All the Buzz: Does Raw Honey Have Unique Health Benefits?

All the Buzz: Does Raw Honey Have Unique Health Benefits?

Sufferers from allergies and other chronic ailments often claim to have discovered a natural remedy in locally procured, raw honey. According to the article, “What Is So Special About Raw Honey?,” unheated, unpasteurized honey becomes alkaline when digested, which helps neutralize acid-causing ailments like acid indigestion. Raw honey also contains an enzyme which helps improve starch digestion.

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Anecdotal evidence indicates that the pollen spores bees leave behind in raw honey gradually vaccinate the body against pollen allergies in a process dubbed “immunotherapy.” It is due to this process that raw honey is also touted to have unique health benefits if it has been produced by local honey bees.

Still, those who are wisely skeptical of alternative medicine would no doubt appreciate examination of the plethora of benefits tied to unprocessed honey. To begin with, what exactly is raw honey?

Defining “Raw Honey”

Evita Ochel defines raw honey in her guest article for Swanson Health Blog: “Raw Honey: The Complete Story.” Honey bees produce raw honey from the gathered nectar of various flowers. Before you buy honey at the supermarket, it often goes through extensive processing. According to Ochel, raw honey is quite different from the pasteurized honey you buy at the store.

Raw honey should be specifically stated as such on the label. It is unpasteurized, can be liquid or solid, may be clear, opaque, or milky, and varies in color from white to golden to brown. The appearance of raw honey is dependent upon the flowers from which bees gathered the pollen used to create it. Authentic raw honey should not have been heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit when processed, and those seeking organic raw honey should look for the explicit “certified organic” label to ensure their honey does not contain environmental pollutants and pesticide residues.

Criticism of “Raw” Honey Claims

The National Honey Board includes “energy food” and “cough suppressant” among the many positive uses of honey, but they do not appear to support claims of the superiority of “raw” honey. The NHB funded a 2012 study to determine whether the commercial processing of honey reduced its nutritional value.

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The results of the study indicated that nutritional value is not lost during commercial processing, and may in fact be more concentrated due to the reduction of moisture during the heating process. Bee pollen (essential to the immunotherapy theory) was found to be reduced by commercial processing, but the NHB does not consider the bee pollen itself to be part of the honey. The conclusion of the NHB is that “neither raw nor processed honey is superior to the other in every way. Both filtered and unfiltered honeys provide benefits that are not found in most other sweeteners, which will continue to set honey apart from many common sweetening ingredients.”

Bottom Line

It is not hard to find sites which claim raw honey possesses unique health benefits, with honey gathered in the same region where it is consumed being especially beneficial. The National Honey Board funded a study in 2012 which concluded that raw honey is not universally better than honey which has been processed. The results of this study have not dissuaded many people who tout the superiority of honey in its raw state. Readers should be advised that consuming honey comes with risks including life-threatening allergic reaction, and may be harmful if you are pregnant or breast feeding. If you have experience using raw honey (local or not), we welcome your comments below.

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Randal A. Burd Jr. is a freelance writer, educator, and poet from Missouri. He is also a Kentucky Colonel and a genealogy enthusiast.

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