In the past, honey was used extensively in traditional remedies and is still used today for alternative health and wellness treatments. The processing of most honey in supermarkets kills off a lot of the “good stuff”, but raw honey can directly improve your health. Here are some of the main benefits of raw honey:
- Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties – Raw honey’s slightly acidic pH and antibacterial enzymes make it perfect for destroying and preventing certain types of bacteria. Ancient Egyptians used it as part of wound care and the embalming process. In World War I, Russian soldiers would dress wounds with honey to promote healing and prevent infection. Today in some cultures, the traditional practice of using honey in treating wounds still survives. Aside from its medicinal purposes, raw honey features heavily in natural beauty practices to kill off acne-causing bacteria.
- Soothes the Throat – Many famous singers swear by raw honey to keep their throat healthy. The antibacterial and antifungal properties prevent coughs and keep bacteria out of their throat. It also helps to coat vocal cords, giving singers a smoother sound. Raw honey is also often used to soothe a sore throat when people have a cough or a cold. The honey will kill the bacteria in the throat and coat the throat to minimize inflammation which causes coughing. Mix some raw honey and ginger into a mug of hot water for a cold-busting drink.
- Relieves Diarrhoea Symptoms – Raw honey can help prevent dehydration due to diarrhoea. The vitamins and minerals will help replenish those the body is losing, and assist the body in retaining water. Scientists in Nigeria have noted that in particular, it increases potassium levels without increasing the sodium levels, which helps the body’s tissues hold onto their water content. Patients with diarrhoea who were given a 5% concentration of honey and the duration of their diarrhoea was much shorter than the traditional rehydration methods.
- Antioxidant Properties – Raw honey is cleansed by not raising the temperature of the honey above that of the beehive. Therefore it retains its antioxidant properties which are destroyed in the processing of most supermarket honey. The antioxidants in honey are believed to be on par with a lot of fruits and vegetables and are thought to reduce the risk of cancers, stroke, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and eye disease.
- Allergy relief – While not scientifically proven, some people have found that eating honey made from local pollen reduces their symptoms. The theory is that regular exposure to small amounts of the pollen that usually causes allergies should reduce the severity of allergies similar to an immunization.
- Digestion Aid – Raw honey contains a number of enzymes and good bacteria that improve digestion. It has also been shown to increase the levels of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. When honey is pasteurized, the enzyme levels drop by 35% on average, meaning that you could be missing out on important gut-healing bacteria. Raw honey can be used either as a probiotic to keep digestion functioning well, or can even be used to treat issues such as stomach ulcers.
- Nutritional – In terms of the concentration of vitamins and minerals per serving size, honey is a nutritional powerhouse. It is worth noting that because of the high sugar content, it is not recommended to eat excessive amounts of honey per day. These are the vitamins and minerals present in raw honey:
- pantothenic acid
The main difference between raw honey and commercial honey is the way it is processed. The honey in supermarkets goes through a filtration process, pasteurization, heat processing, and in some cases added flavourings and preservatives. This destroys most of the antibacterial properties, enzymes, and antioxidants and adds unnecessary chemicals. The processing will make the honey-smooth and runny, clearer, and give it a longer shelf-life.
Raw honey will appear thicker and cloudier with slight crystallization. This is how honey looks when it is not processed. It is also not heated above the temperature of the beehive, so it retains all of its benefits. The taste of raw honey comes exclusively from the honey and the pollen it is made from. Raw honey’s flavor can often taste slightly different depending on the type of pollen and nectar that is used to make it.
Commercial and processed honey is far lower quality than raw honey. There are some profit-focused honey producers who will feed their bees sugar syrup to increase the honey production of their bees. However, this means the honey is much sweeter, and because the honey does not come from natural sources (i.e. Pollen) it is not a healthier sugar alternative. Natural or raw honey is a safer alternative to sugar for diabetics because it does not increase blood sugar as dramatically. However, the sugar in honey is a mix of fructose and glucose, so diabetics are recommended to consume it in small amounts.
Commercial and processed honey also has very little or none of the health benefits that raw honey has. However, honey is often processed or pasteurized for two main reasons.
- While bacteria cannot thrive in honey’s acidity, yeast can grow in honey, causing fermentation. Fermentation will not be damaging to health, or change the taste, but is not as visually appealing to consumers.
- Processing honey will remove the crystallization and make it look better. It will also be runnier and thus easy to spread and pour. The processing will also add preservatives so it will last longer on the supermarket shelf.
Raw honey contains all of the natural benefits with no additives and preservatives.
While raw honey contains high levels of sugar, it contains additional vitamins and enzymes that give it more health benefits than other sugars. It is sweeter than sugar, so you only have to use half the amount of honey in place of sugar. Raw honey also has a distinct flavor, so it can add a pleasant taste to your favorite recipe. Try it in banana bread, ginger snaps, or an apple cake.
Here are some ideas of ways to start using raw honey to replace sugar in your diet:
- To sweeten drinks such as tea or lemonade, or even alcoholic drinks.
- Use raw honey instead of a sprinkle of sugar on your cereal or in porridge.
- For a morning sugar hit with a little more nutritional value, spread raw honey on your toast instead of jams or chocolate spread.
- Mix a teaspoon of raw honey with your apple cider vinegar shot to make it more palatable.
- Use it to replace some or all of the sugar in your favorite baking recipes.
- Replace sugar with raw honey in bread-style recipes to add a little bit of flavor.
- Buy plain Greek yoghurt instead of flavored yoghurts and add some honey, berries, and nuts for a healthier snack.
- Use a little bit of honey instead of sugar to sweeten homemade sauces, dressings, and dips.
Instead of sweet pancake toppings, use raw honey to sweeten your breakfast treats.