By: Tahani al-Sabri
Sidir Honey is said to be the single most expensive honey in the world. It comes from the Hadramaut Mountains in the southwestern Arabian Peninsula, where it is harvested only twice per year. The honey is manufactured by bees, who eat only the pollen of the Sidir tree.
The Sidir tree is considered by many to be a holy tree, and it is one of the most resilient and ancient tree species in the area. Authentic Sidir honey is very rare: it can only be harvested once in the summer and once in the winter.
As they have been doing for the last 7000 years, Yemeni farmers venture up into the mountainous regions where the Sidir tree grows to collect their prized honey from the local bee colonies. Sidir honey is reputed to have many medicinal benefits and has an unusually high level of antioxidants, not to mention a rich, unforgettable taste. Fortunately for those who do not live in the mountains of Hadramaut, the honey can be purchased online for $1000 per kilogram.
The Sidir tree goes by many names. The plant’s botanical name is Ziziphus spina-christi, but more colloquially it is also known as the Lote tree, Christ’s Thorn, Jujube or the Nabkh tree. It is an ancient tree: the jujube fruit was the first thing the prophet Adam (pbuh) consumed when he first desceded to earth. According to ancient texts, the tree was jused during the time of King Suleiman (pbuh) and the pharaohs in the construction of their palaces and temples.
This highly resilient tree is also sacred, as it is mentioned four times in the Holy Qur’an. In Sura Saba, it is mentioned as a tree of this earth, while in other Suras it is described as a tree of paradise (Sidrat al-Muntaha). In the Qu’ran, even Allah mentioned this tree, to emphasize its beauty, strength and grandeur (Saba 15,16; Waqia 27-33; Najm 7-18).
The Sidir tree is sturdy and deep-rooted, which explains how it managed to withstand the devastating floods of Eram at Ma’arib. Only two other trees accomplished this: the Tamarisk and the Mustard Tree (Saba 15,16).
All parts of this tree have medicinal values. Its leaves are used as an herbal shampoo to treat dandruff and head lice, while it is also said to have the ameliorative effects on swollen eyes, abscesses, furuncles and even obesity. Mixed with warm water, the leaves can be used to clean the body: the leaves themselves possess a disinfectant, and the oil from the resin is a moderate deodorant. Its wood ash can be used in the treatment of snakebites, and its fruits have a very high amount of energy. Its seeds are rich in protein; its leaves rich in calcium, iron and magnesium. The root, stem, and bark are also used in various medicinal preparations. Other known medicinal uses include as a stomachic, an appetizer, an astringent and also as a cough medicine.
Not many are aware that honey exists in a number of varieties. In truth, different types of honey differ in their composition, nutritional value, and therapeutic properties.
Research carried out on different types of honey has confirmed that floral source, climate during harvesting and soil composition are all key factors in determining not only a honey’s flavor, color and aroma, but also its quality and effectiveness for medicinal or health-promoting purposes.
Another important factor affecting a honey’s curative qualities is purity. Only crude, unprocessed honey has been shown to be effective as a medicinal tool.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Yemeni’s Sidir honey is a hundred times more expensive than other kinds of honey on the global market because of differences in their medicinal and nutritive benefits. Here are some of the extraordinary qualities of Sidir Honey:
HIGHLY POTENT is the first one. Yemen’s beekeepers are very strict in ensuring the honey’s purity and potency, and they would rather allow their bees to die than to feed them any sugary syrup. Typically, bees of a certain hive must make 37,000 trips just to make half a kilo of honey, but bees fed solely on the nectar of the Sidir flower die after making only about 3 trips! The weaker bees cannot withstand the potency of the nectar of this remarkable tree.
ORGANIC – Sidir trees are grown wild and uncultivated in the desert areas of Yemen.
RAW & PURE – in Yemen, beekeeping has always been a very traditional practice. No chemicals or drugs are allowed (in modern agriculture, chemicals and antibiotics are widely used to control mites and other bee diseases in the hives). No machinery is used in honey collection, either. All collection is done using only the beekeeper’s hands, a little smoke from dried camel skins, and knives. The honey is then poured into containers unheated and raw, thus preserving its vital live enzymatic constituents.
A NATURAL APHRODISIAC – mixed with carrot seeds, Sidir honey becomes an aphrodisiac. Belnding the honey with certain combinations of nuts, ginseng and herbs supposedly makes a compote stronger than Viagra, with no side effects.
MEDICINAL – every drop of Sidir honey holds the spark of life. Our forefathers understood honey’s remarkable healing gift and used it successfully in curing most diseases. Sidir honey has been reported to be good for liver problems, stomach ulcers, respiratory infections, diseases resulting from malnutrition, digestive problems, constipation, eye diseases, infected wounds and burns, surgical wounds, and speedy speedy recovery after childbirth. Sidir honey can also be used against epilepsy, in strengthening the immune systems, and promoting general health and vitality.
ANTIOXIDANT – Some honeys are found to have as much as 75-150 mg ascorbic acid per 100g while others carry less than 5mg per 100mg. Antioxidants are important in counteracting the damage caused by the body by free radicals which play a role in the aging process and in triggering diseases such as arterial disease and cancer. Research has found that darker honeys have higher antioxidant properties.
ANTIBACTERIAL – medical science is rediscovering the effectiveness of honey in the use of alternative therapies in areas where the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria spreads. Honeys may differ in the potency of their antibacterial activity, thus affecting their healing abilities. Some honeys are no more antibacterial than sugar, while others can be diluted more than 100-fold and still halt the growth of bacteria.
The honey that is harvested during winter is best, followed by spring, autumn then summer.
The Sidir honey of Yemen tastes delicious, different from those of other regions because the soil of Yemen is richer and this influences the flavor. Indeed, the taste of Sidir honey is considered to be a luxury, rich and unforgettable. People who have tried Sidir honey are said to be “spoiled” by the experience.
As a raw and unadulterated honey, Sidir has amazing flavors and an unparalleled nutritional value. This marks it yet another treasure of Yemen’s rich ecosystem.