April 20, 2014

Beekeeping Book Review: “Honey, the Gourmet Medicine”, By Joe Traynor

Honey, the Gourmet Medicine, By Joe Traynor

Honey, the Gourmet Medicine, By Joe Traynor

As beekeepers, we typically think of our involvement with the wonderful products from the hive ending when that jar of Honey or that wax candle is sold. Maybe we even stretch ourselves to understanding that hand creams, lip balms, Mead, propolis tincture and soaps are valuable and marketable creations from the fundamental products made by our beautiful bees. American society in general has not, however, opened itself to the possibility that the value and benefits to humans of both Honey and Propolis go beyond what was just described. This is not so in other societies and regions of the world, where the medicinal value of Honey is widely recognized and accepted. Folk lore has many tales of the curative properties of Honey, but until recent times, little scientific study had been done to corroborate what generations of the past knew to be true from experiential learning.

In his book “Honey, the Gourmet Medicine” Joe Traynor opens the door to the very real possibility that products from the hive, Honey in particular, have healing powers, and in many cases works far more effectively than the chemicals or medicines widely accepted as standard treatment for many human ailments. Traynor does not provide his own research with regard to the medicinal value of Honey, but rather compiles anecdotes, lore and scientific research conducted by others in a way that convinces the reader not to ignore Honey as a staple for any medicine cabinet, burn unit or hospital emergency room.

Joe Traynor’s background is in Plant Science. He earned his B.S. degree in Horticulture, and an M.S. in Soil Science from UC Davis. In the book he postulates that since the medicinal properties of many plants are well known and those specific plants are highly regarded for their medicinal properties, it should not be surprising that nectar from these same plants, and probably others also hold high medicinal value. Traynor suggests that monoculture of specific plants for their nectar’s medicinal value (and therefore the honey from that nectar) cannot be far away, once the medicinal properties are widely recognized by our society.

This book is broken into 3 sections: 1) Honey as Medicine, 2) Honey for Athletes (Sports drinks in particular), and 3) The Joy of Honey, where honey as a food is discussed. The first section is what makes this book unique from others. Scientific research conducted by Peter Molan from New Zealand is the primary source of validating studies that prove the medicinal values of Honey for Traynor’s book. Molan has conducted so many studies in this regard that the author calls the research “Molan’s Mountain” (Mountain of data).

Human ailments discussed in the book where Honey has been proven by at least one study to be an effective medicine include; skin wounds, burns, stomach ulcers, bowel problems, liver problems, potentially for infants (yes, irradiated and fed to infants to alleviate SIDS), eye maladies, skin maladies, and particularly interestingly as a remedy for antibiotic resistance.

In one example, Traynor discusses the benefits of Honey as a medicine in treating cancer after cancerous tumors have been removed. He cites a 2000 lab study where 60 mice were inoculated with cancerous tumors. After surgery to remove the cancer, the mice were divided into 2 groups of 30 mice each; one a control group and one a test group. After surgery to remove the expanded cancer tumors, the control group’s surgical wounds were treated with standard medicines and protocol accepted for this purpose. The test group of mice had their surgical wounds treated with Honey. In the control group, 30 of the 30 mice had recurrence of cancerous tumors. In the test group where mice were treated with Honey, only 8 of the 30 mice had recurrence of tumors. While it is one simple study on mice, the results are still impressive to me. Traynor provides many examples of a similar nature in the book for a multitude of human ailments.

One of the other interesting discussions in the book was the chemistry associated with Honey’s extremely effective role in preventing infection, and faster healing time with burns and skin wounds. Traynor surmises that hydrogen peroxide is key to this, with its bacteria killing capability, but notes that it is not hydrogen peroxide content in honey that makes it effective. Instead it is the chemical reaction that takes place locally on the burn or wound when honey is applied. The “slow release” of hydrogen peroxide from the honey due to this chemical reaction at the injury site appears to be just enough to prevent infection, while not enough to cause the flesh “burning” that has been associated with other types of hydrogen peroxide applications. How did the bees know they got the healing formula right???? To quote the author “Could man devise a more perfect, slow-release antimicrobial product for treating wounds? If a billion dollar, biomedical company gave their research and development scientists unlimited time and resources, it is doubtful they could equal what nature has already provided in honey”. One of the contentions of the author is that since Honey is readily available and cheap compared to modern medicines, it will never be embraced as true medicine by mainstream healthcare providers in our society. Honey as a cure to human ailments is just too good to be true for many in the Healthcare System.

While the author covers a wide variety of ailments and the healing properties of Honey for each of them, Traynor does not go into the level of detail associated with the work of a thesis, and therefore the book does not stand as the “smoking gun” proof that Honey is the wonder drug of the future for many human ailments. Traynor does, however, provide an extensive listing of work done by others in the field that meet the rigid constraints of thesis development, and therefore provides solid backup material for all of the healing aspects of Honey that are described in the book.

This book was an excellent read, and the data presented was convincing enough that I now have honey in my kitchen cabinets, and in my bathroom medicine cabinet.

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