Dr. Weeks’ Comment: For the past 30 years I have been an organic beekeeper and used raw honey to dress surgical wounds. In my first year in medical school my microbiology professor mentioned in a lecture that raw honey should not be given to infants because of the risk of infection with botulism. I knew how flawed that research was and also knew many old time beekeepers like Charlie Mraz who had raised their babies on raw honey and even treated gastric distress with this amazing elixir. So I approached my professor and we shared ideas and made a bet. He would select 10 pathogens from his lab and plate them on agar petri dishes then we would apply raw honey (diluted so as to minimize the hydroscopic effect of its sugar content) and if it didn’t kill ALL ten of the pathogens, I would pay him a case of his favorite beer: Guinness Stout. But if it did kill all ten pathogens, he would honor his debt: from that moment forward, for the rest of his career, when he came to the part of his lecture where he mentioned the dangers of honey, he would instead describe this anti-microbial benefit of raw honey and describe our bet. Well, honey triumphed and he thanked me for sharing my knowledge and I thought nothing more of this until that time next year when a first year student hailed me and with a grin told me that my professor had kept his word and that his subsequent lecture described, as he promised, the benefits of raw honey.
Also in my first year of medical school, 1986, I co-founded the American Apitherapy Society with master Apitherapist and organic gardener Charles Mraz and I edited BeeWell, the society’s journal and taught workshops at medical conferences while still a medical student. Since that time hundreds of thousands of people have benefited from apitherapy around the world and, until colony collapse syndrome (consider WIFI and protest against Monsanto’s criminal use of glyphosate), doctors and apitherapists have had an ace up their sleeve if conventional remedies were not helpful.
But until my brother Nat kindly sent me THIS LINK , I did not know that honey was the remedy for royalty. Here we have a gripping account of the surgical care on 21st July 1403, of Sir Henry Percy’s cheek after an arrow lodged there in battle. Harry Hotspur later became King Henry V.
“First, I made small probes from the pith of an elder, well dried and well stitched in purified linen [made to] the length of the wound. These probes were infused with rose honey. And after that, I made larger and longer probes, and so I continued to always enlarge these probes until I had the width and depth of the wound as I wished it. And after the wound was as enlarged and deep enough so that, by my reckoning, the probes reached the bottom of the wound, I prepared anew some little tongs, small and hollow, and with the width of an arrow. A screw ran through the middle of the tongs, whose ends were well rounded both on the inside and outside, and even the end of the screw, which was entered into the middle, was well rounded overall in the way of a screw, so that it should grip better and more strongly.”
Bradmore worked away at widening the wound to give himself room to reach the arrow head. Once he could access it, he screwed the thread of his newly invented implement into the arrow head. Next, he tells how “Then by moving it to and fro (with the help of God) I extracted the arrowhead”. The next concern was how to treat the gaping wound in the Prince of Wales’ cheek and prevent a deadly infection from taking hold.
The ingenious surgeon tells how he washed the wound with white wine and wiped the inside of it out with a probe covered with honey, an early antiseptic, barley, flour and flax. Bradmore cleaned the wound in this way for the next twenty days, each day making the probe a little smaller to allow the wound to heal over as it was cleansed. To prevent seizures, a possibility that obviously concerned Bradmore, he applied medicines to the prince’s neck to loosen the muscles.”
So once again the humble honeybee comes to the rescue. Whereas this story represents the first instance i know about apitherapy benefiting royalty, it is not the first time apitherapy has benefited deities.
This description is from the Finnish Creation Myth The Kalavala, Rune 15 Lemminkainen at Tuonela River:
A mother seeks the dead body of her son named Lemminkainen (Finland’s equivalent to Thor) in the river Tuonela where he has perished. She appeals to the God of Blacksmiths to create a huge iron rake for dredging the depths of this mighty river. Using this rake she collects the dismembered pieces of her drowned and waterlogged son. Does she then call for a druid or a doctor? No. She calls for the honeybee instructing:
“Go forth and fetch me honey, go forth to seek for honey,
back from Metsola’s fair meadows, from the cup of many a flower,
and the plumes of grasses many,
as an ointment for the patient, and to quite restore the sick one”.
“Then did Lemminkainen’s mother raise it to her mouth and taste it.
With her tongue the ointment tasted, with the greatest care she proved it.
“Tis the ointment that I needed, and the salve of the Almighty,
used when Jumula the Highest, The Creator heals all suffering”.
Bee Well thanks Bea Birch from England who called this “news” to our attention!