As we witness the mountains and pastures transform into highlights of yellow, orange, maroon, and golden brown, the flow of golden wildflower honey matches the colors of the season. Beekeepers in the Northern Hemisphere are as busy as their bee friends this time of year, harvesting the last of the honey and preparing the hives for winter. In Colorado, a single bee colony needs, on average, about 100 pounds of honey to survive the winter, depending upon its length and severity as well as elevation. It’s hot and sticky business, but last weekend, with the help of my mentor, Father Dan Jones and friend Don Mercill, we harvested and extracted an estimated 85+ pounds, over and above what was left for the overwinter needs of the bees.
This year’s nectar flow has slowed considerably, now that a few frosty nights have curtailed flowering. Foraging bees will continue to collect nectar and pollen for another few weeks, depending upon the availability of viable flowers. Inside the hive, work will continue to feed brood, cap open honey cells, maintain the ambient temperature of the hive, and care for their queen.
The honey we harvest will undergo uncapping, spinning and filtering before it is bottled and ready for market. Shown here is one of the more difficult tasks of the extraction process, uncapping the frames. A hot knife is drawn over the top of the comb exposing the honey for spinning. A specially designed centrifuge is used to spin the honey out of the combs and into an awaiting container.
The honey is further warmed and filtered to eliminate wax particulates, then bottled and stored for enjoyment on warm biscuits or scones or, delightfully, by the spoonful. Raw honey, not exposed to high temperatures, will retain its enzymes and its greatest health benefits. It may crystallize but will never go bad. Honey was one of the treasures found in the tombs of the ancient pharaohs, still as fresh and edible as the day it was poured.
Many healing properties are attributed to the golden miracle of honey. Analysis shows that honey contains over 75 different ingredients, including natural medicines gathered by the bees in their foraging process. Bees are naturally attracted to the diverse nectar and pollen offerings of wildflowers. Contained within their harvests are complex enzymes, organic acids and esters, antibiotic agents, trace minerals, and plant hormones. A range of vitamins including B complex, C, D, E, K and beta carotene have also been identified in raw honey samplings.
Well known are the skin healing properties of honey. Topically, its sweet stickiness acts as a lubricant to hydrate all skin types. Wound healing is accelerated as honey acts as a natural bandage for burns, ulcers, surgical incisions and skin infections, often without the trace of a scar. In addition to its use for cellular regeneration, honey is an excellent remedy for chronic respiratory ailments, including colds and flu, pollen allergies, dry cough, chronic bronchitis, and various asthmatic conditions. Although side effects have been rarely reported, caution should be taken by those allergic to bee stings. Avoid giving honey to children one year of age or younger, as their digestion may not be able to break down or assimilate any possible toxins the honey could carry. Honey is now being widely used in burn centers for its miraculous ability in healing deep and serious skin traumas.
Local, raw wildflower honey is an amazing superfood, life-giving and naturally healthful. With each spoonful, let us remember that our honeybees worked incredibly hard to produce this delectable gold. Their well being comes first and then humans get to enjoy the benefits of their abundance.
Stephen H. Buhner, Herbal Antibiotics
James Duke, The Green Pharmacy
Lesley Tierra, Herbs of Life
Stephanie Tourles, Organic Body Care
Photo credits: Ruth Calvin Boothe, Christina MacLeod
PLEASE NOTE: Posts on Yarrow’s Garden Blog and Three Sisters Medicine are for educational and inspirational purposes only and not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. Herbs are Medicine! Proceed with care. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment of serious medical conditions is inappropriate and unwise. If you have or suspect a medical condition, it is your responsibility to consult a medical practitioner for appropriate treatment.
THREE SISTERS APOTHECARY offers a variety of dry tea blends and tinctured formulations. Formulas are custom blended for your specific health and healing needs. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 719.371-1315 to schedule an appointment.