Folk medicine was never my thing. Being the child of a pharmaceutical researcher, I was carefully taught that “quack” medicine and “real” medicine had nothing to do with each other.
In truth, I’m extremely grateful for modern medicine. At one point in my life I was told I would never walk again—not normally—but I walk, run, skip, and climb just fine. I’ve also recovered from childhood illnesses that would have taken me out without modern intervention.
But still, it has become obvious over the years that, in many ways, modern medicine has its limits. Drugs that are designed to do one thing, cause other problems. Antibiotics have bred super bugs that seem resistant to everything. Worse, drugs that could help are often priced beyond comprehension, sometimes forcing people to choose between them and other necessities.
Out of curiosity more than anything, I began reading Kirsten Traynor’s book Two Million Blossoms: Discovering the Medicinal Benefits of Honey (2011). Traynor is a honey bee biologist who has done extensive research on honey and how it is used by international health care practitioners.
She is an excellent writer whose text is both clear and engaging, but the best thing about the book is her attitude. The book is not preachy in the least. She does not try to convince you that honey is the best medicine, but simply lays out the facts.
For example, many sources tell us that honey has antimicrobial properties, but few tell us how it works. In one section, Traynor explains how the osmotic pressure of honey dehydrates pathogens, how the high acidity of honey retards microbial growth, and how glucose oxidase (an enzyme added by the bees) releases a steady stream of hydrogen peroxide into a wound. She describes these and other mechanisms, but then allows you to decide for yourself if it’s worth a try.
Traynor cites a great many sources for her research and relates many case studies. But in spite of much technical information, she writes in a friendly, conversational tone that makes the book easy and fun to read. For example, when describing burns, she says, “Unlike murder, first degree burns are the least severe.” Okay, I can relate to that way of thinking (plus now I will remember which is which).
I think the book is appropriate for anyone who deals with honey. Even if you personally are not swayed by the material, as a beekeeper the book will help you answer those inevitable questions about the healing properties of honey.
If I ever again have to see my tibia up close and personal, protruding from the side of my leg, I will definitely opt for a surgeon over a jar of honey. But there may be a time and place for both types of cure in our modern world, and Traynor’s Two Million Blossoms opened my mind to some of the possibilities.
Honey Bee Suite
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