Religious importance of honey and honeybees

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Today in the modern world, honeybees have a lot of importance. The main honeybee produce is honey which varies depending upon different factors and besides honey production; the honeybees also have importance regarding the pollination of the crops/flowers. Honey is consumed as fresh or in processed form. Importance of honeybees has been mentioned nearly in all religions. Below are the some religious prospective about the honey and honeybees.

Probably the importance of honey started for Muslims, when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) preferred honey over the wine and honey has also been strongly recommended by Prophet Muhammad for healing purposes. There is an entire Surah in the Quran called an-Nahl (the honey bee). The Holy Quran promotes honey as a nutritious and healthy food. Below is the English translation of some specific verses.

“And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (mens) habitations; Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought” [Surah 16:68-69].

In the Christian New Testament, Matthew 3:4, John, the Baptist, is said to have lived for a long period of time in the wilderness on a diet consisting of locusts and wild honey. The Hebrew Bible contains many references to honey. In the Book of Judges, Samson found a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass of a lion (14:8). In Old Testament law, offerings were made in the temple to God. The Book of Leviticus says that “Every grain offering you bring to the Lord must be made without yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey in a food offering presented to the Lord” (2:11). In the Books of Samuel Jonathan is forced into a confrontation with his father King Saul after eating honey in violation of a rash oath Saul made (14:24-47). The Book of Exodus famously describes the Promised Land as a “land flowing with milk and honey” (33:3). However, the claim has been advanced that the original Hebrew (devash) actually refers to the sweet syrup produced from the juice of dates. Pure honey is considered kosher even though it is produced by a flying insect, a non-kosher (not allowed to eat from a religious prospective) creature; other products of non-kosher animals are not kosher.

In Jewish tradition, honey is a symbol for the New Year (Rosh Hashanah). At the traditional meal for that holiday, apple slices are dipped in honey and eaten to bring a sweet new year. Some Rosh Hashanah greetings show honey and an apple, symbolizing the feast. In some congregations, small straws of honey are given out to usher in the New Year.

In Hinduism, honey (Madhu) is one of the five elixirs of immortality (Panchamrita). In temples, honey is poured over the deities in a ritual called Madhu Abhisheka. The Vedas and other ancient literature mention the use of honey as a great medicinal and health food.

In Buddhism, honey plays an important role in the festival of Madhu Purnima, celebrated in India and Bangladesh. The day commemorates Buddhas making peace among his disciples by retreating into the wilderness. The legend has it that while he was there, a monkey brought him honey to eat. On Madhu Purnima, Buddhists remember this act by giving honey to monks. The monkeys gift is frequently depicted in Buddhist art.

Honey has also been used in a number of medicines from centuries. It is not possible to depict the beneficial effects of honey in detail in this short article. However some salient features has been mentioned.

Historically, honey has been used by humans both orally and tropically to treat various ailments including gastric disturbances, ulcers, wounds, and burns. But recently, the mechanisms underlying the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of honey have come to be understood. Much scientific research has been performed, with emphasis of late on fighting infections in wounds. Antibacterial constituents and mechanisms identified include hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), methyl glyoxal (MGO), bee defensin-1, the osmotic effect, and pH effects.

As per traditional yoga practice, daily consumption of honey mixed with warm water is said to strengthen the circulatory system, and is therefore recommended. A honey and warm water mixture is also recommended for asthmatics. The 3rd century Greek philosopher Celsus used mixes of honey and bran to treat burns.

Some wound gels which contain antibacterial raw honey and have regulatory approval are now available to help treat drug-resistant strains of bacteria (MRSA). It has been reported in literature that a particular type of honey (manuka honey) was useful in treating MRSA infections. As an antimicrobial agent honey is useful in treating a variety of diseases. Antibacterial properties of honey are the result of the low water activity causing osmosis, chelation of free iron, its slow release of hydrogen peroxide, high acidity, and the antibacterial activity of methyl glyoxal. Honey appears to be effective in killing drug-resistant biofilms which are implicated in chronic rhinosinusitis.

The author can be reached at <me_chheena2007@yahoo.com>


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Published in: Volume 05 Issue 22

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