The health benefits of raw honey.

Posted by & filed under Health and Fitness.

The previous honey blog talked about the overall health benefits of honey, especially Manuka honey.  This blog talks a little more about Raw Honey.

On the Weston Price Foundation website, Sally Fallon has written an interesting article about Fermented Honey.  She makes many good points, including the fact that Ancient Egyptian writings dating from 5,500BC refer to honey, and at that time lower Egypt was called Bee Land and upper Egypt, Reed Land.  Both Fallon and the above video says that the saliva of bees breaks down the sucrose in the nectar in the flowers into simple sugars, fructose and dextrose.  One of the many health benefits of honey come from this partial digestion. The composition of honey is 35-40% fructose, 30-35% dextrose, 17-20% water plus traces of pollen, wax, acids, proteins, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, pigments and gums.  The gums make the honey thick, and those with more gum make honey thicker.  Gum is actually a complex carbohydrate, so slows the rate of absorption of the sugars in honey and adds fibre.

Raw honey has not been heated nor filtered.  Quoting from Sally Fallon

In Russia beekeepers are noted for their longevity, and this is said to be due to their custom of eating the “honey from the bottom of the hive,” which contains high levels of “impurities” such as pollen, propolis and even bee parts.

Heat treating honey and filtering it removes the best bits, leaving a golden, syrupy honey that has more in common with health destroying golden syrup than the stuff the Ancients Egyptians were so fond of.  So a good honey will have bits in it: fine textured crystals, flecks of bee pollen, honeycomb, maybe even the odd bee wing.  Raw honey does not pour out of the jar in a death giving cascade but has to be coaxed out with a knife or spoon.  Untreated raw honey will still have some water in it, and if left in a warm place will ferment.  This does not affect the keeping qualities of honey, but makes it even more digestible.

The increasing scientific interest in honey focuses on particular parts of honey: propolis and bee pollen.  A raw local honey will contain a small amount of bee pollen and this small amount gives innoculation to allergy sufferers, giving them relief.  Both bee pollen and propolis share cancer fighting abilities, with bee pollen working best in the tiny amounts found in a raw honey.  Bee pollen has also been found to lower LDL cholesterol, to regulate metabolism, speeding it up to help weight loss, to increase energy levels, to increase sex drive and increase aerobic endurance, making running a marathon less of a pipe dream.

Bees make propolis out of resins taken from various plants like the Black Poplar.  They mix it with wax and use it to seal small holes in the hive.  According to the review by Vassaya Bancova

As the most important “chemical weapon” of bees against pathogenic microorganisms, propolis has been used as a remedy by humans since ancient times.1

Propolis has good anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties2.  In the last decade, Bancova says that scientists have found that propolis, or bees glue, varies in chemical constituents from on part of the world to another, which means that different propoli have different benefits.

Bees glue’s chemical composition depends on the specificity of the local flora at the site of collection and thus on the geographic and climatic characteristics of the site.

For example, the bees in Brazil make their propolis from the plant Baccharis Dracunculifolia, resulting in Green Propolis, which has a good effect against gastric ulcers3

So if a local beekeeper is known, then maybe they could be persuaded to sell some of their honey untreated.  For maximum benefit, try a piece of honeycomb.  But failing that, a lovely jar of creamy honey with a few bees bits still in there will bring good health benefits, a relief from hayfever and a better digestion.

  1. Bankova V.  Recent trends and important developments in propolis research.  eCAM 2005:2(1) 29-32.  doi:10.1093/ecam/neh059 []
  2. Kitani H et al.  Synthesis and structural optimization 07-(3,3-disubistituded-1-pyrrolidingl)-1-cyclopropyl-6-fluoro-1,4-dihydro 8-methoxy-4-oxo-3-quinolinecar-boxylic acid as antibacterial agents.  Bioorganic and medicinal Chem letters. vol 7 issue 5. 4 March 1997 515-520 []
  3. Lemos M, de Barros MP et al.  Baccharis Dracunculifolia, the main botanical source of Brazilian green propolis, displays anti-ulcer activity.  J PHarm Pharmacology.  Apr; 59 (4): 603-8.  abstr. []

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