Why the kind of honey you purchase matters...
Typically all honeys contain a small amount of anti-bacterial activity due to the slow-release mechanism that cause a chemical reaction-where glucose and glucose oxidase (live enzyme) found in honey combine to break down into hydrogen peroxide. This process only occurs when 'proper-conditions' allow for the activation of the chemical reaction. In order for this to happen, the glucose oxidase requires a certain amount of sodium (Na+) and hydrogen potential (pH) to activate the enzyme. (1) This is important when thinking about the healing properties that honey present to the human body. When honey is in contact with skin or an open-wound, the chemical reaction (hydrogen peroxide) is released because the skin and body fluids have high enough pH and Na+ levels.
List of vitamin & mineral content found in honey
- pantothenic acid
- amino acids
Processing of honey, why you should care about the source of your honey.
- Pasteurized honey: is honey that has been processed and pasteurized at high temperatures in order to liquefy microcrystals (crystalized honey becomes liquid) delaying natural crystalizing occurrences. Pasteurization deteriorates the enzyme activity and alters taste, smell, and color of the honey. (2) Contrary to popular belief, consuming pasteurized honey does not decrease the risk of Clostridium botulinum relating to honey due to botulism poisoning in infants. The point of pasteurized honey is to prolong shelf-life and 'look' of honey, with no regard to degraded nutritional, living enzyme, or bacterial aspects.
THE QUICK: Would I buy pasteurized honey? Hell no.
It's very important to keep in mind that honey comes from all over the world, is not strictly regulated by the USDA and may also contain trace metals, added water, and zero pollen. (3)
Grade System approach for buying honey: As far as the grading scale is concerned, while it's great to have some sort of a standard to go off of, it's important to note that grading of honey is actually a voluntary system and is NOT monitored by the USDA. (4)
For More information regarding honey standards, here is a CODEX(5) from the World Health Organization (WHO) of United Nations, provided by honeytraveler.com.
- Raw honey: is honey that has been strained and is not heated. This kind of honey contains some pollen and usually has small particles of wax, as it does not go through a rigorous pasteurization process. It's important to note that while raw honey is much better than pasteurized honey, it's still important to understand 'how' it's processed and whether or not the source of the honey is reputable. Some raw honeys have been 'minimally processed' and it's best to understand what that means exactly.
Suggestion for purchasing raw honey: know the source where you get your honey ask yourself these questions: Do I know where the source came from? Can I trust the source? Is it a reputable source that others trust and recommend? Do the bee keepers do their best to provide non-pesticide wildflowers for bees to pollinate?
- (LOCAL) Raw 'organic' honey: is honey that's local and presents 'local' pollen where bees source honey from local 'organic' wildflowers. In researching local organic beekeepers, you'll find that they have a wide variety of wildflowers within miles of where the bee hives are located. This provides a more 'controlled' environment where the beekeepers do their best to understand where the honey is sourced. The parameter where bees fly to obtain pollen can be up to 7 miles(6) , however if they have to, they will travel farther.
You'll often see different varieties of honey from your local honey suppliers because they know more about the placement of their bees and where they source the honey from, thus creating varieties such as: Alfalfa, Basswood, Buckwheat (like the picture above), Clover, Orange Blossom, Sage, Tupelo, Tallow, Manuka depending on where you live in the World. When using honey for sugar substitutes, local 'organic' or 'pesticide-free' is great choice when you pick from a local supplier, who generally knows where a majority of their bees pollinate.
Choosing a local honey from the farmer's market, farm stand, or local market:
1. Know the beekeeper personally and ask questions about the honey and where it's sourced. Questions like:
Ask: How high of a temperature do you heat the honey?
Response: Uh… I don’t know. (Not a good answer if they say anything other than "we don't heat our honey.")
Ask: Is the honey organic?
Response: Absolutely! (A genuine bee keeper will explain not just agree, unless they are avoiding further questions.)
Ask: Are there bee bits or pollen in the honey?
Response: No! Everything is filtered out. (If everything is filtered out, that's not good either, you don't want everything filtered. If everything looks clear and filtered chances are it was heated too.)
2. have community impressions and opinions that will provide valuable information.
3. support your local community and economy.
Don't be afraid to ask questions that allow for you to have more insight to how the bee keeper processes and harvests their honey. If they are willing to go into depth and show passion about their honey, chances are that they are taking extra steps to ensuring quality in their honey. Ask the questions that help build the relationship and allow for your understanding of the honey you're purchasing. If they don't want to share information about their honey, perhaps that's not a good indicator of a relationship that you want to have with your honey. Knowing the source, the environment, and the conditioning of honey really helps in your understanding in what you are purchasing. If you're going to be buying blindly and not getting any feedback from a beekeeper about their product, then what's different from buying a raw honey off on-line? People can label their product 'raw' and not understand what the definition of 'raw' means. Maybe to them 'raw' means treated at 160degrees F instead of 180degrees, when in actuality it means not heated at all.
Honey as a medicine
Extraordinary qualities of Manuka Honey!
Why Raw Manuka Honey (UMF 10+/15+/20+) is best for medicinal properties:
Raw Manuka Honey contains a powerful antibacterial property, much higher than that of average honeys, making it highly desirable for both external and internal uses. All honeys contain a small amount of antibacterial activity due to the process where hydrogen peroxide is created from the chemical reaction (mentioned above), but the effectiveness is much greater in Manuka Honey. Manuka Honey is produced by bees from flowers of the Manuka flowering plant (found in New Zealand) that originate the strong anti-bacterial properties. There are different forms of Manuka Honey available on the market, but it's best to choose one that has a UMF rating of 10+ or above.
It is also important to note that not all Manuka Honeys are active to the same extent, some have a much stronger antibacterial effect than others.
When purchasing Manuka Honey you can check the activity level thanks to the UMF rating system, and the lesser used MGO rating system. Generally speaking, the higher the level of UMF, the greater the quality the more concentrated the medicinal properties.
An indirect way of measuring mineral honey is by a processed called 'conductivity'.
Manuka honey has a very high conductivity (about 4x normal 'flower' honeys). The higher the conductivity, the higher the value and more costly the honey will be.
To discover more healing powers of Manuka honey Learn More →
The following are medicinal benefits provided by Raw Manuka Honey
(UMF 10+ and greater):
- Anti-Bacterial and Wound Healing: The Active enzymes present in Manuka honey contain anti-bacterial elements. Hospitals around the world use this Manuka honey on patients to reduce inflammation, prevent staph infections in wounds and sores, and help wounds heal faster. (The medical process takes bandages that are soaked in Manuka honey and placed on the infected area.)
- Anti-Fungal: When used in the raw form, Manuka honey is a great way to treat various types of fungal infections including: athlete's foot, ringworm, and jock-itch. Due to the sticky-ness of the honey, for these types of treatments a topical Manuka honey ointment or oil is usually used.
- Fights Gum Disease & Plaque: There are several types of mouth bacteria that can lead to gum disease and tooth decay, however studies have found that Munuka fights off all three types. While it may be contradicting to think that rubbing a sugary substance on the gums actually HELPS fight tooth decay, plaque, and bacteria in the mouth, doing so after brushing can actually reduce the bacteria that causes these diseases. I figure you'll need an article for this one, but you can always research it online by typing in Manuka honey fights tooth decay. (7)
- Sore Throat: The same anti-bacteria that fights gum disease also fights the bacteria that causes sore throats. A teaspoon of Manuka honey (swish it in the mouth first, like mouth wash) before swallowing helps fight off this bacteria that causes the dry, soreness in the throat.
- Acne: Bacteria causes acne, so again, this enhanced formula of anti-bacterial serum (aka honey) works perfectly for topical treatments in combating the bacteria that has risen through the epidermis layers to the surface (skin) and when taken internally fights the bacteria in the intestines that cause acne.
- Sunburn: It is no surprise that Manuka honey can treat burns including first-degree burn (sunburn) when applied directly to the skin surface. The properties that help speed healing also reduce soreness.
- Anti-Inflammatory: due to the naturally powerful anti-inflammatory properties, Raw Manuka Honey is considered a treatment option (in addition to healthy diet) for arthritis and joint pain.
- Acid Reflux: while it works in the digestive track as an anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory response it helps prevent acid reflux because it's fighting the bacteria that causes damage to the stomach which causes stomach acid and the symptoms that follow acid reflux.
- Digestive Support: regular consumption of Manuka honey encourage the growth of "good" bacteria while providing the support for the body to fight off the "bad" bacteria. This can help treat and prevent bowel problems, such as IBS and ulcerative colitis.
- Stomach Ulcer Treatment and Prevention: research has found that Manuka honey prevents the growth of h. pylori (helicobacter pylori), bacteria that causes stomach ulcers. Again working with the body to remove unwanted bacteria by those anti-bacterial properties as well as encourage the growth of bacteria that boosts immune system functions.
- Energy Booster: Because it assists in the muscle repair and helps maintain blood sugar levels before and after exercise, studies have shown that athletes improve performance and endurance during their workouts as well as their recover after their workouts(8).
List of vitamin & mineral content found in honey
- pantothenic acid
- amino acids
- "The Hydrogen Peroxide Producing Capacity of Honey." Free Press Release Distribution Service. PRLOG, 29 Apr. 2009. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
- "Pasteurization." Honey Bee Suite. N.p., 13 Apr. 1. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
- Schneider, Andrew. "Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn't Honey." Food Safety News. N.p., 7 Nov. 2007. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
- Dept of Agriculture. "Federal Register, Volume 76 Issue 2 (Tuesday, January 4, 2011)." Country of Origin Labeling of Packed Honey/Final Rule. Www.gpo.gov, 4 Jan. 2011. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
- "5K-4.027 : Standard of Identity – Honey. - Florida Administrative Rules, Law, Code, Register - FAC, FAR, ERulemaking." 5K-4.027 : Standard of Identity – Honey. Division of Food Safety, 14 July 2009. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
- Traynor, Joe. "How Far Do Bees Fly? One Mile, Two, Seven? And Why?" – Beesource Beekeeping. N.p., June 2002. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
- "Honey Fights Tooth Decay." FoodNavigator.com. N.p., 28 Feb. 2001. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
- "Active New Zealand Manuka Honey." Active New Zealand Manuka Honey. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.