Infant botulism is a rare but serious paralytic disease caused by the microorganism Clostridium botulinum. After ingestion, C. botulinum spores can germinate, grow and produce toxin in the lower bowel of some infants under one year of age. C. botulinum spores are widely distributed in nature. They can be found in soil, dust, the air and raw agricultural products. Honey is also a potential source of C. botulinum spores. Infants are susceptible to infant botulism until their intestinal microflora develop. Children and adults with normal intestinal microflora are able to ingest C. botulinum spores without harm. The National Honey Board, along with other health organizations, recommends that honey not be fed to infants under one year of age.For older children and adults, honey is unquestionably safe.
Bee, wasp, yellow jacket, hornet, or fire ant stings most often trigger allergic reactions. However, most people are not allergic to insect stings and may mistake a normal sting reaction for an allergic reaction. By knowing the difference, you can prevent unnecessary worry and visits to the doctor.
The severity of an insect sting reaction varies from person to person. There are three types of reactions -- normal, localized, and allergic:
A normal reaction will result in pain, swelling, and redness around the sting site.
A large local reaction will result in swelling that extends beyond the sting site. For example, a person stung on the ankle may have swelling of the entire leg. While it often looks alarming, it is generally no more serious than a normal reaction.
The most serious reaction to an insect sting is an allergic one. This condition requires immediate medical attention.
What Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (called an anaphylactic reaction) may include one or more of the following:
Hives that appear as a red, itchy rash and spread to areas beyond the sting
Swelling of the face, throat, or mouth tissue
Wheezing or difficulty swallowing
Restlessness and anxiety
Dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure
Although severe allergic reactions are not that common, they can lead to shock, cardiac arrest, and unconsciousness in 10 minutes or less. This type of reaction can occur within minutes after a sting and can be fatal. Get emergency treatment as soon as possible.
People who have experienced an allergic reaction to an insect sting have a 60% chance of a similar or worse reaction if they are stung again.
How Can I Prevent an Allergic Reaction?
Allergic reactions to insect stings can be prevented with allergy shots. The treatment is 97% effective in preventing future reactions and involves injecting gradually increasing doses of venom that stimulate your immune system to become resistant to a future allergic reaction.
If you've had an allergic reaction, it's important to talk to an allergist, a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic disease. Based on your history and test results, the allergist will determine if you are a candidate for immunotherapytreatment.
- Honey has a tendency to granulate due to its natural properties. Granulation does not affect the taste or purity of honey.
- Granulated honey can be restored to liquid form by carefully placing the jar in a pan of very warm water.
- Store your honey in a dry cupboard. Do not refrigerate honey. Cold temperatures fasten granulation.
- Honey does not benefit from pasteurization because it is naturally low in bacteria and other microbes.
- Honey contains no fat, no cholesterol, no gluten and no sulfates or sulfites.
- Honey is primarily composed of carbohydrates.
- Honey is a natural sugar and is easier to digest. Honey is 100% pure and natural. It is made entirely by honeybees from flower nectars.
- For all inquiries regarding the use of honey in medical conditions such as diabetes, weight control, etc., please consult your physician.
- Honey was found in the tomb of King Tut (fl. c.1350 , king of ancient Egypt, of the XVIII dynasty) and was still edible since honey never spoils.
- Due to the high level of fructose, honey is 25% sweeter than table sugar.
- Honey is created by honey bees who mix plant nectar, with their own bee enzymes and then evaporate excess water.
- Honey has different flavors and colors, depending on the location and kinds of flowers the bees visit.
- To the ancients, honey was a source of health, a sign of purity and a symbol of strength and virility.
Honey Through History
- Honey has been delighting humans for more than 40 centuries.
- In ancient Egypt, taxes were paid with it, while in early Greece and Rome honey symbolized fertility, love, and beauty.
- In Greek mythology, it is said that cupid dipped his arrows in honey to fill the lovers heart with sweetness.
- In 50 BC, the Romans painted pictures with melted dyed beeswax.
- The earliest illustration of honey being gathered is around 15,000 years old and appears in a painting on the walls of a rock shelter in eastern Spain.
- Democritus (460-370 BC), Greek philosopher and physician, chose a diet rich in honey and lived until he was 109 years old.
- In the first century A.D., Apicus, a wealthy Roman gourmet, wrote a series of books in which more than half the recipes included honey.
- Honey was the most used medicine in ancient Egypt. Of the more than 900 medical remedies we know about for that time, more than 500 were honey based.
- Napoleon used the bee as a symbol of his empire after his coronation in 1804. It stood for industry, efficiency and productivity. Also emblematic of immortality and resurrection, the bee was chosen to link the new dynasty to the very origins of France. Golden bees (cicadas really) were discovered in 1653 in Tournai in the tomb of Childeric I (father of Clovis) who founded the Merovingian dynasty in 457. They were considered to be the oldest emblem of the sovereigns of France.
- In Nice, France, Christmas is celebrated with nougat blanc, a candy made of honey, almond and egg white.
- Spring, in Poland, is greeted with glasses of honey wine.
- The Jewish New Year is welcomed with honey cake or apples dipped in honey, to insure a sweet life in the year ahead.
- In 1984, honeybees constructed a honeycomb in zero gravity as part of an experiment on a space shuttle.
- In 1984, a backstage worker at the Paris opera established one of the most unusually sited beehives on the roof of the opera house. The "opera bees" gather their nectar as they visit flowers all over the city of Paris. The fruits of their labors are on sale in the souvenir shop of the opera.
Health and Allergies
Honey contains bits and pieces of pollen and honey, and as an immune system booster, it is quite powerful. I have often in talks and articles, and in my books, advocated using local honey. Frequently I'll get emails from readers who want to know exactly what I mean by local honey, and how "local" should it be. This is what I usually advise:
Allergies arise from continuous over-exposure to the same allergens. If, for example, you live in an area where there is a great deal of red clover growing, and if in addition you often feed red clover hay to your own horses or cattle, then it likely you are exposed over and over to pollen from this same red clover. Now, red clover pollen is not especially allergenic but still, with time, a serious allergy to it can easily arise.
Another example: if you lived in a southern area where bottlebrush trees were frequently used in the landscapes or perhaps you had a bottlebrush tree growing in your own yard, your odds of over-exposure to this tree's tiny, triangular, and potently very allergenic pollen is greatly enhanced.
In the two examples used above, both species of plants are what we call amphipilous, meaning they are pollinated by both insects and by the wind. Honeybees will collect pollen from each of these species and it will be present in small amounts in honey that was gathered by bees that were working areas where these species are growing. When people living in these same areas eat honey that was produced in that environment, the honey will often act as an immune booster. The good effects of this local honey are best when the honey is taken a little bit (a couple of teaspoons-full) a day for several months prior to the pollen season.
When I'm asked how local should the honey be for allergy prevention I always advise to get honey that was raised closest to where you live, the closer the better since it will have more of exactly what you'll need. It may seem odd that straight exposure to pollen often triggers allergies but that exposure to pollen in the honey usually has the opposite effect. But this is typically what we see. In honey the allergens are delivered in small, manageable doses and the effect over time is very much like that from undergoing a whole series of allergy immunology injections. The major difference though is that the honey is a lot easier to take and it is certainly a lot less expensive. I am always surprised that this powerful health benefit of local honey is not more widely understood, as it is simple, easy, and often surprisingly effective.
Pharmaceutical companies have huge budgets and can fund studies, but with honey this scientific research doesn't seem to get funded... thus most evidence we have is what we see, antidotal evidence. That however can be, and often is important; sometimes, often actually, such evidence proves very useful. Let me give you one such antidotal example of the powers of local honey. I was asked to look over the yard of a family that had just moved to this area (Central coastal California) to see if I could figure out what was triggering the allergies of their five-year-old son. The boy was experiencing classical allergic responses, runny nose, itchy eyes, persistent cough. This family had only recently moved to California, from the Midwest, so a pollen allergy was surprising, as they generally take a number of years of exposure to develop.
The boy had started having these symptoms a few months after moving here. At his house I didn't find the usual allergy culprits of the landscape, male cloned trees or shrubs, but I did note that next to the house was a row of towering blue gum eucalyptus trees. I knew the eucalyptus trees were shedding plenty of pollen, as you could see it on the windows of the cars parked underneath them. I checked some of this pollen with a microscope and it was indeed from these blue gum trees. Eucalyptus pollen is fairly large in size and is triangular in shape, making it easy to ID. I suggested that at the local farmers market they could buy some eucalyptus honey and recommended that the boy be given several spoonfuls of this every day.
The family did as I advised and the boy ate the strongly flavored eucalyptus honey every day for four months. By the end of the first month the allergic symptoms were starting to ease up. By the end of the second month all his symptoms had disappeared. Some ten years then passed and while in high school this same boy again started having allergic symptoms. I visited the high school at the request of his folks and found that they had a multitude of huge eucalyptus trees growing there. I again advised the local honey and once again, it seemed to do the trick.
Now, let me be clear here, I am not suggesting that local honey will replace allergists. But what I am saying is that since visits to allergists are expensive and the series of immunology shots, although generally very effective, are costly, it makes perfect sense to give the local honey a try first. Many times, as many others and I have seen firsthand, the local honey will take care of the problem, quickly, safely, and inexpensively.
Mr. Ogren is the author of five published books, including Allergy-free Gardening. Tom does consulting on allergies and landscaping for, among others, the USDA urban foresters, the American Lung Association, for county asthma coalitions, landscape, nursery and arborists' associations. Tom's own website is
Typical honey analysis
Other sugars: 9.0% (maltose, melezitose)
1 Tbsp=21g=64 cal
The pH of honey is commonly between 3.2 and 4.5. This relatively acidic pH level prevents the growth of many bacteria.
Honey is suitable for long term preservation and is easily assimilated even after long conservation. History knows examples of honey preservation for decades, and even centuries.