Honey

Honey is the natural sweet substance produced by Apis mellifera bees from the nectar of plants. It’s loaded with healthy plant compounds and has been linked to several health benefits.

If you are interested in buying locally produced honey and hive products, please click here Local honey

Nutritional value of honey

Honey is high in natural sugar with 12g per 15g (2 tsp) serving. Two teaspoons of honey provides around 49 calories. Honey is low in fat, fibre and protein with less than 0.5g respectively. There is a negligible salt content in honey.

The sugar in honey is fructose, a simple sugar which makes absorption by the body for energy much easier than it is with refined sugars which are usually sucrose. Honey also has further nutritional value over other sugars because it contains amino acids which are the building blocks of protein and contribute to growth and body function.

Honey contains B vitamins which have many functions including facilitating the release of energy from food. In terms of minerals, honey contains calcium, iron, potassium and zinc for wound healing and the processing of macronutrients from our food.

The best remedy for a cold

Honey is known to soothe a sore throat and a hot honey and lemon drink is an age-old home remedy for a cold. Recent research has supported this claim. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20618098/

The 2010 study found that honey was more effective on a cough in children than over-the-counter cough suppressants.

The study was followed by new guidelines in 2018 from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE and Public Health England (PHE) to use honey to reduce the symptoms of a short-term cough. https://www.nhs.uk/news/heart-and-lungs/honey-not-antibiotics-recommended-coughs/

Honey may contain tiny amounts of bacteria but is safe for most people over 12 months of age. However, infants under 12 months of age should not be given honey because a baby’s digestive tract has not yet developed sufficiently to fight off some bacteria. In rare cases, people who have compromised immunity or severe pollen allergies may react to raw honey and should speak to their doctor before eating or using raw honey.

Here is a summary of some of the most frequently encountered types of honey with links to further information. If we have missed something or you have any questions about honey, please leave a comment and we’ll do our best to answer you.

Comb honey

Comb honey is still contained within its natural hexagonal-shaped beeswax cells called honeycomb. It is eaten exactly as it is produced by the honey bees and has not been processed, filtered or manipulated in any way.

Before the invention of the Honey extractor almost all honey eaten was in the form of comb honey. Today, most honey is produced by extraction but comb honey remains popular with consumers and it is sometimes combined with extracted honey to make chunk honey.

Soft set or ‘Creamed’ honey

Delicious!

Soft set or ‘Creamed’ honey has been processed to control granulation. The honey is sometimes gently heated and can be produced by mixing honey from different sources.

To make it soft set, the beekeeper gently stirs the honey over a prolonged period using a special mixer called a creamer. The process does not involve the addition of cream or any other ingredient.

Creaming causes a large number of small glucose crystals to form in the honey. This prevents the formation of the larger crystals that leads to the granulation often seen in unprocessed honey.

The processing produces a honey with a smooth spreadable consistency. Because glucose crystals are naturally pure white, soft set honey is always a lighter colour than liquid honey from the same floral type.

Raw Honey

Honey labels are increasingly carrying the words ‘Raw Honey’, but there is no legal definition of the product and everyone has a slightly different idea of what it actually means. Some say it means not pasteurised or heated above hive temperature (35c). Others say that raw honey is not filtered either. Even beekeepers have different ideas about what raw honey actually is and those who use the term are usually doing so to distinguish their honey from industrial-scale super market products. Put simply, raw honey is best described as honey “as it exists in the beehive.”

According to the Oxford English Dictionary , the definition of Raw (of food) is ‘not cooked’ and of a substance ‘’in its natural state, unprocessed’ and the definition of Cooked is ‘prepared by heating’.

Therefore, as a minimum, raw honey means that it has not been heated but it may not have been filtered either! There are different levels of filtration; a course filter will remove bits of wax and other hive debris and fine filtration may also remove beneficial pollen.

Some people believe that the raw variety of honey is better for optimal health while others say there’s no difference between the two.

The honey you buy in the super market has usually undergone several production steps before it is bottled including pasteurisation and filtration.

Pasteurisation is the process that destroys the naturally occurring yeast found in honey by applying high heat. This helps extend the shelf life and makes the honey appear smoother and clearer.

Honey is filtered to remove bits of wax and hive debris

Most beekeepers will filter their honey to remove bits of wax and hive debris but commercial processes often use ultrafiltration. This process further refines the honey to make it more transparent and smooth but it can also remove beneficial nutrients like pollen, enzymes and antioxidants. Moreover, some manufacturers may add sugar or sweeteners to reduce costs. For clarity, the addition of other ingredients to honey is illegal in the UK and EU but that doesn’t mean it never happens. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/tesco-agrees-to-withdraw-fake-honey-

Granulation

One thing to mention about honey that hasn’t been heated (or pasteurised) is that it may granulate in the jar.

Honey is a supersaturated liquid because it contains more sugar than can normally dissolve in an equal amount of water. Granulation occurs when solid particles of glucose separate from the supersaturated liquid honey.

Rather than being something to worry about, granulation is in fact a sign of a honey’s purity. Pure honey may granulate (become solid) in cooler conditions.

If it granulates, Honey can be returned to its original state by loosing the lid and standing the jar in a bowl of hot water. To microwave in short bursts, remove the lid, select low power and stir regularly. And remember, because honey’s antibiotic you don’t have to keep it in the fridge!

Clear honey

Health benefits of honey: Medical news today

Clear honey has been filtered to remove wax and other hive debris and is then lightly warmed to about 5c above the temperature in the hive. The use of gentle heat makes the honey easier to fine filter and ensures it remains clear for at least six weeks.

Manuka honey

The Manuka bush in New Zealand

Manuka honey is a dark honey native to New Zealand and is produced by bees that pollinate the flowers on the manuka bush.

All honey that hasn’t been treated with excessive heat honey has antiseptic and antibacterial properties but Manuka contains two unique compounds which are not usually present in other honeys. These are methylglyoxal (MG) and dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

Genuine Manuka honey has a UMF trademark. UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor and is a quality trademark given to registered licensed beekeepers, producers and exporters of genuine manuka honey.

You will also see a number such as 10+ or 25+ which represents the potency of the unique signature compounds contained within Manuka Honey. The higher the number, the greater the MG and DHA content and the higher the potency is said to be.

There are many health claims made about manuka honey. Some of these are based on limited, small-scale studies which, although promising, cannot be used to draw firm conclusions about the clinical use of manuka honey.

BBC: Is Manuka worth the money?

Manuka honey is probably most well-known for its wound healing properties when it is applied directly to a wound. It may also have potential in tissue regeneration, acute wounds and post-surgery applications.

A couple of years ago, members of Meridian Beekeepers were treated to a excellent talk from Dr Rowena Jenkins about Cardiff University’s study into the uses of honey as a topical antibiotic and it’s potential for use in surgery. The university does use Manuka honey in its research because medical grade Manuka has been irradiated to eliminate the possibility of microbial contamination but Dr Jenkins was at pains to point out that all naturally produced honey has similar beneficial properties.

https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/pharmabees/research/drug-discovery

There is also some evidence of the power of manuka honey to help treat gut infections from strains such as clostridium difficile which has been linked to conditions such as colitis as well as Helicobacter pylori which can cause ulcers and acid reflux.

Heather honey

Each year, at the summer’s end, some Meridian beekeepers take their strongest hives to the New Forest.

New forest Heather

Ling heather growing there begins flowering in late July and continues until September. Colonies taken to the heather must be in peak condition, having a well-laying queen and plenty of bees.

As ever with beekeeping, good weather is essential. Yields are rarely high so Heather honey is like gold dust! The worst that can happen is that the bees will fill their boxes with plenty of winter stores.

Heather honey is neither runny or set. It has a thixotropic consistency (jelly-like) but a quick stir with a spoon and it turns to liquid before setting again.

Heather honey has a distinctive floral, slightly bitter flavour and is rich in antioxidants; that’s why it’s often called the ‘British Manuka’.

One major benefit of buying honey from a local beekeeper is that if you want to know exactly how your honey has been produced, all you have to do is ask!

If you are interested in buying locally produced honey and hive products, please click here Local honey

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