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So what about honey?

by (7063)
Updated about 8 hours ago
Created March 05, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Forgive me if this has been asked somewhere here already, but what role does honey and hive products (bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis) play in the paleo diet? I have a few questions to ask about this elusive nectar. It is called the perfect food; lab tests have shown that animals can survive indefinitely on a diet of bee pollen and water alone, but how much of it did paleolithic man consume?

Would hives have been raided seasonally in paleolithic times, would every part of the hive have been consumed and how much honey would Grok have consumed on average, if at all? I assume honey bees are found pretty much all over the world, and in classical times honey was certainly viewed as food from the gods, (and a food which aids longevity) but is honey, just like sugar; sucrose and fructose, something to be avoided?

I would understand if honey was used for medicinal purposes only, I would imagine hives were few and far between and were highly prized, so does that mean we should be taking honey in order not to get sick or only when we are sick?

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20 · June 29, 2012 at 10:20 AM

while we're on the subject, yes whole foods market does promote veganism. i worked there 2 years ago, and there was a job there for a health consultant of sorts. i forget what they called it exactly. i wanted the job, so i looked at the info about it online and talked to the guy who had it at the time. the info online had a list of books that the health person should read, including the china study and other anti animal product foods. i actually got into a debate with the guy who had the job at my store. he promotes animal product free diet and that is what he is supposed to do.

Af49bced416926d9f88e47a7e705d99d
20 · June 29, 2012 at 10:14 AM

dann. shouldn't have eaten all those gallons of honey.

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78407 · March 18, 2012 at 7:12 PM

I still say anyone who claims that fructose has no metabolic function and is, in fact, a toxin needs to explain why we evolved the ability to digest it. If it were a toxin it would be more logical to not deliberately absorb it and allow it to flush out our rear. Instead we have the ability to digest it and our body even up-regulates it the more fructose we eat. I've yet to see a single study that shows fruit or honey are at all equivalent to HFCS.

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18402 · June 01, 2011 at 1:55 PM

this is a great answer todd. welcome to PaleoHacks.

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78407 · March 18, 2011 at 4:51 AM

I think they are. I got that wrong at quiz night recently:)

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803 · October 19, 2010 at 5:25 PM

Masterjohn's post on honey is now up (http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/cholesterol-blog.html) and he warns against "pulling a paleo" by lumping honey in with the dangers of purified fructose.

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22913 · October 19, 2010 at 1:10 PM

Worlds healthiest thinks saturated fat is bad and omega 6 is good and therefore wholly unreliable in my book

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22913 · October 19, 2010 at 11:18 AM

Bees are animals :p

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10768 · October 16, 2010 at 3:16 PM

Manuka has some good reports about it being STRONGLY antibacterial and anti-viral. Let me know if you want some scientific refs added here.

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2581 · October 16, 2010 at 2:28 PM

The site in question is World's Healthiest Foods. I don't think it is affiliated with Whole Foods.

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60 · October 16, 2010 at 2:05 PM

They have a thriving meat section because they're capitalists. For them $$$ is always > They do however promote a vegetarian diet, there was a controversy a while back about their 'healthy choice' signs (or something like that?). They were stuck all over the tofu, whole grains, veggies (including legummes) but nothing in the meat dept was tagged. Check this out: http://www.carbwire.com/2010/09/24/whole-foods-creates-new-healthy-eating-specialist-position-to-promote-the-vegetarian-agenda or this http://www.westonaprice.org/press/1829-whole-foods-promotes-militant-vegetarian-agenda.html

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803 · October 15, 2010 at 6:27 AM

I've been having a flare-up of 'silent' GERD all week (with non-burning reflux but itchy throat, sneezing and congestion) and so I was reading up on possible remedies. I came across a recommendation to take black strap molasses or raw honey, and I had access to the latter (honey that came from a bee farmer but drinkable, not thick like I expected so not sure if he strained it or processed it in any way). It eased the symptoms but I've had to take it a few times since because it hasn't knocked it out completely. Also added crushed red pepper and fermented meat to my diet, which may have helped.

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2581 · October 14, 2010 at 11:59 PM

Congrats on getting better! Was the honey raw?

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2581 · October 14, 2010 at 11:59 PM

Congrats on getting better? Did you eat raw honey?

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1638 · October 14, 2010 at 9:11 PM

Patrick, I'm interested in the success you mentioned with honey and GERD. What made you try that in the first place?

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30 · June 25, 2010 at 6:53 PM

whole foods doesnt neccesarily promote a vegetarian diet, they have a thriving meat section

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15966 · June 23, 2010 at 1:07 PM

i concur with both of you. Ill just add that i love how Harris phrases the whole discussion as we are mimicking or searching out "paleolithic metabolism," which is not necessarily "paleolithic food only" or anti-neolithic food. That guy is spot on across the board granted, but when i read that specific thing it kind of shined the light for me. I know its a dead horse already, but our community would benefit so much if he were to bust back on the scene.

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670 · June 23, 2010 at 11:53 AM

The point many people are emphasizing is that fructose is toxic regardless of where it comes from. As Whole Foods promotes a vegetarian diet, I would not look to them for nutritional advice.

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1973 · June 23, 2010 at 6:15 AM

What studies have shown animals can survive indefinitely on bee pollen and water alone?

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7063 · March 31, 2010 at 2:44 PM

I would put that up as a separate question and see what answers you get, DXB!

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10497 · March 06, 2010 at 7:05 AM

@jm054 --- modern hunter-gatherers have an interesting, symbiotic relationship with an animal called a honey-bird. To wit, seeks them out and it leads to a hive, where the bees are then smoked out of. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeyguide http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3t_vXWgoWdc

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6157 · March 05, 2010 at 8:08 PM

Michael Pollan has said something similar re: high-fructose corn syrup and sugar. Yes, HCFS is bad for you and it's heavily processed. News flash: organic evaporated cane juice isn't much better. I don't agree with everything Pollan says, but he was right on about this one. I have yet to see Harris post something that is wrong or not useful. We need to consider the metabolic effect of X food, not whether X food "is Paleo" or not.

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7063 · March 05, 2010 at 6:10 PM

oh, thanks Patrik, this is my first question soooooo, little bit shy and apologetic ;)

33b6c516904a967ef8ecb30f1dbd8cf2
7063 · March 05, 2010 at 6:06 PM

So honey was just too much of a risk to seek out or were the bee stings utilized too? Apparently bee-venom therapy is a respected treatment even today, wacky yes, but it seems to have its merits - http://www.beevenom.com/beevenomtherapy.htm

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10497 · March 05, 2010 at 5:28 PM

Also, no need to ask forgiveness for asking a question, as it isn't a problem! If it has been asked already, someone will just point you at the previous question.

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10497 · March 05, 2010 at 5:27 PM

I love the tagging. Awesome.

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5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f
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1912 · March 06, 2010 at 11:23 AM

Whether honey was consumed in Paleolithic times is immaterial. Even it was, it wasn't a core staple, and it wasn't widely enough available to have had a substantial effect on the evolution of human metabolism.

What we know today is that it contains large amounts of fructose, and should therefore be consumed in moderation, if at all, due to the negative effects of fructose on the liver.

Personally, I do eat honey, but I treat it like fruit: very small amounts (organic only), and very infrequently.

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670 · March 05, 2010 at 5:43 PM

I concur with Dr. Kurt Harris' positions:

  • While honey may be paleo and butter neolithic, butter is far less harmful to most people than honey

  • Fructose is something to be minimized or eliminated, regardless of the source. I would particularly avoid sugars if I were sick, rather than seeking them out.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc
15966 · June 23, 2010 at 1:07 PM

i concur with both of you. Ill just add that i love how Harris phrases the whole discussion as we are mimicking or searching out "paleolithic metabolism," which is not necessarily "paleolithic food only" or anti-neolithic food. That guy is spot on across the board granted, but when i read that specific thing it kind of shined the light for me. I know its a dead horse already, but our community would benefit so much if he were to bust back on the scene.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523
6157 · March 05, 2010 at 8:08 PM

Michael Pollan has said something similar re: high-fructose corn syrup and sugar. Yes, HCFS is bad for you and it's heavily processed. News flash: organic evaporated cane juice isn't much better. I don't agree with everything Pollan says, but he was right on about this one. I have yet to see Harris post something that is wrong or not useful. We need to consider the metabolic effect of X food, not whether X food "is Paleo" or not.

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4089 · June 23, 2010 at 12:46 PM

There's no doubt that hunter-gatherers ate honey, and probably have done so for a good part of our evolutionary history. So I think that quality honey is fine, when eaten in the frequencies and quantities that our ancestors ate it in.

They couldn't toddle down to the local Wal-Mart and buy a five-pound bucket of industrial honey produced by bees fed on HFCS. They had to locate a wild hive, smoke it out, risk getting stung repeatedly, and quickly gather small quantities of it while the bees were still stunned before fleeing enraged swarms of angry stinging insects.

So a small bit of organic free-range [insert usual Paleo buzzwords here] honey from time to time? Perfectly Paleo. Regular everyday use of quantities of typical storebought stuff, not so much.

The usual caveats about my falling solidly into the re-enactment camp apply.

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803 · October 14, 2010 at 6:31 PM

Having just tried (with apparent success) some small doses of honey to help tamp down a case of GERD, I kind of feel like defending the stuff.

Chris Masterjohn says his next blog post will concern honey and had this to say about it recently:

"I haven't read these studies in full yet, but this one found that HFCS is worse than sucrose, despite similar fructose content:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20219526

This one showed that honey providing the same amount of glucose and fructose as a purified diet using glucose and fructose purchased from Sigma had effects mostly similar to the starch control, whereas the refined glucose/fructose diet increased oxidative stress and caused increases in triglycerides, characteristic of "fructose":

http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/132/11/3379

This suggests that honey does not have the harmful effects of refined fructose. The first study indicates there might be something specifically harmful about HFCS, but sucrose itself is harmful. Thus, the goodness of honey is probably largely due to its minor protective constitutents and in small part due to the possibly harmful nature of chemically isolated fructose (usually produced by isomerization from glucose).

I would not go consuming most of my calories as honey without further research, but I would consider this grounds for using honey as a sweetener in place of refined sweeteners.

[...]

Soon, probably tomorrow, I will be posting about how HFCS is worse than sugar and how honey is just fine."

source: comments section of http://blog.cholesterol-and-health.com/2010/10/sugar-bitter-truth-must-see-lecture-by.html

UPDATE: Masterjohn's post on honey is now up (cholesterol-and-health.com/cholesterol-blog.html) and he warns against "pulling a paleo" by lumping honey in with the dangers of purified fructose.

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803 · October 19, 2010 at 5:25 PM

Masterjohn's post on honey is now up (http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/cholesterol-blog.html) and he warns against "pulling a paleo" by lumping honey in with the dangers of purified fructose.

88905cfc5bb098ad3830671a1af373a8
803 · October 15, 2010 at 6:27 AM

I've been having a flare-up of 'silent' GERD all week (with non-burning reflux but itchy throat, sneezing and congestion) and so I was reading up on possible remedies. I came across a recommendation to take black strap molasses or raw honey, and I had access to the latter (honey that came from a bee farmer but drinkable, not thick like I expected so not sure if he strained it or processed it in any way). It eased the symptoms but I've had to take it a few times since because it hasn't knocked it out completely. Also added crushed red pepper and fermented meat to my diet, which may have helped.

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c
2581 · October 14, 2010 at 11:59 PM

Congrats on getting better! Was the honey raw?

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c
2581 · October 14, 2010 at 11:59 PM

Congrats on getting better? Did you eat raw honey?

E7a462d6e99fec7e8f0ddda11b34a770
1638 · October 14, 2010 at 9:11 PM

Patrick, I'm interested in the success you mentioned with honey and GERD. What made you try that in the first place?

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40 · March 12, 2012 at 5:49 PM

From what I've read on the internet, honey has been around for 40 million years--long before homo sapiens sapiens. There are cave paintings of man cultivating honey dating back 8,000 years, so I don't agree with the comment that it was never a staple of man's diet. Just look at nature. Bears LOVE honey (not just the bees and bee larvae). Although they have thick coats, they are vulnerable to getting stung on their lips, near their eyes, and on the tips of the ears; nevertheless, they keep at it because it's worth their while.

Bees have been around for millions of years before man demolished their habitat, so from what I can see, HONEY HAS VERY LIKELY BEEN A STAPLE OF MAN'S DIET FROM THE BEGINNING. That said, old bears with access to lots of honey have been known to develop tooth decay, but I don't know too many diabetic bears or bears that develop obesity and/or premature heart disease.

I'd say the rest of the crap we're doing to ourselves and our environment is what's killing us. Remove the toxins and other anti-nutrients, restore the proper ones, and honey shouldn't be a problem as a staple in our diet as long as it's consumed in moderation. In fact, I believe it is an underrated/valued food source for many of us. I won't sweeten anything with table sugar, organic or otherwise. I only use honey and occasionally maple syrup; just like a caveman should!

Ps...no, I do not sell honey in any way, shape or form, but I do think it should be a part of the paleo diet!!!

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40 · June 01, 2011 at 1:17 PM

Honey is marvelously healthy with loads of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. But... in the end, it consists primarily of sugar (a bunch of different sugars), so you have to eat it in moderation.

So, eat it in moderation. It is also great for wound dressing (toss out that neosporin), lingering coughs (toss out that DM), etc. Effects your liver? Nope. Maybe if you consumed many many many many gallons of it.

The sugars in honey are different. For example, High Fructose Corn Syrup on the surface may have a similar fructose:glucose profile as honey, but... HFCS is toxic to honey bees if heated. Not so with honey. It's different.

Bee pollen: It is the perfect food -- for honey bees. It's probably a decent additive for humans, but... there is no real science supporting anything beyond that.

From the beginning of time, honey, brood, and pollen were prized and eaten in great quantities, but sporadically. Not "paleo" if you are being pedantic, but... it was eaten way back when, and by some populations, fairly regularly.

-todd

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20 · June 29, 2012 at 10:14 AM

dann. shouldn't have eaten all those gallons of honey.

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18402 · June 01, 2011 at 1:55 PM

this is a great answer todd. welcome to PaleoHacks.

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1451 · March 06, 2010 at 2:38 AM

Fructose is much worse than glucose. Table sugar is 50% fructose/50% glucose. High fructose corn syrup is 45% - 55% fructose. Honey is about 70% fructose - one of the worst sweeteners.

In paleo times, honey was probably a very occasional treat, maybe a few times a year. It's supposed to be good to put on wounds and rashes, but I wouldn't eat it.

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2581 · June 23, 2010 at 4:07 AM

Why is honey being equated with high-fructose corn syrup? They are completely different things. HFCS is corn syrup, so it's a lot different than honey.

If you want extensive reading on why honey can be part of a healthy diet, read this.

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20 · June 29, 2012 at 10:20 AM

while we're on the subject, yes whole foods market does promote veganism. i worked there 2 years ago, and there was a job there for a health consultant of sorts. i forget what they called it exactly. i wanted the job, so i looked at the info about it online and talked to the guy who had it at the time. the info online had a list of books that the health person should read, including the china study and other anti animal product foods. i actually got into a debate with the guy who had the job at my store. he promotes animal product free diet and that is what he is supposed to do.

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78407 · March 18, 2012 at 7:12 PM

I still say anyone who claims that fructose has no metabolic function and is, in fact, a toxin needs to explain why we evolved the ability to digest it. If it were a toxin it would be more logical to not deliberately absorb it and allow it to flush out our rear. Instead we have the ability to digest it and our body even up-regulates it the more fructose we eat. I've yet to see a single study that shows fruit or honey are at all equivalent to HFCS.

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22913 · October 19, 2010 at 1:10 PM

Worlds healthiest thinks saturated fat is bad and omega 6 is good and therefore wholly unreliable in my book

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2581 · October 16, 2010 at 2:28 PM

The site in question is World's Healthiest Foods. I don't think it is affiliated with Whole Foods.

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60 · October 16, 2010 at 2:05 PM

They have a thriving meat section because they're capitalists. For them $$$ is always > They do however promote a vegetarian diet, there was a controversy a while back about their 'healthy choice' signs (or something like that?). They were stuck all over the tofu, whole grains, veggies (including legummes) but nothing in the meat dept was tagged. Check this out: http://www.carbwire.com/2010/09/24/whole-foods-creates-new-healthy-eating-specialist-position-to-promote-the-vegetarian-agenda or this http://www.westonaprice.org/press/1829-whole-foods-promotes-militant-vegetarian-agenda.html

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30 · June 25, 2010 at 6:53 PM

whole foods doesnt neccesarily promote a vegetarian diet, they have a thriving meat section

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670 · June 23, 2010 at 11:53 AM

The point many people are emphasizing is that fructose is toxic regardless of where it comes from. As Whole Foods promotes a vegetarian diet, I would not look to them for nutritional advice.

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19220 · October 16, 2010 at 5:42 PM

Some people will go to a lot of trouble to get their hands on some honey...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRngOJc62oY

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60 · October 16, 2010 at 1:58 PM

Honey is a no go for me and I won't expand on everyone's explination of why to avoid it however honey does have one redeeming factor ... small daily doeses (1tsp) of raw, unfiltered, organic, locally grown honey can really help with allergies. I can vouch for both myself and my wife on this. It's not an overnight thing but it will help build up the immune system by introducing small amounts of the local irritants that the body can handle.

That being said do I take it? No. I did for a while but my allergies have never been that bad and when I changed my diet they got even better.

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50 · March 31, 2010 at 2:31 PM

This is another honey related question, not an answer. Does anyone know about 'Manuka' honey? Apparently manuka honey with a high UMF is very good for when you are sick. It originates in New Zealand. Any thoughts?

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10768 · October 16, 2010 at 3:16 PM

Manuka has some good reports about it being STRONGLY antibacterial and anti-viral. Let me know if you want some scientific refs added here.

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7063 · March 31, 2010 at 2:44 PM

I would put that up as a separate question and see what answers you get, DXB!

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1005 · September 27, 2013 at 10:13 PM

I imagine Grok probably didn't eat all that much honey. It was like a paleolithic Cinnabon. I have no idea of knowing, but maybe a 3-4 times a year tops. Although honey is accepted as paleo, only use the highest quality honey you can find (raw local wild honey is widely accepted as best), only now and then. As for taking it medicinally, a teaspoon-tablespoon should be enough (depending on what you're treating. For cuts and burns and beauty treatments applied topically, there's no worries, but if you're trying to treat your allergies, a teaspoon of raw local wild honey (which helps expose you and immunize you to local pollens) shouldn't be bad as long as you're exercising and avoiding other carbohydrates, and if you're treating cold symptoms with honey, don't sweat it, since hopefully you shouldn't be getting sick too much on paleo ;) but for cooking and baked goods, probably best as an occasional treat.

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0 · September 26, 2013 at 4:53 PM

I know this thread is old.. but I wanted to add a link about

http://www.adventureclassroom.org/cultures/bushmen.htm

"During the wet season when animals are not always available, the diet is composed mostly of honey, available fruit and tubers, and occasionally meat. Availability of meat increases in the dry season, when game is concentrated around water sources..."

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1015 · March 05, 2010 at 5:30 PM

I am sure it was a risk vs reward proposition. Is it worth the stings to get the honey? The advantage of man is that he could have worked in a team
to devise a clever way to get the honey vs. a bear that would just absorb all the stings to get to the sweet treat.

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10497 · March 06, 2010 at 7:05 AM

@jm054 --- modern hunter-gatherers have an interesting, symbiotic relationship with an animal called a honey-bird. To wit, seeks them out and it leads to a hive, where the bees are then smoked out of. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeyguide http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3t_vXWgoWdc

33b6c516904a967ef8ecb30f1dbd8cf2
7063 · March 05, 2010 at 6:06 PM

So honey was just too much of a risk to seek out or were the bee stings utilized too? Apparently bee-venom therapy is a respected treatment even today, wacky yes, but it seems to have its merits - http://www.beevenom.com/beevenomtherapy.htm

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78407 · February 22, 2011 at 7:32 AM

Your article was good, ah, I love it. http://www.2011pandoracharms.com/ Hope to have more words for us to read! I wish you all the best! !

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