Honey, Propolis and Ancient Egyptians
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
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Looking toward our ancient past, there has been very sophisticated forms of healing, much of which is now lost in the modern times. However, I feel that people need to look to the ancient ones to see how they want about healing and bringing a sense of ease to suffering people.
I feel that people need to look at the ancient ones to see how they went about healing and bringing a sense of ease to suffering people.
One thing that continually stands out for me in ancient healing is the alignment people had with the gods, goddess and spirits that watched over them. From East Indian to Egyptian medicine, there are texts devoted to prayer and incantations to help augment the healing.
Looking at the ancient Egyptian medicine books, we looks see a pharmacopoeia that surprisingly looks like Chinese medicine. There are plants, minerals, bug and animal parts, honey, moldy barley bread (source of penicillin) and fermented food (helps with digestion).
In some ancient Egyptian Medical Papyrus it is explained in detail how honey was to be used for wound healing and medicine. Let's take a look at the attributes of honey and why it is so good for us.
Honey is the nectar of flowers of plants, gathered by the bee and stored in its stomach for transport to the hive. In the hive, the bee regurgitates the nectar into the wax cells of the comb. Before regurgitation however the nectars combine in unique ways with the bees' digestive enzymes to produce new compounds some of which remain to be identifies.
The nectar is moved from cell to cell to facilitate drying.
Eventually large numbers of bees band together , and by fanning their wings, perform the final evaporation to thicken the nectar into what we call honey, which is about 80% solids and 20% liquid. In ancient times, honeys were from a profusion of locally growing wildflowers. "Single species" honey, such as alfalfa honey was exceedingly uncommon.
Some of the power of the plant from which the nectar was collected remains in the honey. This can be seen from the fact that honeys made from poisonous plants will poison people who eat them. Ancient records have attributed at least one defeat of Roman soldiers to eating poisonous honey the night before a battle.
Modern research has found honey to possess antibiotic, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, expectorant, anti-anemic and tonic properties. It is also anti-fungal and stimulates the immune system. Because honey increases calcium absorption in the body, it is also recommended during menopause to prevent osteoporosis.
In ancient Egypt, honey was mixed with grease, which could be vegetable oil, butter or animal fat as well as lint which is some sort of vegetable fiber. (probably a fluffy absorbent agent to help with wound healing. ) This was then applied to wounds.
Honey does not support bacterial growth for many reasons. Honey draws water from the bacterial cells causing them to shrivel and die. This mechanism works so well that an offering of honey buried in a sacred chamber 2500 years ago never decayed and is recognizable to this day. Honey can also prevent the growth of bacteria by an antibiotic mechanism discovered several years before the advent of penicillin and active even in dilution as low a s 13%.
The bees antibacterial arsenal is not exhausted with honey, however. A sealant used to patch cracks in hives is called propolis, which is gathered form buds of tree. This too is antibiotic. It even inhibits plant growth; for example if potato germs are introduced into a beehive, the bees quickly clean them up and cover them with a thin layer of propolis. The result is "no growth." Also, if a mouse should find its way into the hive, the bees will sting it to death. Since they cannot remove the mouse ( its too big for them to move) they cover it with propolis and successfully mummify it! It just shrivels up but does not rot and cause the hive to die away.
Honey and propolis as a wound dressings never quit faded out. During the Boer, propolis was used successfully for healing wounds, and during World War 11 in Shanghai, hardship brought back the use of honey and lard for ulcers and small wounds. Honey has the capacity to draw out a large amount of fluid. This is said to have a cleansing effect which is especially useful on dirty or infected wounds.
All this goes to say, the during the Pharaonic days, it would be difficult to produce a more sensible ointment. How did they find out about honey's healing capacities? Meditation on the substance, intuition, trial and error? All of these I'm sure played a part. Both grease and honey would prevent the bandage from sticking; both have a soothing consistency; grease spoils little, but oil and honey mixed together does not spoil at all.
For the modern people, I feel that honey should have a very noticeable place on the herbal medicine shelf. Powered herbs mixed with honey and butter is still a very usable healing agent. For example, for external ulcers, mix one part honey to two parts butter (organic), mix in a teaspoon of marshmallow power, 1/4 teaspoon goldenseal, and a pinch of cayenne. Apply this to ulcers, wounds and cysts for speedy recovery.
Honey has been found to be highly effective for treatment of stomach ulceration as well. All sevens strains of Helicobacter pylori bacteria that caused stomach ulceration are completely inhibited with a 5% solution of honey.
I hope that this article has helped you to have a greater appreciation of honey, propolis and ancient healers.
Caution: Due to certain enzymes in honey it should not be consumed by infants under one year of age.