Raw Honey: Background and origins.
Human beings for whatever evolutionary reasons have developed a fondness for sweets. It is far too common that many of us today search for ways to satisfy this craving while staying within the boundaries of good healthy eating habits, something we all can see in the vast number of dietary products and services available to us just for addressing the desire for sweet things.
Over the past two centuries we have satisfied this craving for sweets with the ever-growing use of refined sugars. As sugar became a cheap and available sweetener, its use spread to almost all processed foods in multiple ways. We also saw corresponding increase in chronic disease rates, weight irregularities, and mood disorders. Excessive sugar intake has also been linked to diabetes, cancers, heart disease and lowered immune function. If you are the slightest bit concerned about your health, it would be natural to seek other sweetening options. The primary way to do this would be to reduce if not eliminate the consumption of refined sugars. An additional step would be to choose more natural, healthy and nutritious sweeteners. There is nothing like raw honey in helping to accomplish this.
Raw Honey: What is it?
“Raw Honey” is honey as it exists (created from flower nectar) in the beehive extracted without, settling, or straining; and that has not been heated during production or storage, nor pasteurized. This might be the most important characteristic of raw honey since it prevents the eliminations of the natural vitamins, enzymes, and other nutritional elements. “Real” raw honey is quite different from commercially processed honey for these main reasons. Raw honey’s history with human beings dates back 10,000 years or more. It has been known to have been effectively used in health, healing, and in multiple religious and cultural traditions.
Raw Honey: Features and Characteristics
Raw honey is found in both liquid and solid (creamed) form. If you buy liquid raw honey, it may crystallize or solidify over time. It is sometimes opaque or milky but is also sometimes clear as well. The color will vary from various shades of yellow to brown or even white. These features will result from the type of flowers from which the bees retrieved the nectar for the honey. A buyer should note that it is not possible to tell whether a honey is raw based on color, taste or form (liquid or solid) alone and while some honey experts believe that they can detect pure, raw honey by taste alone, this will not be true for most consumers.
Honey that is raw must say so on the label. Unfortunately there is no uniform regulation or standard for honey. To be sure you must try to verify its raw nature. Pasteurized honey is not raw nor is any honey heated above 118 degrees. Words like “natural” or “pure” can be very misleading. The best way to be confident that honey is truly raw is to purchase raw honey from a trusted source. Indeed, the best health results are achieved by getting honey from a LOCAL source. While non-local, raw honey is not harmful, local raw honey will have more benefits for consumers. There is, in fact a growing belief within the natural health expert community that raw honey from local sources is beneficial for treating your immune system’s specific environmental needs, particularly when reacting to seasonal allergies like Hay Fever or asthma.
Organic raw honey may be considered the best but some beekeepers believe that there is no such thing as truly organic raw honey. There are however, standards for labeling raw honey as “organic”. Organic raw honey cannot contain any pesticides or other pollutants nor can the hives contain non organic sugar, honey, or any antibiotics or pesticides.
It is very normal for raw honey to contain bee pollen, honeycomb bits and propolis. These have health benefits which make raw honey desired even more.
Health Benefits of Natural Raw Honey
The main health benefits for which raw honey is respected today come from the special combination of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and other health components that it possesses. The two key components of truly beneficial raw honey are bee pollen and propolis. Early man benefitted from raw honey as a source of quick energy and used this as a food source.
Raw Honey and “Propolis”
Propolis or bee glue is a sticky substance that honey bees collect from tree buds. Propolis has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The health benefits and internal and external uses—of propolis are too numerous to list on this page. Some studies of the phytonutrients found both in raw honey and propolis have shown it possesses cancer-preventing and anti-tumor properties. Raw honey benefits include boosting the immune system, cough suppression, anti-pollen allergen, blood sugar regulation, cholesterol regulation, ulcer treatment, and treating various bacterial infections. Raw honeys do not ferment in the stomach and have been used in treating stomach upset. Unlike most sugars, raw honey does not aggravate stomach conditions like indigestion or acid reflux. It has also been linked to helping with Candida problems. Raw honey is alkaline forming unlike processed honey which is acid forming. It is thought by many that for the best health, our daily food supply should be higher in alkaline forming foods, rather than acid forming foods.
Is it Safe to Eat Raw Honey?
Ultimately, raw honey can be both a benefit and problem to our health and environment. Like most things, the effects depend on the honey’s source and how and for what it is used. While moderation is usually good advice, the best advice is rather to listen to your body and its needs. If you discover that raw honey is something that will benefit your health, search for the right variety and amount to cause minimal environmental damage and get maximum organic food benefits. If you find you prefer to bypass the sweetness and calories, don’t forget that the beneficial compounds bee pollen and propolis are available as all natural health supplements.
Drawbacks to Raw Honey
No food is perfect even if raw honey may be the closest thing to a perfect food. There are a few things about which every health and environmentally aware individual should be aware, including:
Scientific reports show that bee numbers are sharply decreasing and this has alarming implications for future food production. Bees are responsible for the pollination of most of our plant food crops and without them, the world faces severe problems. Lowering a demand for honey has actually been proposed as a way to let bees thrive naturally. Chemicals, climate change and electromagnetic radiation are among the many things being investigated in discovering the cause and solution to the declining bee number problem.
1 tablespoon on average yields 60 calories. Honey is consequently something that should be used in moderation if weight loss is a consideration. Thankfully honey’s sweet flavor makes it difficult to consume too much of it.
Higher than Sugar in sweetness
Honey is about 40% fructose and 30% glucose, with the remaining carbohydrates including maltose, sucrose, and other complex carbohydrates. Despite studies indicating raw honey may help in aiding insulin regulation, immoderate consumption of any sugar can cause various imbalances for diabetics.
Buying honey from local beekeepers whom you know or companies whose practices are humane is an important consideration when purchasing raw honey. How the honey bees are housed and maintained, 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 save costs out of season. This practice is known to reduce worldwide bee population.
Due to the fact that honey is very low in water content and very high in sugar content, most microbes and bacteria have a difficult time growing in honey. Nevertheless, cases showing endospores of Clostridium botulinum (the bacteria that can cause botulism) have been discovered. While this is rarely an issue for the adult digestive system, raw honey should not be given to infants who have not yet developed some of the microbial protections found in adults.