Honey - the natural way to boost your immune system
Mainstream mass-produced brands of honey are fine but specialist types of honey offer even more health and flavor benefits - find out more in this article
Honey health benefits - the natural way to boost your immune system
Honey is an amazing foodstuff - not only does it have a blend of natural sugars that can provide you with a quick and convenient energy boost whenever you need it, but it also makes a great soothing agent for sore throats. And it tastes great too, whether as a sweetener for your coffee, spread onto bread or toast, or used in place of sugar for making cakes.
However, if you're relying on your local supermarket for honey, you could be missing out on specialist, "niche" types of honey that can offer extra benefits in terms of flavour and/or nutrition/health.
Raw and local honey
Most of the honey you buy in the shops is pasteurised (heat treated), in order to liquefy it and give it a longer shelf life. But pasteurisation does destroy some enzymes in the honey, which is a shame because these enzymes are beneficial to human health. (For example, one of the enzymes in honey - glucose oxidase - generates hydrogen peroxide, which has antibacterial properties. This is one of the reasons why honey has been used for centuries in the treatment of wounds.)
It is however possible to buy unpasteurised ("raw") honey, which as well as containing live enzymes, often has traces of pollen and propolis due to the fact that many raw honey producers don't filter their honey. There are health benefits to this: if you buy local raw/unfiltered honey and eat it regularly in small amounts for several months before the pollen season, you may find that your hay fever symptoms are greatly reduced, because you've built up an immunity to the local pollen! If you're wondering how 'local' the honey needs to be, the answer is "within a fifty mile radius of where you live/work".
If you buy honey from your local supermarket, you will often find that it's honey from a single location but obtained from a blend of flowers ("polyfloral"). It might even be a blend of honeys from more than one country. Honey made from the nectar of one type of flower is known as monofloral honey, and there are well-known varieties of monofloral honey such as clover or acacia which have been available in shops for years. In recent times, another monofloral honey - manuka honey - has also become popular. This is made of nectar from the manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium), which is native to New Zealand and is related to the tea tree. Since tea tree oil is well-known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties, it should come as no surprise that manuka honey is also highly prized for the same reason. (BTW: if you're buying manuka honey for its antibacterial activity, make sure that it has a UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) of at least 5.)
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|Ambrosia Pure Honey From Colorado's Western Slope, 23-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 4)|
Ambrosia Pure Honey From Colorado's Western Slope comes in a 23 ounce bottle. To prepare honey for market, we liquefy the drums in a water bath and pass it through a strainer ...Only $23.00
|Really Raw Honey, 1 X 16 Oz|
We use goldenrod and aster nectar and our cold packing process to produce our creamy, crystalline texture and rich, full-bodied flavor. This fall the Aster plant bloomed in ...
|White Gold Honey, 23-Ounce Container (Pack of 2)|
Untreated. Unheated. This delicate raw clover honey self-solidifies soon after extraction due to its extremely low water content. Enjoy the world's best tasting honey often. ...Only $54.99
|Monofloral honey from eucalyptus flowers|
|Wedderspoon Raw Organic Manuka Honey Active 16+, 17.6-Ounce Jar|
Wedderspoon Organic is North America's number One Organically Certified Manuka Honey suppliers, providing an Authentic, manuka honey recognized throughout North America for ...Only $29.95
The first time I saw a jar labelled "Organic honey", my initial rather cynical reaction was, "OK then, so how do the bees know which flowers are organic and which aren't?" The answer is that of course they don't, but if their hives are placed in an area where only organic crops or wildflowers are situated, then most of the nectar they pick up is going to be organic. For example in order for honey produced in the USA to qualify as "organic", the hives must be situated at least two miles away from any non-organic crops or urban/industrial centres. (There are other stipulations too; for example, bees cannot be given chemical pesticides, feed supplements or other chemicals, apart from ones on a very restricted list.)
But of course, being the free-roaming creatures that they are, bees won't necessarily stick to their officially designated exclusion zone, so in fact the chances are that any so-called organic honey is going to contain minute amounts of pollutants/chemicals.
All of the above applies to organic honey produced within the USA; other countries have different grading standards so if you're buying imported organic honey then do be aware of this.
© Empress Felicity September 2010
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