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7 Things You Didn’t Know about…Raw Honey

June 16, 2014

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Loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, honey is not just one of the oldest cultivated “health” foods, but also one of the most delicious natural sweeteners

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard of honey, but what about raw honey? Raw honey is essentially honey straight from the hive, meaning it hasn’t been heated or pasteurized, as is most conventional honey today. 

You can easily determine the difference between raw and conventional honey just by looking at it. If it’s transparent, like the clear yellow honey typically found in honey bear jars, then you know it has been heated and processed. This type of honey does not have the same nutritional benefits, nor the same antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties as raw honey. Raw honey appears whitish, opaque, thick, and creamy, and you’ll find it at health food stores, farmers markets, and specialty food retailers. 

So if you’ve got any of the clear, liquid-y stuff on hand, save it for the bears and go get some real raw honey for yourself. And, when your family asks why the honey looks different, you can share the nutritional benefits outlined above, as well these 7 interesting facts: 

1. An eternal shelf life: Typically, I advise my clients to steer clear of anything with an unusually long shelf life. But I give them the okay to devour raw honey, despite the fact that it literally lasts forever. Archaeologists have found perfectly preserved pots of honey in thousand-year-old tombs, as fresh as the day it was gathered. Scientists credit honey’s immortality to its perfect chemical composition: it lacks water, is extremely acidic, and contains hydrogen peroxide. The key is to keep the honey jar closed—if left open and exposed to air or water, it will spoil. 

2. One of the oldest cultivated foods: Honey was prized in ancient Egypt as a luxury food and medicine, and records show they kept beehives as far back as 700 BC. It’s limited supply and high demand made it expensive, and therefore a food and sweetener enjoyed only by the wealthy. In fact, it was so revered it was used as a sacrifice to the gods. 

3. A group effort: That delicious spoonful of honey you add to your morning tea is the result of some very busy bees! It takes 12 bees their entire lifetime to produce just one teaspoon of honey. 

A forager bee collects nectar from flowers, and visits hundreds, and sometimes thousands of flowers each day! The nectar is brought back to the hive and transferred to a worker bee, who then eats and regurgitates it (called pre-digestion, this process utilizes the enzymes in the bee’s stomach to break down the complex sugar in the nectar into simple sugars). Then, another worker bee flaps his wings to dehydrate the water out of the enzymatic nectar, leaving us with thick, sticky, and delicious honey.   

4. Heals wounds & infection: Honey was the original wound healing salve. It helps speed healing and prevent infection for all sorts of scrapes, cuts, and burns. If used on an open wound, it minimizes scarring, and can even help improve the appearance of old scars through topical application. Because honey is an antibacterial, it was traditionally used to treat all sorts of infections up until the 20th century, when penicillin was introduced. 

5. A fertility booster: Ever wonder where the term “honeymoon” came from? While there are a few different opinions on its etymology, it is likely the result of a tradition that started in the Middle Ages, when newlywed couples took a spoonful of honey each night in order for the woman to “bear fruit.” A number of clinical studies show that honey can indeed improve fertility in both men and women. 

6. A seasonal allergy treatment: Local raw honey, which has been made within a few hundred miles of your home, may help reduce seasonal allergies by preparing your immune system to deal with local pollen. 

Just as a vaccine introduces a minute amount of a germ or pathogen into the body in order to create an immune response that allows you to more effectively fight that same pathogen when exposed to it later in large amounts, honey is like an immunization for local pollen or allergens. 

7. The (sad) future of honey: When the bees become extinct, so too, will their honey. Colony Collapse Disorder is a very real phenomenon currently plaguing many parts of the US, and even other countries. Whole colonies of bees are becoming disoriented, which then causes them to stop reproducing and die out. 

Our widespread use of pesticides is the likely culprit, but parasitic mites, viruses, and even the electromagnetic radiation given off by our cellphones and other electronics have not been ruled out.  

Besides giving us delicious and nutritious honey, honeybees pollinate over 80% of our food crops, making them an integral part of our food supply. You can help save the bees, (and therefore both honey and our food supply!) by choosing organic produce, planting an organic garden, or adding a beehive to your backyard.  

How do you enjoy your raw honey? Leave a comment below and let us know.