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 unpasteurised, honey.
Most of the honey you find in supermarkets is pasteurised, where many of the beneficial nutrients are destroyed in the process. Simply put, during the pasteurisation process, similar to the pasteurisation of milk, cheese, or butter, honey is heated at high temperatures to kill any yeast that may be present in order to prevent fermentation. It’s pretty easy to tell regular honey from raw or Manuka honey because of its translucent color and syrupy consistency.
Raw honey, on the other hand, is any honey that hasn’t been heated or filtered. Think of it as hive to shelf. While there’s no official FDA definition for raw honey, according to the National Honey Board, raw honey is defined as “honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling or straining without adding heat.” While raw honey is better in terms of preserving the vitamins and natural enzymes that you won’t find in processed, regular honey, the characteristics and consistency can vary greatly. Your best bet, if you don’t want to buy just based on a label, is to get it straight from farmer’s market/beekeeper as it really doesn’t get much fresher than that.
Taking your honey education one step further, one of the healthiest types of honey available on the market today, Manuka honey (pronounced Mah-noo-kah) is honey that is derived from the nectar of the Manuka bush, a plant that’s only grown in New Zealand and Australia. Long been hailed for its medicinal and antibacterial properties, today, this medical grade form of honey is being used in everything from treating topical cuts, burns and common colds to helping cure acne and general skin care to being served in high-end restaurants and sold in health food stores around the world. It also carries a hefty price tag to match.
Now you have an understanding into the science behind honey, here are some health benefits raw honey has to offer...
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 & Anti-fungal 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. Heal Wounds
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 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.
In addition to beneficial prebiotics and nutrients, raw honey can also carry harmful bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum. This is particularly dangerous for babies, therefore raw honey should never be given to an infant less than a year old.
It’s also worth mentioning that honey is best at its natural form as it is packed with healthy enzymes, amino acids, vitamins C, D, E, K and B-complex and beta-carotene, minerals, essential oils and antioxidants to name a few. However, according to the books of Ayurveda, heating or cooking honey can do more harm than good, as it can change the natural composition, and the toxic molecules stick to mucous membranes of the digestive system, which converts into a toxin called Ama, which could lead to an upset stomach, affect respiration, cause insulin sensitivity, skin diseases and weight gain, etc.
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