Hieroglyphs for honey
Bee-keeping, from the tomb of Pabasa at Thebes
Pouring honey.... from the tomb of Pabasa at Thebes
Beekeeping had been well developed by the Old Kingdom and pictures of processing honey survive from all periods of ancient Egyptian history. Honey was an important constituent in around 500 prescriptions and remedies. It is mentioned in the Ebers papyrus and the Hearst papyrus. Honey is resistant to bacterial growth and is hypertonic whereby it draws water from bacterial cells causing them to shrivel and die. Furthermore it has antibiotic properties due to the presence of inhibine which is a bactericidal enzyme secreted by the pharyngeal glands of the bee.
Modern studies have found honey to be effective against staphylococcus, salmonella and candida bacteria. Honey has also been used to treat burns, ulcers and surgical wounds as it has more rapid healing qualities than conventional treatment.
Propolis,( bee glue) a hard resinous material derived from plant juices has an antibiotic property. Bees use it to seal cracks in their hives and to deal with foreign invaders. Interestingly a small mouse which had crept into an ancient Egyptian hive 3000 years ago was found dried out with no sign of decomposition because it was covered with propolis.