People have been eating honey for hundreds of years. Before food was processed beyond recognition, the only way to consume honey was as raw honey. Raw honey is basically just honey straight from the hive.
We are used to seeing and buying clear, processed honey. It is golden to amber in color and is slightly opaque. Putting honey on tea or coffee or using honey as a natural sweetener in almost anything is fairly common.
But what most of us use, the honey nearly all of us consume is filtered and processed. We are not used to seeing and consuming raw honey. The interest in natural foods and foods that are not processed has led people back to raw honey.
Raw honey contains all of nature's nutrients. It retains all of the bee pollen and other things that make raw honey more than just a sweet addition to teas and foods. Raw honey is more than just a sweetener. The tradition of using raw honey as medicine is as old as the practice of simply eating raw honey.
What exactly is raw honey? What are the benefits of using raw honey versus regular honey? What kinds of these do you need to know about raw honey? This article will give you all the information you need to begin working raw honey into your diet and into your lifestyle.
What Is Raw Honey?
Raw honey is simply honey as it exists when taken straight from the beehive. It is made by extracting honey directly from honeycomb. By pouring it through a mesh of nylon cloth the honey can be rid of things like dead bees and bits of honeycomb, but beyond this, there is little processing involved.
Regular honey, by contrast, is filtered extensively and pasteurized before it is bottled. Pasteurization destroys the natural yeasts found in raw honey. This makes the honey smoother and clearer and extends the shelf life of regular honey.
Filtration also removes impurities and debris. This makes the honey appear clearer and more visually appealing to modern consumers. Some commercial honey processors put honey through additional procedures like ultrafiltration. This process removes all impurities, but it also removes pollen, enzymes, and antioxidants—essentially, all the ingredients in honey that provide the benefits of consuming honey.
Some producers add sugar and other sweeteners to reduce the cost of production.
Raw honey, beyond the initial filtration, remains in the same state it was in while in the hive. Raw honey is thick and cloudy, and for this reason, appears unfamiliar to modern consumers. But raw honey retains all the pollen, enzymes, antioxidants, and yeast that makes honey an incredibly healthy food and a potential medicine.
Raw honey, by contrast, offers numerous healthy properties. Here is an introductory list:
- Heals wounds
- Dietary antioxidants
One of the most important features of raw honey is bee pollen bee propolis. The extensive processing of regular honey removes nearly all bee pollen and bee propolis. These are the sticky substances bees use to hold their hives together. Bee pollen and bee propolis are also major sources of anti-inflammatory agents, antioxidants, and antibacterial materials.
Raw Honey Benefits
Raw honey is not just-food. It is one of the most powerful natural medicines known. People have been using raw honey as a medicine for as long as they have been using it as a sweetener. It seems the old wisdom about raw honey is finding proof in modern science.
Some of the benefits of raw honey include:
Researchers have been testing the antioxidant properties of raw honey for some time now. Natural, raw honey contains large quantities of compounds known to be antioxidants. Some of these chemicals include phytochemicals, flavonoids, and ascorbic acid. These chemicals are already known to be antioxidants.
Antioxidants reduce what is called oxidative stress in the body by binding with free radicals that can cause serious damage to cells. The damage from free radicals is known to cause cancer. By giving your body a rich source of antioxidants, you make it possible to clean the free radicals that would otherwise lead to serious health problems like cancer and other chronic diseases.
Since pasteurization, in particular, destroys or eliminates the natural antioxidants found in raw honey, we lose one of the primary benefits of consuming honey. It is not fully known exactly how pasteurization destroys the antioxidants in raw honey, but scientists believe heating foods generally destroys some of the health benefits found in most raw foods.
Raw honey contains numerous necessary nutrients, many of which are filtered out or destroyed in the processes of making regular honey. The exact amount of these nutrients will vary in raw honey. As with any natural food, nutrient levels depend on things like the environment, seasonal effects, and many other variables.
The nutrient levels in raw honey depend upon the exact composition of the honey as it is produced from nectar collected by the bees in the surrounding area. Nevertheless, raw honey is always an excellent source of many nutrients and vitamins.
One tablespoon of raw honey, or 21 grams, contains 64 calories, of which 16 are derived from sugar. In addition, natural raw honey contains significant levels of the following vital nutrients:
- Pantothenic acid
Even with these nutrients, raw honey does contain a high sugar content. However, the natural fructose in raw honey is much healthier than processed sugar. Some experts believe raw honey may actually protect against developing diabetes. Raw honey also helps lower cholesterol levels.
Raw honey is a natural antibacterial and antimicrobial agent. Raw honey contains hydrogen peroxide and has a low pH level. You know hydrogen peroxide as the liquid you can use to treat wounds to prevent infection. Combined with the low pH levels, raw honey works to kill harmful bacteria and some fungi. The unique chemical composition of raw honey makes it impossible for bacteria and yeast to grow. (Raw honey never spoils).
Studies involving manuka honey, which is a specific type of raw honey, can destroy certain types of bacteria. These include some common bacteria that cause infections:
It can cause food poisoning and infections in wounds.
The cause of the common “staph” infection, some of which can be deadly.
This causes stomach ulcers and chronic gastritis.
Rather than having recourse to broad-spectrum antibiotics for some of these common bacterial infections, it is possible to treat them with natural raw honey.
Raw honey works as a natural dressing for wounds that helps things heal faster. Research shows that the unique combination of antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties of raw honey helps wounds heal faster without becoming susceptible to infections. There is also evidence to suggest that ray honey also works as an antiviral agent.
Since raw honey has a low pH and is therefore acidic, it seems to release oxygen to wounds and this speeds the healing process.
Simply apply raw honey directly to minor cuts and burns and wrap with gauze or a bandage. You can even buy raw honey wound care in some drug stores.
Rather than buying over-the-counter cough medicines, any of which are not safe for children, try using raw honey. Several studies have shown that raw honey is just as effective in relieving cough as over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines. One study showed that a mixture of some type of milk (you are free to use whatever vegan milk you prefer) and one-part honey relieving coughs in children just as well as OTC medicine.
Characteristics of Raw Honey
- Raw Honey has a low moisture content
- Raw Honey has less than 18.6% moisture. When the water level is higher than 18.6%, honey will ferment. In the beehive, the nectar collected is higher in moisture than honey. Bees add enzymes from their body to the nectar, cure it and evaporate water out of it to make it into honey.
- Raw Honey is hygroscopic. It will absorb moisture from its surroundings. This can be problematic in humid climates, as honey may absorb enough moisture from the air to ferment. In dry climates, this is rarely a problem. Historically, honey has been used on wounds because of its ability to absorb moisture and its antimicrobial properties.
- Raw Honey is acidic. Honey has a pH of around 4. (Generally in a range of 3.4 to 6.1). PH 4 means that it is about 1,000 times more acidic than plain, neutral water.
- Raw Honey lasts. Raw Honey can be stored indefinitely, providing it stored in a dry, pest-free container.
How Safe is to Eat Raw Honey?
Raw honey is perfectly safe. The inclusion of all the original components of honey makes raw honey a healthy addition to your diet.
However, some raw honey may contain spores for bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. This is the bacteria that causes botulism. Botulism is extremely rare in adults, and raw honey containing these spores is safe for adults to eat. Young children, and especially babies, are potentially sensitive to this bacterium. It is not considered safe to feed infants and babies raw honey.
Nevertheless, if you experience nausea or diarrhea from consuming raw honey, you may want to avoid it.
Regular Honey Vs. Raw Honey
Raw honey is cloudy since it contains all of the natural components of honey that comes straight from a beehive.
Raw honey retains all the nutrients honey originally contains.
Raw honey has numerous health benefits.
Regular honey is clear and generally an amber or gold color.
All-natural components are filtered primarily for the sake of appearance.
Regular honey loses nearly all the natural nutrients.
Regular honey is pasteurized which further diminishes the health benefits.
Regular honey may contain water and added sugar.
Things to Keep in Mind Regarding Raw Honey
When you are choosing the healthiest honey, always choose raw honey. Raw honey is not pasteurized or run through complex filtration procedures that remove all of the healthy components of honey.
You may find what is called minimally processed honey. While these are not bad, they may have reduced benefits, and there is no standard by which the healthful aspects of honey are measured. Minimally processed honey may be more processed than you can know.
Real raw honey will clearly state that it is raw honey on the label. If possible, buy raw honey from a local beekeeper (raw honey is a great place to start buying locally if you are able).
Raw Honey Facts
- Raw honey is simply honey as it exists as it comes straight from the beehive.
- Raw honey is not filtered or pasteurized.
- Raw honey is antibacterial, heals wounds, contains dietary antioxidants, and has anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Raw honey is always an excellent source of many nutrients and vitamins.
Wrapping things up
There is nothing particularly new or novel about consuming honey. Many of us have been using honey as a sweetener in coffee or tea for years and putting a little honey on many foods is as common as butter. But the rise of raw honey changes the way we view honey.
Raw honey is more than just a sweet addition to food. Raw honey is natural medicine.
Raw honey contains large amounts of vital nutrients. It is a great source of nutrition.
What is more, raw honey has serious health benefits. Raw honey can be sued to treat wounds and to fight infections. Raw honey is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. And raw honey contains powerful antioxidants which can help prevent cancer.
Keep in mind that raw honey looks different than regular honey. Since raw honey is not pasteurized or processed through filtration systems, it retains the cloudy appearance honey has when it is first harvested from a beehive. The cloudy appearance is the presence of the natural bee pollen and beehive materials, and these things carry the healthful components we need.
Pay attention to product labels. Real raw honey will say this on the label. Minimally processed honey and organic honey are not the same things as raw honey.
One of the best ways to ensure you are getting quality raw honey is to get your honey from a local producer. Your local beekeeper is the best place to find real, healthy, raw honey.