Honey, sweet nectar

Honey, sweet nectar

Health & Medicine

By Colette Laforet

Honey, produced by bees from the nectar of flowers, is a sweet and viscous substance used for different functions. This totally natural product has qualities recognized and used by human beings since ancient times, as food sweetener, with a power greater than that of sugar cane.

It is also used in cosmetics and natural medicine, and has applications as a healing and preservative. The botanical origin of honeys also defines the greater or lesser ease of this sweetener to crystallize. Its physical, chemical and sensitive characteristics are determined by the type of flower nectar that bees collect.

The average world production of honey is approximately 1,200,000 tons, and about half of them enter the international trade circuits. The main producing and exporting countries are China, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Canada, Hungary and Australia. The main importers worldwide are the European Union and the United States.

There exist many historical references to this substance. In addition to the biblical quotes, many other peoples, such as the ancient Egyptians or the Greeks, referred to honey as a sacred product, even accepted as a way to pay taxes. There are also prehistoric records in cave paintings of the use of honey.

The intervention of man in the process of exploitation of the combs of the hive is known as beekeeping. A series of products are made from honey, such as wax, royal jelly and propolis, also used in the food and pharmaceutical industries.