Odes to Honey
When a child, I asked why the honey was so sweet. Adults often answered that it was the result of bees' diligent work, having imposed on me the truth that one could get a good life only after undergoing hardships. Now an adult, I still so cling to the delicious taste of honey and I have also known that honey is something like an elixir full of various nutritious elements.
An Ancient Food
Chinese have a long history of eating honey.
Dating back to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256), honey and larvae of bees were rare foods for royal families. Records about wine with honey are found in The Poetry of Chu, anthology of poetry of the State of Chu (c. 11th century BC –223 BC), mainly of Qu Yuan, an ancient Chinese patriotic poet. By the Tang Dynasty (618-907), people began to send honey to each other as gifts.
Chinese people found honey's medical function long ago. In the earliest Chinese monograph about herbal medicine, Shen Nong's Materia Medica, there are detailed records about the medical value of honey products.
According to the records in the Compendium of Materia Medica (written by Li Shizhen in 1578), honey has the ability to treat deficiency of qi by toning the spleen, alleviate pain and remove toxic substances, reduce vexation and brighten the eye and prolong life as well.
Modern science has also shown that eating honey every day can satisfy some people who have a sweet tooth and build up resistance to disease through increasing antioxidant in blood.
Honey tastes sweet and is rich in nutrition. Besides being 18 percent water, 65-70 percent grape sugar and fruit sugar and about 0.3 percent protein, it also contains amino acid, which is a necessity for the human body. Though its vitamin content is small, it has more kinds. Its content proportion of minerals including magnesium, calcium, kalium, natrium, sulfur and phosphor is similar to that of the blood serum in human bodies. Moreover, it contains many kinds of enzyme and a small quantity of citric acid, malic acid, aroma element, naphtha and pigment.
According to different kinds of flowers from which bees have collected the farina, honey is divided into different sorts. Honey with different sources and collected in different seasons has subtle differences in its fragrance, nutritious components and functions.
Produced in Changbai Mountain and Great and Lesser Xing’an Mountains in Northeast China, this kind of honey is in amber color, easy to crystallize. With a strong aroma, it moistens people’s throats without irritations. Sucking it has a medical effect on chronic pharyngitis and canker sores. Its functions are relieving internal heat, toning the spleen and replenishing qi
Locust is widely dispersed in China. This kind of honey, produced in south Liaoning Province, has the highest purity. It is in transparent water white color, with a fragrance of the locust flower and not easy to crystallize. With a high content of fruit sugar, it is extremely easy for the human body to absorb and use. Besides the functions of clearing away heat-damp, nourishing the stomach and spleen, removing toxic substances and nourishing blood, it is antiseptic and can relieve a cough.
A famous kind of honey from Guangdong, it is in light amber color, easy to ferment and with a fragrance. It enjoys a popularity all over China and in southeastern Asia. Its functions are relieving internal heat and dryness and toning the spleen.
Especially produced in the region south of Yangtze River, this honey is in light color, fragrant and mellow and has the ability to relieve internal heat, regulate blood, invigorate the spleen and moisten the lung to help arrest coughs.
Chinese Milk Vetch Honey
It is in light amber color, in shape of transparent fluid or crystal, tastes sweet and mellow with a fragrance specially owned by the plants which are sources of honey.
Date Flower Honey
Grown in northern China, dates are a traditional tonic. The honey of date flower is in amber color and with a high containing of Vitamin C and iron. Functioning in replenishing qi, tonifying the blood, nourishing the stomach and easing constipation, it is a kind of honey preferred when compounding medicinal pills.
When a plant called local coptis, which is found in the deep forest of western Sichuan blooms, bees throng about it as if they knew preciousness of its honey.
This kind of honey is crystal clear, delicately fragrant with a slightly bitter taste at first but sweet later. It can remove vexation, quench pathogenic fire, and is very effective to treat dysentery and boils so it used to be a tribute to royal families.
During the time loquat is in bloom, there is light frost at night and fine sunshine in the daytime, so the loquat honey, after drawing miraculous powers from heaven and earth, has the effect of removing phlegm, relieving a cough, clearing the lung of heat, inducing diuresis and lowering fire.
Precious medicinal herb, medlar is good for replenishing qi, nourishing the kidney and moistening the lung. In dark amber color, this honey has a faint scent. Its functions are dredging the orifices and moistening the lung, dissipating phlegm and reliving a cough, nourishing the liver and brightening the eye, reinforcing the kidney to control nocturnal emission.
Enjoying Honey With Pleasure
It is easy to eat honey. One can eat it as an ordinary food--dipping in it with slices of bread or steamed bread or drinking mixing it with warm water. If taking it as a health care food, one can eat two to three spoonfuls both in the morning and evening every day. To women who like to look smart, honey's functions in beauty care should not be neglected.
Here are some of them:
To be taken orally:
1. Honey-lemon water: clean the lemon and slice it, soak the slices in honey, then drink after adding water. It helps smooth and whiten one's skin.
2. Beauty care soup with honey: make a tea with dates, longans and American ginseng, then drink it with some honey. It helps increase skin's elasticity and luster.
1. Dilute the honey with a little water, then mix them with three milligrams of pearl powder. Applying the mixture to the face in the morning and evening every day will reduce wrinkles and soften and smooth the skin.
2. Stir egg white until it has bubbles, add in honey and stir them even and then use it as a nutritious mask that can prevent dryness and small wrinkles.
3. Fully stir the mixture of an egg, a teaspoonful of honey and half a spoonful of vinegar before applying it to the face. Clean it away with water half an hour later. It helps moisten and soften skin and make skin look smooth with luster.
1. Weak acid in nature, honey is not suitable to be kept in metal containers but in enamel or porcelain jars and glass bottles and it is better to be put in a cool place, dry, clean and ventilating.
2. If kept in the refrigerator, there will be yellow-white crystal deposits at the bottom of the honey due to the low temperature. It is a normal atmosphere and does not affect daily use but will reduce the effects if used in medicine.
3. Honey should be kept airtight. The tool used to get the honey should be clean and dry since the honey may ferment and go bad if mixed in water.
4. It is advised to eat honey with warm water which is below 60 centigrade since hot water will damage the nutritious ingredients in honey such as the enzyme and vitamins.
5. Honey can not be eaten together with onions.
(Source: Women of China English Monthly)