The Honey Prescription

You know what I really dislike? “Cure All” books. You know what I’m talking about, books that are all like: ‘this one thing that your doctor wouldn’t suggest to you is able to cure just about any ailment you may or may not have.’ These books prey on people’s desperation and distrust of Western medicine. As someone suffering from a prolonged chronic pain condition, I know first hand about those feelings, which make those kinds of books, despite perhaps noble intentions, provoke a special visceral response from me.

(If you will allow me a moment on the parenthetical soap box. I know that many people feel their doctors would belittle them if they mentioned things like herbal supplements, acupuncture, or any other kind of “alternative medical treatment”. To avoid any potential embarrassment these people will not see their family doctor, or worse, see them and not tell them of everything they’re doing with regards to their health. It is dangerous and irresponsible to not tell your doctor EVERYTHING you do with regards to your health. They should know about every over the counter prescription you take, every herbal/vitamin supplement you use, and anything else that effects your body be it stress and nerves or your daily yoga practice. And guess what Nervous Nellies? Odds are your doctor will have useful, constructive information to share with you about these kinds of things. Good doctors want to help you get better, and to do that they need to know your thoughts on your treatment. And you know what? If your doctor mocks you or dismisses your thoughts and concerns regarding your treatment, they’re not a good doctor for you. It’s your body, treat it right and be sure it is given the respect it deserves, your doctor will probably thank you for it.)

Now you can understand how dismissive I was when I received a review copy of “The Honey Prescription” by Nathaniel Altman from Healing Arts Press. I pulled it out of the envelope and actually said aloud to my husband, “Well I won’t be reading this.” Yet there it sat on my kitchen counter for about a week, right next to the bottle of honey I use with Greek yogurt, on toast, and in my morning cereal. I like honey, what if there was useful information about this food I already consume? And that’s when I started reading.

Right out of the gate I was impressed. The first section discusses in detail the life and times of the honeybee. I was blown away. The average beehive is as complex and drama laden as your daytime soap opera. Bees are so much more interesting than I would have thought. I generally look at bees as evil little buggers who want to hurt me. I’m afraid of bee stings, sue me. However, after reading “The Honey Prescription” I can see why so many people are fascinated by bees.

Next up was everything you probably never knew about types of honey and their differences and similarities. Also discussed is the evolution of honey gathering around the world. Honestly, the book is worth reading for just “Part One: Grounding”. Despite enjoying the first part of the book, I was still bracing myself for the inevitable disappointment of reading something akin to a snake oil salesman’s pitch. Guess what? It never happened.

“The Honey Prescription” is the book that I wish other “alternative medicine” books were like. There was so much that impressed me. Instead of acting as if folklore is scientific evidence, Altman directs your attention to current studies being done and medical applications occurring in other countries. There is a section of traditional folk medicine applications, but it is presented more as historical context rather than as a how-to guide. Despite having a laundry list of possible health applications, honey is never presented as a cure all. The author goes so far as to do what is generally a cardinal sin for these kinds of books, he tells you that you will probably not find the kind of “medical honey” he’s discussing in the United States. An even graver sin, Altman does not have his own line of “medical honey” that he offers to sell you. It really is a researched argument for exploring possible medicinal applications for honey.

“The Honey Prescription” is an insightful read. I’ve learned a lot about potential uses for honey in modern medicine, and better still, I also learned a lot about the honey that I buy in the store. This book stimulated my mind, and also my taste buds.