Why Mead Is Good For You

Dre Fonts“My son, eat thou honey, for it is good” – Proverbs: 24:13

Honey has always held a fascination for humans, and has been thought by many cultures throughout history to be a gift from heaven.  Maybe it is!

Honey is the most important ingredient in mead, and it contains more than 180 different substances including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and sugars.  Raw honey (the only kind Mysto uses) always contains bee pollen, and bee pollen contains practically every single nutrient that we need to live.  In fact bee pollen has more protein than beef!

Honey and bee pollen have been known for thousands of years for their health benefits, yet they still remain somewhat of a mystery to modern science.  A full understanding of how they are made and even a complete catalogue of all of their ingredients remains elusive.

Honey is primarily sugar, (there are many kinds of sugar) but it is nothing at all like white sugar, which has been reduced by processing to a single molecule of purified sucrose making the differences between honey and white sugar vast.  For instance, too much white sugar for too long can create diabetes, while honey is being used to treat diabetes, because honey does not trigger the same insulin response as white sugar.  From the counter-intuitive files and The Journal of  Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders:

“There has been a renewed interest in the use of honey in the treatment of diabetes mellitus…Honey has been shown to scavenge reactive oxygen species, ameliorate oxidative stress and reduce hyperglycemia…honey ameliorates several metabolic malfunctions commonly observed in diabetes…”

Honey has always been a medicine as well as a food.  Rediscovered by some of the world’s leading hospitals for it’s ability to defeat MRSA, it is being used to treat the skin, especially after burns.   Honey is a complex natural substance that meshes beautifully with our complex biochemistry, most notably in the lungs and in the digestive tract, promoting digestive heath.

Numerous studies show that science has now backed up what humans have known about honey for years. 

What else is in our mead besides raw honey?  What’s left is mostly water, alcohol and the extracts of herbs, spices and fruits.

PAINTING1Water?  The most important ingredient for all of life.  Mysto uses mineral rich springwater from a protected watershed.

Alcohol?  Surely alcohol has no health benefits.   As it turns out, moderate consumption of alcohol correlates with a longer life span.   Alcohol is a natural product, produced by yeast as they consume sugars.  Yes, responsible drinking helps you live longer.  Maybe it’s because you are having more fun?  Again, science just can’t be sure.  Learn your limits and stick to them and alcohol will be good for you.

Herbs. Spices and fruits?  Is there anything better for you?  We are in the midst of an herbal medicine renaissance here in America for a very good reason.  Herbs can heal the body (and the mind) and are the origin or the inspiration for most of today’s pharmaceuticals. 

In Ayurveda, the ancient, still thriving medical system of India (though the Brits did try to wipe it out) honey is known as ‘Yogavahi’, which means “the carrier of the healing values of the herbs to the cells and tissues”.  In other words honey enhances the medicinal qualities of plants.  Mead makers still call any mead made with herbs or spices a metheglin- the Welsh word for medicine.  So drinking mead can be very good for you.

Raw honey may be nature’s most perfect food.  Mead may be mankind’s most perfect beverage, after water.  SlainteSaludProstL’Chaim

Beautiful Flowers, Magical Bees

Honey Found In Egyptian Tombs Is Still Edible After 3,000 Years!

What’s old is new again

 The world’s first alcoholic beverage was made with honey thousands of years ago according to many anthropologists and archeologists. In English speaking countries this drink is called mead.  Little known despite its ancient lineage, mead is now the fastest growing segment of the beverage industry.

Best Friends

We at Mysto believe that the honeybee is now overdue for greater recognition as humankind’s other Best Friend.   Sure bees sting, but don’t dogs bite?  And when is the last time a dog left a treat for you as awesome as honey?  Everybody knows bees are responsible for pollinating much of our farm crops, but do they know that bees also helped create the happy hour?

That’s pretty friendly. 

Honey Was Always Believed To Have Come From Heaven

This belief made the hardworking honeybee the very messenger of God. On the island of Crete the goddess Artemis even took the shape of a bee.  Zeus, the most powerful of all the gods, was kept alive by bees who fed him honey while he was hiding from Kronos.  Dionysus was originally the god of mead according to some scholars, and at festivals in his honor the Maenads carried ivy-covered staffs flowing with honey, while the gods relaxed on Mt. Olympus eating Ambrosia and drinking Nectar, thought to be honey and mead respectively.

 The list of ancient references to Mead (and honey) is long.  Mead, honey and bees figure prominently in the Hindu religion, the world’s oldest faith.  In the Norse myths Odin steals mead from the dwarves and while doing so he accidentally spills a few drops onto earth which magically gifts humans with poetry and song.  Yes what you’ve heard is true.

Mead might make you want to sing.

In parts of Europe it was sometimes common for people to tell their problems to the beehive so they would reach the ear of God that much faster. Was the beehive the first confessional, the first tabernacle, the first therapist?

Honey holds a message for us, direct from nature and brought to us by our next best friend the honeybee: Life is sweet.

Did Someone Say Green?

Beekeeping, practiced by humans for thousands of years, is still essentially the same as it ever was, using small beehives requiring almost no resources- no cutting down of forests, no fertilizers, herbicides or irrigation.  Beehives take up almost no room.  Many people keep bees in their backyard or even on their roof. More than any other food crop, honey production has a positive impact on the environment.

Bees stay essentially wild. Harvesting honey does not harm the bees, and no fences and no slaughterhouses are needed. And since honey and alcohol are natural antibiotics, mead production does not require extreme or excessive sanitation procedures, so that not much water is used and there is very little waste. Mead making and mead drinking bear a light footprint on Earth.

It’s Versatile

One of the most interesting aspects of mead is it’s remarkable versatility. Traditionally flavored with herbs, spices and fruits, there are a wide variety of flavors and many different types.  Often served sweet but delicious dry.  Often plain, with no flavoring other than perhaps some aging in oak barrels.  It can have an alcohol content as high as 19% or as low as 3 or 4 per cent and it can also be carbonated like a beer or a sparkling wine. It can be drunk two weeks after fermentation begins or it can be aged for years. It works well as an aperitif, as a dinner wine or an after dinner cordial or digestif, depending on how it is made.  It pairs very well with many types of food, with ballgames televised or live, and compliments and supports any picnic-like and music playing activities.

Mead: It’s Really About The Plants

I believe there is another message the bees bring:  That our best friend has always been the plants. This truth comes to us through the flower nectar, foraged from waves of wildflowers that on a summer day whisper: Life is meant to be enjoyed.

For a cup of honey one million flowers are visited.  The nectar is brought back to the beehive tiny bit by tiny bit, and there the bees deposit it into hexagonal open wax combs. Groups of bees gather and fan their wings, thickening the nectar and giving the honey its final form. It is then sealed away under wax. So perfect a creation it can last 3,000 years.

Pretty magical.

Because of the plants we can breathe. They are the symbol of nations, cultures and continents, symbols of identity and belief, while they give protection and medicine and beauty. They bear witness to the human condition, assuage our pain and lift our spirits, calling us forward to our best selves by their graceful presence, tolerance and forgiveness. They return and return, cheating death. After the passing of the brutal regiments there grows again the wildflowers.

Native Americans say that every plant has a song that you will learn if you can be the plant’s best friend.

After the flower nectar is turned into honey, released from the comb and fermented by yeast, mead is born. Transformed into alcohol, the honey herbs and fruits go on a journey even further into the heart, mind and body of humankind.  Surely, as the legends relate,  mead must have rather quickly became known to encourage a singer to the song, a poet to the poem, and  for romance to call on a man and a woman.

No wonder mead was considered sacred, and has been called “the link between nature and culture”- the culture which makes us human.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, please step right up.  One gateway to good health and the enjoyment of life is right this way.  Have a glass of mead.

 Photo credits:  Egyptian painting/relief Kenneth J Stein
Wildflowers:  Jonathan Preiss
Beehive:  Bob Slanzi