What is Raw Honey?

What is raw honey?
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / PollyDot

What is raw honey and does it differ from regular honey? Find out all about this sweet treat from the beehive and how to use it to make tasty treats.

Honeybees store honey in the beehive to use for food and nutrition. Raw honey is exactly what it sounds like — it is taken directly from the hive. The silky sweet syrup is then strained for debris and poured directly into sealed jars. Raw honey has been consumed and used for its medicinal properties for millennia. Honey is even depicted in ancient Stone Age paintings that are eight thousand years old.

Over time, raw honey has become commercialized and mass-produced around the globe. Commercial honey goes through more processing than raw honey for aesthetics and to extend its shelf-life. There is an ongoing debate about which of the two possess the most benefits. So, let’s take a look.

Raw Honey vs. Regular Honey: Processing

Raw honey is minimally processed.
Raw honey is minimally processed. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Lolame)

Regular honey undergoes a few more processing stages than raw honey before packaging. Pasteurization and filtration are commonly used methods. Pasteurization involves applying heat to the honey to extend its shelf life by destroying yeast and other microbes. The heat also makes the honey smoother.

Filtered honey has been filtered to the extent that all or most of the fine particles, pollen grains, air bubbles, and other materials have been removed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grading Standards for Extracted Honey awards higher grades for honey that has more clarity. Filtering also helps delay crystallization.

Various pasteurization and filtration methods are used throughout the world, and the syrup is almost always still considered honey afterward. Ultrafiltration, however, involves heating the honey, watering it down, and forcing it at high pressure through tiny filters to remove all traces of pollen and generate a sweeter taste. Ultrafiltered honey is not considered true honey by the USDA and in the absence of all pollen content, cannot be traced back to its source.

Raw honey is extracted directly from the hive and undergoes no processing other than straining for dead bees and any other particle debris. In the US, there is no rule that organic honey can’t be heated or processed. So, do not assume that organic and raw honey are the same thing.

Raw Honey vs. Regular Honey: Taste, Texture, and Color

Raw honey comes in many colors, tastes and textures.
Raw honey comes in many colors, tastes and textures. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / stux)

Honey comes in many colors and flavors. Honey varietals differ from one another according to the types of flowers the bees took nectar from. Often, conventional honey products also contain added sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup and brown rice syrup.

Raw honey can vary in taste and texture too. Many varieties are light and clear while others are dark and heavy. Raw honey tastes can range from sweet to bitter and even sour, while processed honey tends to share a generic sweetness. There are more than 300 unique types of honey available in the United States, each originating from a different floral source.

Always look for products that say raw on the label and don’t forget that organic or pure varieties are not the same. Raw honey is generally less transparent and smooth than regular honey and may crystallize more quickly. Placing it in a pot of warm water will reverse the process but don’t heat it too much to avoid destroying beneficial compounds.

Many varieties of raw honey are available in stores and at farmers’ markets. 100% U.S. raw, unfiltered honey is also sold on Amazon** with a climate-friendly pledge. Always research your supplier and opt for the most eco-friendly packaging.

Raw Honey vs. Regular Honey: Benefits

Raw honey contains more beneficial compounds than processed honey does.
Raw honey contains more beneficial compounds than processed honey does. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / PollyDot)

Research persistently shows that raw honey can have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects. It may also have anti-depressant, anti-convulsant, and anti-anxiety benefits. In some studies, honey has even been shown to help prevent memory disorders. The Mayo Clinic states that sufficient evidence exists to recommend the use of honey to help manage several conditions including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Coughs and respiratory disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Wound management
  • Neurological disease

These health benefits are usually attributed to potent raw honey varietals (such as Manuka honey) because they tend to be higher in antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. Many beneficial chemicals are destroyed by processes like heating and filtering, so raw honey is usually preferred in medical situations.

Bee pollen also produces powerful effects. It has anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory,  and anti-cancer properties, and can help protect the liver and stimulate the immune system. The processing of honey removes most of the pollen and the majority of the commercial brands tested in the U.S. do not contain any.

Ideas For Using Raw Honey

Raw honey is a delicious syrup for pancakes.
Raw honey is a delicious syrup for pancakes. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / RitaE)

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