Honey: The Elixir of life

Few interesting facts

  • Honey is the only insect produced food consumed by humans. Beekeeping, or apiculture, has been practised by humans since 700 B.C. World’s oldest edible honey, approximately 3000 years old, was found during pyramid excavation in Egypt. 
  • A honeybee visits 50–100 flowers on a single trip out of the hive. A single honeybee produces approximately only 1/12 teaspoon of honey during her lifetime. Bees have two separate stomachs, one for food and another specifically for nectar.  
  • Honey is a superfood exhibiting anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-fungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Hydrogen peroxide, acidity, and lack of water make pure honey last forever.
  • Declining bee population is posing threat to global food security and nutrition. However, there have been no beehive losses in Cuba — unable to import pesticides due to the embargo, the island country now exports valuable organic honey. 
  • Up to 5000 sensors, measuring 2.5mm x 2.5 mm were fitted to the backs of the bees in Tasmania, Australia before they were released into the wild. This was done to monitor and improve honey bee pollination and productivity on farms as well as help understand the drivers of bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a condition decimating honey bee populations worldwide.

What is honey?

Honey is produced from the nectar of flowering plants and the efforts put in by the honeybees to convert nectar into honey. Flower nectar is a sweet, liquid substance produced by flower glands, an adaptation that attracts insects to the flowers by offering them nutrition. In exchange, the insects help fertilize the flowers by transmitting pollen particles clinging to their bodies from flower to flower during the foraging. Both parties benefit in this relationship — bees gain food while transmitting the pollen required for fertilization and seed production in the flowering plants. 

In its natural state, nectar contains nearly 80 percent water along with complex sugars. If left unattended, nectar eventually can ferment and would become useless as a food source for the bees.  Therefore, by transforming the nectar into honey, the bees create an efficient and usable carbohydrate with only 14 to 18 percent water and can be stored almost indefinitely without fermenting or spoiling. Honey offers bees energy source capable of sustaining them through the cold winter months. Therefore, honey is a natural product formed from flower nectar possessing nutritional, cosmetic, therapeutic, and industrial values. 

Honey varies in its nutritional composition based on the origin of the nectar used in its creation i.e. botanical as well as geographical origin. It primarily contains fructose (40%) and glucose (30%), while the remainder is water, traces of local pollen, as well as other substances, such as:

  • Amino acids  
  • Enzymes
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins

The trace elements primarily make honey a superfood exhibiting medicinal properties finding application as anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-fungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial and antioxidant.

Apart from honey, beehives are sources of:

  1. Pollens: It is believed that pollens when consumed may lower cholesterol, improve metabolism, and improve stamina. However, some people may be allergic to pollens therefore consumption should be accompanied with caution.
  2. Royal jelly: An excellent dietary supplement, the jelly is the bees’ secretion used as food by the queen and all bee larvae; the worker honeybee secretes royal jelly through its hypo-pharynx glands situated in its head. When consumed by humans, it may provide relief from menopause symptoms. Some researches claim that royal jelly local application speeds up the process of wound healing.
  3. Propolis: Also known as bee glue, it is created by bee workers from resins, balsam and tree saps, and used as a defence mechanism to seal cracks in the hive thus safeguarding any external intrusion. Propolis helps in cold sores and mouth surgery. More scientific research is being carried to establish its effectiveness in cancer sores, tuberculosis, and overall improvement in immune response.   
  4. Wax: It is produced by worker bee’s glands, which they then use to build the honeycomb, and to seal the top of honey-filled cells; Wax is very popular in the cosmetic industry for making products like lip balms, creams, hair care products. It is also used in furniture polish, crayons, anti rust coats etc.
  5. Bee venom: It is this defence mechanism of bees which help to protect against any danger. Bee venom is a colourless liquid containing proteins that can lead to localised inflammation. It finds application in naturopathy for treatment of chronic injuries, gout, and burns.   


  1. https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2015/Honey-Bee-Health
  2. https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=13504
  3. https://www.purewow.com/home/uses-for-beeswax
  4. https://www.rxlist.com/propolis/supplements.htm
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893770/
  6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324152#wound-healing
  7. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=BeePollen
  8. https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/history/honey-in-the-pyramids.aspx
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5424551/
  10. https://saveourbees.com.au/bee-products/
  11. https://www.worldbeeday.org/en/did-you-know/92-honey-and-other-bee-products.html


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