Raw honey, is that which comes straight from the beehive and contains healthful elements that processed honey does not have.
This sweet, natural substance contains bee pollen, bee propolis, and plenty of antioxidants. People have used raw honey in traditional medicine for hundreds of years because of its range of health benefits.
Raw honey is said to provide more health benefits than regular honey.
Although research is yet to confirm it, but the belief is that the processing and pasteurization that regular honey undergoes diminishes many of the beneficial elements.
Honey is popular all over the world. This is majorly because of the ease with which it can be consumed. Eat it directly, spread it on bread like jam, mix it with juice or any drink in place of sugar. One could also mix it with warm water, lime juice, cinnamon, and other herbs to concoct a home-made medicine. It is savored by all due to its taste as well as health benefits, making it extremely useful and versatile.
Let us understand the health benefits of raw honey and regular honey.
What is raw honey?
Raw honey is not filtered or pasteurized.
Honey, the sweet, golden liquid made by honeybees is stored in small, hexagonal cups called honeycombs. These combs are engineered in intelligent ways by honey bees which helps contain a large amount of honey.
Honey from the hive contains beeswax and bee pollen. To remove as many impurities as possible, raw is usually passed through a filter. Unlike the processes involved in regular honey, this filtration process does not affect the nutritional aspects of raw honey which makes it retain its natural qualities.
Regular, processed honey undergoes a pasteurization process that raw honey does not. In this process manufacturers heat the honey to kill yeast cells that can affect taste thereby increasing shelf-life, and improving the appearance by making it more transparent and attractive. However, pasteurization can affect the amount of nutrients in the honey.
Historical evidence suggests that humans have been using honey for over 8,000 years. During ancient times, people used raw honey, but today, due to the increase in demand and modern processes, most people use pasteurized honey.
Being a bounty of nature, raw, unpasteurized honey has a number of health benefits to offer-
- Antibacterial elements
- Wound-healing effects
- Anti-inflammatory properties
Along with bee pollen, raw honey also contains bee propolis, which is a sticky, glue-like substance that bees make to hold their hives together. Regular honey, due to processing may not contain the same levels of bee propolis and bee pollen as raw honey would.
A 2017 review on honey and a 2015 review on bee pollen report that bee propolis and bee pollen can offer anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and anticancer properties. Charaka Samhita, an ancient text on Ayurveda, states that raw honey that is aged for a year has highly effective therapeutic and detoxifying properties.
Below are a few aspects which explore the health benefits of raw honey.
Researchers propose that some of the primary health benefits from honey come from its antioxidant content. Natural honey contains phytochemicals, flavonoids, and ascorbic acid which are a range of compounds that act as antioxidants.
Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress in the body by clearing free radicals. Scientists have connected oxidative stress with a range of chronic health conditions. By following an antioxidant-rich diet, people can lower their risk of chronic disease.
Honey contains specific nutrients that can make it a healthful addition to your diet.
The nutritional and chemical composition of raw honey varies among countries and environments and depends partly upon the types of flowers the bees gather their nectar from. Regardless, honey still contains healthful compounds which include antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamins.
One tablespoon or 21 grams (g) of raw honey contains 70.30 kcal. Natural honey in general also contains small amounts of the following vitamins and minerals:
- Pantothenic acid
Some research suggests that honey may offer a protective effect against diabetes and some types of honey may even help improve cholesterol levels.
Pure honey has a glycemic index (GI) of 58, meaning it has a medium effect on blood sugar levels. People who have diabetes or who are on sugar-restricted diets may choose to consume honey in moderation to avoid significant spikes in their blood sugar levels.
Honey is a natural antibacterial/antimicrobial agent. It contains hydrogen peroxide and glucose oxidase and has a low pH level, which means it can inhibit harmful bacteria and fungi from thriving. Its unique chemical composition stops yeast or bacteria from growing.
Its antibacterial property also allows it to be used to cleanse wounds. Honey being acidic helps release oxygen from the wound and promotes healing. Apply raw honey directly to minor cuts and burns then place a bandage across the wound.
Several studies have suggested that honey may be as or more effective than some cough medicines. Honey becomes a good natural alternative for children over one year of age who would otherwise take commercially available cough medicines.
Honey is said to provide an effective way to decrease the severity and frequency of a child’s cough. Studies have found that milk and honey mixture relieved children’s cough as effectively as an (over-the-counter) OTC medicine.
How to use honey as a cough relief?
Take a teaspoonful of raw honey and avoid other liquids or foods afterward to allow the honey to spread across the inside of your throat.
Raw honey may have a soothing effect on one’s digestive system, in turn helping with symptoms of diarrhoea.
A study of 150 children with gastroenteritis showed that ones who received honey with an oral rehydration solution had a quicker recovery from diarrhea than those who did not receive honey. The children who received honey had stabler bowel movements and recovered faster from their issues.
To help treat mild diarrhoea, try taking a teaspoonful of raw honey. Avoid taking too much honey because excess sugar could work in favour of diarrhoea.
Protecting the brain
Some studies suggest that honey may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers that can benefit one’s brain. A specific study on animals found that rats that were given honey had protection against brain damage caused by exposure to lead.
In addition, raw honey may contain ingredients that help fight inflammation in the hippocampus, the part of the brain which manages memories.
Risks of consuming honey– Infants under the age of 1 should not be given honey because of the risk of infant botulism- an illness that can happen when a baby ingests bacteria that produce radicals inside the body. The condition can cause muscle weakness and breathing problems. Honey is thus considered safe from the age of 1 upwards. This applies to both raw and regular honey.
Choosing your honey
Look for honey that clearly calls out ‘Raw Honey’ on the label. Multiple types of pasteurized honey have labels which read- “pure honey.” If the label excludes the word “raw,” or does not come directly from a farmer who can confirm that it is raw, it is likely that the manufacturer has pasteurized it.
At times, the type of flowers that the bees pollinated to make that honey is also mentioned on the label. The kind of flower also determines the taste, color, antioxidant and vitamin content of the honey.
Some processed honey products simply contain high fructose corn syrup. One should check the label to make sure the honey is pure.
In recent years, raw honey has become more popular and people can now buy it from many grocery and health stores. Open farmers’ markets also sell raw honey, which is sometimes directly from the beekeeper.
Now that you know about raw honey and how beneficial it can be, you ought to add it to your diet in as many different ways as possible. Simply spread it on slices of bread or add it to that fruit salad you prepare every morning.
At Himalayan Natives, we offer Multifloral Raw Honey sourced from bees that collect pollen from different types of flowers. This gives our honey a unique flavour and colour. Himalayan Natives helps you make the best of natural foods for a healthier and thereby more efficient lifestyle.