Long before what we refer to as civilization was born, honey was a food prized throughout many traditional cultures. Ancient peoples in Spain, India, Egypt and all over the world knew that honey supplied a unique richness of nutrients. But far from squeezing honey out of cute little plastic containers shaped like bears, these people were eating their honey freshly harvested from local bee hives--untouched and untainted by civilized man.
In times before commercial processing overtook our food supply, the remarkable medical benefits of raw honey were understood by primitive man. Today, when we pause to take a closer look at the composition of raw honey, we can clearly see why it is so invaluable.
Healing Factors in Raw Honey
- Raw honey contains bee pollen, which many leading nutritional experts refer to as a potent superfood. Among bee pollen’s many benefits are allergy relief, detoxification, anti-cancer properties, increased energy, amino acids, vitamins and thousands of beneficial enzymes.
- Raw honey is one of the richest natural sources of amylase, an enzyme which facilitates the proper digestion of carbohydrates. This makes raw honey an excellent companion for toast or oatmeal. This essential enzyme is lost the moment honey is heated, since amylase converts to starch when exposed to heat.
- Propolis, a material bees use for constructing their hives, is another beneficial part of raw honey. Propolis is believed to have antioxidant, antimicrobial and even anti-cancer properties. It is said to boost the immune system and improve the health of the liver as well.
- Raw honey is an excellent source of flavonoids (particularly flavanones, flavones and flavonols). These have powerful antioxidant properties that protect us from illness and disease.
Tips for Enjoying Raw Honey
- Remember, processed honey has been extensively heated and filtered to make sure it’s the same clear, golden liquid we’ve all come to expect. This is essentially honey stripped of all its goodness, and contains none of the beneficial nutrients listed above. Raw honey will be opaque and creamy with a slightly crystallized texture. It’s ideal for spreading bread with peanut butter or scooping up with a spoon. I don't personally trust any honey labeled "raw" if it's in a clear and liquid form at room temperature. At best it's still been filtered of many of the beneficial ingredients.
- Pay close attention to labeling to make sure you are getting a quality raw honey. It should be completely unprocessed and unheated. The valuable enzymes in honey are preserved only if the honey is never heated above 105 degrees, although purists claim that for honey to be truly raw, it should never be heated at all.
- On the same note, raw honey should only be added to foods after they have been cooked and never before, since any exposure to heat risks destroying the beneficial nutrients in the honey. Remember, if the food is too hot to touch, it's most likely too hot for enzymes.
- Raw honey stored in sealed, airtight jars will not spoil. It is a very stable food that becomes finer with age, just like a quality wine. Open jars will stay fresh for at least several months. Even then, raw honey will simply ferment, not spoil. Fermentation enhances the benefits of raw honey, although some do not prefer the taste.
- While all sugar is not created equal--and in fact many would say raw honey is superior to all other forms of sugar--in the end, raw honey is still, well, sugar. Eaten in excess, it can still have a negative impact on blood sugar levels and can cause related health problems (though personally I've noticed that raw honey appears to disrupt my blood sugar stability far less than other kinds of sugar). In moderation raw honey is a wonderful health food that is as nutritious as it is utterly intoxicating.