Honey has been for millennia an important natural medicine. Since ancient times the Egyptians, Sumerians, and Babylonians had included honey in their diet as a therapeutic agent. And the ancient Greeks considered the honey a great food. Democritus, who lived to old age, attributed his longevity in honey, and many are the manuscripts of Hippocrates and Aristotle referred to the beneficial properties of honey in health and longevity. Also Pythagoras and his followers used honey as their main food, after finding that honey can eliminate fatigue. After intensive manual or mental work a little honey, sometimes accompanied with milk, refreshes the exhausted body, re-energizing it.
Dioscorides, a Greek physician who traveled as a surgeon with the troops of the Roman emperor Nero, who wrote the De Materia Medica around 77 AD and it was the first classical source of modern botanical terminology until the 15th century, reports that honey could be used as a remedy for gastric ulcer, but also to stop coughing. Also that gargling with honey reduces the swelling of the tonsils.
In ancient Sparta, known for its hard military training, the educators withdrew with teenagers soldiers for a month in mount Taygetos, where they exclusively fed with honey.
In Greek mythology honey has a prominent position. Zeus was raised with honey by the nymph Melissa in Dikteon Andron, the Olympian gods ate ambrosia (honey) and nectar (mead), the goddess Hera, who represents the eternal youth, offered honey to the gods not to grow old. Io, according to Homer, fed heroes with ambrosia, to keep them vigorous and Apollo, who did not experience breastfeeding from his mother Leto, Thetis nourished him with honey. In addition to their diet, the ancient Greeks and Romans used honey to make medicine for the treatment of infected wounds.
The honey held a special place in the life of the ancients. It was considered to be a natural and healthy product, an essential element of their diet.
Until almost the 16th century AD , honey was the only sweetener in the known world. The "discovery" and the dissemination of sugar, dramatically reduced the use of honey. The transfer of sugar was easier than that of honey and its production had a huge potential. The practice of beekeeping art narrowed greatly and until the discovery of paraffin, it was only used for candle production.
In recent years, the Western world rediscovered honey as a food and as a medicinal remedy. The progress of scientific research confirmed that honey has important therapeutic properties.
In Crete nowadays, it is used in a wedding sweet which is a fried dough with honey (xerotigano), while the bride and groom must eat a tablespoon of nuts and honey during the ceremony.