Here’s a great bit of information about raw honey that was written by Evita Ochel, a consciousness expansion teacher and natural health educator, and recently featured in a Swanson newsletter……
The Story of Raw Honey
It comes perhaps as no surprise that our human species has an innate sweet tooth. Although not everyone seeks out the delectable taste of sweet flavors, most of us do fall into this category with some very obvious eating habits.
Having an attraction for sweet flavors, and thus sugars, has been an evolutionary benefit for thousands of years but a huge disadvantage to our population over the past century. As sugar processing became more advanced, and sugar became a cheap commodity, it seemed that it was added to almost every processed food in one or more ways.
We saw chronic disease rates rise, and we know today that high sugar consumption is related to major problems like weight irregularities, mood disorders, diabetes, cancers, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and lowered immune function.
Thus, many in the natural health and nutrition community searched for other options – one of the most obvious being a reduction in the consumption of any and all processed sugars. The second option was of course to find better, more natural and beneficial sweeteners. This is where raw honey comes in, one of the natural organic foods that can double as a sweetener.
What Is Raw Honey?
Raw honey is honey (nectar from flowers) that is pure, unheated, unpasteurized and unprocessed. This is perhaps one of the most important characteristics and health benefits of the final product, as it preserves all the natural vitamins, enzymes, phytonutrients and other nutritional elements. True raw honey is quite different from processed, commercial honey for these main reasons.
Raw honey has been used by humans for at least 10,000 years, and has played a vital role in health, healing, religious and cultural traditions.
Characteristics of Raw Honey
When packaged, true raw honey is quite solid in its nature, as it crystallizes quite quickly. It is normally opaque, milky, and colors vary from white to light yellow. While clear and liquid honey is a sure sign of non-raw honey, opaque and crystallized, solid honey is not a sure sign that the honey is raw. Some liquid honey can crystallize and thus resemble a raw product, as well there is also creamed honey which looks like raw honey.
To be sure that your honey is raw it must say so on the label. Currently there is no widespread, uniform regulation or certification of raw honey, so words like “untreated” or “unpasteurized” can help. In the end, it may not be possible to tell if the product is actually 100% raw, so we have to put some trust in the manufacturer. To be sure, call the company supplying the product to learn how it was prepared or find a local beekeeper whose product you are familiar with and trust to be truly raw. It is ideal to seek out honey that also came from organic plant sources to maximize the organic foods benefits you can derive.
Depending on your source, it is normal for raw honey to contain particles of bee pollen, honeycomb bits and propolis. These in themselves have health benefits which make raw honey sought out for even more health reasons.
Natural Health Benefits of Raw Honey
First and foremost, being a sugar, raw honey most obviously offers a quick source of energy. While this came in very handy to early humans that used this food source, it is more of a drawback to us today, living in a culture of abundant calories.
The main health benefits for which we revere raw honey today come from the unique blend of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, phytonutrients and other health components that it possesses. The two key beneficial components of truly raw honey are bee pollen and propolis.
Bee pollen in Raw Honey
Bee pollen is a super nutritious compound, containing all the nutrients required by the human body. It is a source of proteins, vitamins, minerals, beneficial fatty acids, carotenoids and bioflavonoids which are antiviral, antibacterial and helpful to cardiovascular health.
Propolis in Raw Honey
Propolis also has antibacterial and antiviral qualities, as well as antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This, along with some of its other characteristics, makes honey highly sought after. The health benefits and uses—both internal and external—of propolis are too numerous to list here.
Some phytonutrients found both in raw honey and propolis have been shown to possess cancer-preventing and anti-tumor properties. Other benefits of raw honey include boosting the immune system, being a cough suppressant, decreasing allergies to pollen, aiding blood sugar regulation, aiding cholesterol regulation, healing ulcers, and treating various bacterial infections.
Raw honey does not ferment in the stomach and can actually be used in aiding stomach upset and nausea. Unlike most sugars, raw honey is not known to aggravate things like indigestion or acid reflux. It has also been linked to helping with Candida problems.
Additionally, raw honey is alkaline forming unlike processed honey which is acid forming. For best natural health, our daily food supply should be higher in alkaline forming foods, rather than acid forming foods.
Drawbacks to Raw Honey
It would truly be a sweet thing if there were no disadvantages to purchasing and consuming raw honey, however there are a few that every health- and planet-conscious individual should be aware of:
- Extra Calories – Honey is a fast way to add calories to a meal. 1 tablespoon on average yields 60 calories. Thus, if you are interested in losing weight, or not gaining excess pounds, you have to be careful how much honey you use, and how often. Normally, due to honey’s intensely sweet flavor, it is hard to consume a lot of it at once.
- High Sugar Content – Honey is about 40% fructose and 30% glucose, with the remaining carbohydrates including maltose, sucrose, and other complex carbohydrates. Even though raw honey has been studied in actually aiding insulin regulation, regular or high consumption of any sugar can cause various imbalances.
- Bacterial Contamination – Due to the fact that honey is very low in water content and very high in sugar content, this makes it undesirable for microbial growth. However, in rare cases endospores of Clostridium botulinum (the bacteria that can cause botulism) have been found. This is normally never a problem for an adult digestive system, but the reason why honey should not be given to infants.
- Animal Welfare – Depending on how the honey bees are housed and maintained, beekeeping can become a controversial animal welfare issue. Some beekeepers have been known to burn or starve the colonies at the end of the season to avoid costs of maintenance out of season. Hence, buying honey from local beekeepers whom you know or companies who practice humane treatment is key when purchasing raw honey.
- Disappearing Bees – Scientific reports show that bee numbers are on a sharp decline and this is naturally troublesome for our future food forecasts. We must remember that bees are responsible for the pollination of most of our plant food crops and without them, we face serious problems. Thus lowering a demand for honey has been proposed as a way to let bees thrive in their own natural habitat. Various chemicals, climate change and electromagnetic radiation are also being investigated in the issue of declining bee numbers.
Is it Safe to Eat Raw Honey?
In the end, raw honey can be both beneficial and damaging to our health and environment. Hence, it all depends on its source and how it is used.
I do not believe in the “everything in moderation” paradigm, so I will not tell you to enjoy it in moderation, but rather to listen to your body and its needs. If you feel that raw honey is something that can benefit your health as a natural health option, search for the right variety to cause minimal environmental damage and get maximum organic foods benefits.
If on the other hand, you can pass on this sweet substance, don’t forget that the beneficial compounds like bee pollen and propolis are available as all natural health supplements as well. Just search your favorite natural health store (like swansonvitamins.com) to find raw honey or the equivalent health supplements online.
PERSONAL NOTE: If you are really serious about using honey medicinally, then you may want to check into Manuka Honey. It’s expensive, especially if it has a high UMF factor, but a little goes a long way and it has a good track record for healing minor wounds, ulcers, infections, sore throats and more. Here’s a little information about this special type of honey from manukahoney.com…
The New Zealand Honey Discovery
- For centuries honey has been recognised as having beneficial health-giving qualities due largely to an enzyme activity.
- Scientific research at New Zealand’s University of Waikato discovered that some strains of New Zealand manuka honey contains an extraordinary,naturally present, very stable and more powerful unique antibacterial activity not found in any other variety of honey.
- This unique antibacterial activity is a non-peroxide activity and comes from the nectar of the manuka flower – it is quite distinct from the enzyme/peroxide activity that is common to most honeys.
- This special non-peroxide antibacterial activity sets Manuka Honey apart as one of nature’s true wonderfoods.
- But this special unique non-peroxide activity is not in all manuka honey.
More about The New Zealand Honey Discovery
What is Manuka Honey?
- Manuka honey comes from the crisp white flowers of the manuka bush, a native bush which grows in remote unspoilt areas of New Zealand.
- The manuka honey from only a few of these areas contains the special unique non-peroxide antibacterial activity
Helping consumers identify Manuka Honey that has the special unique activity
- The special unique non-peroxide antibacterial activity is not in all manuka honey. Depending on the season and source honeys can vary in grade and antibacterial strength.
- Until recently consumers had no way of knowing the level of quality or the authenticity of the Manuka Honey they were buying. So it has been important to establish a trusted quality standard.
- The UMF Honey Association has achieved this by introducing the UMF quality trademark and rating system.
More About UMF – A Quality Trademark Protecting Your Rights as a Consumer
What is UMF?
UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor.
UMF is a quality trademark identifying natural unadulterated manuka honey that has the special and unique non-peroxide activity.
Testing for Authenticity – Protecting Your Rights as a Consumer
- Not all manuka honey has the unique activity and among those that do the strength varies.
- To determine if the special antibacterial activity is present in manuka honey each batch must be tested (after packing) in specifically approved laboratories using stringent criteria laid down by the UMF Honey Association.
- To test for the unique activity the UMF Honey Association utilises a range of internationally recognised biological and chemical methods in approved laboratories both in New Zealand and internationally.
- As part of the testing process every batch of honey must also go through a series of additional checks and supporting programmes to ensure the ultimate in authenticity, quality and safety.
- The quality trademark UMF can be used only by licensed users who must be a New Zealand company and meet set criteria.
- All UMF licence holders are independently audited to meet stringent standards in terms of production, manufacturing, sampling and handling.
- The UMF designation and rating is a highly sought-after and well-respected quality trademark.
More on manuka honey:
Honey is now, unfortunately, one of those food/health items that you really need to be careful when buying because so much of what is offered these days is NOT real honey and doesn’t have all the health benefits mentioned above. Read this article to see what I mean:
Fortunately, you can get a wide range of quality honeys, including Manuka Honey, at discount prices from Vitacost.com, one of my favorite on-line places. If you shop at Vitacost, sign up for a free account at eBates.com beforehand, if you don’t already have one. That way you can use the eBates portal to shop at Vitacost and earn cash back on your purchases. Plus, if you are new to Vitacost and spend a certain amount (I believe it’s $25), you will get a $10 coupon to use; eBates also gives a gift card or some other “prize” when you place your first order of $25 or more. How does it get any better than that?!
iHerb.com is another good discount place to shop (use code CJG192 if you are a new customer and spend more than $40 and you will get $10 off and free shipping, plus can choose something from their free samples and take advantage of their wonderful trial offer section).
And see this Self-help Health post on using honey to supercharge your immune system.
p.s. Be sure to subscribe to Self-help Health so you don’t miss any future posts, and tell your friends to do the same. Also check out my website’s To Your Health page and Evolution Made Easier blog for more helpful health tips, tools and information.
Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.