The Healing Properties of Honey and Propolis throughout Time

Mar 6, 2015

The Healing Properties Of Honey


Both honey and propolis are produced by bees and contain antibacterial elements that have been used in treatments for illnesses for centuries. Honey is made from flower nectar and is a food for bees, whereas propolis is collected from tree buds and sap flows to seal spaces in the hive. Propolis has been used as an antiseptic for wounds and is one of the elements that gives honey its curing nature.

We have put together a timeline showing records of propolis and honey used in remedies for illnesses dating back from the Old Kingdom in the 31st Century BC. Travel back throughout the ages to see how popular and influential these natural substances have been, and discover everything you would ever need to know about their history.

31st Century BC – The Edwin Smith Papyrus that was written in Ancient Egypt (see below) is believed to be based on a text from the Old Kingdom that states the remedial properties of honey.

16th Century BC – The Ancient Egyptian Edwin Smith Papyrus is a text written in hieratic based on surgical trauma and presents a rational and scientific approach to medicine. The papyrus features information on preventing and helping to cure infections by using honey. For more information on the documents found in this era, see this report.

15th Century BC – The Greek philosopher Aristotle, along with Claudius Aelianus and Conrad Gesner, a professor and doctor at the Carolinum in Zürich, wrote an encyclopaedic work based on renaissance zoology called ‘Historiae animalium’. In this work, Aristotle stated that pale honey is as "good as a salve for sore eyes and wounds."

8th Century BC – A tale from Ancient Rome tells that the god Jupiter once had a desire to reap the benefits of propolis. In order to do this he turned a maiden into a bee.

1st Century AD – There are mentions in many religious texts such as the Quran that discuss the benefits that honey was believed to have on the human body. This includes mentions in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, the latter having been written during the first 100 years after Christ died.

16th Century – In Early Modern Times, John Gerard published a book title ‘The History of Plants’ which mentioned “the resin or clammy substance of the black poplar tree buds” being used in healing balms.

17th Century – London pharmacopoeias list propolis as an official drug.

18th Century – Sir John Hill, a doctor and author, developed a remedy for ‘coughs, colds, asthmas and consumptions’ by using the pectoral balsam of honey.

21st Century – Honey has been shown to prevent the growth of food-borne bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella. It is now recommended for its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties.

The Future – Propolis is expected to be able to lower both blood pressure and cholesterol, and research is currently underway to prove just how innovative this will be.

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