Raw honey is talked about a lot these days, and here at The Green Home, we’re always going on about its fantastic antiseptic, moisturising properties and how it can be used in the world of organic health and beauty. But what exactly is “raw” honey, and how does it differ from the normal honey you can buy in your local shop? And when it comes to maintaining good health, can the “normal” stuff cut it?
What makes honey “raw”
Just like with foods such as meat or vegetables, honey that is extracted from beehives and straightaway bottled and sold without any other heating or processing is considered to be “raw”. More commercial honey undergoes a lengthier preparation process in which it is heated or pasteurised before it is sold. Pasteurisation kills any microorganisms in the honey, which has been considered to make it safer and mimimise the risk of it causing illnesses such as botulism in children. Pasteurisation is also used to reduce crystalization. But with honey being a natural antibacterial agent, capable of lasting for years on end, there is great debate as to whether there is any need for pasteurising honey at all.
But whether heat treating honey is strictly necessary or not, honey should be assumed to be pasteurised unless it is specifically labelled “raw”.
What makes raw honey so good for us?
Honey is full of antioxidants, probiotics, enzymes, vitamins and other naturally occurring nutrients. Its antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties are what makes it so effective at treating sore throats, indigestion and other ailments. It helps to strengthen the immune system, regulate bacteria in the gut, calm the symptoms of allergies such as hayfever and balance sugar levels. Its natural anti inflammatory properties allow it to regulate blood pressure, maintain heart health, and reduce pain. When used topically, it can help cuts and heal and treat acne. The many microorganisms it carries make it a truly versatile ingredient which can be used in treating almost any minor condition as well as promoting long term good health.
Are there any benefits at all to pasteurised honey?
When honey is pasteurised, the microorganisms it contains are wiped out. This means that the many benefits listed above are lost. Even the subtle flavours of the honey which vary from hive to hive are dampened down, leaving most of today’s commercial honey resembling more of a sugary syrup than a mellow-tasting, healthy ingredient.
Pasteurised honey does, however, have a small amount of benefits. As a sweetener, it makes a healthier alternative to sugar, so can be used by those trying to cut down their sugar intake or lose weight. However, unlike raw honey, pasteurised honey has shown no signs of being able to actively reduce cholesterol in the body. Pasteurised honey can be used in the cooking and baking of cakes, biscuits and deserts, making them healthier than those made with table sugar. Baked treats made with honey are generally better for both cholesterol levels and the teeth.
More information on the comparisons between raw and pasteurised honey can be found at World’s Healthiest Foods.
Varieties of raw honey
While a unanimous conclusion has been drawn that raw honey far surpasses the pasteurised version in terms of health benefits, there is a wide range of raw honey available, all of which can be used to treat different ailments or promote good health in different parts of the body.
Manuka honey is quite easy to come by in the UK, though it’s imported from New Zealand. It can be found in most health food shops, although it isn’t cheap to buy. It does, however, have strong antibacterial properties. This makes it perfect for treating all kinds of illnesses caused by bacteria, including indigestion, sore throats and acne.
Heather honey contains higher levels of protein than other honey, making a good aid for recovery after exercise. Recent research has shown that heather honey may deliver all the same antibacterial benefits of manuka honey and, being produced in the UK, this makes it a lot cheaper.
Buckwheat honey is darker in colour and has a more intense flavour. It is potent with antioxidants and can help to purify the skin, cleanse the liver and neutralise cancer-causing free radicals.
Neem honey can be used to treat high blood pressure, throat infections, allergies and even diabetes.
Linden honey has both antiseptic and sedative properties, making it a good natural treatment for restless children suffering from coughs, colds or fevers. It’s just as useful for treating adults, and can help treat symptoms of flu as well as helping with insomnia and even anxiety.
Image sourced: LHG Creative Photographytagslocal foodnatural treatmentsorganic foodraw honey