Products You Should Know About: Raw Honey vs Processed Honey

Organic Raw HoneyIn 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!?

Store Brand Honey BearAccording 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?

Jar of Raw HoneyIn 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

American Apitherapy Society

21 Science-backed Health Benefits of Honey

Do you use raw honey? What experiences have you had?

 

12 Comments

  1. RUTH SHEPLER

    Fascinating. thanks

    Reply
    • indy

      Glad you found it interesting, Ruth.

      Reply
  2. Leslie Johansen Nack

    Again, Indy, such good information. Thanks for doing the research. I “thought” I got raw honey from Frazier Farms because it was from a bee farm in Vista but it was clear and even though it was in a plastic container that looks more homemade than store bought, it said in small letters “partially heated” or something like that. We’ve finished it and I’ve recycled the container so I can’t look at it. So I will go to the Oceanside Farmer’s Market Thursday morning and try to find my cloudy honey because all those benefits make it worth the hunt! Thanks so much for keeping us healthy! Leslie

    Reply
    • indy

      Thanks Leslie! Doing research on this topic was an education for me as well. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned. The partially heated honey might be okay if it hasn’t been pasteurized, but if it’s clear then it’s probably been filtered, which is what removes many of the beneficial properties. Many companies filter and heat the honey to make it easier to get the product into a bottle. Look for wide-mouthed jars of honey. That might narrow the search. It’s a jungle out there when it comes to finding healthy, organic, non-gmo foods these days, isn’t it?

      Reply
  3. Matt

    Hi Indy!

    I love your blog – informative and fun, it’s so nicely designed too.

    Honey is indeed a miracle cure. As someone who likes to stay out of the doctor’s office and has a wife that loves to take in stray cats, I can tell you honey has saved my posterior a few times.

    One time, a cat clawed up both of my arms as we were trying to remove ticks from her (she came to us in bad shape). Anyway, I was cut to ribbons. My wife applied local raw honey to my wounds and within the week I was healed. I don’t even have scars.

    Thanks for sharing this great info.

    Reply
    • indy

      Thanks for reading my blog and for the kind words, Matt — it’s much appreciated! And thanks for sharing how you’ve used raw honey and the results. That’s great to hear. Nature gives us so many ways to heal our bodies, if we just listen. :0)

      Reply
  4. Sharon

    Great info, Indy. I’m so impressed with your research and love your easy to understand, fun writing style. 🙂

    Reply
    • indy

      Thank you, Sharon! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I love to learn new things, so blogging is a great excuse to do research! :0)

      Reply
  5. Marilynne

    We eat a lot of honey. I put it on my babies cereal. (I’d had it on mine.) I am distressed to hear that filtered and pasteurized honey isn’t as healthy. Sigh.

    Reply
    • indy

      I understand your distress Marilynne. I had to throw out some bottles of processed honey once I educated myself on this topic. Who knew???

      Reply
  6. Maureen kennedy

    “Raw honey does not stimulate insulin secretion to the same degree as sugar.” Citation, please?

    Reply
    • indy

      Hi Maureen – so great to hear from you! And I’m glad you asked for the citation…I will add it to my article for future readers as well. You can read about the benefits of raw honey (vs processed honey or sugar) in the following article: http://www.livinghoney.biz/the-honey-revolution.html
      And of course I would still recommend using honey with the same moderation as one would sugar. It does contain carbohydrates and calories. My article is about understanding the additional benefits raw honey offers over the more processed foods. Thank you for your comment ~

      Reply

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