In January when I wrote my blog 5 Foods That Last Practically Forever, I ran across some interesting material on the topic of honey, especially raw honey vs. processed honey. I included some of the basics facts in my blog, but it appears readers would like to know more about this subject. So I’ve decided to address this in more detail.
First, my disclaimer: let me be honest and tell you that I’m far from being an expert on this subject. But I have done a fair amount of research, and I’m willing to share what I have learned and the resources I’ve used for my research.
Have you ever tasted raw honey—or seen it in the comb?
Like some of you, I was fortunate enough as a kid to taste raw honey straight from the comb. My father brought some home from a hunting trip and I remember how fascinated I was with this simple, pure food.
Most of us today simply pick up a bottle in the supermarket. But tests show that three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t really honey. What!?
According to the Food and Drug Administration, any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen, isn’t honey. However, the FDA doesn’t check honey sold here in the U.S. to see if it contains pollen.
So why is this a big deal?
“Food Safety News decided to test honey sold in various outlets after its earlier investigation found U.S. groceries flooded with Indian honey banned in Europe as unsafe because of contamination with antibiotics, heavy metal and a total lack of pollen which prevented tracking its origin.” (my emphasis)
So beyond the fact that pasteurization and filtering has removed all the beneficial properties of raw honey, we may also be getting a lot of unwanted elements we hadn’t counted on. Which brings us to the next topic…
What’s So Special About Raw Honey, Anyway?
In its purest form, raw honey hasn’t been filtered, pasteurized or heated in any way, retaining all the pollen, propolis and beeswax that the flowers and bees provided in its creation. It also contains naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and amino acids.
Raw honey isn’t clear, like the processed, filtered honey in the stores. It is cloudy and will crystalize over time. This doesn’t harm the quality of the honey in any way. And you can simply warm it a bit to bring it back to the original state.
Raw honey does not stimulate insulin secretion to the same degree as sugar, doesn’t ferment in the stomach, and helps predigest starchy foods like breads. You can read more in The Honey Revolution by Dr. Ron Fessenden, MD, MPH
Raw, unpasteurized honey has been used throughout history for a vast array of medical purposes, which are now beginning to be documented in modern medicine. In many countries, including Germany and France, doctors prescribe the use of honey as the first line of defense against burns and wounds. Research has confirmed honey’s ability to act as a broad-spectrum antibiotic, as well as its antiviral and antifungal properties.
From the American Apitherapy Society: “In a 1991 study, honey was compared with silver sulfadiazine, the standard treatment for burn patients, and the results were astounding. Only 8% of patients treated with honey developed infections, compared to 92% of those treated with silver sulfadiazine.”
Here is just a short list of the most popular ways people use honey for treatment:
- chronic indigestion, ulcers, constipation
- athlete’s foot, eczema, lip sores
- calm nerves and aid in sleep
- wounds from accidents, surgery, bed sores and burns
Add in the fact that properly stored raw honey lasts practically forever, and you get the big picture about why this is such an important food source.
So with all these benefits for raw honey, why are our grocery store shelves lined with ultra-filtered, pasteurized fake honey? Because they look nicer and stay looking nice—it all comes down to consumer appeal. Sad, isn’t it?
You can find raw honey in stores that specialize in organic, natural foods. The Apitherapy Raw Honey pictured was purchased at Seaside Market in Cardiff. And you can usually find local honey at your Farmers’ Markets. Read the label carefully to make sure it has not been heated or filtered.
From the Food Safety News study, you can see a list of the brands and stores carrying honey that do not contain pollen (have been ultra-filtered) and cannot be traced to its origin. They also go into more detail about their findings (some private studies have even found honey diluted with inexpensive high-fructose corn syrup – which isn’t on the label). It’s worth the read.
Here are some great articles for further reading about raw honey and its benefits:
What’s So Special About Raw Honey
Do you use raw honey? What experiences have you had?