Nearly everyone knows what honey is, but very few know what raw honey is, and even fewer know what the raw honey benefits are. Raw honey is honey in its purest form. Raw honey is never micron filtered or heated above natural hive temperatures. One of the major benefits of raw honey is that it’s nature’s own multivitamin. Raw honey is a natural source of vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and even antioxidant-rich vitamin C. It also contains minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulphur, and phosphate.
So what is the difference between raw honey and the honey that can be purchased at the local supermarket? And if there are so many raw honey benefits, whys is not all honey raw honey?
Nearly all honey purchased at the big box store is heated to some degree, filtered, and/or even pasteurized. Filtering honey with a micron filter will yield honey that has no air bubbles, has no particulate matter in suspension, and thus will be perfectly clear. The particles we are referring to are nearly always pollen, since almost all wax can be removed with a fine screen. The reason for removing large particles is that these can act as “seed crystals” for honey crystallization to occur. Thus, filtering can help prevent crystallization on the store shelf. Honey stored at room temperature will crystallize over time, but the process can be reversed without detriment to the product by heating the honey to as little as 98F degrees.
To filter honey, it must be heated so it becomes less viscous and easier to pump through the filter. The higher the temperature to less viscous the honey becomes. But heating honey comes at a price. Heating honey to as little as 115F degrees will cause dramatic changes to occur. Pasteurization of honey requires it to be heated to as high as 160 degrees for a period of time, then cooled rapidly.
Honey and high heat do not get along very well. It has been found that excessive heat can have detrimental effects on the nutritional value of honey. Heating up to 37 °C (98.6 °F) causes loss of nearly 200 components, some of which are antibacterial. Heating up to 40 °C (104 °F) destroys invertase, an important enzyme. At 50 °C (122 °F), the honey sugars caramelize and it turns from a light color to an increasingly darker color as the temperature rises.
When honey is excessively heated, micron filtered, and/or pasteurized, nearly all the beneficial components of honey are removed. One of the most important components of honey is pollen. Micron filtering heated honey removes all the pollen from the end product, thus removing nearly all of its nutritional benefits. Heat destroys the natural enzymes, vitamins, and proteins in honey. Filtering and processing eliminates many of the beneficial phytonutrients including pollen and enzyme-rich propolis and the pollen that has been denatured by the heating process.
Scientific proof that micron filtered honey removes pollen was found in a study by the Palynology Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University. In the study, 60 honey products from supermarkets and grocery stores were tested and it was found that 76% contained no trace of pollen. This means that the vast majority of the honeys sold at big box grocery stores have no nutritional benefits.
Ironically, the USDA encourages honey packers to filter their honey. They even give higher grades to honey that is clear and pollen free. Interestingly enough, despite the USDA encouraging the ultra filtering of honey, the FDA specifies that honey needs to contain pollen to be considered honey.
One of the problems with honey that contains no pollen is that it is impossible to verify its quality, content, or origin without highly specialized equipment. It is common for foreign producers or exporters/importers to cut honey with various types of sugar syrups. Since the USDA prefers filtered honey, it is difficult to detect that the honey has been altered since it never contained any pollen. So it is highly possible that honey purchased at the big box grocery store, or given to customers at a restaurant, is not even real honey since its origin and purity cannot be verified without highly specialized equipment.
Here are five raw honey benefits:
Raw Honey Benefits #1: Raw Honey has been shown to be an Anti-Bacterial, Anti-Viral, and Anti-Fungal substance. In this respect, it can be very beneficial to your immune system and may assist in a wide variety of common ailments.
Raw Honey Benefits #2: Aids stomach and digestion
In digestive disturbances honey is of great value. Honey does not ferment in the stomach because, being an inverted sugar, it is easily absorbed and there is no danger of a bacterial invasion. The flavor of honey excites the appetite and helps digestion. The propoma of the ancients, made of honey, was a popular appetizer.
Raw Honey Benefits #3: For healing ulcers and burns
Many years ago, a study by Robert Bloomfield, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reports “Applied every 2 to 3 days under a dry dressing, honey promotes healing of ulcers and burns better than any other local application. It can also be applied to other surface wounds, including cuts and abrasions…”
Raw Honey Benefits #4: Honey has anti-cancer properties.
Recent studies by Gribel and Pashinskii indicated that honey possessed moderate antitumor and pronounced anti-metastatic effects in five different strains of rat and mouse tumors. Furthermore, honey potentiated the antitumor activity of chemotherapeutic drugs such as 5-fluorouracil and cyclophosphamide.
– Gribel, N.V., and Pashinskii, V.G. Antitumor properties of honey. Vopr. Onkol., 36:704-709, 1990.
C.V. Rao at the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, New York found caffeic acids in propolis are inhibitors of colon cancers in animals. Other research shows hive products have the ability to prevent and halt the spread of malignant diseases. Earlier research by M.T. Huang also published in Cancer Research found caffeic acids effective in inhibiting skin cancer tumors in mice.
– American Bee Journal, June 1994
Raw Honey Benefits #5: A Spoonful a Day Keeps Free Radicals at Bay
Daily consumption of honey raises blood levels of protective antioxidant compounds in humans, according to research presented at the 227th meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, CA, March 28, 2004.
Biochemist Heidrun Gross and colleagues from the University of California, Davis, gave 25 study participants each about four tablespoons buckwheat honey daily for 29 days in addition to their regular diets, and drew blood samples at given intervals following honey consumption. A direct link was found between the subjects’ honey consumption and the level of polyphenolic antioxidants in their blood.