What is “raw” honey?
The difference between regular honey and “raw” honey is in the processing methods. Raw honey is harvested from the hive and unchanged, except for removing impurities like beeswax and dead bees. In order to be sold as ‘raw’, it cannot be heated or undergo ultrafiltration.
Some beekeepers also strain to remove debris and air bubbles, but this is purely a cosmetic improvement.
Raw honey is cloudy because of the small debris that cannot be strained. It also varies in color and flavor depending which flowers and trees the bees visited to gather the pollen.
Additional Refinement of Other Honeys
Other honeys undergo more refinement like pasteurization and ultrafiltration. Pasteurization means heating the honey to an extremely high temperature to kill the natural yeast and lengthen the shelf life. Ultrafiltration is an additional step to make the honey even more smooth and transparent. However, this process removes the good nutrients like pollen, enzymes, and antioxidants.
Many store-bought honeys also have additional sugar or other sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup and brown rice syrup.
Is organic honey raw?
Raw honey is not necessarily organic, nor is organic honey necessarily raw.
To be labeled as “organic”, the bees, flowers, and honey must not come in contact with any pesticides or chemicals prohibited by the USDA organic guidelines. The honey can then be pasteurized or processed. If these two things are true, the honey is organic but not raw.
Many farmers who have bees and follow organic principles (whether or not they are officially certified by the USDA), do not label their honey as organic. This is because the bees are free to fly wherever they like. They may fly into and pollinate neighboring fields, ditches, or gardens where prohibited chemicals are applied.
We follow organic principles on our farm and produce raw honey but we do not label our honey as organic for this reason.
When you are shopping, please keep in mind that terms like “pure” and “natural” do not equal raw. If you would like to verify that the honey you are buying is raw, find a local farmer or beekeeper! Not only can you ask about the processing methods of the honey, but you can also enjoy local honey.
What are the benefits of raw honey?
You may be wondering, “Is raw honey good for you?” The answer is more complicated than the question. There are no studies that definitively show the health benefits of raw honey. However, many studies have found correlations between raw honey and a wide variety of benefits.
Studies suggest the potential for raw honey to:
- Protect against issues involving the respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.
- Reduce inflammation.
- Lower risk of heart disease, risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol, and certain cancers.
- Heal wounds.
- Remedy sore throats and decrease coughing.
- Better oral hygiene.
- Improve digestive health.
- Strengthen memory and brain health.
That is a quick overview of the potential of raw honey. Let’s get into the details and explore what contents are responsible for these benefits!
The Contents of Raw Honey
Raw honey has 22 amino acids, 31 minerals, many vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants, bee propolis, and bee pollen (which also contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties). The exact contents of one jar of honey will vary from the next as the bees visited different plants.
(Many of these components are removed or destroyed with processes methods, so be sure to get a jar of raw honey for the most potential benefit!)
There are small amounts of micronutrients in raw honey, including calcium, magnesium, manganese, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, and zinc.
The Magic Key of Raw Honey
When you break down all the benefits of raw honey and the corresponding studies, there is one magic component: phytonutrients!
Phytonutrients (or phytochemicals) are chemical compounds in plants that help protect them from harm. They are nutritious for humans and can have positive impacts on our health.
(Phytonutrients are also destroyed by pasteurization and ultrafiltration.)
Polyphenols is a phytonutrient that helps protect plants from harm. It acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in raw honey. In fact, studies have linked these polyphenols to the many health benefits touted by raw honey.
It all comes back to antioxidants!
Of the list of health benefits of raw honey listed above, almost all are results of the antioxidants in honey.
In addition to that list, antioxidants help protect humans from cell damage due to free radicals, which are unstable and reactive molecules. Free radicals contribute to the aging process and possibly chronic diseases.
Antibacterial Properties of Raw Honey
Phytonutrients are also the reason for raw honey’s antibacterial and antifungal characteristics. The degree to which these properties are present depends on the type of honey. Another layer of antimicrobial properties in honey comes from glucose oxidase which is an enzyme that generates hydrogen peroxide. (Another thing destroyed by pasteurization and ultrafiltration.)
Honey has been used for both internal and topical treatments of wounds. In fact, it was even used in hospitals in Europe to boost healing time in burns and ulcers as well as reduce infections in wounds.
Please note: The studies that found honey to be helpful in topical use only used medical grade honey. Consult a medical professional before attempting to use honey on wounds.
A Sore Throat Remedy and Cough Suppressant
Honey is a traditional sore throat remedy. Try adding raw honey and lemon to hot tea or water. You can also take 1 to 2 teaspoons as a cough suppressant.
Some people credit local honey with reducing their seasonal allergy symptoms. While there are no studies that show this direct correlation, the theory is solid. Raw honey contains flower pollen, which is one of the most common allergens. Repeated exposure to allergens is a method of allergy treatment.
If you consume local raw honey on a routine basis, you may become less sensitive to the allergens in your local area and experience more mild seasonal allergy symptoms.
However, since bees are free roaming creatures, the type of pollen in honey cannot be accurately estimated as it depends on where the bees decide to travel and the plants they visit.
One of our customers wrote us about his amazing allergy relief:
“Since purchasing your raw local honey, my allergies are practically gone! You can only imagine the variety of other remedies I have tried over 50 years or so, many of which didn’t work at all, and others with unwanted side effects and costs I just had to live with. Now I have been able to completely stop using allergy medications that I have used for most of my life.”
Even if you don’t notice a decrease in your symptoms, you will definitely get the other benefits of honey and enjoy a healthy sweetener!
Improved Digestive Health
Honey has a prebiotic effect which means it nourishes the good bacteria in intestines that are essential for digestion.
Honey has also been used to treat digestive issues like diarrhea and even Helicobacter pylori which is a common cause of stomach ulcers.
Better Oral Hygiene
Can a sweet like honey be good for your teeth? Sugars are known to cause tooth decay and bad breath, but studies are finding raw honey to be different!
Raw honey is found to improve oral hygiene, including fighting bacteria, preventing gingivitis, treating bleeding and receding gums, and halting tooth decay.
*It is important to understand that these are benefits of raw honey, specifically, as processed honey often contains corn syrup which is detrimental to oral health. Only raw honey possesses beneficial antibacterial properties.
Honey fights bacteria by reducing the acid your mouth produces. This 2014 study found that chewing honey increases the pH level in our mouths and decreases bacterial counts. Less acid means bacteria cannot produce dextran which binds bacteria to the tooth surface and becomes plaque. Therefore, reduced acid aids in the prevention of gingivitis and stops the development of cavities.
Strengthened Memory and Brain Health
Honey’s anti-inflammatory properties may also benefit brain health. The polyphenols of honey can counter inflammation in the hippocampus, which is the memory center of the brain.
Let’s Talk About Bee Pollen
Raw honey contains bee pollen, but other processed honeys do not because of pasteurization and ultrafiltration.
Bee pollen may not get the credit it is due! Pollen has vitamins A and C, amino acids, micronutrients, essential fatty acids, and our beloved antioxidants.
Bee pollen is so powerful that it is recognized as a medicine by the German Federal Ministry of Health!
Studies have found that bee pollen has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, antibacterial and antifungal effects, and pain remedy. It may help reduce inflammation, improve liver function, and combat heart disease and stroke.
Make Raw Honey a Part of Your Healthy Lifestyle!
As you have read, there are a plethora of health benefits from raw honey! Although there are no definitive conclusions from scientific studies, there is strong evidence!
These benefits are only possible with raw honey as the pasteurization and ultrafiltration processes of other honeys destroy the important phytonutrients that are responsible for honey’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial effects.
Please note: Raw honey should not be given to children under 1 year of age.
Here at Telderer’s Rainbows End Farm we are passionately proud of our honey. We love our honey and we think you will, too! It’s available for pick-up only so local honey can stay local. Swing by the farm! We’re located near Holy Hill in Wisconsin.
Learn More About the Stats:
MedicalNewsToday: How are raw honey and regular honey different?
Mayo Clinic: Does honey offer sweet relief for allergies?
Healthline: Honey for Allergies
Healthline: 8 Raw Honey Benefits for Health
The Saudi Dental Journal: Effect of honey in preventing gingivitis and dental caries in patients undergoing orthodontic treatment
Penn Dental: Fact vs Fiction: Is Honey Bad for Your Teeth?