The Magic of Honey

 

Eat honey, my son, because it is good
-King Solomon

The first written reference of honey was in 2100-2000 BC and it mentions honey’s use as a drug and an ointment. It is hardly thought of this today, but that is something we ought to reconsider.

In today’s society the honey that is most accessible to us is not much more than processed sugar, and therefore we are either writing it off as unnecessary calories or addicted to it. But real honey, raw honey, continues to be a great medicinal food. In fact, Apitherapy is a branch of alternative medicine that offers treatments entirely based on honey and other bee products.

Honey is antimicrobial, anti-viral, and anti-parasitic meaning, basically, that it inhibits the growth of micro-organisms and fungi. These actions are a result of its low water content and low PH which do not allow these organisms to grow.

Some other actions of honey include;

Antioxidant

Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals, or reactive molecules that cause damage to healthy tissues and cells. These molecules are produced by the body in reaction to environmental toxins, stress, UV light, and more. When the the production of free radicals in your body is higher than the antioxidant protective activity, your body encounters “oxidative stress”.

Honey contains glucose oxidase, catalase, ascorbic acid, flavonoids, amino acids and proteins, and much more, all of which are high in antioxidant activity. These components help your body fight oxidative stress and restore your body back to balance.

Anti-inflammatory

Inflammation is typically caused by overactive or prolonged immune response. This could be in response to allergens (more on this later) or to an incoming illness or chronic illness. Honey can decrease this inflammation by supporting the immune system. There have been studies that show that the regular consumption of honey can increase the blood vitamin c concentration by 47%, B-carotene by 3%, Uric acid by 12%, and Glutathione reductase by 7%, all of which help your body function properly and keep you feeling well. *

Allergies

Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system response to allergens in the environment. When you eat honey, especially local honey, you introduce your body to these allergens in small amounts, therefore increasing the body’s resistance to them. When your immune system encounters a pathogen, in this case an allergen, it works to build antibodies or large proteins used by your immune system to identify and neutralize viruses and bacteria. Once the threat is taken care of your body stores this information for the next time it encounters the same pathogen so that it can fight it more effectively next time. By eating raw honey, you are helping your body build this bank of information and reducing the intensity or frequency of your allergies.

Energy

A little added bonus to honey is it’s ability to give you more energy. Since it is a natural sugar the body is able to break honey down into more long-lasting energy, rather than a quick sugar spike. Along with this it has been shown to increase the heart frequency level and blood glucose level during performance, making it the perfect pre-workout food. *

Free stock photo of honeycomb, insects, bees, honey

Why Raw Honey?

So honey is good for you, but not all honey is good for you. This is simply because not all honey is what it says it is. The FDA says that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen is no longer considered honey. This seems like a ridiculous rule, because of course it’s not, but unfortunately this distinction is necessary. The pollen in honey is necessary to determine whether the honey came from a safe and reliable source. In the past China illegally dumped tons of their honey, some containing illegal antibiotics into the U.S. market through other countries. This began in 2001 when the Federal Trade Commission imposes high import tariffs to stop the Chinese from flooding the market with super cheap, heavily subsidized honey, which was forcing American beekeepers out of business. The Chinese then started laundering their honey to other countries to avoid the tariffs and enter the U.S. market. Most people didn’t care because they could get honey for cheap, but there was a reason that the Chinese wanted to get rid of it. Chinese honey is contaminated with chloramphenicol and other illegal animal antibiotics as a result of pollution. These chemicals are dangerous and sometimes fatal to a small population. Regardless, this is not something that you want to consume.

For whatever reason the FDA has not issued or has hardly issued any funds into further investigating the quality of honey in our grocery stores, so it is up to the consumer to do their own research. A study** conducted by Food Safety News found that;

  • 76% of samples of honey bought at grocery stores had all of the pollen removed
  • 100% of honey found in drugstores (Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS) had no pollen
  • 77% of honey from big box stores (Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target) had no pollen
  • 100% of honey packaged in small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald’s and KFC had pollen removed.
  • Every one of the samples found at farmers markets, co-ops, and “natural” stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s had the full, anticipated amount of pollen.

The moral of the story is to buy your honey as locally as possible. If you can afford to buy honey from your local beekeeper, that’s awesome! If it’s better for you to buy raw honey off the shelf of a natural store, that’s good too! The important thing is that you are buying raw honey. There is nothing of substance in filtered honey. So for your own health, the good of the bees, and the livelihood of your local beekeeper, support local bees!

 

References:

*Honey for Nutrition and Health (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tomislav_Jurendic/publication/23803275_Honey_for_Nutrition_and_Health_A_Review/links/0fcfd507d8f1ebbb94000000/Honey-for-Nutrition-and-Health-A-Review.pdf)

** Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey
(http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/#.Wo4ZIqinG00)

 

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