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Health Benefits Raw Honey

Overview

Honey provides a range of health benefits. Raw honey, which comes straight from the beehive, contains healthful bee pollen, bee propolis, and plenty of antioxidants.

Research has not confirmed that raw honey has more health benefits than regular honey, but some people believe that the processing and pasteurization that regular honey undergoes diminishes many of the beneficial elements. Some people believe that because of this, raw honey provides more health benefits than regular honey.

Raw honey has been used as a folk remedy throughout history and has a variety of health benefits and medical uses. It’s even used in some hospitals as a treatment for wounds. Many of these health benefits are specific to raw, or unpasteurized, honey.

Most of the honey you find in grocery stores is pasteurized. The high heat kills unwanted yeast, can improve the color and texture, removes any crystallization, and extends the shelf life. Many of the beneficial nutrients are also destroyed in the process.

If you’re interested in trying raw honey, buy it from a trusted local producer. In this article, we compare the health benefits of raw honey and regular honey.

What is raw honey?

Honey is a sweet, golden liquid made by honeybees. Honeybees store their honey in small, hexagonal cups called a honeycomb. Raw honey comes straight from the honeycomb.

Honey from the hive contains bee pollen, beeswax, and parts of dead bees. Honey manufacturers will usually pass raw honey through a filter to remove as many impurities as possible, but some generally remain. It is still safe to eat.

Unlike raw honey, regular honey undergoes a pasteurization process. This means manufacturers have heated it to kill yeast cells that can affect its taste, increase its shelf-life, and make it look more transparent and attractive. However, pasteurization may adversely affect the number of nutrients in the honey.

Some historical evidence estimates that humans have used honey for over 8,000 yearsTrusted Source. During ancient times, people would have used raw honey, but today, most people use pasteurized honey.

Honey naturally offersTrusted Source the following healthful properties:

  • antibacterial action
  • wound-healing effects
  • dietary antioxidants
  • anti-inflammatory effects

Raw honey also contains bee pollen and bee propolis, which is a sticky, glue-like substance bees use to hold their hive together. Regular honey may not contain the same levels of bee propolis and bee pollen as raw honey.

A 2017 on honey and a 2015 on bee pollen report that bee propolis and bee pollen can offer anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and anticancer properties.

The following sections explore seven evidence-based health benefits of raw honey.

1. A good source of antioxidants

Raw honey contains an array of plant chemicals that act as antioxidants. Some types of honey have as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help to protect your body from cell damage due to free radicals.

Free radicals contribute to the aging process and may also contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Research shows that antioxidant compounds in honey called polyphenols may play a role in preventing heart disease.

2. Antibacterial and antifungal properties

Research has shown that raw honey can kill unwanted bacteria and fungus. It naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, an antiseptic. Its effectiveness as an antibacterial or antifungal varies depending on the honey, but it’s clearly more than a folk remedy for these kinds of infections.

3. Wound healing

Manuka honey is used in medical settings to treat wounds because it’s been found to be an effective germ killer and also aids in tissue regeneration.

Studies show that Manuka honey can boost healing time and reduce infection. Keep in mind that the honey used in hospital settings is medical grade, meaning it’s inspected and sterile. It’s not a good idea to treat cuts with honey you buy from a store.

4. Phytonutrient powerhouse

Phytonutrients are compounds found in plants that help protect the plant from harm. For example, some keep insects away or shield the plant from ultraviolet radiation.

The phytonutrients in honey are responsible for its antioxidant properties, as well as its antibacterial and antifungal power. They’re also thought to be the reason raw honey has shown immune-boosting and anticancer benefits. Heavy processing destroys these valuable nutrients.

5. Help for digestive issues

Honey is sometimes used to treat digestive issues such as diarrhea, though there isn’t much research to show that it works. It’s proven to be effective as a treatment for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria, though, a common cause of stomach ulcers.

It’s also a potent prebiotic, meaning it nourishes the good bacteria that live in the intestines, which are crucial not only for digestion but overall health.

6. Soothe a sore throat

Have a cold? Try a spoonful of honey. Honey is an old sore throat remedy. Add it to hot tea with lemon when a cold virus hits you.

It also works as a cough suppressant. Research has suggested that honey is as effective as dextromethorphan, a common ingredient in over-the-counter cough medication. Just take one or two teaspoonfuls, straight.

Are there any risks?

In addition to beneficial prebiotics and nutrients, raw honey can also carry harmful bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum. This is particularly dangerous for babies. Raw honey should never be given to an infant less than a year old.

Symptoms of botulism poisoning in infants may include:

  • constipation
  • slow breathing
  • sagging eyelids
  • absence of gagging
  • loss of head control
  • paralysis that spreads downward
  • poor feeding
  • lethargy
  • weak cry

In adults, symptoms can include an initial short period of diarrhea and vomiting, followed by constipation and more severe symptoms, such as blurred vision and muscle weakness. See a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms after eating raw honey.

 

7. Nutrition

Honey contains specific nutrients that can make it a healthful addition to the diet.

The exact nutrition and chemical composition of raw honey varies between different countries and environmentsTrusted Source and depends partly upon which types of flowers the bees gather their nectar from. Regardless of these factors, honey still contains healthful compounds, such as antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamins.

One tablespoon or 21 grams (g) of raw honey containsTrusted Source 64 calories and 16 g of sugar. These values may vary between brands and batches.

Natural honey naturally containsTrusted Source small amounts of the following vitamins and minerals:

  • niacin
  • riboflavin
  • pantothenic acid
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • manganese
  • potassium
  • phosphorous
  • zinc

Honey naturally contains sugar. A little more than half of the sugar in honey is fructose. Research has linked fructose to various health problems.

However, even with its fructose content, honey may be a healthier option than table sugar. Some research suggests that honey may offer a protective effect against diabetes and some types of honey may help improve cholesterol levels.

People who have diabetes or who are on sugar-restricted diets may choose to eat honey in moderation to avoid significant changes in their blood sugar levels. Pure honey has a glycemic index (GI) of 58, meaning it has a medium effect on blood sugar levels. Learn about the GI scale here.

 

8. Protecting the brain

Some evidence suggests that honey may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers that can benefit the brain. An animal study found that rats that consumed honey had protection against brain damage caused by exposure to lead.

In addition, a review states that raw honey may contain ingredients that help fight inflammation in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory.

 

Risks

As long as a person is not allergic to bee pollen, raw honey is generally safe to use.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) say that people should not give honey to infants under the age of 1 because of the risk of infant botulism. Honey is safe from the age of 1 upwards. This applies to both raw and regular honey.

Choosing the right kind of honey

Raw honey will have a label that reads “raw honey.” If the label does not include the word “raw,” or does not come directly from a farmer or beekeeper who can confirm that it is raw, the manufacturer has probably pasteurized it.

The label may also describe the type of flowers that the bees pollinated to make that honey. The kind of flower determines the taste, color, and antioxidant and vitamin content of the honey.

Many types of pasteurized honey have labels that read “pure honey.” Others may say “clover honey” or may state that they come from a local area. Even products labeled as “organic honey” may not be raw, as some manufacturers do pasteurize organic honey.

Some processed honey products contain high fructose corn syrup or other additives. Check the label to make sure the honey is pure.

Raw honey has become more popular in recent years, and people can now buy it from many grocery and health food stores. Farmers’ markets also sell raw honey, sometimes directly from the beekeeper.

Online stores offer a wide range of brands of both raw honey and regular honey.

When raw honey turns to ‘sugar’

Raw honey may crystallize after a few months of storage. This means that the honey gets a grainy or sugar-like texture. Crystallized honey is safe to eat and has the same taste.

To make the honey liquid again, use a gentle heating technique:

  1. Boil a pot of water and remove it from the heat.
  2. Place the container of honey in the hot water. Do not allow the water to reach the top of the honey container to avoid contaminating it.
  3. Remove the container of honey after a few minutes. If it is still solid or crystallized, repeat the process.

Do not microwave raw honey or put it directly in boiling water or on a hot stove top, as this may destroy some of its nutrients.

Summary

Raw honey may contain nutrients that regular honey does not. This means raw honey could potentially offer more, or more powerful, health benefits. However, research has not confirmed this.

Raw honey may contain extra elements, such as bee pollen and bee propolis, which can offer additional antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

Research on the medicinal uses of raw honey is promising. The studies on its healing properties and nutrition suggest that raw honey may be a more healthful sweetener than sugar

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