Raw Honey Top Benefits, Types, and Tips

by B. Ready Wellness Editor


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Honey just may be humanities oldest and longest continuously consumed edible. Egyptians were beekeeping more than 4000 years ago along the river Nile. Food and medicine, raw and natural; honey is versatile. We have unpacked some of the interesting nutritional and medicinal info here. So settle in for some "sweet talk."

Learn about the numerous types of honey available today and discover the top benefits of eating raw honey along with honey's many other powerful uses.


The history of humans and honey

Enjoyed for thousands of years, the first recorded evidence of humans with honey is a cave drawing made in Spain between 8-9,000 ago that depicts the collection of honey. Scientists estimate that humans evolved the preference for sweet food about 15 million years ago. Honey may have played a big factor in this development. Foods that are high in fructose, like honey, became vital during lean times to prevent starvation. The bible depicts John the Baptist surviving on honey and locusts, and stories are told of the Buddha retreating to the wilderness to live off honey.


Honeybee pollinating flower

Honey 101: How do bees make honey?

As bees float and buzz around a flowery field, they consume both pollen and nectar from the flowers. The nectar provides the bees with energy, while the pollen has nutrients and protein. Honey is made from flower nectar, but pollen gets into the honey too. After bees collect the sugar-rich nectar from flowers, the liquid is consumed, partially digested, and then regurgitated and stored in the hive as honey. While regurgitation is not the most pleasant-sounding process to imagine, the resulting golden sweet syrup from the hard work of honeybees is near miraculous.


Humans, honeybees, and hives

While humans have been making artificial hives for at least 5,000 years, the modern beehive was developed in 1814. Artificial hives facilitate a simpler method for collecting honey while preventing getting stung or killing the bees. Being an apiarist, or beekeeper, provides an important service in addition to the production of honey. It is estimated that every 1 in 3 bites taken at mealtime in the US is a direct result of honeybee pollination. Honeybees pollinate 80% of all cultivated crops including fruit, nuts, and coffee.

Beginning in the mid-20th century, demand for honey decreased as sugar and artificial sweeteners were on the rise. In recent years there has been a renewed desire for honey consumption and demand has increased. Yet honeybee populations have continuously declined world-wide. Mass die-off events called Colony Collapse Disorder are regularly taking place in the US and Canada. Scientists think this may be caused by pesticides called neonicotinoids, along with compounding factors including climate change, invasive species, disease, and loss of habitat. Europe has banned several types of neonicotinoids, and in 2020 the Environmental Protection Agency proposed management restrictions for certain neonicotinoids within the US.


The different processes for raw and regular honey

Raw honey is essentially bottled in the same form as it is found in the hive. Once extracted from the beehive, the raw honey is strained of impurities like beeswax and that is generally the extent of processing before being bottled. Most “regular” honey goes through multiple intensive processes like pasteurization and ultrafiltration before being bottled. By heating, ultrafiltering, and refining honey, it becomes smoother and more transparent, which is aesthetically pleasing for many consumers. These processes also remove most of the beneficial components including enzymes, pollen, and antioxidants. In addition to processing, some manufacturers “spike” their product by adding in sugar, corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners to reduce costs.


Nutritional value of raw honey 

Honey in its raw state is packed with nutrition and considered by many to be a superfood. Raw honey has about twenty-two amino acids, numerous beneficial enzymes, and contains polyphenols and flavonoids that act as antioxidants in the body. This delicious syrup contains six B vitamins, vitamin C, and folic acid. Honey even has over thirty types of minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.

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Health benefits of raw honey

The research article “Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research” reports that honey is effective for a myriad of ailments including eye diseases, asthma, throat infections, tuberculosis, hiccups, fatigue, dizziness, hepatitis, constipation, parasites, eczema, ulcers, and wounds. The study notes honey's highly potent antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory effects. In some studies, honey has been found to inhibit the growth and spread of cancerous cells. Honey has a low glycemic index and may be effective for supporting conditions like diabetes. Raw honey also contains 25 different oligosaccharides, or the carbohydrates that feed the good bacteria in the gut. This relates to improved digestive functions, immunity, and the absorption of minerals. Possibly the most popular use of honey is for its effectiveness at easing a sore throat or cough.

To gain the benefits of throat-soothing honey blended with lemon and chamomile while on-the-go, discover our Comfort Soothie Lollipop for throats and other wellness support in the B. Ready travel and wellness packs shop.


How do I choose the best quality honey?

Be sure to do a little research. Recently, a Food Safety News study discovered that 75% of big-box stores sold honey with no pollen content, meaning the product was void of the healthy components. While 100% of honey purchased at farmer’s markets, health food stores, and co-ops had their full pollen content. Although honey label laws are not very stringent, look for labels stating the product is raw honey or that it is unpasteurized. Check the ingredients list for additives. Visually confirm the quality of the honey. If it is more opaque or creamy-colored that is evidence of a quality nutritious product. 



Understanding the honey grading system

There are three grades for honey in the United States: A, B, and C—with A being the highest score. This grading system does not necessarily inform consumers about the nutritional value, or quality of the product. Honey is awarded a grade based on moisture levels, clarity, absence of defects, and the aroma and flavor. Grading is based on a voluntary system that is not enforced. Grade A honey could be highly processed and heated, or it could be raw honey that is well filtered. The ingredients are not considered when assigning a grade, therefore Grade A honey could contain additives and artificial sweeteners.


The many flavors and types of honey

Honey comes in a variety of flavors that are determined by the flowers visited by the bees. Clover has a light, traditional flavor while coffee honey has a deep rich flavor. Some other delectable types include orange blossom, blueberry, lavender, and macadamia nut. In Florida, honeybees nosh on mangroves resulting in a dark raw honey with a robust taste. It can be helpful to study the label before purchasing honey, as some flavors are added to the honey and do not originate from the flower type.

Nicknamed “liquid gold,” Manuka honey originates from the flowers of the leptospermum scoparium, or tea tree plant native to Australia and New Zealand. A powerful component in Manuka honey, called methylglyoxal (MGO), has a potent antibacterial effect. While all raw honey has antibacterial properties, this honey is extra potent and is used in the treatment of wounds, burns, eczema, and as a digestive aid.

Local honey is most often labelled raw and is produced from the pollen of local flowers. This particular type is often recommended as the best immune boosting honey. It may also provide relief from pollen-related allergies when taken regularly in small amounts. Another benefit is the chance to talk with the beekeeper about their honey. 


Awareness of the possible risks of consuming honey

Honey is generally considered safe for adults and children, but babies under 1-year old should not consume any type of honey. Their digestive systems are not developed enough to process a type of bacteria found in honey called Clostridium botulinum. This can result in a gastrointestinal condition that is rare but serious. Although uncommon, another risk is developing an allergic reaction to the pollen found in honey. Bear in mind that although incredibly healthy, honey is still high in sugar and calories, so it is best consumed in moderation.


B. Ready for a sweet healthy boost with raw honey

Take exploration into the delicious world of honey further and check out the multi-use recipe book “The Honey Companion: Natural Recipes and Remedies for Health, Beauty, and Home” by Suzy Scherr or the fact-packed book “The Healing Powers of Honey: The Healthy & Green Choice to Sweeten Packed with Immune-Boosting Antioxidants” by Cal Orey.

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