Honey plays an insignificant part in our modern Materia Medial, though strained, clarified, borated and rose honey are listed in many pharmacopoeias. The mel depuratum (clarified honey) is rather an inadequate substance because it is subjected to heating and is filtered through cloth which also robs it of some mineral elements.In lay, let us call it unscientific medicine, especially in the rural districts, however, honey is today a more popular nostrum than the medical profession would surmise. Physicians, with few ex ceptions, grin broadly at the mere mention of the medicinal and food merits of honey. Of course, the name honey sounds rather homely, almost dilettant. How much more knowledge and intelligence the term, cinchophen, for example, reveals. This sub-stance was widely advertised and the medical fraternity, conformably, employed it. It soon became so popular that the general public began to use it indiscriminately. After it had caused irreparable harm and many patients had died from its effect, the sale without a prescription was prohibited. This is only one in-stance. On the other hand, people will ignore good things which are within their reach.
Something should be done to induce the medical profession to look more carefully into the remedial and dietetic value of honey. On the European continent, where physicians are paid for keeping patients in good health, honey is freely used. It is time that American physicians should do likewise and obviate the possibility of a rather embarrassing accusation that instead of pre-venting disease, they prevent health. It is the physician's duty to help and to educate the public.
In antiquity and all through the Middle Ages, honey was an important medicine. Up to the end of the last century, it still held the place of honor in the service of Aesculapius. Only with the advent of the millions of patented and well-advertised domestic and imported whatnots was honey almost banished as a curative substance, the same fate which it suffered as a sweetening matter upon the introduction of refined sugar. Thanks to the simple country-folk and to the primitive races, honey is yet in its glory as a dispenser of health and as a valued remedy. Honey cures were popular in many European countries for the tired feeling caused by the so-called spring fever.
The consideration alone that a snake is pictured coiled around the stick of Aesculapius, eager to feast from a cup of honey, ought to be sufficient exhortation to medical men to be more interested in this substance. (Aesculapius, the god of Medicine, who not only healed the sick but restored the dead to life, held the snake sacred. The snake was the emblem of health and recovery. The snakes were fed on honey or honey cakes. Whoever entered the cave of Trophonius had to throw honey cake to the snakes (Pausanias IX. 39:5). Honey was also the favorite food of the fabled serpent, the guardian of the Acropolis (Herodot. VIII. 41). The snake of Aesculapius in Cos was given honey and honey cake (Herondas IV. 90; Virgil Aeneid IV. 484).
Among the Asiatic races, including the Chinese and the Hindu, and among the Egyptians, Arabs and the African tribes, honey is still considered an excellent protective food and a sovereign internal and external remedy. Amongst the Wa-Sania tribes, British East Africa, a mother's only nutriment for several days after the birth of a child is honey with hot water. A boy, after he has been circumcised (usually at the age of 3 or 4) is permitted only to consume honey and water for a week. Among the Nandis some honey is placed on the tongue of a child before circumcision. Honey is often combined by them with the bark and leaves of certain trees and plants. Among the rural population of the old countries, especially among the Greeks, Italians, Hungarians and all the Slavic races, honey is a popular home remedy. Their laxative medicines, likewise those for coughs, bronchitis, tuberculosis and other pulmonary ailments, contain honey. For respiratory troubles honey is often mixed with anis, pepper, horseradish, ginger, mustard and garlic. A glassful of warm milk with a table-spoonful of honey is used for bronchitis and debilitated conditions. Goat's milk or buttermilk and honey is a favored and popular remedy for tuberculosis. Goat's milk is most nutritious and very digestible. It is nearest to human milk. There are more vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins in goat's milk than in any other milk. In the East, Far East, Africa and in most European countries goat's milk is extremely popular. Recently there have been considerable efforts made in the United States to popularize goat raising.
The diuretic effect of honey which was well known in antiquity, is still employed in kidney and bladder involvements. In pyelitis (inflammation of the renal pelvis) honey increases the amount of urine and exerts a decided antiseptic effect. The patients quickly improve; the urine clears and loses its putrid odor. The laxative effect of honey in these cases is also of advantage. One of the author's correspondents (J. L. McD., of Marion, Indiana), wrote thus about the subject: "A bee-keeping friend of mine suffered from tuberculosis of the kidney and was given up by two doctors fifteen years ago. He got to eating honey and plenty of it and he is today as peppy as a youngster." Honey is an important ingredient of worm-cures. The African tribes also mix their tobacco and their aphrodisiac remedies with honey.
Among the so-called "civilized" communities we find some people who favor honey, especially for throat and bronchial ailments. During many years' professional contact with opera singers, the writer has found that they frequently resorted to honey for the treatment of their throat affections. They consider it an excellent demulcent and expectorant. Three parts of honey and one part of compound tincture of benzoin is popular among singers; so is an occasional gulp from a mixture of two ounces of honey, one ounce of lemon juice and an ounce of pure glycerin. Honey (125 gm.) and alum (25 gm.) added to one quart of water is a useful gargle. The mixture of honey and alum is highly valued for sore throat and ulcerations of the gums and mouth. Hot milk and honey make an excellent remedy for husky throats.
Another correspondent of the author (M. S. of Kansas City, Mo.) has written about the curative value of honey in pulmonary affection, as follows: "In 1925, I became ill and consulted several doctors, all of whom gave the verdict of active tuberculosis. After seven months, two doctors gave me up, and said that my only chance was to go West, which I could not afford to do. At a later date, they frankly informed me that I had only three months to live and insisted on sending me to Colorado. I was then living in Kansas City, Missouri, and had previously been engaged in cement and paving work. I managed to land a job in Nemaha County, Kansas, about 140 miles west of Kansas City. My work was to establish an apiary of one hundred colonies for a commercial orchard. I was to `batch' in a room in the apple house, which had a cement floor. Often it took all my strength to carry a gallon bucket of water from the well, one hundred feet away. In studying bees, I had learned the value of honey in driving out and destroying all germs in the human body. I used honey regularly and I worked to the limit of my strength. Three years later, the same doctors examined me and found only a few spots on my lungs. They absolutely refused to believe that I was the same person. Today, I take my place as an average man. I take care of two hundred fifty colonies of bees and a farm of twenty-five acres of land. The only help I have is about one month during the honey harvest. I don't know whether the honey cured me, or it was the fact that I was too lazy to crawl into my coffin, but I believe the honey and possibly the raw diet were the major factors of my recovery."
J. J. H., of Brownsville, Florida, reports that when his grand-mother was a young girl she was given up by her physicians as a hopeless consumptive. Someone prescribed a diet of honey and goat's milk, with the result that she lived to the age of eighty-eight and was free from illness during the rest of her lifetime.
M. D. A., of Old Forge, New York, is certainly a great admirer of honey. He writes: "Having kept bees and eaten honey for over thirty years, I can tell about my own experience and give also observations of other people who use honey exclusively for sweetening. I never have known a beekeeper who had any kind of kidney trouble. They all have a clear complexion, good eyesight and no lameness. Among my friends who eat honey and keep bees, there is no cancer or paralysis. My best remedy for a bee sting is to cover it with honey, even a deep burn will not scar if treated the same way. I have seen sour milk, whole wheat cracked for cereal, honey and butter do wonders in diet. I cured the cough of a great number of my friends, where other remedies failed, with this prescription:
4 tablespoonfuls of honey
1 teaspoonful of sulphur
5 drops of pure turpentine
Mix it, take half-teaspoonful two or three hours apart." The soporific effect of honey is par excellence. The French Voirnot advocated it for insomnia. Dr. Lorand (of Carlsbad) also recommends honey as a good hypnotic and reconstructive. D. Dumoulin, when eighty years old, commented, "Chaque soir, avant de me mettre au lit, je prends une cuiller â cafe de miel, soit pur, soit dans du lait chaud, et je dors comme â vingt ans." (Every night, before I go to bed I take a teaspoonful of honey, sometimes pure, other times in hot milk and I sleep like when twenty years old.) A tumblerful of hot water with one or two tablespoonfuls of ripe honey and the juice of half a lemon has been the author's favorite potion for nervous insomnia. This simple and inexpensive home remedy has been greatly appreciated by his patients and most of them have assured him that it is more helpful than (an infinite number of patented drugs could equitably replace these dots).
In digestive disturbances honey is of great value. Honey does not ferment in the stomach because, being an inverted sugar, it is easily absorbed and there is no danger of a bacterial invasion. The flavor of honey excites the appetite and helps digestion. The propoma of the ancients, made of honey, was a popular appetizer. For anemics, dyspeptics, convalescents and the aged, honey is an excellent reconstructive and tonic. In malnutrition, no food or drug can equal it. The laxative value of honey, on account of its lubricating effect, is well known. Its fatty acid content stimulates peristalsis. In gastric catarrh, hyperacidity, gastric and duodenal ulcers and gall bladder diseases honey is recommended by several eminent gastroenterologists.
Dr. Schacht, of Wiesbaden, claims to have cured many hope-less cases of gastric and intestinal ulcers with honey and without operations. It is rather unusual that a physician of standing has the courage and conviction to praise honey. The beekeepers and their friends know that honey will cure gastric and intestinal ulcerations, this distressing, prevalent and most dangerous malady, a precursor of cancer. But the news has not yet reached 99% of the medical profession. The remaining few physicians who know it, are afraid to suggest such an unscientific and plebeian remedy, for fear of being laughed at by their colleagues and scientifically inclined patients. You may read in almost every issue of apicultural papers the reports of correspondents regarding their experience with honey for gastric ulcers, after going through the medical mill for years without improvement, with-out even hope of ever getting cured. Then incidentally they meet a beekeeper or one of his converts and if they have courage and common sense (there are few) to heed the advice, they get well. It is disheartening for a physician to read such reports. For in-stance, a correspondent (A. L. T. of Omaha, Nebr.), writes in Gleanings in Bee Culture, February, 1931), "I have been a sufferer from ulcerated stomach for several years, part time in the hospital, part time in bed and nearly all the time in much pain. I noticed from the middle of September I was much better and gave no thought to the reason but kept up eating honey because I relished it. I had no attack since and it held good. . . ." It would fill a volume to assemble similar testimonials, praising particularly the curative value of honey in gastric and intestinal disorders, including ulcers. Father Kneipp, a great admirer of honey, remarked: "Smaller ulcers in the stomach are quickly contracted, broken and healed by it."
Honey is a rapidly acting source of muscular energy and has great value as a restorative. The protoplasm craves sugar as does an individual. Muscles in action consume three and a half times as much glycogen as when at rest. A normal heart, according to Starling, uses glycogen at the rate of four milligrams per gram of heart per hour. The invigorating effect of honey was discussed under the heading, "Honey for Athletes and Soldiers." It is not surprising that many well-known physicians recommend honey for an ailing heart. Dr. Lorand in Old Age Deferred, and in Life Shortening Habits and Rejuvenation, expresses his faith in honey as a sine qua non in arteriosclerosis and weak heart. Dr. G. N. W. Thomas, of Edinburgh, Scotland, in an article in the Lancet remarks that "in heart weakness I have found honey to have a marked effect in reviving the heart action and keeping patients alive. I had further evidence of this in a recent case of pneumonia. The patient consumed two pounds of honey during the illness; there was an early crisis with no subsequent rise of temperature and an exceptionally good pulse. I suggest that honey should be given for general physical repair and, above all, for heart failure." Sir Arbuthnot Lane also emphasized the value of honey as a heart and muscle stimulant, and as an excellent source of energy. There is no better food, he thought, to meet muscular fatigue and exhaustion.
Carbohydrate and especially sugar metabolism has great importance. Energy is primarily the result of carbohydrate assimilation. Hyperglycemic individuals are, as a rule, more energetic and less prone to fatigue; subglycemic people tire easily and are apathetic. Certain nervous types, though glycophile subjects, exhaust their sugar reserve fast and wear out just as quickly. Lack of energy is not always due to laziness.
In typhoid fever and pneumonia, where the digestive functions are badly crippled, honey is most beneficial. Why embarrass enfeebled digestions with foods which require chemical changes before their assimilation when we can administer a serviceable and pleasant food which is predigested? For the treatment of typhoid fever, honey diluted in water is the author's preferential food. It is an ideal substance, in this special instance, on account of its demulcent effect on the inflamed intestines, its rapid assimilation and its capability to supply food and energy without causing fermentation, which is so much feared in typhoid fever. Honey, a concentrated and predigested food, is absorbed orally I00% and per rectum 96%. For rectal feeding honey is exceptionally well adapted. Galen's honey and oil enema was highly valued in antiquity. While sugar favors worms, honey was considered as one of the best vermifuge remedies by all ancients and it is widely used for this purpose, even today, by primitive races.
Medical textbooks pay only little attention to the real worth and merit of honey. The results which some physicians have de-rived from the use of honey, as a rule, have been incidental. Dr. C. H. English, Medical Director of the Lincoln National Life Insurance Co., vividly describes his own experience (Gleanings in Bee Culture, 55:1927). About forty-one years ago the doctor practiced medicine among rural folk. He acquired two colonies of bees which soon increased and it was not long until he had more honey on hand than he and his family could use. Not wishing to sell honey, it occurred to him to distribute his surplus stock among patients. There were a sufficient number of cases which offered an excellent field to try out the nutrimental, medicinal and tonic effects of honey. In respiratory troubles, the doctor found that honey acted not only as a good expectorant but as a valuable heart tonic. In pneumonia, near the crisis, when honey was freely given, it had a marked effect. The benefits were so evident that the administration of honey became a routine practice with him. He found no other food or heart stimulant which had a more lasting effect. This practice he kept up for fifteen years with the most gratifying results. Occasionally in severe cases, when he ran short of honey, he noticed the difference and when he succeeded again in procuring some the improvement was quite manifest. Dr. English also used honey success-fully in infant feeding.
The blood reconstructive power of honey can be surmised from a recent report from Germany. According to this information Edmund Eckardt (thirty-five years old) a champion blood donor, whose only visible means of support is to supply blood for trans-fusions, just celebrated his jubilee. He has saved fifty lives in the last three years. When interviewed as to how he makes good his losses he described his diet. During daily breakfast he consumes honey; for luncheon he has fish and vegetables and drinks orange juice with his dinner. His main reliance is on honey and oranges, of which he eats thirty a day. An expert of the Blood Transfusion Betterment Association of New York, when inter-viewed on the subject, suggested that Eckhardt's faith in oranges is unjustified because what a blood donor needs is iron, and Eckardt in fact, "does not mention that any part of his diet contains iron." Another occasion where "dethroned" honey was utterly disregarded! Count Luckner, of World War fame, is an extremely moderate eater. He is about sixty-five years old and looks no more than forty. Luckner bends a silver half-dollar with two fingers and tears a Manhattan telephone directory into small pieces with greatest ease. The Count relates that his first food in the morning is a "goodly portion of honey."
Many people, especially beekeepers, and a few physicians (this writer among them) claim that honey taken internally prevents and often cures arthritic and rheumatoid ailments. The peasants of Hungary even put a honey poultice over the big toe in gout and they say the pain disappears in half an hour. Such assertions have, of course, all the earmarks of unscientific broach. Still there are many who insist that honey has benefited them more than all the "scientific" vaccines. Vitamin C deficiency would explain an impaired circulation and recent researches ( James F. Reinhart, Studies relating to Vitamin C deficiency in rheumatic fever and rheumatoid arthritis, Annals of Internal Medicine, December, 1935), clearly prove that lack of vitamin C favors the development of infectious arthritis. Dr. Heermann of Kassel, Germany, suggests (Fortschritte der Medizin, Vol. 54) 1936) the use of honey for rheumatism, atrophy of muscles, nervous conditions, tuberculotic glands, etc., both internally and externally. He employed honey with success for thirty-five years. Dr. Heermann thinks it is unnecessary to extract the venom of the bees to treat these conditions. Honey itself contains some venom because the bees use their stings not only for defense but also for the preservation of honey.
Many beekeepers are of the opinion that, besides the admitted and generally recognized curative effects of the stings in rheumatic ailments, honey also contributes its benefits in preventing and curing these diseases. As an illustration, I quote a letter from J. L. McD., of Marion, Indiana: "I began bee keeping be-cause I had rheumatism, and it has disappeared, but I consider it due more to the fact that I ate honey than to bee stings. Nearly four years ago, I had rheumatism in my knees. I finally went to Dr. K of Marion, Indiana, for advice. He put me on a citrous fruit diet, allowing only honey. In a week, he allowed breakfast food sweetened with honey. It did the work, and I liked honey so well that I bought a few hives of bees to supply my family, and now—nearly four years later—I want everyone to know honey and to like it, as Nature's own health-sweet, full of pep and vitamins that God gave us, pure as snow. My growing son is developing into a healthy, sturdy ten-year old since the use of honey, egg and milk drinks. My rheumatism never returned."
Honey, taken by itself and not mixed with other foods, was considered by the ancients an excellent remedy for obesity. Bee-keepers today, who know it from their own experience, will confirm this allegation. The regimen, at a glance, sounds rather unscientific to a modern physician; nevertheless it has a deeper biochemical meaning than it appears to have. Fats and sugars are both carbon-containing and energy-providing foods which burn up by contact with oxygen and create energy. Sugars which contain more carbon elements and are more inflammable produce energy more quickly. Fats which contain less carbon and oxygen than sugars, are utilized slower because their purpose is only to supply reserve energy; they require more oxygen and more draught to set them afire and are not meant for immediate use. If there is not enough sugar to keep the fires burning, the system will resort to its reserve fat. Accordingly when sugars, especially honey, are ingested into the system they will cause a rapid combustion and the fats will burn with the aid of the draught produced by their "fire." If an organism is slow to burn up fat (as in obesity), it will be assisted by the rapidity of sugar metabolism. The process could be compared to setting slowly inflammable coal ablaze with the aid of straw, kindling wood or even oil. Of course, there is sufficient oxygen in carbohydrates to assist in the combustion of carbon elements even without an outside source of oxygen.
Acknowledging some more medical information received from the laity, the writer's attention has been repeatedly called to the beneficial effect of honey on hay fever victims. There are many reports that the consumption of honey collected by bees from goldenrod and fireweed will cure hay fever superinduced by the selfsame pollen. Now comes Dr. George D. McGrew, of the Army Medical Corps of the William Beaumont General Hospital in El Paso, Texas, with a statement in an article published in the Military Surgeon that during the 1936 hay-fever season thirty-three hay-fever sufferers obtained partial or complete re-lief through the consumption of honey, produced in their vicinity. The brood cells contain a considerable amount of bee-bread (pollen) stored by the bees for their young and when this is orally administered it will produce a gradual immunity against the allergic symptoms caused by the same pollen. Dr. McGrew found particular relief for patients when they chewed the honey with the wax of the brood-cells. The hospital staff also made an alcoholic extract from pollen and administered it in from one to ten drop doses, according to the requirements of the patients.
Old beekeepers will tell you that a glassful of hot water with a tablespoonful of honey and some lemon juice will cure influenza and also help the pocketbook. (We physicians should not begrudge the medical propensity of farmers. They seem to agree with Bernard Shaw's remark that every profession is a conspiracy against the laity, so they retaliate. And the time-honored principle, experience versus theory, upon which Napoleon so often commented, should also be taken into consideration. The Hungarians have liberally consumed paprika for a thousand years and are convinced that it has contributed in a great measure to their health and temperament. After Professor Szent-Györgyi, the discoverer of Vitamin C, had tried unsuccessfully in Chicago to produce this vitamin from tons of liver, he returned very much disappointed to Hungary, where he accidentally found that red pepper is a rich source of Vitamin C.)Honey would have a wider and better use in modern medicine if comprehensive microchemical and physiological studies would be instituted to determine the types of honey which are best suited to particular cases. The properties and tendencies of honeys vary according to the chemical characteristics of the nectar and pollen of plants from which they were collected. Dr. C. A. Browne, Principal Chemist in charge of research, Bureau of Chemistry and Soils, U. S. Department of Agriculture, admits that the gross composition of honeys of various types have been accurately determined but that comparatively little has been done and much more remains to be done toward ascertaining the nature and quantities of less common substances that occur in honey. Nitrogenous compounds (proteins), though honey contains these in small amounts, still play a very important rôle in the utilization of honey. The same applies to amino acids, various colloidal sub-stances, to the mineral constituents and enzymes which honey contains. We have comparatively little definite knowledge about the so-called dextrins. The mineral content of honey considerably affects the degree of its acidity (pH). Dr. Browne thinks that more knowledge on the subject would be of great value in ear-marking the various types of honey, which would serve as a guide in choosing the most suitable types for particular use.