Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain


Leave a comment

Honey & Apitherapy, What’s the Buzz?

Nothing is more frustrating than a terrible internet connection, I have been fighting with my ISP this week to get connection so I can write and work. They have had to come out twice in about as many days, and I have had a long and frustrating fight which has caused unfortunate pain increases. They have been horrible to deal with and that probably is why they are the most hated ISP in America.

But because of my frustration with them inspired me! It made me think I should write of something sweet, to counter the sour. And of something I love for many reasons, honey. Eating a teaspoon, ideally a tablespoon, of honey a day made from local flowers to your area can help with seasonal allergies. I used to suffer every year from horrible allergies in Spring and Fall, but now that I have been diligent about consuming honey regularly, I no longer am among the ranks of the Cedar Fever sufferers, or any plant pollen since I am allergic to just about all tree pollen here, AND grass. But that is just one of the things that fabulous honey can do! Honey like lavender, aloe, helichrysium and a few others we have gone over, honey is a multi-duty substance that you should have on hand for all first-aid, and other health situations. Honey is great for burns and if you don’t have aloe or lavender, I would reach for some honey next!

Honey is known by a lot of names mel in Latin, is where you get terms like miel in Spanish or French. For Norse and Teutonic languages you get the term huniġ and hunagą respectively from which we derive our modern English honey. Mel is what gives us the name Melissa not only for humans but for bees, and for lemon balm.

That amber liquid of sunshine & awesome

But no matter what you call it, it is that wonderful sweet and gooey, condensed sunshine ambrosia.

History of Honey & it’s Uses

Honey was everything from medicine, to food, to poison, and everything in between, it was always held in high value by most cultures around the world that had access to it. Before sugar being easily produced in mass quantities, honey was the only sweetener option in general. Honey was difficult to get, and a precious resource since it usually came with wax as well as the energy packed honey. That preciousness has carried down to the term of endearment “Honey” which has been in use since the 14th century for precious loved ones. Honey has always been a precious thing, it was difficult to collect yet humans would go to great lengths to gather it. All over the globe humans would seek out honey, and sometimes to extreme lengths to get it –

The gathering of honey has been documented by humans as far back as 8,000 years ago, we know this because of the Araña cave paintings found in Valencia, Spain.

Should look familiar after those videos

Should look familiar after those videos

Honey has even been found in a Georgian tomb from 2700 BCE, since it in never goes bad (though it can go all granular) it survives in tombs well. Honey was found in Tutankhamen’s tomb and was in essence still edible. As long as the jar remains sealed honey will keep indefinitely. Honey was also famously used to embalm Alexander the Great, he was placed in a gold, body shaped casket (the first time, it was later snatched to become coinage and a glass coffin replaced the gold) filled with honey to preserve him. His body was said to be well preserved even years after his death. Many cultures used honey in death rituals or embalming, the mellified man was an interesting, as well as stomach churning, mention documented by a Chinese scribe. In the Talmud it is mentioned that Herod I (yeah that one that really didn’t like babies) had a wife, Mariamne who either committed suicide (lept from a tower) or was executed by Herod (the sources vary on how she died), and Herod kept her body in honey for seven years. Which led to all sorts of rumors of what he got up to with that body behind closed doors. The Assyrians and the Persians used the wax on the body then honey in their embalming processes, and the Egyptians did as well. Plutarch mentions that Agesilaus – 

“The attendants of Agesilaus had no honey to preserve the body (he died in a foreign country), so they embalmed it with melted wax and thus carried it home.” 

The usage of wax and honey seems to come from cultures where large quantities of honey were scarce. Persians apparently also made honey mummies for monetary gain. A red haired man was fed and cared for until he reached 30 and then he was drowned in honey and drugs, and then placed in a jar full of honey for 150 years. Gives new meaning to long term investment. Many mummies were needed since mummies were used in everything from medicine to making paints like Mummia Brown. While honey doesn’t spoil, if you leave the lid off, yeast will quickly grow in it and this is most likely how the first discovery of the wonderful world of meads, metheglins, melomels, tej, and other delicious honey fermented drinks. These played a large role in the cultures that brewed it, mythologically and culturally, studied in depth by one of my favorites Claude Levi-Strauss in his book from Honey to Ashes, a good read if you are into extremely technical and dry anthropology type books. If you aren’t the “too long; didn’t read” it version is honey and honey fermented drinks play a large role in peoples lives, history, the religions of their areas, and just the over all culture, in the areas it is produced or gathered in.

But honey is not just good at preservation, it is also good for utter destruction. Some bees make honey out of plants that are poisonous, like Rhododendrons, which can give honey a reddish tint. This honey, known as Red Honey, or Mad Honey, was the downfall of many armies. Xenophon, a Greek General, was leading his troops through the hostile territory of Persia down to the Black Sea, after the death of the previous leaders, and without supplies. As they arrived in what is now Turkey, fighting their way through until –

“the Hellenes scaled the hill and found quarters in numerous villages which contained supplies in abundance. Here, generally speaking, there was nothing to excite their wonderment, but the numbers of bee-hives were indeed astonishing, and so were certain properties of the honey. The effect upon the soldiers who tasted the combs was, that they all went temporarily quite off their heads, and suffered from vomiting and diarrhoea, with a total inability to stand steady on their legs. A small dose produced a condition not unlike violent drunkenness, a large one an attack very like a fit of madness, and some dropped down, apparently at death’s door. So they lay, hundreds of them, as if there had been a great defeat, a prey to the cruellest despondency. But the next day, none had died; and almost at the same hour of the day at which they had eaten they recovered their senses, and on the third or fourth day got on their legs again like convalescents after a severe course of medical treatment.”

As you can see this honey is far more intoxicating than usual, and it was used to make watered down beer more potent in some areas. But it was also used as a sneaky weapon of war, like St Olga of Kiev did.

Awww looks gentle as a soft summer’s breeze right?

Wrong. Oh so very wrong.

Olga, angered because the Drevlians, think of them like a rival biker gang and/or tribe, had whacked her husband, and then insulted her by saying that she should hook up with the Drevlian Prince. Olga didn’t want to hear any of it, so when they sent 20 guys to talk her into it, she promptly had them buried alive. Because that seems the calm and rational thing to do. Then she sent word to the Drevlians that she had reconsidered their offer and, gee don’t you know she would like to marry their prince but, gosh won’t it be hard to convince the people of this? Won’t they send their best nobles to come help her out? And in a move that makes you wonder if these guys weren’t victims of head injuries or otherwise intoxicated, they sent them. Olga, being the gracious hostess that she is, offered them a sauna to freshen up after their journey. And well heck, don’t you know, that sauna caught fire. Terrible, but you know how these things happen, right? Too bad someone had “accidentally” locked the doors, from the outside. All of them died. Not suspicious at all the to Drevilans. Now Olga really begins to get started, she tells the Drevlians that, well shucks, how awful that happened. And doesn’t she feel bad it happened to your best men too. Such a shame! Why not make amends? Everyone who can come, is now invited to this fabulous feast she would be throwing for her husbands funeral. Which personally, if some lady who had a streak of unusual accidents following polite invitations was inviting me to some fancy dinner for her husband that my gang offed. I would not be going.

Invited where you say?….

Olga had a crafty plan for them, of course, she served them all mead made from poisonous honey. Most likely honey made from Rhododendron flowers, which bees in the area have built up a tolerance to. The mead was highly intoxicating if it did not kill you, and allowed the slaughter of most of the Drevlian guests that had attended the funeral. The numbers that died from this are estimated to be close to 5,000. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!

Olga decides, 5,000, plus a scoach, just doesn’t satisfy her vengeance needs. So she rolls up on the Drevlian home city, threatening more of her patented delightful death and destruction. The Drevlians at this point realized that maybe they should try to make amends, they offered payment to satisfy her and asked if she would leave them alone. She said, “OK I can agree to that, but bring me birds from the eaves of your houses.”

The Drevlians thought they got off light. Well, more alight, since Olga tied sulfur (very flammable, if exposed to heat and sparks of cooking fires) to the birds and sent them back, setting the entire city ablaze. Everyone perished in the flames, they were entirely wiped out… did I mention she was a Saint?

Saint Kick-ass

But honey wasn’t just for the dead or for making mead, or even murderous mead, it was also for medicine. As I mentioned earlier, I have been taking local honey every day and have had a significant improvement in my allergies. I have tried to purchase only local honey, preferable from small companies since most large company, commercially produced honey is over filtered (not ultra-filtered, this explains the why that would be bad), or not even really honey anymore some would say. And in some ways I agree, honey should have pollen and other things in it, and shouldn’t be from other countries, states, cities, or even counties if you can manage. The pollen is what you want, if you understand how inoculation works, this is how you get your body used to the pollen so the body does not see them as foreign objects. That means your body wont release histamines, and you wont have the inflammation that an allergic reaction causes. There were many other uses for honey, the Egyptians were 1000’s of years ahead of the Greek doctor Hippocrates, and in the Edwin-Smith papyrus mentions that honey was used to prevent infection in wounds. The Eber’s papyrus also mentions honey, and it lists honey as an antibiotic, as great for wound dressings to promote healing. Eber’s lists few other remedies made with honey for things like stomach complaints, and using honey as a carrier for Acacia which is an abortifacient used as birth control.

The Romans also used honey for wound healing, Galen used honey mixed with salt, vinegar and water to treat wounds from trepanation procedures. Other Greek and Roman doctors used it to treat burns, all of these methods of wound healing are now being studied by modern medicine and medicinal honey is being used in Western Medical procedures to help with diabetic ulcers, abrasions, operation incisions and burns. They have found more than anecdotal evidence that there is improved healing with some types of wounds if honey is applied. Even the British Army took note and started using honey to treat wounds. In the Middle Ages in Europe honey’s healing properties were well known, an old chronicle from England says –

“Honey is still our chief sweetness, favorite salve and indispensable medicine.”

During the Civil War in America, honey was put on wounds in excess to help prevent infection, and the ever rampant gangrene that caused so many amputations during the bloody conflict. Honey has long been used to soothe breathing problems, honey and whiskey is an old Ozarks remedy my Mom liked to use for coughs. But honey and onion was a well known treatment for asthma attacks before the days of inhalers. I had a friend that suffers infrequent attacks of asthma, and could not locate her inhaler during an attack. She used honey, successfully, to ward off the attack until her inhaler could be located. While this is still anecdotal, it has been a long used home remedy for respiratory issues as well. Dioscorides mentions the use of honey to treat sunburns, and it does a great job of that, and it just is naturally great for the skin.

Apitherapy

Back to modern day! The term for using all sorts of bee things (honey, propolis, etc) is called Apitherapy, so everything that has to do with bees and the things that they produce would be covered under this umbrella term.

What is in Honey & and Raw Honey?

Raw honey is generally best for all of these mentions of honey being used in this post, since it would have the most beneficial components in it that have been filtered out of clear, processed honey. Honey, even if processed, is packed with all sorts of vitamins and nutrients, and the bees produce it mostly for their hive as their main food. This is why honey is valued by people, bears, other animals, and of course honey badgers, because it is good for us and them too. Local honey is made from bees that are kept no more than 400 miles (the official local radius) from where you reside, and they should preferably be pollenating wild flowers, and other local flora. There are many different classifications of honey, Raw as mentioned means unprocessed, local means near by, and if you see clover or orange blossom, that means it is a monofloral, or single species honey where the bees have just fed on that species of flowers. Now onto the basic nutrition!

This is the nutritional components of honey in general (this can vary by hive, location, time of year, and all that jazz).

Honey Nutrition as per wikipedia

  • Fructose: 38.2%
  • Glucose: 31.3%
  • Maltose: 7.1%
  • Sucrose: 1.3%
  • Water: 17.2%
  • Sugars: 1.5%
  • Ash: 0.2%
  • Other: 3.2%

As well as a plethora of vitamins and minerals, which we know are super important not only to a healthy body, but also can resolve some pain issues. Honey in general will contain but is not limited to the amounts or items listed below, since again variation dependent on location and plants available.

Vitamins

  • B2 (Riboflavin): 3%
  • B3 (Niacin): 1%
  • B5 (Pantothenic acid): 1%
  • B6: 2%
  • B9 (Folate): 1%
  • Vitamin C: 1%

Minerals

  • Calcium: 1%
  • Iron: 3%
  • Magnesium: 1%
  • Phosphorus: 1%
  • Potassium: 1%
  • Sodium: less than 1%
  • Zinc: 2%

Propolis

It has all these, as well as propolis, bee bits & venom, royal jelly, bee pollen, and other things like wax if it is raw which is what is listed as other. Pretty much raw honey is as you would get it from the hive itself, natural as can be, hence the “raw” label. Raw is preferred medicinally since it has these other bits in it. Propolis, has had a long history of use in traditional medicines, and is only recently been noticed by Western medicine after a few studies have shown that it treats versions of the herpes virus, that include chicken pox and shingles. Not enough official laboratory tests have been done, but the evidence so far combined with the anecdotal evidence throughout human history points to there being a possible gold mine of anti-viral & antibacterial goodness to be found in propolis if we are lucky. Raw honey usually contains propolis since it is a natural part of the hive.

Bee Venom

Bees, if you have ever been stung by one, have venom, and if there are bee bits in your raw honey there is probably venom from bees. Venom is interesting, depending on what makes it and for what purpose it works on the body in different ways. Just like some good things can become poisonous in large amounts, some venom when used in small amounts can be beneficial. I know this sounds extremely counter-intuitive, but there seems to be a lot of evidence found, and continuing to be found, that this may actually be a beneficial , and non-pharmaceutical, way to treat a lot of inflammatory diseases. (People are looking into snake venom as well) Bee venom therapy seems to work best with things like rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain in general, and even with Multiple Sclerosis (which is very similar to CRPS). There have been interesting experiments done by lay people where they allow bees to sting them in specific areas, sometimes under the guidance of a medical professional, and there have been some fascinating reports of reduced pain and swelling. This is not well studied enough for science to claim it is a 100% sure thing and best for these diseases, but the historical and present information also points, as with propolis, that there could be a lot of benefit to bee venom therapy for pain.

Bee Pollen

Bee pollen, is a tightly packed ball of pollen that bees create, and is a major source of protein for the hive as well as food for bee larva. Since it contains protein, carbohydrates, fats and tons of vitamins and minerals that help the bees, and us function, this has become one of those new trendy “super foods.” In my humble non-medical opinion, all un-processed foods are super-foods, since they all have their own benefits, nutrients and are easier for the body to use and absorb. You also have the “entourage effect” where one chemical in the plant are more effective when used with all chemicals in the plant. Think of it a group of chemical friends, they work best when they are all together and happy, than alone and lonely (simplistic I know but the concept is the same). Bee pollen is though packed with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, and even amino acids, that are really good for humans. This may be a good option if you have vitamin deficiencies, and if you have allergies since it works as inoculation and as a supplement though it may be too much if it aggravates your pollen allergies (though pollen will vary depending on areas the bees gather from). To read a full break down of the nutrition in bee pollen go here.

Beeswax

Beeswax is also another highly useful gift from the bees. Almost everyone should be familiar with their use in candles, and in the popular Burt’s Bees lines. In raw honeys you may get a small amount of beeswax which is indigestible but not harmful, it will just pass on through. Beeswax though is a fantastic substance, it seals cheeses, makes candles, cosmetics, candles, waterproofs fabric, food and medicinal products, and SO much more! It is great for warm wax treatments, and if you are familiar with the Burt’s line you already know that it is great for skin & lip products. The wax is the honey comb you see in jars, or pictures of hives, and I like to purchase it in its honeycomb form when possible. If you have never had the pleasure of eating sticky, chewy honeycomb before buy some and try it. You can bite the comb, and eat it spitting out the wax chewing. It really is fantastic, and you can save the leftover wax, it a great to use in salves (as we have gone over) and I bet we will continue to find more uses for this great substance.

Royal Jelly

Royal Jelly is another bee product, produced to feed some larvae and to produce a new queen once the old has grown old. It contains chemicals that encourage the larvae to develop into queens, but it is also loaded with nutrients and vitamins. It also seems to have antibacterial and antibiotic properties, but there has not been enough scientific studies to back a lot of claims made about it. It has a lot of traditional uses, a lot of people swear by it for skin care, but when added to honey that is consumed you get all of its goodness mixed with everything else.

So in addition to honey on its own, raw honey contains all of these things, and pollen, which is why it is so much better to consume for medicinal reasons than filtered honey. Most processed and clarified honeys do not contain the additional bee products, and may contain little to no pollen. If you can get your hands on it, raw honey should be used, but local honey is great as well. Local raw honey is best!

Mānuka Honey

There is one other type of honey, also best if you can find it raw (since some of the compounds are filtered out if it is clarified), is Manuka honey (sometimes written Mānuka). Manuka honey is a monofloral, that means one flower, type of honey. The bees are kept so they visit one type of plant, a tree called the Manuka tree, that is a type of myrtle tree native to New Zealand. Native birds, a type of parakeet, uses the manuka trees to rid itself of parasites, and I personally have found it to be a fantastic way to combat colds they tend to go away in a day or two. Since I get a lot of cortisone, my body’s immune system is compromised, and when I get a cold it tends to linger and get worse. I find that I can hold off colds the more honey I consume in general but if I get a cold I switch to Manuka honey, and it is gone in days. My husband was also astonished by the “magic” honey that fixed his cold overnight. Manuka honey is a bit more expensive than your regular honey, I spend about 30$ US for a small jar of it. But a teaspoon in a glass of tea a day, sometimes twice a day, is enough to help me get over my illnesses faster. It is especially effective when combined with the cold prevention tea as well. Though this is only my own experiences, and it has proven effective for me so far. But there is not enough scientific evidence to say that this is a proven known effect of this honey, or even why it works so well. It is entirely possible that the placebo effect is causing it, since it does have a medicinal smell that puts you in mind that it is medicine from the start, but hey if it works it works right? Manuka honey does contain the compound methlglyoxal, which can be bactericidal, but there is not enough evidence to point to it being why Manuka honey seems to be so beneficial. It is also good for hair, burns and wounds in general.

So you are probably thinking, wow, all this for stuff I keep in a squeezy bottle shaped like a bear? Indeed! But wait, there’s more!

There seems to be a lot of murmurings online that honey, sometimes on its own, with apple cider vinegar (not really sold on this one), or even cinnamon (which we know is useful already) helps with pain, or colds. Cinnamon mixed honey is an effective cold fighter, and can help with inflammation just from that alone, and the honey makes it palatable (since the cinnamon challenge shows its difficult to swallow it in a powder). But the honey also adds a big punch of vitamins and other nutrients that we know already can contribute to pain levels. Remember to make sure you get true cinnamon since cassia can be dangerous in large amounts daily. The additional vitamins may be why there is anecdotal evidence for apple cider vinegar helping with pain conditions, since it is usually unfiltered/processed that is recommended. Apple cider vinegar is made of crushed apples and it will contain lots of nutrients that the body may be deficient of with some of the diets people have these days. So this could be why there is so much from people saying they had good results with this added to their diets. Acetic acid is a large component of all vinegar which is a good anti-microbial is good for colds, and apple cider vinegar is a boon to diabetics since it was used in the days before current diabetic medications to help diabetics lower glucose levels in blood. Sadly though there is only traditional medicine and personal stories to back this up though more interest in it is growing.

How Do I Use it?

So how do I use honey & other bee things to the max? And get the most out of it? Well, like I said, go local and eat raw as a rule. You can add it into anything really, coffee, tea, bread (in and on it!), pretty much anywhere you use sugar, use honey instead. If you are a home brewer, mead and beers brewed with raw honey are a great way to consume some of the great benefits of what the bees make. There are lots of other uses though.

Honey & Cinnamon – for Colds & Pain

  • 1 teaspoon True Cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Honey (Preferably Raw, Manuka or local)
  • optional: glass of warm water, cup of tea (green, black or white), 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (for colds only)

Mix honey and cinnamon well and consume plain. This is a good, and sweet way to treat a cold, as well as a good anti-inflammatory regimen. You can also put the honey and cinnamon mixture in warm water to drink it down, or a good cup of tea. If you have a cold, or sore throat the addition of apple cider vinegar can help quite a bit with the pain (will kill the microbes) and help the body fight it off. You can also warm the honey &  cinnamon mixture slightly in a warm (not boiling!) water bath and apply directly to wounds or joints.

Beeswax Warm Wax Treatment

  • 1 lb Beeswax
  • 3.2 ounces Mineral oil (you can use olive oil or coconut oil as well but mineral gives a better consistency)

You can place this in a Pyrex dish and melt in an oven set to 170-200°F (76-93°C) and allow it to melt, while stirring occasionally. Or you can heat this in a double boiler over the stove. Either way you want a slow, low, indirect heat to melt the wax, all wax will catch fire with direct heat, do not use direct heat or flame to heat it! Remove from heat and allow to cool to about 125°F (51°C), a very thin skin of hardened wax should form. Wash and dry thoroughly the body part that will need the wax treatment. Dip the body part in the wax 3-5 times so a shell forms around the body part, if you are doing a hand or a foot try to splay (hold as wide as possible) the fingers or toes while dipping. Allow a few seconds between dips to allow that coating to slightly harden before applying the next. Leave for about 15-30 minutes, and then peel off and you can store it in a sealed container for repeated use. Warm wax treatments provide warm moist heat, and are not only great for pain help moisturize the skin.

ProWaxTip: Again, never use direct heat or flame to melt wax. Paraffin wax can be substituted (without the mineral oil) for this as well, and there are electric wax melt-er things with lids you can find in stores and online too if you do this treatment a lot.

Herb Infused Honey

  • 1/4 cup Chopped fresh, or 1/8 cup dried herbs (applies to each herb added, so if you do 2 herbs 1/4 cup of each)
  • 1 cup Raw Honey

Add the raw honey and herbs to a double boiler and slowly heat until honey fully melts, simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes to help the herbs infuse into the honey, then strain if necessary and pour into a clean glass jar and seal tightly. You can also avoid straining by using cheesecloth or muslin bags to hold the herbs while infusing. Get creative with this one, you can make anti-stress & anxiety honey with lavenderlemon balm (1/4 cup for each herb or 1/8 dried), and adding or by itself chamomile would be good for sleep as well as inflammation and pain as well as topical. Lavender & peppermint for a icky tummy, rosemary for pain or your hair, copaiba or pine resin for inflammation or boost its antimicrobial powers (2 tablespoons of resin to a cup, apply externally only), vetiver for cooling, rose hips for a vitamin C boost, grated ginger (about 2 tablespoons) or minced garlic (same amount) can be added too to help with fighting infection and pain. Suggested dose is about a teaspoon a day of this herb infused honeys, and they are best stored in a fridge for no more than a year if you keep the herbal material in the honey, since it can ferment and/or mold with the additions.

ProTip: This honey can be used in place of essential oils in salve making.

ProSkinTip: Using things like copaiba, lavender and other skin friendly herbs is a great way to treat acne, rosacea, psoriasis and skin issues in general (abrasions, sunburns, burns, etc).

Hot Toddy

  • 1-2 shots (1-2 ounces) Whiskey (Bourbon or Rum are acceptable too)
  • 1 tablespoon Honey
  • 4 ounces Boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon juice (or a healthy squeeze from a wedge or two)
  • Your favorite teabag, or a teaspoon of your favorite tea
  • Covered Teacup

Brew tea as usual, and add the rest of the ingredients making sure all of them fully dissolve. This is an old old remedy, the origin I have been unable to locate. I know that both my grandmothers, and my husband’s great grandmother loved this sort of thing. It was used as a general cure-all for colds, flu’s, sore throats, and “just because” in most American history. Since it is alcoholic you shouldn’t use this if you are taking most medications, but if you need some mild pain relief with a bit of kick, this will do the trick!

Capsicum Paste

  • 3 tablespoons Chilies finely pureed or crushed, powder will work here too
  • 1 cup Oil (jojoba, almond, olive, any good quality oil)
  • 1/2 ounce of Beeswax, granular or grated
  • optional: any essential oils you would like to add, or raw honey

I will go over in later posts the benefits of capsicum and why it works, but for now it does and provides warmth to soothe painful muscles and joints, as well as chemical relief of pain that I will go over in detail in the future. Any chili will do to make this, the stronger (hotter) the chili is the more effective this will tend to be. To make this you will want to heat the oil in a double boiler, and add in the chili paste, or powder, and mix well until completely combined. Add in the beeswax slowly stirring to combine fully. You can pour this directly into a seal-able container, or you can whip it with a hand mixer (or stand mixer) so it is more like a creamed lotion for ease of application. Apply directly to painful areas, and if kept in the fridge it will store for about 2 weeks. ALWAYS WASH HANDS BEFORE TOUCHING EYES OR SENSITIVE SKIN AREAS. Trust me you will regret it if you don’t!

Finally honey is a great shampoo, it can be added to the best shampoo ever (a tablespoon or two), or you can mix 1 part honey (preferably raw) and 3 parts water together (thoroughly no lumps!) for a single application shampoo. This is great for dry hair, or if you suffer from a dry scalp or dandruff. If you make this in large quantities they honey can ferment so I don’t suggest it.

Honey and bees are great resources, so respect them and support the people that help keep them around, for without bees there are no plants. Honey should never be fed to babies since it can contain botulism. Some people may be allergic to the bee venom, or pollen, and could cause allergic reactions. If you are sensitive do test patches and check WebMD for honey related reactions. As always if you are in doubt about anything at all, ever, ask a professional!

If you are going to take bee products on their own, make sure that you discuss this with your doctor and check for interactions on WebMD for Manuka honeypropolis, bee venom, royal jelly, beeswax, and bee pollen individually.

Online stores great for bee products are Amazon.com, Mountain Rose Herbs, and Bulk Apothacary, look for local stores that sell bee products though and try to purchase through them if you can. Support your local Bee Farmers! 🙂

A few sites with recipes, and products that also supports bee keepers here, here, and here.

If you are interested in a neat honey documentary this is a good one on Honey made from Rhododendrons, mentioned previously. If you are interested in honey death rituals this is a great site, and for more military history of mad honey and armies go here or here

If you want to learn about the history of Sugar and its impact this is an OK book, but there may be better out there now.


3 Comments

Ginger a Spicy Power Packed Punch for Pain!

Well, last week was pure madness. I made 3 costumes for the Renaissance Festival and worked my fingers to the bone. Foregoing sleep and other creature comforts to finish on time, all was totally worth it. But now they are done! Festival visited, and life can resume its usual chaotic pace!

yay!

Ginger, is a long known and widely accepted remedy for many things, and there has been a lot of modern research going into it, many showing its great ability to reduce pain and inflammation. There are even studies now happening looking into the possibility that ginger may help prevent the formation of tumors. Ginger is a rhizome like turmeric, or galangal (used in Thai cooking), and is even related to cardamom. It is mentioned in A Thousand and One Nights, and features in many ancient recipes for food and medicine. Ginger was one of those spices that commanded large sums of money in trade and could hold up to travel on the Silk Roads all the way to the farthest reaches of Western Europe, black pepper was the other major spice. In the 4th Century BCE in the Mahabharata it mentions meat stewed with ginger and spices. Marco Polo mentions it in his travels, and it was noted by early explorers of the Americas. Ginger was then and is now a very common spice, and is found in a lot of Fall foods. So that extra slice of pumpkin pie, or glass of mulled wine is medicine…or at least that’s what you can tell your family 😀

Ginger’s warming properties makes it a great addition to foods and drinks this time of year and it is a great addition to food year round, or if you get tired of turmeric. Most people have experienced it in Japanese food (that pink stuff next to sushi), or in other Asian foods. Or maybe you have just seen that weird lumpy, knobbly brown thing at the grocery store and said to yourself “what the hell is that….how do you even eat it?!”

Its Ginger!

Its Ginger! Put it in your face!

Ginger is famous for a reason, its fantastic! Ginger has been used in medicine for ages all over the world since at least 500 BCE. Asia has seen long use of it as additions to meals or as a side dish, and Confucius was rumored to never eat a meal without it. Our old friend Dioscorides recommended it for stomach issues, and it is mentioned in various other herbals for the same throughout the ages. It was the “Alka-Seltzer” of ancient Rome, as part of a Revolutionary War soldier’s diet, and was in the 19th century the digestive aid of choice for the US.  Even the infamous (that’s more than famous) University of Salerno said that for a happy life “eat ginger, and you will love and be loved as in your youth.” There are mentions in earlier writings that ginger is an aphrodisiac but it is unlikely, another case of “its rare, so it make you strong like bull.” [insert hand gestures here]

What it can do is sooth stomachs, is a better pain reliever for minor inflammation, or pain that can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAI) drugs, than Aspirin and the like, and helps keep you healthy with its anti-viral properties. What is great about it is unlike most of the OTC stuff you can get, ginger will not destroy your stomach, and actually tastes pretty nice. Ginger is also superior to those drugs in the way that it not only blocks the chemical formation of signals that cause inflammation like those NSAI drugs but also will attack the inflammation and break it down with its other antioxidant effects which the NSAI drugs lack. That means it does more to reduce inflammation overall, than anything you can buy in a drug store.

In my last post, An Ounce of Prevention Tea, I brought up Sam’s fantastic cold preventing tea, and ginger is a big component of it and that tea is not only good for keeping cold and flu at bay, but it is better than popping an Aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, whatever your drug of choice is, for a headache or other minor aches and pains. Plus it makes a great hangover cure, and is fantastic for lady cramps. Ginger’s anti-viral properties works well with the other ingredients in the tea, and when you toss in a few cloves (3-6 depending on your love of cloves, or pain) you have three pain relieving herbs in one go (cinnamon is the third). Want to increase its anti-inflammatory properties? Add in some turmeric! Plus if you add in a bit of Manuka honey you have a super, mega cold and flu defeating power punch! Nothing is worse than being in pain and sick, and this is definitely the way to keep that from happening. Multitasking! You know I love it!

Ginger is also great for stomach issues, it has been used for morning sickness, and any other stomach issues like indigestion and acid re-flux. It is even good for motion sickness, and helps keep all that queasy wibbly wobbly stomach stuff away. There are a few ways you can take ginger for nausea and for pain, there are pre-packaged ginger gums, candies and even ginger ale and tea, you do want to make sure that the product you are using has real ginger of some sort in it or it will not be as effective. You can also make ginger tea for yourself as a simplified version of the Prevention Tea.

Simple Ginger Tea for Headache and Upset Stomach

  • 3 large Medallions of ginger – this could also be 1 teaspoon dried ginger, or even 1-1 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 8 oz Boiling water

Pour hot water over ginger, steep for 2-3 minutes and drink warm. Ginger can be a bit spicy or hot, so if it bothers you honey can help to tone that down. Ginger is one of those team player spices and it works well with a lot of other spices and herbs. You can add fennel seeds, about an inch of sliced lemon grass or 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of grated lemon grass, and a sprinkle of cardamom for a great after dinner digestive tea.

My favorite way to take ginger is Ginger Ale, I love Vernors if I can’t or don’t have time to make my own, but making your own is fun and quite delicious. If you have never made it, it is well worth the effort, the ginger makes it a spicier sweet drink than you might be used to, or if you;re feeling more British you can make Ginger Beer. For Ginger Ale I like Alton Brown’s recipe and it makes a really good one.

Alton’s Ginger Ale

  • 1 1/2 ounces finely grated fresh ginger
  • 6 ounces sugar
  • 7 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place the ginger, sugar, and 1/2 cup of the water into a 2-quart saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for 1 hour.

Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, pressing down to get all of the juice out of the mixture. Chill quickly by placing over and ice bath and stirring or set in the refrigerator, uncovered, until at least room temperature, 68 to 72 degrees F.

Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a clean 2-liter plastic bottle and add the yeast, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups of water. Place the cap on the bottle, gently shake to combine and leave the bottle at room temperature for 48 hours. Open and check for desired amount of carbonation. It is important that once you achieve your desired amount of carbonation that you refrigerate the ginger ale. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, opening the bottle at least once a day to let out excess carbonation.

For Ginger Beer this is a simple recipe that makes a 16 oz bottle, you can use flip-top bottles for both of these recipes. They’re sold everywhere, Container Store, Ikea, Brew stores, or you can resort to online purchase.

Ginger Beer

  • 1 ounce ginger juice
  • 2 ounces fresh lemon juice, finely strained
  • 3 ounces simple syrup (see syrup notes) 
  • 10 ounces warm water (not above 86 F)
  • Yeast

Ginger juice you can make by passing ginger through a juicer or you can microplane it into a cheesecloth and squeeze the juice out. You could also use the ginger paste in the recipe and strain after fermenting. Mix all the ingredients together, and pour about 16 oz into the bottles, you do want to leave some space (an inch or 2) at the top or you will get exploding bottles. You can add champagne yeast to each bottle, or you can add about 25 grains of yeast to each bottle. Or you can mix your cooled simple syrup with the yeast and bottle this way. You want to store in a cool dark place for 48 hours, then refrigerate immediately this will halt the fermentation process. You can use non-champagne yeast you will want to use 1/8th of a teaspoon per bottle.

Simple Syrup – mix 1 part water with 2 parts sugar, dissolve sugar in water while stirring constantly over heat. Once dissolved remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool and thicken, bottle and store. You can add a tablespoon of vodka to help prolong the shelf life.

You can also make ginger cream to rub onto sore areas, ginger is warming and is quite soothing on sore or spasmed muscles.

Ginger Muscle “Cream”

  • 1 hand sized (about 6 inches) piece of ginger, grated finely
  • Honey (enough to make a paste with the ginger)
  • 1/2 cup (or up to a cup) Coconut oil
  • Pot and boiling water

Bring the water to a simmer but do not boil the hand sized piece of ginger until it is tender. Peel and grate into fine paste, or you can pulverize it as well. Mix in honey until a thick paste is formed. In a mixer with whisk attachment, whip the coconut oil until it creates a thick paste and add in the ginger and honey paste slowly making sure that it incorporates fully. Apply and massage into sore area and be sure to avoid sensitive skin areas in applying this. This is great for sore muscle pains after a hard workout or just to work out stiff sore muscles.

A good tea for sleep and soothing minor pains, and stomach upset that comes with pain or illness is a mix of ginger and Holy Basil. It helps alleviate the aches and pains of flu and colds, or sooth and alleviate pain that wakes you in the night.

Tulsi Ginger Tea for Sleep

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of Holy Basil (Tulsi)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry (powdered) ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (1 small stick)
  • 8 oz Boiling water

Pour boiling water over ingredients, steep in covered tea cup for 5-10 minutes, and drink warm. This will put you right to sleep!

You can also add ginger juice, ginger paste, or even Ginger essential oils (always use therapeutic grade!), to a bath, or rub them into the painful area. You can always make a massage oil with ginger for rubbing into sore muscles or a rub of it on the chest is great for chest colds. And a soak in a ginger bath is great for nerve pain, even more so when you include rosemary oil.

Ginger Rosemary Bath Salts for Pain

  • 5 drops Ginger essential oils
  • 5 drops Rosemary essential oils
  • 1 lb Epsom salts

Mix all ingredients together and store in a cool dry place. Mix 1 cup of salts into a hot bath and soak that pain away.

Ginger Massage Oil for Sore Muscles and Pain

  • Carrier oil of your choice
  • 10-20 drops of ginger essential oil
  • optional – add any additional oils for pain, or other uses

Mix up and store in a dark bottle, rub into sore muscles or painful areas.

Always one to enjoy medicinal foods I find that candied ginger is a great way to take ginger for stomach issues or pain. Plus, its candy! Again I will refer to the AB recipe (I do love him so) for this candied ginger.

Alton’s Candied Ginger Recipe

  • Nonstick spray (I prefer to use olive oil, or rapeseed)
  • 1 pound fresh ginger root
  • 5 cups water
  • Approximately 1 pound granulated sugar
  • Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a half sheet pan lined with parchment.

Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices using a mandolin. Place into a 4-quart saucepan with the water and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the ginger is tender.

Transfer the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar. Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes. Transfer the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and spread to separate the individual pieces. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Alton ProTip: Save the sugar that drops beneath the cooling rack and use to top ginger snaps, sprinkled over ice cream or to sweeten coffee.

You can use a piece or two of the candy for any ailment previously mentioned, I mean come on candy medicine? What is better than that? Nothing I tell you, nothing.

And since I also like muffins, here is a great one to get that ginger in your diet, plus its perfect for this time of year.

Pumpkin Ginger Muffins

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 1/2 cup flour, whole-wheat pastry, (if you can’t find whole wheat pastry flour, may substitute regular whole wheat flour)
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger, or ginger paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, or 1/4 table salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (from a can or fresh)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (you can use whatever oil you like)
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line with paper, or grease, 12 muffin cups with oil or shortening. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the brown sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In a small bowl, beat the egg for 30 seconds, until foamy. Add the milk, pumpkin, oil, and orange zest. Beat well. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, and stir until the flour mixture is moistened. Fill the muffin cups three-quarters full with batter. Bake for 15 minutes, until the tops spring back when you touch them with a finger. Turn out muffins onto a wire rack to cool. Once cool, you can freeze the muffins, tightly wrapped, for up to 2 months.

So next time you have that nagging headache, or some sore muscles reach for your ginger instead of a pill! Ginger is mostly safe but if you do suffer from extreme stomach issues you should be careful about the amount you intake. For people with stomach issues try to avoid exceeding 3-4 teaspoons in a day, for everyone else don’t go above 5 teaspoons. Remember too much of anything, is too much! Always use anything in moderation.

ProTip: A friend of mine showed me that it is super easy to peel ginger using a spoon, just scrape the skin of the ginger with it and discard the brown papery outer skin. Super easy!

Educate yourself and do your own trials to see what works best for you, always remember to check places like WebMD for reactions or interactions with your medications, and if you are ever in doubt, ask a professional!