinalis L.) honey has an excellent flavor. It is produced from the nectar of the fragrant lilac or pink flowers of melissa, which is widespread in the Caucasus and Crimea and is cultivated in the Ukraine as a medicinal and essential-oil plant.

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca L.) honey is light yellow with a golden tint (straw-colored), a faint aroma, and a fine, specific flavor. It is collected from the pale-lilac flowers of motherwort.

Mountain-ash (Sorbus aucuparia L.) honey is reddish in color, with a strong aroma and pleasant flavor.

Parsnip (Pastinaca saliva L.) honey is light, with a fine flavor.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita L.) honey is produced from the nectar of the aromatic flowers of an essential-oil plant, which is widely cultivated in the Soviet Union.

Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia Benth.) honey is light green or white and has a delicate aroma and fine, pleasant flavor.

Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L.) honey granulates easily, possesses a golden-yellow color, and an agreeable flavor.

Radioactive honey: Alin Caillas, the well-known French chemist who made an important contribution to the study of honeys, proved in 1908 that some kinds of honey contain radium. Glass tubes filled with honey were wrapped in opaque black paper and placed on photographic plates. A month later some of the plates were found to have impressions made by the radiation of radium.

Rape (Brassica napus van oleifora Metzg.) honey is white, sometimes yellow; it has an agreeable aroma but is unpleasantly sweet.

Raspberry (Rubus idaeus L.) honey is white, with a very pleasant aroma and delicious flavor. Raspberry comb honey is so tasty that it seems to melt in the mouth. This honey comes from the blossoms of the raspberry, which grows in woods and orchards throughout the territories of the former Ex-Soviet Union countries. It is particularly plentiful in forests of Siberia, the Urals, and Kirov, Gorky, and other regions, and holds a place of importance among fruit and berry plants.

Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum L.) honey has an unpleasant flavor and causes poisoning (general weakness, headache, vomiting, loss of consciousness). There is evidence that the poisoning is due to the presence of alkaloid of andromedotoxin in rhododendron honey.

Rock honey is a peculiar and rare honey. It is made by wild bees, which deposit it in rock crevices. The honey is pale yellow and has a pleasant aroma and flavor. There is little wax in the combs and the honey comes in the form of a solid crystallized mass from which pieces must be chopped off. Unlike ordinary honey, rock honey is not sticky and does not need a special packaging. It can keep unchanged for years.

Sage (Salvia officinalis L.) honey is of a light-amber or dark-golden color, with a delicate aroma and pleasant flavor.

Sainfoin (Onobrychis saliva Lam. or Onobrychis viciaefolia Scop.) honey is golden yellow and has an exceedingly pleasant aroma and flavor. It is produced from the nectar of the pink or red blossoms of the perennial fodder grass sainfoin, which grows wildly in Siberia and the Ukraine.

Salt-tree (Halimodendron halodendron [Pall.] Voss.) honey is light-colored with a yellow tinge.

Sow thistle (Cirsium oleraceum Scop.) honey is white, with a pleasant aroma and flavor.

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) honey is golden yellow but turns light amber, sometimes with a greenish tint when it crystallizes. It has a faint aroma and a pleasant, though pungent flavor.

Sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis Desr) honey has a delicious flavor and is considered one of the best honeys.

Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) honey ranges in color from light to dark, has an unpleasant aroma and a bitter flavor.

Tulip-tree (Liriodendron tuUpifera L.) honey is reddish in color and has a pleasant aroma and flavor.

Vetch (Vicia tenuifolla Koth.) honey is made from the nectar of the vetch, which grows in Siberia. The honey is transparent, has a fine aroma and flavor.

White clover (Trifolium repens L.) honey is one of the best light honeys. It is colorless, transparent, and has an excellent flavor.

White mustard (Sinapis alba L.) honey is golden yellow when liquid and acquires a cream-yellow tinge when it crystallizes.

Willow (Salix) honey is golden yellow, granulates into a fine-grained creamy mass, and has a fine flavor. The various shrubs and trees of the genus Salix (about 170 species) occur everywhere in the Ex-Soviet Union countries.

Willow-herb (Epilobium angustifolium L.) honey is transparent, with a greenish tinge, and crystallizes into white grains or a cream-like mass.