Learn About Pure Honey
Honey is a sweet, viscous food substance made by honey bees. Honey has been used throughout history as both a natural sweetener, and for its medicinal properties.
The Beekeepers, 1568, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Honey has been collected since ancient times. Evidence of honey foraging dating back thousands of years has been found all over the world, including in ancient Greece, Spain, Georgia and Israel. The first known records of beekeeping were found in ancient Egypt, where honey was used to sweeten various dishes. Records of honey being used for medicinal and spiritual purposes can be found from all over the world.
How is Honey Made?
Honey bees collect nectar from flowering plants using their long, tongue-like proboscis. They store the nectar in their “honey stomach”, called a proventriculus, and bring the nectar back to the hive.
The beekeeper plays an important role in the final quality of the honey, even before the bees begin collecting nectar! Site selection contributes to the taste, aroma and colour of the honey. Dr. Bee hives are placed in natural areas with little or no human activity, away from harmful pollution (Did you know our Ice Honey comes from wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains?)
The nectar is then regurgitated and deposited into honeycomb cells. Next, worker bees in the hive will ingest the nectar and enzymes in their honey stomach will break down the sugars. Polysaccharides and disaccharides found in nectar are turned into monosaccharides. Sucrose is the main sugar broken down and turns into glucose and fructose.
The nectar is regurgitated into the honeycomb then ingested again and this process repeats until the correct sugar composition is achieved. Worker bees in the hive then fan the honey with their wings to evaporate water content and ripen the honey.
This process of ripening the honey allows it to become supersaturated. This is one of the main reasons why honey doesn’t spoil and has antibacterial effects!
Lastly, the honeycomb cell is capped with a thin layer of beeswax. This honey is a food supply for bees and will sustain the hive throughout the winter months. It’s important for beekeepers to leave enough honey for their bees to overwinter.
Once the honey bees finish up a busy season of collecting nectar and making honey, it is time for the beekeeper to extract the honey and prepare it for bottling.
The top layer of wax is cut off the fully capped honeycomb. The frames are then placed in a machine called a centrifuge that spins to extract the honey. The honey is gently filtered to remove any large pieces of beeswax or propolis that were included in the extraction process. The honey is stored in large barrels until it is ready to be bottled. If the honey has crystallized during storage, it is re-liquefied before bottling. Once the honey is bottled, it is ready for you to enjoy in your home. That’s it!
What is the difference between pure, unpasteurized honey and other honey?
Pasteurization is the process of heating honey at extremely high temperatures of 65°C to 80°C. Most commercial honey found in grocery stores is pasteurized. The high heat can prevent crystallization. Pasteurization breaks the crystal structures between the sugar molecules and permanently damages the enzymes and other bioactive compounds that are naturally occurring in honey.
Even in unpasteurized honey, the beneficial compounds can start to degrade if the honey is subjected to higher temperatures. This often happens when re-liquifying stored honey that has crystallized. At Dr. Bee, we ensure our honey stays below a specific temperature to ensure that all of the beneficial enzymes and heat sensitive microelements remain intact. Heat will also affect volatile compounds that affect flavour and aroma. This is why our honey tastes and smells richer than our competitors. Our process takes more time, but it’s worth it for our customers to enjoy the maximum health benefits of a truly pure honey.
Pure honey also contains trace amounts of other bee ingredients like bee propolis, bee pollen and royal jelly. Most commercial honey producers will microfilter their honey, removing these ingredients and their associated benefits.
Lastly, the ‘regular’ honey found in stores might not even be 100% honey! Some honey producers will mix their honey with syrups, coloring, and other additives to cut costs.
You may have heard about beekeepers feeding their bees with sugar syrup. Some honey producers will feed their bees year-round to speed up honey production. If you purchase honey from one of these beekeepers, is your honey made from nectar or sugar syrup? How will you know?
Pure Honey Benefits
Pure honey has been used as a remedy for centuries and has a variety of health benefits.
Pure honey is a good source of antioxidants. The antioxidant compounds found in honey, called polyphenols, may help to protect your body from free radicals which have been linked to cell damage, aging, and the development of some chronic diseases.
Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties
Pure honey is naturally antibacterial. The supersaturated and low pH environment makes honey very inhospitable to most microbes. It also naturally contains small amounts of hydrogen peroxide which is an antiseptic.
Honey is energy dense and is a source of carbohydrates. Honey contains easily digestible sugars and is a low glycemic index food. This allows honey to be well tolerated by individuals with diabetes which makes honey a suitable sugar alternative. Honey is also a prebiotic which fosters the good bacteria found in the intestines and aids in gut health.
- Peptic ulcers and gastritis induced by Heliobacter pylori can be inhibited by honey
Cough & Oral Health
Honey has long been a remedy for cough and sore throat. Research shows that honey works as a cough suppressant and significantly improves coughing symptoms. Honey has also shown to help with oral health.
- Oral application of honey reduces recovery time for oral mucositis infections
- Honey can help with pain control after procedures such as tonsillectomy
Wound Healing (Topical Application)
The antimicrobial effects of honey can inhibit bacterial growth which is beneficial in wound healing. Honey has been shown to aid in tissue regeneration, scarring and pain management. Honey may help with clearing infections and healing of wounds that do not respond to antiseptics or antibiotics.
- Honey has shown effectiveness with burns and ulcers