The diligent little bee has been an almost invisible companion to humanity for a very long time. Documentation on their activity, the honey they produce and health benefits goes back thousands of years.
- A Sumerian scripture, written around 2000 BC offers a prescription for treating a wound, “Grind to a powder river dust … (words missing on translated text) then knead it in water and honey and let plain oil and hot cedar oil be spread over it.”
- The Ebers papyrus written about 1550 BC includes honey in 147 of its prescriptions for external applications, from use against baldness to healing ointments used after surgery and to reduce inflammation.
- The Ayurvedic texts of ancient India written about 500 AD indicate honey being used for the cleaning and healing of wounds as well as against many internal and external infections.
- Ancient Greeks thought of honey as medicine and believed that it would prolong life.
- The Mayan culture used the honey of a stingless bee to treat cataracts.
Today interest in the use of honey as a type of medicine, or apitherapy, is growing. A renewed awareness of the healing properties is seen in home remedies as well as over-the-counter items. Honey is not just sugar. It contains many important nutrients including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium as well as numerous vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants and probiotics.
Using Honey in a Massage Session
When applied externally, honey acts as a humectant. That is, it attracts and promotes the retention of water. When added to a lotion or oil, it softens and hydrates the skin. It also contains many vitamins and minerals which will be absorbed into the skin. Just one tablespoon of honey contains calcium (20.3 mg), iron (1.4 mg), magnesium (6.8 mg) and potassium (176 mg). Honey also contains Vitamins C and B6, riboflavin and folate. The best thing of course is, although a tablespoon of honey contains about 64 calories, when used externally in a massage session, those calories don’t add on any weight!
There is a specialized technique using honey on its own in a massage. Different from a Swedish massage which uses the gliding properties of oils to allow the hands to move easily along the skin, honey provides little glide and a lot of stickiness. The technique used is perhaps more related to something like cupping because, instead of gliding, the palmar surface of the hands of the therapist pull up on the skin resulting in a pumping motion, which stimulates reflex zones, improves circulation and helps the body in removal of toxins.
In your own practice you can add a small amount of honey to your massage oil. The National Honey Board recommends about five tablespoons of honey mixed with two cups of almond oil and two tablespoons of rose oil (not essential oil). You may want to adjust the quantities for your own comfort level with regard to glide and technique. You can also add a drop or two of an essential oil for added therapeutic value, such as lavender for relaxation.
Other Applications of Honey
If you want to create a complete experience in the massage session you can always add the relaxing scent of honey through the use of beeswax candles. Using beeswax candles (instead of paraffin based ones) have the added benefit of being non-toxic, sootless and environmentally friendly. It also has a soothing effect because beeswax candles, when lit, emit negative ions which have been shown to reduce depression. Kind of like that pleasant feeling you get after a rainfall for the same reasons.
Offering your client a nice cup of tea with a teaspoon or two of honey added, after the massage session, is a nice way to complete the experience.
Help to celebrate National Honey Month by enticing your clients to a sweet and relaxing experience.