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Raw Honey

Raw honey is honey that is unheated and minimally processed. It is pure honey where nothing has been added or removed. To be raw, honey should not be heated above temperatures one would normal find in a hive (approximately 95 degrees F). Additionally it should not be ultra-finely filtered to the point of removing pollen and organic materials that are an intrinsic constituent of honey.

Unheated, “raw” honey contains all the vital ingredients that give it its healthful properties and wonderful aroma. Most commercial honey you see in supermarkets is not raw honey. This mass produced honey is often heated to temperatures far above the normal temperatures of the bee hive. Heating past the maximum hive temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit changes honey’s essential composition and degrades its quality. It partially destroys honey’s beneficial enzymes and ‘boils off’ volatile compounds that account for the unique, delicate floral aroma of the honey. This is done to make it easier to extract from the honey comb, to filter it, to package it, to ‘pasteurize’ it to kill benign yeast and prevent fermentation and to delay crystallization.

Micro-filtering also degrades the healthful properties of honey by removing beneficial pollen residue. Much commercial honey is micro-filtered, often using a diatomaceous earth (DE) process to eliminate even micron-sized particles. Why go to these lengths when a relatively coarse strain would result in a clear, visually beautiful product and not remove healthful pollen? The reason is to slow down the naturally occurring crystallization of honey. Tiny particles act as ‘seeds’ for the crystallization process, by removing them with micro-filtering, crystallization is delayed.

But crystallization is not a problem to be solved. Almost all honeys crystallize after time. It is actually a good sign the honey is raw. To re-liquify, simply heat the honey jar in warm water (104 F, 40 C) until it returns to the liquid state, stir occasionally to transfer heat, and replace the hot water if needed. Note some honeys will not crystallize easily because of low glucose levels and in these cases, this is not a sign of heating or micro-filtering (ex. honeydews, black locust-acacia, tupelo, sourwood, sunflower, sage).

A good trick to ensure you are getting raw, unprocessed honey is to purchase it in the comb.

Health Benefits of Honey Negatively Affected by Heating

Many of the healthful organic compounds and substances in honey are destroyed or inhibited by heat.

Antibacterial, Antimicrobial Properties from Enzymes in Raw Honey:
The main enzymes in honey are invertase (saccharase) diastase (amylase) which break down sugars and help digestion. The enzyme glucose oxidase produces the antibacterial, antimicrobial hydrogen peroxide, a well-known disinfectant.

Antioxidant Properties in Raw Honey:
Dependent upon enzymes and a wide range of compounds in honey, antioxidants are substances that can retard or inhibit oxidation and/or neutralize the effects of damaging “free radicals”. Increasing the body’s antioxidant content may help protect against cellular damage and the development of chronic diseases.

From the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2002, Vol. 50, No. 21, pp.5870-5877:
“…Antioxidant analysis of the different honey fractions suggested that the water-soluble fraction contained most of the antioxidant components, including protein; gluconic acid; ascorbic acid; hydroxymethylfuraldehyde; and the combined activities of the enzymes glucose oxidase, catalase and peroxidase. Of these components, a significant correlation could be established only between protein content and oxygen radical absorbance capacity ORAC activity (R(2) = 0.674, p = 0.024). These results suggest that the antioxidant capacity of honey is a product of the combined activity of a wide range of compounds including phenolics, peptides, organic acids, enzymes, Maillard reaction products, and possibly other minor components…”

Other antioxidants include polyphenols, flanonoids and phenolic acid in Raw Honey. Polyphenols in foods are thought to play important roles in human health such as cancer preventative, and anti-inflammatory, radical scavenging and antioxidative activities. The most important classes of antioxidant polyphenols are the flavonoids and phenolic acids. It is these substances in honey, wine, fruits and vegetables that are most responsible for the antioxidant characteristics, and thus the healthy image of these foods.

Darker honeys like Buckwheat honey are stronger antioxidants compared to lighter honeys.

Next: What is Organic honey and why do I want it?

82 comments to Raw Honey

  • Roberto Sciffo

    Hi,
    I am looking to make mead and have continuously seen many makers heat the must (honey & water mix), some to boiling temp!, and do not agree with this.
    On the other hand I am not sure if raw honey that has not been heated beyond the 42C beehive temp, is going to work for making mead as it contains many other ‘benefits’ that may work for honey used for oral intake, yet for making mead, it may interfere (maximum sanitation is of utmost importance in mead making)

    So the question is how will the additional enzymes of the raw honey interfere with the yeast and production of mead? Will it be beneficial, or otherwise?

    If it would be beneficial to mead making, would you recommend filtering it, or just use the honey direct from the hive? I guess it would also depend on local directives?

    Many many thanks,

    Roberto

  • HT

    Hi Roberto:

    Your concern is understandable. Why go to the effort of starting with raw honey only to boil it and loose some of the very benefits you wish to preserve?

    1/ Boiling cooks off some of the delicate aromatic and flavoring components of the honey
    2/ Boiling concentrates any bad qualities of the water, off taste, minerals, or contaminants
    3/ Boiling needlessly complicates the mead making process by adding extra unnecessary steps

    Although debated by mead-makers, boiling the must is optional, take look at some of the discussion about boiling the must, and retaining the subtle qualities of the honey in the mead. If you are still concerned, you should look into the technique of ‘flash’ pasteurization that uses rapid heating and cooling to 71 degrees C. for a very short time (1 minute), to mitigate the loss of enzymes and volatile aromatics, yet kill yeast and bacteria.

    Definitely filter the honey from the hive, but only through a fine sieve (200 – 400 micron nylon mesh) to remove any obvious detritus and bee parts but leave the pollen. Use fresh honey to minimize the possibility of contamination by foreign yeasts that may spoil the mead. If you plan to sell your mead or distribute it at a festival, then you definitely must read up on the local laws or the policies of the venue concerning, sanitation, pasteurization and alcohol sales. Of course, you should conform to your local laws concerning home-brewing of an alcoholic beverage.

    Scott

  • Hi Scott,
    Greetings from Denmark. I am a beekeeper and have recently built a website for my new little honey company called HELT. My honey is raw honey and I am writing to see whether it would be Ok for me to use the information on this page for my page about raw honey. I have a two-language website, and I intend to pretty much copy the text word for word for my English language page, and of course translate it into Danish for that version. I have some information already but this page is much more detailed.
    Well, I thought it would be polite to ask!

    Great website by the way, lots of detailed information, thanks for sharing.
    Best wishes,
    Anthony Lee
    HELT Honey
    Denmark
    http://www.helthoney.dk

  • Hi Anthony:

    Thanks Anthony. I appreciate that. The content of the site is protected by copyright. You may use it on the condition you add the following link to every page that uses copy from my site.
    By

    Good luck with your honey company.

    …Scott

  • Samantha

    Hi Scott,

    I’ve just purchased raw honey with the brand name of Really Raw Honey, which says they are straight from the hive to the jar. Unprocessed, etc.
    Here’s the question I have that I can’t Goggle for an answer anywhere else.
    If I liquify the raw honey in hot warm then store it again till I need it, is it okay to just go and reheat the jar over and over again without losing all the enzymes and nutrients? Or should I just scoop out what I need into a tiny glass jar and heat that up?

  • Hi Samantha:

    I am assuming that the honey you purchased has crystallized and you would like to soften it up to eat. Gently heating it up in very warm water (hot to the touch, not burning – 110 degrees F.) in a loosely sealed jar will prevent a lot of the volatile components of the honey from evaporating. If you don’t actually heat the honey over 95 degrees F., then the enzymes should not be harmed. Even a little higher temp for a short period would be ok, but should be avoided.

    The interesting thing is that you won’t have to actually heat the honey every time you use it—assuming you eat it within a few days. When you heat the honey, you are not melting it. It will not harden up again when it cools. You are actually decrystalling the honey, not melting it. It will take some time to actually recrystallize, sometimes quite a while. Stored at around 70 degrees F. will keep it liquid longest.

    Nevertheless, if you had a large amount of honey, then you might want to separate out a smaller amount just to make handling easier. I have so many honeys I eat them very slowly, so I store my rarer honeys in the freezer to keep the longest and then take out what I want to use. The everyday honeys sit on the counter for quick access! :)

    … Scott

  • Samantha

    Scott,

    Thank you for the reply, and I apologize for responding late. My order came in today, and yes it’s already crystallized. I only need to loosen up one teaspoon a day, and I have a small glass jar that I could scoop what I need out to warm it up. The only problem I have it the jar does not have a top. Do I need to have it covered with running it under warm water?

  • Tariq

    Thank you Scott for this very informative post.
    I have a question about micro-filtering which removes pollen from the honey. Is it true that after the pollen is removed, it is not really honey anymore?

    If this is the case, what happens when honey is heated to temperatures past 110 degrees? Enzymes are destroyed but does heating also destroy the pollen as well meaning heated honey is also not really considered honey?

    Is heating honey in cooking or baking the same as micro-filtering or pasteurization?

  • Hi Samantha:

    Ideally it should be covered, but I don’t think it will be a problem since only one teaspoon is being heated and it is being eaten right away. Did you try it in the crystallized form? Sometimes this can be quite good. It depends upon how that particular honey crystallizes. Some are soft, others hard, and yet others have a very inconsistent texture of hard crystal masses in liquid.

    How is it?

    …Scott

  • Helen

    Hi, I want the benefits of raw honey, but I use it to make granola and use it in baking. Any advice? I don’t think I’m ready to buy a Dehydrator. Thanks.

  • Nishant

    Hi Scott,

    thanks for the article. just stumbled upon this while reading more about honey. i have seen many a recipes which asks for the honey to be added to the ingredients and then baked at about 300 F. how does this work. one good example is granola. i don’t want to add cane sugar (or any thing even distantly related) to it and make my granola healthy by adding honey, but what would be the use if honey loses all its properties at that temperature.

    Nishant.

  • Cindy

    Hi Scott,

    I just bought some honey from a honey farm in Florida. They claim their honey is “commercially” raw. In other words, heated to 103 degrees and then put through a cheese cloth to remove bee legs, etc. My question is if I put a tablespoon of honey into a cup of tea, which has just been boiled, will the pollen and enzymes be removed?

    Also, if the honey is not put into the tea right after boiling, I find it difficult to get it off the spoon. Is there a way to wait until the tea cools a bit and get the honey off the spoon so that the nutrients are not lost?

    I appreciate your answers!

    Cindy

  • Hi Cindy:

    That is a very good question. Heating definitely degrades the honey. True ‘raw’ honey should not even be heated over 95 degrees F. (the natural temperature of the hive). In general, the medicinal benefits of honey and the aromatic characteristics are reduced by heating. The flavor of stronger varietal honey with a mild tea can be quite enjoyable.

    Studies within the last 10 years have shown a reduction in over 180 substances including enzymes, antioxidants and other phytonutrients following heating, even at relatively low temperatures (above 100 degrees F.).

    The antibacterial properties, not surprisingly given the complexity of honey, vary by the actual honey tested. The antibacterial affects from Hydrogen Peroxide produced by honey are usually reduced with heating, although the non-peroxide antibacterial affects are not necessarily affected by heat. Some are increased by heat; the substance MGO (Methylglyoxal), regarded as the antibacterial ingredient found in Manuka honey, is an example. Be aware that this substance has anti-insulin properties, so using Manuka honey in heated drinks such as tea is probably not a good idea.

    The main benefit of using honey in your hot tea is the added flavor and as an alternative to simple sugar. It has a lower Glycemic Index (GI) than sugar and therefore is less stressful to the body. The GI varies by type of honey, with single flower honeys such as Acacia or Yellow Box being better than blended, pasteurized versions. And honey contains vitamins, minerals and trace elements that are not affected by moderate heat. It is certainly better than table sugar nutritionally.

    Letting your tea cool first is the best way to maintain the benefits of the honey. To get the honey to blend in cooler tea, I recommend experimenting with thinning a weeks’ worth of honey in water first. Store it in a jar in the fridge as it will definitely ferment at room temperature with added water. The water should be chlorine-free. If you try this, please let us know how it works out!

    …Scott

  • Hi Nishant:

    You are right of course. Baking at 300 F will pretty much destroy the honey’s beneficial properties. You do retain the vitamins and minerals to some degree, and if it is a strong-tasting honey like buckwheat it will add to the flavor.

    Does anyone know of a recipe for granola that adds the honey after it cools? Perhaps some experimentation would yield a healthful version of honey-sweetened granola! Let us know if you try!

    …Scott

  • Hi Helen:

    To get the full benefits of raw honey, you need to use it without heating it. Heating honey in baking degrades its natural benefits. It still retains it minerals but the bioflavonoids, enzymes and phytonutrients are destroyed. It is best to use honey ON the baked goods when serving for healthy benefits… as well as during baking for the flavor and texture it imparts.

    …Scott

  • Hi Tariq:

    Once the pollen is removed by micro-filtering, you have taken away a vital constituent of honey, but it still tastes like honey and has dozens of healthful substances. I believe it is important to label the honey properly as “filtered” so people know what they are getting.

    Another important reason for pollen is that it is one of the only ways to trace honey back to its origins. Deceptive companies will remove all the pollen in order to hide the source of the honey.

    Heating over 95 – 105 degress F, cooking and pasteurization kill many of the bio-active components of honey and effectively eliminate any of their healthful benefits. Pasteurization is not needed as honey is naturally antibiotic and fermentation due to yeast will not happen as long as the moisture content is within normal guidelines (less than 19%).

    …Scott

  • sandra

    Hi Scott,

    I wonder if there’s a way to determine which type of honey is “better”. I am having to choose between a milky white one and a darker clearer one; they both claim to be raw honey/white honey. The former has a more sugary taste and the latter has a good aroma. Would the consistency/colour/aroma be a tell or would it be “Bees only know”?!

    Thank you for your help.
    Sandra

  • Hi Sandra:

    I am assuming you mean “better” from a healthful properties point-of-view. It is really difficult to tell without testing. Here are some guidelines.
    1/ Consistency: If it was very watery, then the moisture content may be high and this honey would be susceptible to fermentation.
    2/ Aroma: If there was little or no aroma, then it may be old and the bio active compounds may be missing
    3/ Consistency: If it was crystallized and it was a type of honey that normally took a long time to crystallize, then it may be old. Keep in mind some honey crystallizes within weeks of harvest; this honey would be perfectly good.
    4/ Color: A dark, strong honey tends to be higher in minerals as it may contain more honeydew. However, Manuka honey is high in antibiotic factors and is not particularly dark nor is it honeydew.

    …Scott

  • Muez

    Hi Scott
    I have read that to prevent honey crystallization for a longer time put in a freezer,boil above 109 Fahrenheit and mix the honey with a pasteurized honey.e.t.c which way do you thick best
    Muez
    Africa
    Ethiopia

  • Hi Muez:

    The best way to prevent crystallization is to put it in the freezer. The other methods you mention (heating and mixing) degrade your delicious honey and make it worse than just letting it crystallize.

    …Scott

  • Mindy

    So, I’ve been buying honey labeled as “raw,” but after a conversation today I learned the honey is heated to 103 F…so it’s not really raw is it? I feel lied to! Probably better than what I’d get at the grocery store, but not ideal, correct?? :-/ Back to the honey hunt!

  • Hi Mindy:

    No, not exactly raw, but 103F may not be terrible. It partly depends upon how long it was heated to that temperature. Tests that show degradation of honey does not happen instantly and may take hours at that temperature.

    The best honey for flavor and aroma is unheated and only strained. I usually opt for honey in a comb if I am suspicious of the source. Look for local beekeepers and ask when they plan to harvest their honey. Ask them is they will be producing any completely unheated and only strained. Then ask to come over to watch and buy some. If they are amenable to this, then it is a safe bet they produce the real deal. There is nothing quite like honey absolutely fresh from the hive.

    …Scott

  • Renee

    I have a young son and I try to provide for him only the most healthful foods. When I bake I use raw honey instead of sugar or other sweeteners. I now know that heat destroys the honey’s healthful properties and since I bake at 350 degrees, I believe the honey loses most of its healthful benefits. I have also purchased Manuka Honey 16+ active and I have read that this type of honey should be eaten completely raw and not heated at all. That means that I should not use Manuka Honey in baking. Please advise me what type of honey is best used in baking at 350 degrees and which honey loses less of its healthful properties when used in baking. Could Manuka Honey be used in baking? Is it best not to use honey in baking at all, and if that is the case, what type of sweetener do you suggest I use for baking? I will appreciate your comments and advice.

  • Hi Renee:

    Baking at 350F will eliminate all the organic benefits of honey. Flavonoids, believed responsible for many of the healthful benefits of honey (and indeed many plants), suffer decomposition with heat. These benefits include antioxidation and free radical scavenging. They reduce inflammation and there is evidence of certain types of cancer prevention. Enzymes are also affected by heat, particularly Glucose Oxidase, which is responsible for the production of hydrogen peroxide, an effective anti bacterial substance, in the presence of sodium (from skin for example).

    So after heating, is honey of value? Not nearly as much as unheated. Many of the healthful properties of honey, particularly how its fructose is absorbed into the body without the negative side-effects associated with high fructose corn syrups for instance, are not well understood. They may well be due to the heat-sensitive constituents of honey.

    What is the best sweeter for baking? I would avoid artificial sweeteners only because long term effects are not understood. Stay away from processed sugars as they are truly hollow calories. My first recommendation is to simply reduce the amount of sugar altogether, but after much reading I would stick with honey or evaporated cane juice for baking.

    …Scott

  • Renee

    Thank you Scott for this information. It has been very helpful.

  • Sandy

    Hello, Scott,
    Thank you for your wonderful and informative site! Do you know of a store in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area where I can purchase truly unheated, raw honey and honeycomb? I bought Roundrock brand at my local Farmer’s Market last year only to find out that it really isn’t “raw” at all. I also would prefer to buy local to help with seasonal allergies, but I have found this company: http://www.honeypacifica.com and am inclined to purchase several of their products, even though they are not local. I want the full, medicinal benefits of unheated, raw honey, though I am not sure that this honey would help with seasonal allergies since it does not come from bees in Texas. Does that matter? Or is unheated, raw more important? What are your thoughts and recommendations? Thank you for your time!

  • Hi Sandy:

    Well, it just so happens that I recently heard of a company called, huney.net that you can try. The owner, Joely provided a description of the their honey and operation. You definitely want to get a honey produced within fifty miles or so of your location to be sure to get some of the pollen you are sensitive to. The idea is that very small doses of the pollen in the honey help you become desensitized. This honey should be raw, and definitely unfiltered. This hasn’t been medically proven (like so many traditional remedies), but I have met many people who swear it works for them.

    …Scott

  • Azra Mustafa

    Hi Scott
    I have a jar of raw honey but I am allergic to it ( tongue swells up palms start to itch)
    I have tried using it topically but it causes severe itching too

    What to do with it? If I use it in baking will it become safe for me to eat ? I know that in doing so this will kill off the benefits but will it kill off the allergens too?
    What do you think

    Many thanks

  • Donna

    Hi Scott,

    Great site and information you give here. I called a local honey maker, and they say all their honey is considered “raw”. They strain it through a cheese cloth to get the legs and things out, and they heat it to 125 degrees. I told her raw honey is not supposed to be heated beyond the hive heat of 95 degrees. She said no honey maker will ever be able to get the honey out of the beehive and into a jar with out heating it to that temp. So, my question to you is, am I correct in thinking this is not true raw honey they make if it is heated to 125 degrees, isn’t that too high of a temperature and are therefore destroying a lot of the best nutrients in the honey and not true raw honey. I am looking to buy some local True Raw honey and its a very hard thing to do. Thanks so much Scott,

    Donna

  • Jessica

    Hi I was wondering if it’s okay to put honey in Luke warm or warm water with out destroying it?

  • Hi Jessica:

    Absolutely it is ok, and this is the recommended procedure! As long as the temperature of the honey doesn’t go over 95F. This is the normal hive temperature. I usually use hot tap water in a big bowl with the jar of honey. The tap water usually cools pretty quickly, you may need to change it once or twice.

    …Scott

  • Hi Donna:

    I am sorry to disagree with your beekeeper, I can only assume they are referring to the issue of processing large amounts of honey where speed is important. Heating the honey allows it to drain and flow more quickly. But it is not a requirement for harvesting honey. As a hobbyist beekeeper I can tell you with 100% confidence that you can easily extract honey without heating it. I take the comb out of the hive and crush it into a cheesecloth strainer in 80F temperatures just fine. There are plenty of beekeepers that are able to produce raw honey, although it is not as quick nor efficient as heating it.

    The only time this may be difficult is with certain types of honey, such as dandelion (crystallize quickly) or Manuka (thixotropic) that require special consideration to harvest.

    I don’t disagree that finding Raw Honey may be challenging, but certainly not impossible. Keep asking your beekeepers. For the most part they will be trustworthy like your local honey maker and tell you straight up how they process their honey. Buy a jar for their trouble (It will probably be delicious) and keep looking.

    …Scott

  • Hi Azra:

    There are three probable sources of allergens. One is the plant the bees used for nectar in that particular honey. If so, then you need to try honey from an entirely different region. You are allergic to the pollen most likely of a specific plant used by the bees to make the honey. The other possible source, is that the honey is not really raw and you are allergic to a chemical used to treat the bees. The final possibility is contamination of the flowers from a local source of pollution.

    In all of these cases, your best bet is to try honey from another beekeeper in a different region, preferably a different season. This is an especially good idea if you don’t normally get an allergic reaction from honey.

    Heating/baking the honey will definitely reduce its healthful benefits. As for killing the allergens, it depends upon the specific allergen, but I doubt it will help.

    …Scott

  • Delandra

    Hi. Your article on raw honey is excellent. You mentioned that honey shouldn’t be heated to higher than 95 deg. (equiv. to hive temp.) so nutrients aren’t destroyed. However later on you say to rid the honey of crystallization that has formed, one should heat up to a temp above 95 deg. Wouldn’t that destroy the nutrients at that point? Please reply asap. I have poor digestion & need vital information so badly & quickly.
    Thank you!

  • Hi Delandra:

    I apologize for the confusion. This is practical situation. Generally when I put a jar of honey in a pot of hot water, the hot water temperature lowers quite quickly. By starting out at approximately 110F, the temperature of the water comes down and the temperature of the honey comes up. My intention was not to suggest heating the honey above 95F, but if you have hotter water it will get to 95F more quickly.

    If you can maintain the water temperature, then heating the hot water to 95F would be best, then waiting until the honey liquified.

    But to be completely safe, just use crystallized honey. Many honeys have quite a nice crystallized consistency.

    …Scott

  • Rina

    Hi, I have recently started to drink lemon with honey water in the morning with empty stomach to help with my weight loss in a healthier manner along with proper diet and exercises. And, I read an article saying that it is better to stir honey in with cold water rather than warm or hot, because it degrades or destroys the honey’s nutrients and benefits. So, for weigh loss purpose, shoud honey be drink with cold or warm/hot water.

    Thanks!

    Rina

  • joye deloach

    Will mixing pasteurized and unpasteurized honey replace the enzymes in the unpasteurized if left sitting for a period of time
    ———————
    Edited on 2013/08/23 at 11:50 am
    I meant in the pasteurized

  • Melody

    Hi,
    My question is regarding using honey for canning. You say heating reduces the nutrional value. I’ve also read that honey is a complex sugar, but when it is heated it becomes a simple sugar, just like processed white sugar.
    So, are there any benefits to using honey (raw, unprocessed) in canning or would it be just like using white sugar once it’s gone through the canning process?
    Thanks!

  • Hey Scott

    Just want to say that your website is great!

    We are a small farm in Alberta Canada who really strives for a pure, raw, unfiltered honey and appreciates the information that you are giving to the public. We treat our bees with essential oils and our honey doesn’t get above hive temperature! It is so important that people become aware of exactly what honey is and what is the best way to consume/purchase it is, and educating people is the way to do that! If you like, would love to send a sample to you!
    Keep up the good work!
    Mike

  • Hi Mike:
    Many experienced beekeepers swear by the use of some pretty strong chemicals and antibiotics to fight parasites and bacteria. It is difficult to keep these from contaminating honey. It sounds like you are managing your hives without these. Of course whenever you try to push up production of naturally produced resources you introduce problems that can only be solved by unnatural means. It is the story of farming world-wide. From genetically modified seeds that are resistant to pests, to pesticide /fertilizer coatings on seeds, to pesticide use in general. Farmers can easily double yields and profits using them, and many need to just to stay in business.

    Of course the pesticides are likely killing bees and pollinating insects as a side effect… but give Monsanto enough time and they will eliminate the need for pollination… it is just a matter of time.

    In the meantime, people need to place a higher value on the quality of food. And of course the quality of our environment and the natural world we live in. One way to do this is to buy foods that are grown naturally, so they retain their inherent healthfulness.

    The wonderful side effect is food that tastes better, smells better and is more nourishing and healthy.

    It isn’t easy for a farmer to step around the distribution machine that emphasizes low costs and volume. I hope that by educating people about really good honey they will try buying directly from farmers and distributors who share their values… and happily pay the extra needed to produce a better product.

    As for trying some of your honey, I greatly appreciate your offer and would be delighted to try a sample.

    Please send it to my business:
    Scott Forler
    Dog Collar Boutique
    1585 Beverly Court, Unit 123
    Aurora, IL 60189

    …Scott

  • Dan

    Hi Scott,

    Does putting honey into hot tea reduce the healthy effects or in any way degrade the beneficial enzymes?

    Thanks,
    Dan

  • sarah

    HI scott. I recently bought raw honey that is straight from the hive w/o fully researching some of the risks of ingesting the pollen. It has not been processed in anyway and still contains the pollen, enzymes and propolis. I have never tried raw honey before and want to give it to my kids, ages 4 and 5. I’m worried it may not be safe or we may end up with an allergic reaction from ingesting the honey. Is there a way I can do an allergy test before hand? If I apply a bit to my skin will it act as an allergy test to see if I could potentially have an allergic reaction? or will eating a little bit of the raw honey determine whether or not I will have an allergy to it? I have bought honey that is “raw” but slightly heated and strained a bit and my children and I have not had any sort of reaction to the honey. Is there a way to tell if you might have an allergy to the pollen in raw honey? Thank you

  • Hi Dan:

    Yes it does reduce the healthy affects. Heating honey over the temperature of the hive (95F) degrades the honey. Both flavinoids and some important enzymes are affected by heat.

    The heat doesn’t immediately destroy these components. They are degraded in proportion to the temperature and time. For instance, tea at 130F will not immediately destroy the enzymes, and tea at 150F will act faster. Some work has been done on Manuka honey to determine its effectiveness with heat and it has been found that the floral source changes the sensitivity to heat. In some cases only seconds are needed to destroy enzymes where others many be 20 – 30 minutes at temperatures of 150F to 180F. So the best course is to not heat honey. Other important factors for the effectiveness of honey are keeping the jar of honey sealed and away from open air, and away from the sun and florescent light. Age of some types of honey is also a factor, but is still ‘active’ for one or two years, if kept cool, sealed and in the dark.

    …Scott

  • Hi Sarah:

    First off, many honeys that are not raw also contain pollen. Ultra filtering is not a requirement of honey production and many honeys contain pollen, whether raw or not.
    I understand you are concerned whether the pollen in raw honey may constitute an allergy risk for your kids. I honestly don’t think it would be any more of a risk than playing outside in the spring or summer on a windy day. Pollen is commonly in the air we breath, as anyone who suffers from hay fever will tell you, so trying to avoid pollen is not so easy. However, if you or your kids suffer from allergic reactions during allergy season (when plants pollinate), then avoiding any source of pollen is probably a good idea. Of course any particular honey may not contain the type of pollen you are allergic to. An unfiltered honey from Italy may not contain any golden rod pollen you are allergic to here. Even a local beekeeper’s honey may contain a pollen you are allergic to, but the same beekeeper may produce another honey at another time of year that doesn’t contain that particular pollen.

    So my advice is to show the same caution with eating honey as you do with any food, berry, fruit, seafood, nut, grain etc. If you start getting allergic reactions, then carefully try to determine what it was you were eating and remove it from your diet. Then go to a doctor who specializes in allergies if you need more help.

    …Scott

  • Karen

    Hi I just got a beekeeper to get bees and quite a bit of honey from my house. Right now its in a big pot full of honey, honey comb, some dead bees and I was wondering how best to strain and be able to use the honey. Thank you. Karen

  • Hi Karen:

    As long as no pesticides or chemicals were used to kill the bees, then you can just strain the honey and use it! Crush the honey comb with your hands into a regular wire strainer and catch the honey!

    …Scott

  • Nicole

    Elderberry syrup

    I make homemade elderberry syrup. I use all organic ingredients (elderberries, cinnamon sticks, raw honey, cloves, water). After heating the water, spices, and elderberries to make the elderberry liquid base, I generally allow this liquid to cool completely (after straining) before adding the raw honey. I have always made this in small batches (30 days at a time) and stored in the refrigerator. However, due to time constraints, I was hoping to make this in larger batches and thus would have to can this syrup via water bath method in order to safely store it. My question is this: to safely can this mixture, the ingredients would have to be heated to 140 degrees. Am I degrading the health and nutritional benefits of the honey in this process so much that the benefits of the “raw” honey no longer exist? The syrup will still have the health benefits of the elderberries as these are not degraded via canning but the added benefits of the honey are also important to me. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated as I was unsure about cooking to this temperature. Thanks.

  • Hi Nicole:

    Your syrup sounds delicious!

    I’m sorry to say that heating it to 140 degrees F, will degrade the honey’s healthful properties substantially. To say the benefits will no longer exist depends to some extent on how long you heat the honey. There have been studies of antibacterial properties that have shown some of the active ingredients of honey slowly degrade with heat. But we are talking about minutes, not hours.

    If you can think of a way to not heat the syrup as part of your process and keep the honey temp below 95F, then you can feel quite confident that the honey will not be degraded and will be retained in your elderberry syrup.

    It is too bad that the honey itself cannot be used to preserve the syrup, just as syrups are sometimes used to preserve fruit without heating.

    …Scott

  • Nicole

    Thanks, Scott. Elderberry syrup, if canned, is heated for 20 minutes in the water bath. Based on what you have told me, I think I will keep making it in small batches in the future. I would rather be inconvenienced than lose the health benefits of the raw honey! Thanks again for your time and assistance. Your site is excellent! I am recommending it to my friends via FB!

  • Chris

    Hi Scott, I am very new to raw honey and quite confused in general. Our grocery store has an organic section that sells raw unprocessed honey, one brand is in a spoonable paste (like runny organic peanut butter consistency) and opaque, has a nice aroma, not gritty, it is very thick but would eventually slowly drip from jar if left upside down long enough. Second brand in this section is the same creamy color, more solid almost like crisco with small amount of dark crumbly matter on top, tastes good, though amroma is a little strong. Then today I bought a jar from a local apiary. This honey says raw, is dark brown but not clear, very thick and has a sugary grit to it. They all taste wonderful but I don’t know which is closest to being true raw honey. Can you get good raw honey at the store?

  • Hi Chris:

    Yes you can buy raw honey at a store, but it is very difficult to verify whether it is truly raw. The best way is to contact the manufacturer or beekeeper and ask them.

    A good good clue of purity it whether the honey does crystallize. This seldom happens with heated, microfiltered or honey cut with corn syrup. If in doubt, the best way it to buy honey in the comb. This has a 99.9% probability of being raw.

    … Scott

  • Karen

    I started canning jams and fruit last summer using store bought honey – nothing fancy. This year I wanted to can with Raw Honey – I understand due to the cooking and canning process I will lose some of the benefits of the raw honey. Will I lose so much that the extra expense of the raw honey wouldn’t be worth it? Has anyone studied just how much is lost through water bath canning?

    Thank you!

  • James

    Hi Scott, I’ve been eating raw honey for years. I’ve recently begun working at a health food store that sells Manuka Honey, though I am somewhat skeptical as to whether it is truly raw or not (doesn’t appear even remotely crystallised, unlike the local raw variety I’ve had for years). I don’t like to recommend it given that I don’t know all the facts regarding this particular form of honey. My question to you is how do the two compare, is Maunka honey actually raw/ unprocessed/ non heated, etc, are are the claims for it’s use inflated beyond their merit? Any info you can provide would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  • pooja

    Hi… I just bought honey jar that had pollen and organic material.. but when I opened the jar for the 1st time I saw spontaneous volatile fumes from it for few seconds… it was at room temperature only.. I have never seen such a thing
    does anyone knows the reason for these fumes

  • pooja

    Hi
    can someone tell me the reason for spontaneous volatile fumes that I saw in newly opened honey jar that was supposedly of good quality?

  • Hi Pooja:

    The likely reason is that it has fermented. The water content may have been a little too high allowing wild yeast in the honey to convert it to alcohol and creating Carbon Dioxide causing fumes you saw.

    Was the honey stored in a warm place? This could have helped it ferment.

    While fermented honey is not poisonous, I would not recommend eating this honey, as this is not a normal effect.

    …Scott

  • Nicola

    Hi Scott. I like to drink honegar (a drink I make by pouring hot water into a mug containing one teaspoon of honey and one teaspoon of cider vinegar, stirring vigorously to dissolve the honey then adding cold water so that I can drink it). I understand now though that pouring boiling water onto the honey will degrade it but it is difficult to dissolve the honey without using hot water. I make this drink due to its supposed health benefits. Do you know of a good, healthy method of making it? Perhaps putting the cold ingredients into a bottle and shaking it would be better. If I made large quantities of it at once, would it be OK to store it for weeks at a time? Your advice would be much appreciated. Thanks. Nicola

  • Hi Nicola:

    I suggest you use neither cold or hot water. Use lukewarm water of around 95F or human body temperature. It should feel tepid. It will dissolve reasonably well and you won’t harm the honey. If you store it in the fridge, it should keep for a couple of weeks without fermenting or going bad.

    …Scott

  • Nicola

    Hi Scott. Thanks for your very rapid reply. Your suggestion works well! All the best. Nicola

  • Stephany

    Hi!

    I have started making my own cough drops using honey and essential oils (lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, clove, and cinnamon). I add extra cinnamon so it tastes like a cinnamon honey candy.
    However the recipe requires ithe honey to be heated (before adding the oils) for about 200 min to 300 F. I know this kills quite a few (if not all) enzymes and decreases nutrients.
    But is there anything good left? Or is it now simply a medium for ingesting the properties of the essential oils? Is there any antibacterial qualities left to the honey cough drop at all after this intense heating?

    Thanks

  • Stephany

    Sorry- that’s 20 minutes

  • Hi,
    I have been reading a lot on raw honey because I use honey in my tea everyday. However now with everything I’ve read I have seen that the honey is simply for taste because I am essentially “boiling” off all the good elements of the honey by putting hot water over it. I have also been reading that honey that is heated to that extent can create toxins in your body… Do you know anything about that being false or true? I love the subtle notes honey has in tea and I don’t want to stop using it however I am deeply saddened that it doesn’t benefit me at all and may be hurting me. Please let me know if you have heard any thing about this. Thank you so much your article was fascinating!
    ~Christina

  • Hi Christina:

    Regarding the use of honey in tea: As well as glucose and fructose, honey contains a small amount of other sugars, amino acids, phyto-nutrients, bioflavonoids, antioxidants, small amounts of vitamins, organic acids, and mineral elements, as well as enzymes added by the bee. Heating honey does “boil” off the volatile aromatics and destroys some of the sensitive phyto nutrients, enzymes and other natural compounds. But the balance of glucose and fructose is not affected nor are vitamins and minerals. Others deteriorate with heating, but are not immediately destroyed by heat.

    This means that some of the benefits of honey are still available after heating.

    – does not cause the insulin spike caused by many refined sweeteners
    – vitamins and minerals still intact.
    – many of the antioxidants are still active when heated but deteriorate over time but not immediately. Some still retain their properties within the time it takes to drink a cup.
    – people also claim that the allergy benefit of honey works when used in a hot drink.

    As far as toxic properties of heated honey, the Ayurvedics believe heating honey is not healthful. See Honey- Ayurvedic Nectar but does heating make it toxic? for further information.

    From a scientific point of view, the main potentially toxic compound resulting from heating is called HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural). The current acceptable levels of HMF are 40 mg/kg and 80 mg/kg for tropical honey set by the CODEX Alimentarius (World Health Organization).

    Age and heat both create HMF. The fresher the honey, the lower the HMF. All honey contains some amount of HMF, and some types of flower sources have more than others. The level of HMF rises over time stored at room temperature. Roughly speaking you should try to eat honey that is under 2 years old.

    But how much heat is needed to produce HMF?

    White, Kushnir and Subers in 1964 shows a rise of 30 mg of HMF per Kg of honey under the following conditions:

    300 days at 20C
    60 days at 32C
    3 days at 52C
    4 hours at 71C
    Less than 2 hours at 80C (176F)

    Yet the Encyclopedia of Food Safety states that humans may ingest 30 to 150 mg of HMF per day and that while there is some evidence of potentially harmful effects of HMF from experiments with laboratory animals, the results are controversial when extrapolated to human level.

    HMF is also found in jams, coffee, toast and baked goods. Often comparatively high levels. Toast contains between 12 and 2,000 mg/kg!

    There is no doubt that heating foods change their chemical makeup, and that excessive heat may create harmful compounds. If this is a concern, then all heating of many types of food should be avoided. Especially foods containing any kind of sugars.

    But let’s be reasonable. The total amount of HMF in 3 or 4 teaspoons of honey used in tea, even with honey at high HFM levels of 50 mg/kg is only 1.5 – 2 mg total. So my recommendation is to continue to enjoy your honey in your tea. Tea in a cup cools quickly too, mitigating the time and heat effects on honey.

    …Scott

  • Robin

    Great response to Christina’s question Scott.

    I’d also mention Christina, that the UMF activity of Manuka honey is heat stable. Therefore if you use Manuka honey in your tea and hot drinks, then you’ll still be getting the benefits of UMF. The hydrogen peroxide activity of all honeys is destroyed by heat.
    This is noted in the notes on the Manuka Honey page, in the comments dated 7th January 2014, based on the publication by Prof. Peter Molan:

    “The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey is destroyed when honey is exposed to heat and light, or stored in warm conditions. But the non peroxide antibacterial activity of manuka honey is stable, so there is no concern about genuine Active Manuka Honey losing its activity in storage.” https://www.academia.edu/2187608/Pdf_7_Whats_special_about_Active_Manuka_Honey (bottom of Page 2)

  • Hi Stephany:

    Regarding heating honey to 300F for 200 minutes for cough drops-will the efficacy of the honey be lost? There is likely more than one characteristic of honey that helps to relieve coughs. Even simply coating and soothing a raspy throat may be one of them. I will hazard a guess that the antibiotic nature of the honey may be part of the answer. Unfortunately, for most honey, the enzyme that produces the active antibiotic, Hydrogen Peroxide, is destroyed by heat of that intensity and duration. But there is good news! One honey that retains its antibiotic nature even when heated is Manuka honey. I suggest using Manuka for your honey ingredient and retaining that quality that is otherwise lost to heat.

    …Scott

  • Felicia

    I have read a lot about heat damaging honey’s nutritional properties, but I am uncertain about refrigeration. During certain seasons, the refrigerator is the only refuge from ants. Will my honey still have health benefits if I refrigerate it? Thank you so much for all of your information!

  • Hi Felicia:

    Storing honey in the fridge generally yields the same benefits of cool storage of most foods. It prevents deleterious changes to the honey. Many studies have been done on the aging of honey and all show that heat and light are the culprits (assuming the honey is stored in a non-reactive container like a glass jar). Higher temperatures causes the quicker creation of HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural), a potentially toxic substance. For more information on HMF see, Does using honey in tea degrade the honey?. And heat and prolonged exposure to sunlight destroy most of the antibacterial properties of honey (Dustmann, 1979). Cooler temperatures slow the creation of HMF and of course the refrigerator protects its contents from direct sunlight.

    Another affect of cooler temperature (below 10C or 52F) is to slow down the crystallization rate of honey.

    …Scott

  • Felicia

    Thanks, Scott! I appreciate the information.

  • Aubrey

    I know there are SO many questions already answered about heating honey to a certain temperature, but I wanted some clarification if I may. My sister and I want to offer raw honey without any damage from heating, but wondered about using the knives to remove the cappings during extraction. Does the heat pass quickly enough over the honey from the knife to not affect it? And if it is better to avoid the use of the hot knives, then is it processed faster by using the uncapping tool (that rolls over the comb) and spinning it in an extractor or to crush the comb and let it draIn by gravity? Thank you so much in advance!
    Sincerely,
    Aubrey

  • Hi Aubry:

    That is a great question! Can a hot decapping knife degrade honey?

    Most beekeepers feel that the decapping knife does not degrade the taste or color of the honey if properly used. But there is no doubt there is degradation to the honey that comes in direct contact with the knife. Even more so for the honey that stays on the knife. And of course a decapping knife can get scorching hot if not turned off between uses, so the procedure is important too.

    Overall, I suspect (and this is opinion only… no supporting evidence at this time) the degradation due to a properly used decapping knife would affect less than 1% of the total honey and the overall health benefits would easily be retained.

    However, if the “raw” aspect of your honey will play a key role in your marketing and positioning of your honey product, my inclination would be to avoid any heat whatsoever during the processing of the honey.

    As for speed of processing using spin verses gravity extraction, I don’t know for sure. I think it would depend upon the viscosity of the honey, the amount of honey, and the ambient temperature. Also how well you optimize each procedure.

    …Scott

  • Carol Paine

    I am looking for good recommendations from you for raw orange blossom honey. What do you recommend???

    :-)

  • Hi Carol:

    I haven’t tried a raw version of Orange Blossom Honey yet. Most orange blossom honey is really citrus honey. See Orange Blossom Honey. Some of the best I’ve had, comes from Sicily and Spain. Of course Florida, with its huge orange crop also has Orange Blossom Honey and if you search for “Raw orange blossom honey” you will find quite a few USA sources . For Spanish raw orange blossom honey, try searching for “Miel Cruda de Azaha” for raw orange blossom honey from Spain and translate the resultant website using Google Translate.

    …Scott

  • Monica Bucci

    Hi Scott. I’m wanting to make some kind of lozenge/lollipop with honey while still retaining the antibacterial and other health benefits. Do you have any suggestions about how to do this? Do I need to be concerned about heating honey (toxicity)? I’ve notice that you recommend Manuka honey for heating but I’ve found a Jarrah honey with Active TA 10+ so would it also be safe to heat given that it has the Active TA 10+? Thanks Monica

  • HI Monica:

    Interesting question! Unfortunately, the kind of heat required to make a hard candy is around 300F. While UMF is heat stable for moderate heat this is pushing it. And at this temperature the other honey health benefits except for trace amounts of minerals will be lost.

    I wonder if you can grow larger cold temperature honey crystals. These would possibly retain all the health benefits.

    …Scott

  • Jane

    Wow! Thanks for all the information!
    I just purchased a large quantity of especially bioactive honey from Panamá and it is beginning to crystallize. I use it on my scalp to treat Seborrheic dermatitis. Is it okay if I freeze the honey to stop the crystalization? I really think heating the honey would be counterproductive and I would like to avoid anything that would make it less beneficial. Thanks, Janie

  • fozia

    does raw honey lose its nutritious value when it change its color from golden to darker and thicker consistency . am talking about acacia honey.

  • Carolina

    Hi dear Scott:

    Thanks for putting together all this interesting and useful information on your website. We are a honey Co-op from El Salvador. We produce raw honey and want to export bottled raw honey to the US. We have already contacted a distributor for Florida who is interested in purchasing our product. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any information about US regulation for imported RAW BOTTLED honey. Do you know if there is a website where I can find that information? Do you know if for bottled honey, it would have to be pasteurized (which is not our business, since our honey has never been heated)? Can we add the word “raw” in our label?

    Thanks,

    Carolina Rivas

  • Jon Horton

    Hello Scott, I have a friend that has very bad gastric distress when he eats honey, even in small amounts, I was wondering if the compounds that cause his distress would breakdown when I make Mead, I’m sure he will try some regardless, just wondering how much the honey changes during fermentation?

  • Sallu

    Hi Scott

    Thanks for all the info!! Just was wondering, since pasteurised honey lose all its bacteria etc making it SAFE for a child under the age of 2? Because many people have said that raw honey isn’t safe for them because of some bacteria..also does pasteurised honey have ANY sort of goodness at all? I would like to give pasteurised honey to my 1 year old instead of sugar..

    Thank you

  • Sallu

    *is pasteurised honey safe for kids under 2?

  • Jay Meghjani

    Recently I had a major heart attack. During my stay in hospital l started searching about raw honey, b’coz one of my friend show me the home remedy to prevent heart disease, he is successfully using it last few years. I bought honey to make it, from one reliable suppler, 10 gallon jars (12 pounds each) and I also disrtibuted in bottles to senior citizens in our church and other friends & relatives suffering from heart disease for free 1st time then on cost price next ad a social work. 1st few supplies were great. When supplier raised his price to high. I searched another supplier of raw honey. But it crystallized in 3/4 weeks. I have around 14 jars. Can you Pl suggest me any reliable supplier in or around San Antonio Tx. Can I put those jar in my car to melt it! Pl advice me. Thanks and regards.
    Jay

  • Mary

    Hi Scott – I am looking to bake some cookies and pies for the holidays. I only eat low glycemic foods (55 or lower on the scale) so I would like my treats to be low glycemic as well. I am doing some research on sweeteners and am a bit confused. Can I bake raw honey in a pumpkin pie? Or will the heat destroy its low-glycemic properties? If so, what sweetener(s) do you recommend for low-glycemic baking? Perhaps coconut sugar?

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