Book Review: two books on honey

Posted on December 8, 2011. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , |

This time around not one but two books that I loved!

I’ve been on a passionate kick of making lots of herbal honeys lately, and from that I’ve expanded to reading more about honey and the wondrous bees that produce it. These two books are the beginning of this mini-research project, but most definitely not the end.

Yes, you’re thinking that’s swell but isn’t this an herbalism blog and honey/bees aren’t exactly plants? Well, this blog also talks about healing arts (and sometimes will talk yoga!), but even without that honey and bees are a most worthwhile topic.

Here’s some reasons in no particular order:

  • Honey is amazingly medicinal by itself – good for treating infections, congestion, wound healing, burns, sore throats, insomnia and a host of other things.
  • You can make amazing herbal medicines with honey (like I’ve been doing lately.)
  • When used in combination with herbal remedies honey can enhance the healing property of herbs according to the Ayurvedic tradition (and there is some evidence on that point it seems.)
  • Honey is yummy and bees are cool!

Now on to the books.

Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive by Stephen Buchmann

Buchmann’s the shorter overview of the two books. It focuses more on the bees, beekeeping and the history of humans, bees and honey. It does talk about the medicinal uses of honey including historical ones, but that is not its main goal. The book is more of an informative first person narrative with lots of interesting stories giving you insights into the information it presents. It makes for a reasonably useful first overview of the topic. It has more of an appeal to a broader age group as well, set up so it is readable for adults while being a great first reference for kids 11 and up – not a mean feat when you think about it.

The Honey Prescription: The Amazing Power of Honey as Medicine by Nathaniel Altman

Altman’s book is far more extensive in most every respect. The title indicates its main goal of discussing the healing aspects of honey, but the book covers substantially all other aspects about bees, honey, history, etc. It makes for an excellent start to the topic.

What is especially nice is the substantive discussion about studies of honey including ones that offer more mixed results in terms of supporting his points. One of my favorite parts of the book is the extensive footnoting of studies and list of books, journals and on-line resources that gives me a lot to go through for my next steps of research.

One interesting point Altman discusses, that many herbalists should be quite familiar with, is how much of the research in honey’s medicinal applications is not done in the United States because of the inability US pharmaceuticals to patent and profit off of it, thus a lack of funding to research it.

Overall, both books are worth reading. The first is better if you want a simpler, briefer, more readable overview. The second if you’re looking for something a tad more substantial but still not remotely overwhelming as an introduction with lots of touch points for further reading.

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