Since the dawn of humankind, people have enjoyed of the health benefits of honey. The Smithsonian states that honey’s earliest recorded use as medicine comes from Sumerian clay tablets, where it was included in 30 percent of prescriptions. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans also used honey in treatments. It is little wonder that some forward-thinking locals are looking back in time for honey’s healing qualities.
Last October, The Leader published a story about the the Rainbow Lodge when owner Donnette Hansen introduced three beehives to her magnificent garden on her Ella Boulevard property. Last week, Hansen celebrated her first yield.
“We harvested 45 pounds of Honey,” Hanson said. “We are not selling it at this time, but we’ve already added it to recipes at the restaurant. We are serving a honey-glazed pheasant and honey-glazed apricots. And we offer every person who comes in, a little sample of raw honey comb when they arrive. Honey is very good for people, and we want to share it.”
Indeed, medical experts agree that honey contains flavonoids and antioxidants which reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Honey can soothe many gastrointestinal disorders; it has been used throughout history as a topical anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal agent, and honey can reduce a cough and sore throat irritation.
According to Hansen, beekeeping itself also has a soothing quality on the human spirit. The restaurateur loves to sit in the garden with a cup of coffee in the mornings and watch her bees work. “They are mystical. I am amazed by them,” she said. “They travel up to a three-mile radius collecting pollen, then instinctively return to the hives. Each has a job and each does it very well.”
When Hansen decided to try her hand at beekeeping, she consulted with local authority and Heights homeowner, Shelley Rice, for guidance. Rice keeps many hives, and consults throughout Houston. For this beekeeper, it is more than a job, hobby, or even a passion. It’s a “calling.”
“Honey is a wonderful source of energy, and really great for elderly people and diabetics,” Rice said. “We often treat skin conditions and diabetic wounds with it, and I am working with a veterinarian who is using it for skin ailments in animals. Everyday I learn something new about the bee and the mystical applications of honey.”
It should be noted that honey is an excellent substitute for sugar – a tablespoon contains only 64 calories. Additionally, it’s fat-free, cholesterol-free, and sodium-free. The golden syrup’s composition is roughly 80 percent carbohydrates, 18 percent water, and two percent vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, all of which serve to keep a body healthy.
Honey may also combat allergies. Locally produced honey contains pollen spores lifted by bees from local plants. Consuming a tea-spoonful a day of locally produced honey introduces a small amount of allergen into our systems. These spores can activate the immune system and, over time, can build up natural immunity.
Sadly, honeybees are in danger and need our help. Experts agree that about one third of our agriculture relies on the bee for pollination, but American bees are dying in droves. Scientists first reported massive bee die-offs the 1990s. In 2013, data reported that the average beekeeper had lost 45 percent of his or her colonies.
“Years of the use of chemicals in agriculture have caught up with us,” Rice said. “The chemicals are poisonous to bees. It’s critical that we rebuild our honeybee’s numbers and stop using the products that are destructive to them. It’s more important than ever, to keep our hives healthy and thriving.”
Thanks to people such as Donnette Hansen, and Shelley Rice, Houston’s honeybees have a fighting chance.