Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ancient Egypt and Honey Bees

I've just come back from a visit to Toronto, Ontario where many of the King Tut treasures are on exhibit until mid April 2010.

So what does this have to do with honey bees? Well a lot actually.

(Look carefully at the carvings on the side in the photo - see the honey bee?)

The older I get the more I'm learning that the statement is true: "To know the future, look at the past."

It seems that many things from times past come around again, and for good reason. Take the ancient Egyptian use of honey as a medicine.
Doctors around the globe today are now going back to use this ancient medicine--honey.

Honey bandages are made for the medical community to use on infections that are resistant to antibiotics.

(The side of this child's board game shows honey bee and scarab hieroglyphs).

Many diabetics suffering from foot ulcers that would not respond to our traditional treatments were healed quickly and easily with the application of these bandages.

In the book on the historical biography of honey called Robbing the Bees, the author Holly Bishop shares a recipe written by the Greek physician Hippocrates that advises using honey to dress wounds and for sore throats.

You see, honey naturally produces hydrogen peroxide which makes it an antibacterial product and it acts like a preservative for meats and fruits. Antioxidants, amino acids and vitamins help to reduce inflammation and the regeneration of the skin.

The oldest medicine book in the world is the Egyptian Papyrus Ebers found in 1873. It contains a collection of 800 medical problems, diagnoses and recipes, half of which call for the use of honey.

(We weren't allowed to take photos so these are some taken from the tour book I purchased in the gift shop).

The Egyptian Pharohs put all that they valued into their tombs and they valued honey. Honey combs were found thousands of years later inside these Egyptian tombs.

These sealed honeycombs were found to have still edible honey inside them. The honey had not gone bad. Because honey doesn't go bad.

King Tut's tomb was partially robbed of its treasure right after burial but the thieves were stopped and the tomb resealed.
A new king then removed the records of King Tut's existence which actually ended up bringing about the preservation of the tomb as everyone forgot he existed.
His tomb was discovered 3,000 years later in 1922 by Howard Carter. For more information on this king and the amazing treasure visit Wikepedia.
Better yet, come and visit Toronto and see the exhibit yourself.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hmmm... Eat It or Wear It?

I generally don't believe in coincidences. So I wasn't surprised when I bumped into a very good friend of mine who was in need.

She was stuck waiting a year for an appointment with a dermatologist, suffering greatly with itchy, scaly red patches on her upper arms. I'm an aesthetician and so I've seen a few skin conditions in my day.

It won't be confirmed until she sees the dermatologist but it sure looked like a classic case of psoriasis. Red, thick, raised skin that itches and hurts at the same time. She really was suffering and upset at how unsightly it looked.

She'd tried cortisone creams but they were thinning the skin too much. And so she waits and suffers, worrying because it won't heal or go away.

If you're a beekeeper I bet you knew what I told her to put on those sores. Yes, honey. And that's exactly what I said.

Doctors with patients with diabetic ulcers that won't respond to antibiotics are now returning to ancient medicine that really works--honey bandages. Honey - that anti-inflammatory anti-bacterial natural product that's an absolute God send. Made by little bugs. Amazing little bugs.

Here's a totally natural and edible recipe for a skin ointment to put on cuts, scrapes, wounds, acne, and sore skin (excluding burns which should have nothing put on them).

The focus is to stay away from anything that might irritate the damaged, inflamed skin so that meant no essential oils or perfumes or colours could be added.

Use equal parts of the following:

1. Raw unpasteurized honey
2. Olive Oil
3. Beeswax

Optional is Vitamin E caplets (cut open with the oil squirted into the mixture)

Several heat proof, preferably glass containers to put the ointment in. I really like to use the squat wide mouth mason jars that you can buy at the grocery store.


First, get the jars ready to receive. Once that mixture is hot and ready to pour you need them ready. The mixture will cool amazingly fast the second it's off the stove.

Create a double boiler: This is easily done by using a 3" deep pot with water in it. Then place inside that a heat-proof Pyrex Mixing bowl or any other heat proof container such as a second pot.

Set the pot on a medium/mid-low temperature so that the water will boil but not overflow.

Add the 1/3 wax first and wait for it to melt, stirring occasionally. Remember that the flash point for wax is 170 Celsius so never let it get too hot or leave it unattended on the stove.

Once the wax is melted add the 1/3 Olive Oil and stir thoroughly. You'll probably see a colour change to a golden colour as it is added.

Finally add the 1/3 Raw Honey to the mix and stir until the whole is well blended. This could take a bit of stirring. Make sure you get all the lumps out and that the honey is blended in.

Once evenly mixed, pour immediately into heat proof glass containers and leave to cool thoroughly.

This ointment tastes great and is delicious to use as lip balm. It quickly heals up cracked knuckles caused by winter weather and the honey attracts moisture to replenish dry skin.

The thickness and spreadability of the ointment is reliant on how much wax and how much oil so there's lots of room to add a little more of one or the other to adjust the thickness of the cream. Careful though to not add too much wax or you'll be making a candle. (That happened my first attempt because I didn't measure the wax and used too much). It's easily solved by remelting everything and adding more olive oil.

For psoriasis - apply to the affected area 3 times a day for three weeks. BUT FIRST DO A TEST PATCH. It's just wisdom. Yes, the ingredients are very benign but just in case, start off by only treating a small area to see how it does.

You may want to even check the progress by taking before and after photos of the skin. Another way to test the results is to treat half the area and leave the other half untreated and then compare results.

And since you're melting wax, you may as well make another candle!!

We could all use a little light in our lives.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Got a Match? I've got a Beeswax Candle

This is not the Great Wall in Beijing. Neither is it Crocus's gold. No, this is even better. These are beautiful bricks of beeswax (from Dave's apiaries - I didn't have enough wax from my hives).

This project: Making Beeswax Candles using a silicon mold

I've never done this before so should I start with what I did wrong? :)

First a warning--no I didn't burn my house down or start a fire but if you want to try this you should know that beeswax will ignite if it reaches over 170 degrees Celsius so always be sure to watch the temperature setting on your melting device.

Some people use a microwave to melt their wax. I had a spare crock pot so I put my brick of wax in it set on Low.

The advice I got is that fatter candles are easier to make than tapered ones. Personally I find small or skinny candles burn down quickly so I used a 3x6" pillar mold.

Equipment Needed:

*Large chunks of wax to melt

*Heat Proof Pouring Container
A clean used tin can pinched with a pour spout or better yet a glass Pyrex measuring cup with the spout works great. Either way, don't burn your hands on the hot container.

The thicker the candle the thicker the wick will need to be. Push the wick up from the hole in the bottom of the mold.

*Metal Wick Holders
These aren't mandatory but they help to hold the wick at the bottom of the candle. I think that's the part I did wrong - I put the metal bit at the bottom of the mold but I think it should go at the top. In other words, the bottom of the mold ends up being the top of the candle.

*Silicon Molds (mine is a fat pillar)
Other heat proof molds can be used made of metal, rubber, etc.

*Metal Coffee Filter (optional)
Use if the wax is dirty to filter prior to pouring. I didn't use it.

*Large Bobby Pins or Popsicle Sticks
They hold the wick at the center of the candle.


Melt the Wax
Remove dirt & debris if any
Dirt will sink to the bottom
Place the beeswax along with a wax thermometer into the pot and let it get to about 170 degrees (no higher than that!).

Steps to Prepare the Mold:

Spray the inside of the mold.
A spray release of some kind is needed or the candle will stick itself inside the mold and be too difficult to remove. Spray Pam cooking spray (found in your local grocery store) inside the mold before pouring. It aids with the release. I think another beekeeper said she uses dish soap but I'd have to confirm that.

Note: The Pam spray didn't coat the inside evenly which I think contributed to the uneven surface of the candle. See photo showing the uneven surface. (I didn't care, this was a fun project).

Insert the Wick
Keeping wicks straight can be an issue - I saw bobbie pins, popsicle sticks and elastics being used to hold the wicks upright. I used a metal knitting stitch holder.

Pour the Wax
If the wax has debris, a metal coffee filter (purchase at the grocery store) can be used to filter the wax. I used a glass Pyrex cup with a pour spout.

Pour the beeswax into the mold. Pour it slowly to avoid air bubbles from developing in the liquid beeswax. The wax cools amazingly quickly.

Tap the outside of the mold to release any trapped air.

Let the beeswax cool and harden. The larger the mold, the more time will be needed for the wax to harden.

Release the Candle from the Mold
Once the candle has hardened, put the candle, mold and all into the freezer for 10 or more minutes first. It helps with the release - probably the slight frost melts and helps to slide it out.

Slide the poured beeswax candle out of the candle mold. In candles with a wick hole, the last side to slide out of the mold is the top of the candle. Trim the wick on the top of the candle down to about 1/2 inch.

In my case the wax seemed to shrink from the sides and it slid out very easily - no freezing required.

Cut the wick
Leave a 1/4" wick at the top of the candle for lighting. Cut the tail of wick off at the bottom of the candle.

Rub candle bottom on a rough surface to smooth it out. If you're a beekeeper, the best thing to file the bottom is foundation - rub the bottom of the candle on a piece of foundation. The bees will love the extra wax.

Get a match and light it!

Now how about some advice from the experts out there? Feel free to post links to your blog for candle making directions.