Honey is a thick, sweet, viscous liquid substance made by honey bees and a few other related insects. A healthy honey bee hive will make and consume up to 50 kg (110 pounds) of honey in a single year. To make one pound of honey the bees fly 3 entire laps (196.9 million miles per lap) around the planet and sip nectar from an average of 8 million flowers.
There are 300 + varieties of honey on the market. Honey comes in an array of colors and flavors depending on which type of flowers the nectar is harvested from. Here are some common types of honey found on the island of Hawaii.
Lehua blossom is a soft yellow to cream-colored honey that has an exquisite synergy of sweet earthiness and butterscotch flavors. Lehua blossom honey is absolutely delicious on toast as well as in coffee or tea. Abundant in enzymes, minerals, probiotics, vitamins, and antioxidants, Lehua blossom honey is an exquisite Hawaiian treasure.
Known as Pele’s flower, lehua blossoms are a soft, fluffy red to yellow flower that adorns the branches of the sacred ʻōhiʻa tree. The tree itself is referred to as the ʻōhiʻa tree, and the blossoms are called lehua flowers. Honey bees gather nectar from the lehua blossoms in the cool and misty mountainous slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna loa where the hearty ʻōhiʻa trees are often the first trees to grow in the new lava flow. Endemic (a native plant that has adapted to a specific environment over time and is found nowhere else in the world) to the Hawaiian Islands the ʻōhiʻa lehua tree is the most common native tree in Hawaiʻi. Adapting naturally to its environment, ʻōhiʻa lehua is both hearty and delicate.
In myth and legend, Hawaiians refer to the ‘ōhiʻa lehua tree as sacred to Pele the goddess of the volcano, and to Laka the goddess of hula. The Hawaiian legend of love and destiny is symbolized in that of the ʻōhiʻa tree and the lehua blossom. Lehua and ʻōhiʻa and are lovers that were transformed into a tree and its flowers so that they could be together forever.
Traditionally the lehua blossoms are used to assist with pain and childbirth. The doctrine of signatures (herbs resembling various body parts may be beneficial to those body parts) indicates that lehua blossom may prove beneficial to both the circulatory and the nervous system
Native to Brazil, Wilelaiki is also known as the Christmas berry bush tree and the Brazilian pepper tree grows abundantly in grassy pastures and upcountry ranches. Flourishing in the fertile volcanic soil of the Hawaiian islands, the bright red berries of the Wilelaiki tree blossom in the wintertime. A versatile honey, Wilelaiki has a complex flavor profile with subtle notes of berry, plums, lemon, and a touch of spice. Nutrient-dense Wilelaiki contains a plethora of antioxidants, enzymes, minerals, probiotics, and vitamins.
Manuka honey comes from a Leptospermum species native to southeast Australia and the islands of New Zealand, also known as tea tree. The honey is dark amber colored and produced by bees that pollinate the flowers on the manuka myrtle bush.
Widely researched, Manuka honey is considered a ‘non-peroxide’ honey that studies show contains numerous active compounds renowned for their natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Manuka honey has been registered as a wound care product with appropriate medical regulatory bodies. Manuka honey is reported to exhibit antimicrobial activity against pathogenic bacteria including MRSA, Staphylococcus aureus, E. Coli, and Helicobacter pylori.
There is a lot more to honey than sugar, in fact, honey contains a plethora of micronutrients including amino acids, antimicrobials, antioxidants, bioflavonoids enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and probiotics. Raw honey is a honey that has not been heated or filtered and that contains NO artificial ingredients and thus retains life-enhancing nutrients found in honey.
Raw honey contains copious amounts of Vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, bioflavonoids, monophenols, and polyphenols which function as antioxidants. These antioxidants have been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular and other diseases of oxidative stress. (PubMed: Phenolic Compounds in Honey and Their Associated Health Benefits: A Review; Danila Cianciosi, Tamara Yuliett Forbes- Hernandez, and Maurizio Battino 2018)
Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Sodium, Zinc.
B Vitamins including Niacin (B3), Pyroxidine (B6), Riboflavin (B2), Thiamine (B1), and Vitamin K: Phyllochinon.
Revered honey both food and medicine honey spans across cultures, generations, and timelines. Both ancient and modern civilizations cherish honey as a beloved healing treasure. Documented in the world’s ancient medical literature, the oldest known reference to honey dates back to a Sumerian tablet (2100-2000 BC) mentions honey’s use as a drug and a medicinal ointment. Recent studies reveal that honey is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, apoptotic, and an antioxidant.
Research shows that the polyphenols (plant-based micro-nutrients) present in raw honey have neuroprotective (protects the nerves) and nootropic properties. Bioflavonoids found in honey counter inflammation in the hippocampus, a brain structure that is involved in memory.
Considered a broad-spectrum antibiotic, Leptospermum scoparium (the most common type of honey) is reported to have an inhibitory effect on 60+ species of bacteria. The high sugar content and low pH (3.2 to 4.5) levels of raw honey naturally prohibit pathogenic bacteria growth. Most honey varieties contain hydrogen peroxide which is an antimicrobial. Research studies show that honey protects against pathogenic bacteria including E. Coli, Candida albicans, and Staphylococcus aureus. (Journal of Medicinal Food, Vol. 7 No. 2. Published Aug. 25, 2004: Investigating the Antimicrobial Activity of Natural Honey and Its Effects on the Pathogenic Bacterial Infections of Surgical Wounds and Conjunctiva; Noori S. Al-Waili).
Honey is utilized around the globe to help soothe sore throats and is often added to tinctures and to herbal tea blends. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using honey for sore throats when the sore throat is accompanied by a cough.
An effective antimicrobial antifungal, honey has been used medicinally for literally thousands. The antimicrobial activity is primarily a result of the production of hydrogen peroxide that is created by glucose oxidase (a bee derived enzyme).
Honey contains Vitamin C which is a natural antioxidant. Raw honey contains bioflavonoids and other polyphenols which function as antioxidants. Clinical observations report a reduction in inflammatory symptoms when honey is applied to wounds.
Apoptosis is a programmed cell death through which the body maintains homeostasis to kill cancer cells by utilizing its cell machinery. Honey has been shown to have anti-tumor effects. Research indicates that honey modulates the body’s immune system and may decrease cell viability in malignant cells. Researchers state: “Most of the drugs used in cancer treatments are apoptotic inducers, honey is considered vital.”
Honey has been used since ancient times as a method of accelerating wound healing. The antibacterial activity in honey has been found to help maintain a moist wound condition, while its high viscosity provides a natural barrier that protects wounds from getting infected. Honey is gaining wide acceptance as a natural topical used for the treatment of ulcers, skin infections, burns, and other wounds including bed sores.
Honey is made from the flower nectar (complex sugar compounds) and flower pollen that is collected by honey bees from flowering plants.
Worker bees leave their hive in search of nourishment in the form of plant ‘nectar’. Nectar is a complex sugar that the bees collect from flowers and other plants. Incredibly on one such adventure, a single bee can visit up to 1000 flowers.
Honeybees and plants have formed a life-enhancing reciprocal relationship. This interdependent relationship involves the honeybees taking tiny sips of nourishing flower nectar from the plants while at the same time they help the plants by spreading their pollen to other flowers while they forage.
Honeybees have two stomachs one of which is affectionately called the ‘honey belly’. Once the bees ‘honey belly’ is full of nectar that has been gathered from the flowers the bees transform the nectar into honey through a 3 step process:
With a belly full of nectar, the bee flies back to the hive. During their flight home digestive enzymes initiate the honey-making process. Upon returning to the hive the worker bee ‘regurgitates’ the nectar from its ‘honey belly’ into the mouth of another bee who in turn regurgitates into the mouth of another bee and so on and so on… did you know?…Honey bees dance to tell other bees where to find food.
Each bee in the bee to bee regurgitation process adds in more enzymes to the nectar mixture. These enzymes help to break down the long chains of polysaccharides (complex sugars) that are found in the raw nectar into the monosaccharides (simple sugars) fructose and sucrose that are found in honey.
Honeybees store the honey in wax structures known as honey combs. Once stored within the combs the honeybees beat their little wings over the nectar. This process helps to evaporate any water found in the nectar and to thicken the nectar magnificently transforming it into honey. The bees seal the honeycombs with wax and store it for future use.
Honey contains approximately 40% fructose and 30% glucose, water, pollen, micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals), digestive enzymes, amino acids, antioxidants, and probiotics. Nutrient dense honey has a lower glycemic index (GI) value than sugar and does not raise blood sugar levels as rapidly as processed sugar. Honey is sweeter than sugar with slightly more calories than sugar per teaspoon.
Processed sugar is higher on the glycemic index (GI) than honey which translates as raising blood sugar and insulin levels more rapidly than honey.
Honeybees started making honey around 200 million years ago. Eons before humans even existed on the planet. Although beloved around the planet, honey is considered vegetarian but NOT vegan because it is a product produced by another living creature.
High-quality raw honey contains antioxidants that make it a far better choice than processed add refined sugars. The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet in which the goal is to get the body to produce and rely on ketones for energy instead of glucose. Nutrient dense high quality local local honey is a much better keto-friendly choice than processed and refined sugar. Although high in carbohydrates those on a keto-diet can safely consume modest amounts of honey with confidence.
Whether in the hive or in your home, raw honey has an incredibly long shelf life. If honey gets wet it is possible that bacteria and fungus can grow on it therefore it is best to keep it stored in a dry dark cabinet.
Honey bees store honey in their hives in waxy structures known as honey combs. Humans store honey in the kitchen. Honey keeps best when stored in a sealed container in a dry dark cupboard. Honey does NOT need to be refrigerated and it will not spoil as long as it is stored in a sealed container and does not get wet.
If your honey is hardened or it crystallizes there is an easy fix to soften it:
Simply place the honey jar in a container of warm water, allow it to soften and then stir until the honey crystals until the crystals dissolve and the honey softens.
Sweet and simple honey contains natural sugars with a wide variety of medicinal properties. Containing a plethora of micro-nutrients including vitamins, minerals, enzymes and is safe for dogs in small amounts.
1) A ‘less-is-more’ approach is healthiest when it comes to giving your dog extra snacks including honey and honey containing treats.
2) The high sugar content of honey can lead to tooth decay in your beloved dog.
If you do feed your dog small amounts of honey it is advisable to brush your pups teeth after they eat it to help prevent tooth decay.
Honey should NOT be fed to:
Discuss with a veterinarian to determine how much honey is an appropriate amount to feed YOUR dog.
Babies younger than one year old should NOT be given honey. The primary cited reason for this is that Clostridium bacteria thrive in soil and dust. Clostridium is found contaminating some foods as well as honey. These bacteria are potentially very dangerous to infants and are known to cause infant botulism. As children mature their digestive systems mature and are better able to navigate various bacteria. Play it safe and wait until after your child’s first birthday celebration to offer them honey and honey containing food and drinks.