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Honey, a natural food with multiple characteristics and virtues, pleasant to taste for both adults and children, has innumerable benefits for the body, known for centuries: it seems, for example, that it was already known and appreciated in Ancient Egypt where it was used, inter alia, as a ration in commercial expeditions, as war booty or as a propitiatory offer to the gods. But the interest in beekeeping and its products has always been alive in all the peoples of the Mediterranean area, and the activity of collecting the precious food was in vogue since the middle of the second millennium BC. The literary production of the Greek and Roman era is rich in references to the world of bees and their ability to produce honey, whose mechanism, however, remained obscure for a long time and almost confined to the rank of legend. Today the beneficial action of this product on different sectors of the human body is by now unanimously recognized as well as its effectiveness as a beauty treatment is also known. The product is in fact an essential component of shower gel, creams, balms and masks.
Bees, "smart" insects
Honey is mainly composed of simple sugars such as fructose and glucose, organic acids, mineral salts, enzymes and aromas. Depending on the plant from which it was obtained, it has specific characteristics. It is obtained from the nectar of the flowers and secretions of other parts of the plants that the so-called "foragers" collect and place in a bag placed on the belly. They then transport it to the hive entrusting it to younger females. In turn they will hand it over to the other sisters: the product thus worked, thanks to special substances they possess, is gradually transformed into honey, stored in the hive and used, among other things, for their own nourishment. Thanks to the hot air produced by the same bees it dries up losing much of its moisture. Once plugged in the hexagonal cells of the beehive with wax here is that the honey thus obtained can be preserved for a long time. At this point, the beekeeper expertly extracts it from the cells, then proceeds with the techniques for purifying the product and invading the precious food: the final recipient can take advantage of its multiple properties thanks to the geometric, efficient and "intelligent" organization social of bees (the Italian variety is the apis mellifera ligustica) which, in addition to honey, supply many other products useful to man, such as pollen, royal jelly and propolis, all precious allies of well-being.
The grandparents always said it: a teaspoon of honey in milk and the cold will pass in a flash. Ancient customs, which, however, are immediately reflected in reality. In general, in fact, honey is used as an immediate "supply" of energy thanks to the body's rapid absorption capacity, but it also acts, with positive effects, on the liver, heart, digestive tract and respiratory tract , in this case as a precious help against the typical ailments of the winter season. Even the kidneys, the blood and the bones benefit from its regular intake. In Italy different types of honey are produced, all with action on a specific "district". Here is the detailed list:
- millefiori honey, multivitamin, corroborative and antiseptic of the urinary tract;
- of orange, with antispasmodic and sedative properties;
- of eucalyptus, useful against asthma, phlegm, cough, cystitis and intestinal problems;
- acacia, with a particularly delicate taste, suitable for babies and children, also suitable for those suffering from mild diabetes;
- of arbutus, among the most valuable, from the characteristic taste tending to bitter, with antiseptic properties of the urinary tract, diuretic, astringent;
- of lime, especially indicated for those suffering from nervousness or insomnia;
- of chestnut, also with characteristic bitter notes, rich in mineral salts, with sudoriferous, expectorant, antianemic properties and in cases of fatigue and overweight;
- of rosemary, useful in cases of liver, gastric and intestinal affections and to combat fatigue;
- of thyme, calming, febrifuge and known as antiseptic;
- di sulla, diuretic, corroborative, rich in vitamin A, B, C, liver detoxifier and regulator of intestinal activity;
- of sunflower, not too sweet, antineuralgic and febrifuge taste, recommended against cholesterol and as a calcific for bone health;
- of honeydew, rich in mineral salts, excellent in cases of intense sporting activity.
Ally of beauty
Honey has not only excellent beneficial properties that make it suitable as an adjuvant in the case of certain diseases, chronic conditions and states of fatigue. By virtue of its emollient and moisturizing properties, as a component of creams and beauty masks, the product can be useful to solve problems of dryness of the face and body and to fight the signs of aging. The honey-based lip sticks help fight the typical dryness of winter. It also acts as a regulator of sebum so it can also be used in hair packs.
Production and market
In Italy, beekeeping plays an important role in the agricultural sector with associations, small entrepreneurs and a national observatory that have always sought to enhance the production and consumption of honey and other products deriving from the work of bees. A commitment that is part of a more general communication and marketing action that aims to emphasize the value of the land, of genuineness, of healthy eating and of living well. This explains the success of events such as markets, fairs and festivals, useful occasions to highlight the qualities of the typical products of the territory including, in fact, honey in its many varieties. Annual production in Italy was estimated by the National Honey Observatory at 23,000 tons. In 2012 it was scarce, a consequence, among other things, of environmental and climatic factors, such as pollution and an excessively hot summer. The role of the producer in obtaining a quality honey is important, above all in avoiding possible contamination with other substances, for example due to the incorrect positioning of the hive in densely urbanized and industrialized areas or due to the improper use of antibiotic substances or exterminators or chemical repellents to remove bees from the fish farm. Great must also be the commitment of the beekeeper in bringing the insects to accumulate more stocks than would actually be necessary: in fact, honey is a long-term reserve food for the bees. Once the hives are positioned in the most important flowering sites, the honey is extracted by centrifugation and purified by filtration and decantation. The product is already ready for marketing: by law no substance can be removed or added. It is only possible to apply techniques aimed at a better presentation: for example guided crystallization to obtain a homogeneous consistency or heat treatments in order to fluidize the crystallized honey in order to proceed with the jelly and the sale.
Taste on the table
From the cells of the beehive to the table of Italians: honey is also a tasty food. The ideal for a healthy but nutritious breakfast that helps to start the day well, a component of many recipes for desserts, especially at Christmas time in different areas of Italy, as well as, to round off, a refined appetizer for demanding, accompanied palates, for example, ricotta or other types of cheese.
A long list of properties so it is really worth having a honey stock for the whole family always available at home.