The secrets and properties of honey



by LORENZO CIOTTI

The secrets and properties of honey

Honey has been traditionally used not only as a food, but also with therapeutic purposes, especially for the topical treatment of chronic-infected wounds. The intrinsic characteristics and the complex composition of honey, in which different substances with antimicrobial properties are included, make it an antimicrobial agent with multiple and different target sites in the fight against bacteria.

This, together with the difficulty to develop honey-resistance, indicates that it could become an effective alternative in the treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, against which honey has already shown to be effective.

Despite all of these assets, honey possesses some limitations, and has to fulfill a number of requirements in order to be used for medical purposes. Antibacterial resistance has become a challenging situation worldwide. The increasing emergence of multidrug-resistant pathogens stresses the need for developing alternative or complementary antimicrobial strategies, which has led the scientific community to study substances, formulas or active ingredients used before the antibiotic era.

Depending on the flowering from which the nectar is collected, the color and consistency of the honey but above all its flavor and organoleptic properties vary, leading to differences in smell and taste: from the delicate aroma of acacia honey, clear and liquid, with the resinous scent of that of linden, with the lactic taste of that of fir honeydew and eucalyptus.

It goes from greenish reflections, to the bitter taste of chestnut, to the more gentle and floral one of citrus or asphodel. It is produced from nectar or honeydew. The nectar is collected on the flowers of many plants. The nectar is excreted by the nectar glands present inside the flower but also in an external position, for example on the petiole of the leaves of some plants such as cherry and cherry laurel.

The nectar and honeydew are collected, processed, dehydrated and stored in the honeycomb. Honey is used as nourishment by bees in periods of absence of nectar import, such as in the winter season or between a large flowering and the next.

In ancient Egypt, honey was appreciated; the first news of beekeepers moving along the Nile to follow the flowering of plants with their hives dates back to 4000 years ago. The Egyptians used to place large cups or jars filled with honey next to the mummies for their journey to the Hereafter.

The Romans imported large quantities from Crete, Cyprus, Spain and Malta. From the latter it also seems to derive the original name Meilat, precisely land of honey.