Raw honey is better than white sugar – and processed honey is not.
Honey has been credited for everything from curing hay fever to healing infected lacerations and has been used since ancient times as a medicine and sacred food. But before you go squeezing your honey bear and honey packets into your morning tea, we need to clarify that your honey must be RAW in order to have maximum super powers.
All the good in raw honey
Raw honey is never strained, filtered or heated about 115 degrees fahernheit (the average temperature of a bee hive). As such, this honey is rich in antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and minerals (including vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, sulphur, and phosphate) many of which would have been destroyed in the pasteurization process.
The cocktail of micro-nutrients and enzymes found in honey give this golden substance anti-bacteria, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties.
When in the raw, the regular consumption of honey has been shown to boost antioxidant levels (source), speed the healing process of ulcers and burns (source), and even protect against some types of cancer (source).
Raw honey has been said to help with digestion and healing allergies too (source). So while raw honey and sugar both contain glucose and fructose, our raw liquid gold is a nutrient dense food.
Just as good grey sea salt is far healthier that iodized table salt, raw honey beats the buzz off of regular white sugar in both nutritional content and effects on the body.
While some processed honey may share the same color and consistency as its raw cousin, the reduced nutrients and lack of enzymes in processed honey mean that it will be digested much in the same way as junky white sugar.
BUT, having said that, you will still be better off using raw honey in your hot tea, and even baking with honey instead of white sugar, as some of the vitamins and mineral will not be destroyed with heat. In the case of cookies, cakes, pies, and jams, however, you may choose to have some less expensive ‘cooking honey' (that is not raw, but also not highly processed) on hand and save the pricier raw honey for when the enyzmes and antioxidants will be of optimal use in your body.
What are the benefits of local raw honey?
I'm sure you don't need a birds and bees lesson from me, but when bees make honey, they bring nectar and pollen from flowers back to their hive and get busy. The tiny bits of these pollens are transmitted, in broken-down form, into the honey. It is believed that the pollen in honey works to prevent allergies, much in the same way that a vaccine introduces a minuscule amount of the offending virus into the person's body stimulating immunity to develop.
For those who suffer from seasonal allergies, consuming local raw honey may be your answer to relief – or not. The votes are split here with anecdotal evidence shouting success stories from the rooftops and the medical world claiming snake oil. Interestingly, the type of pollens that trigger most seasonal allergies are air-borne (from non-flowering plants that are not involved with the bees' business), and therefore not logically linked to curing seasonal allergies. But mother nature works in mysterious ways, and based on all of the success stories floating on the winds, I wouldn't be surprised if the science behind the ‘honey cure' has just yet to be understood.
Frankly, I don't see any harm in including local, raw honey in your overall holistic regimen for healing allergies or asthma – as long you don't have any negative reactions to the honey itself. In general, eating local, seasonal, nutrient-dense foods is the easiest way to honor the wisdom of food as medicine.
What about Manuka and other specialty raw honeys from far away lands?
Though I'm a big proponent of supporting your local food shed, sometimes making an exception may benefit your health, and you may want to experiment with exotic honeys for their reputed superfood qualitites.
Manuka honey is all the rage in health food circles for its potent anti-bacteria properties whose unique chemical components have been trademarked as “Unique Manuka Factors” (UMFs).
If you happen to live New Zealand and Australia where the Manuka trees grow, you should be sure to enjoy the benefits of this superfood. For everyone else, get Manuka honey here.
What is your favorite liquid gold? Do you have a success story from using raw honey as a superfood?