Just in time for National Honey Month, learn about Greek honey and find out why it’s been more than just a superfood for thousands of years.
Greek Honey: National Honey Month
September is National Honey Month! What a perfect way to celebrate, then to tell you all about that amazing substance, Greek Honey, referred to as the “καλό μέλι” (the good honey). In this 2-part series, we’ll tell you all about Greek through the ages, it’s uses, and modern-day therapies. Let’s get started! Read on to learn more about why Greek honey is so amazing.
What is Honey?
Found inside of bee hives, honey is a byproduct of flower nectar and the digestive tracts of honey bees. It has over 200 substances that have not only been proven as beneficial individually, but synergistically as well. The unique combination and amounts of these substances are what give honey its superfood status.
Substances found in honey include, but are not limited to: amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, fructose, glucose, and tons of antioxidants. Minerals and metals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulphur, and phosphorus can also be found. Trace elements like iron, copper, zinc and manganese are abundant as well.
Honey contains vitamin C, B vitamins and dependent on the origin, even trace amounts of protein! Olligosaccharides are present which serve as prebiotic compounds and phenolic compounds (known to be anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and immune supporting) are also prevalent. The list goes on!
Honey’s ultimate healthful composition depends on the plants that the bees feed on. Greece, and its unique temperate Mediterranean climate, offers a wide variety of plants and flowers that enhance the production of this superfood.
Honey is a staple in the Greek diet, and has been for centuries. In fact, it’s hard to find a Greek home without a jar of honey in its cupboards! Greece ranks second in the world when it comes to apiculture (beekeeping) density and has a total of 1.5 million beehives. Among Europeans, Greeks consume the greatest amount of honey per person, and is the second largest honey producer.
For a honey to be labelled as originating from a particular plant or tree, the specific chemicals and microscopic features of the plant must be predominate in the honey. With that said, more than 60% of Greece’s honey comes from pine and fir (pefko and elato) and another 10% comes from thyme. The rest comes from chestnut, heather, cotton, orange blossom, sunflower, and a variety of herbs and wild flowers unique to AND found only in Greece.
Honey in Ancient Greece
Since ancient times, honey’s benefits have long been observed AND implemented regularly. In ancient Greece, beekeeping around Athens was so widespread that Solon, an Athenian statesman, passed a law about it: “He who sets up hives of bees must put them 300 feet (91 meters) away from those already installed by another”. Greek beekeepers, did not hesitate to move their hives over long distances. They knew that it maximized production, and bore the advantage of different vegetative cycles in different regions. Modern day archaeologists have also excavated many artifacts depicting ancient hives.
Legend has it that the food of Zeus and the gods of Olympus was honey — in the form of nectar and ambrosia (a pleasant drink presumed to offer immortality). In the ancient city of Knossos a sign reads: Pasi Theis Meli- Honey is Offered to All Gods. Honeybees were so admired that they’re image was etched on Greek coins and used as currency. Legend also asserts that the 2nd temple at Delphi was constructed entirely by bees.
Aristotle used honey as a salve for wounds. Researchers have proved that honey is “good for sunburn spots on the face and ulcers.” The ancients also observed that honey can be used to overcome all sorts of physical ailments such as liver, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal problems. They even used honey as a curative substance for eye disorders. Honey was used to cure coughs, as a topical antiseptic, and as scar treatment and/or prevention.
Hippocrates prescribed multiple honey beverages for various ailments. Oxymel, a combination of vinegar and honey, was suggested for pain. Hydromel, a mix of water and honey, was prescribed for thirst. Also, a mixture of honey, water, and various medicinal substances was recommended for acute fevers. Hippocrates was also said to utilize honey for “baldness, contraception, wound healing, and laxative action.”
Finally, oenomel, an additional honey-based ancient Greek beverage, consists of honey and unfermented grape juice. It’s still used as a folk remedy for gout and certain nervous disorders today.
Keep in mind that the ancient physicians who prescribed honey and honey-based drinks for various ailments had NO scientific knowledge of the principals involved in honey’s medicinal action. Just another example of ancient Greek wisdom at its finest!
In Part 2, discover some modern-day therapeutic uses for honey. Stock up on that “good” Greek honey! It’s good for you inside an out. Read it here.