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The Sweet Gift of Honey Bees

Bee_Keeper_honeyIMG_1242_hi_resBy Deirdre Imus, August 24, 2017

It has been about a year since Hackensack University Medical Center welcomed 30,000 new friends to its rooftop, and these busy little creatures have created quite a buzz. The two beehives installed last summer have been lovingly maintained and are thriving.  In fact, the bee population at HUMC has grown by the thousands, as we welcomed two more hives here at the hospital.

These honeybees have fulfilled two important duties on our campus. First, and perhaps most important, they have highlighted the dire need to protect beehives from a mysterious and dangerous phenomenon called colony collapse disorder (CCD), which I wrote about last year. If bees disappear, we lose an essential part of our food chain, as they are the primary pollinators of fruit, vegetable, and other crops in this country.

Another benefit of the burgeoning bee population here at HUMC is that they make lots and lots of delectable honey. Though this super sweet and sticky bee byproduct is known primarily for enhancing the flavor of tea or coating a sore throat, it has many other uses, medicinal and otherwise.

Honey is an anti-oxidant, which means it reduces inflammation in the body and therefore can lower the risk of developing heart disease and some cancers. It is a natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent, and research has shown it may be helpful in wound healing, as well as treating ulcers and burns. There is also the theory that eating local honey can help relieve symptoms for people suffering from seasonal allergies, because exposing the body to the small amounts of pollen in honey may help desensitize them to the allergen, and lower their immune response

Honey is a natural, unprocessed form of sugar that can provide a quick burst of energy to an athlete in need.  As a simple sugar, it can also help the body regulate blood sugar levels.  Some varieties of honey contain so-called “good” bacteria and can act as a probiotic, which not only improves gut health but also boosts the immune system as a whole.  

As a result of our newfound honey fortunes here at HUMC, we’ve been incorporating it into the food we serve at the hospital. There are many scrumptious ways to add honey to your diet too, whether in a homemade salad dressing, as a condiment on a sandwich, in a super healthy smoothie, as a fun topping on Greek yogurt, or to give roasted vegetables a sweet little kick. The options are endless and, thankfully, delicious.

Housing honeybees is a growing trend in healthcare facilities and in cities and towns around the country – and the world. The number of urban beekeepers in New York City has surged in recent years, and a long-term care facility in Canada recently added some beehives on its grounds. Beekeeping can’t get trendy enough, as far as we’re concerned. Everybody wins when bees are plentiful and well-cared for.

To learn more, check out a recent article in Popular Mechanics on backyard beekeeping and for healthy, organic recipes using honey, go to our website.

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