Liquid Gold: The Benefits of Honey

Proponents tout the benefits of raw local honey for ailments from joint health to skin care.

Roberto Gonzalez

Proliferating at farmers markets and roadside stands, raw local honey has become all the buzz as people turn to nature’s pharmacy to combat seasonal allergies, heart issues, joint inflammation and the effects of aging.

“People in this hard economy tend to be looking for native ways of taking care of health problems,” says beekeeper Jean Vasicek of Winter Park Honey.

An ancient source of food and alternative medicine, honey gained popularity in its raw, unfiltered state largely for treating seasonal allergies. “If you start with a sore throat or your nose is draining, take a good spoonful of it. Within 12 hours, you’ll notice a significant difference,” says Robert Crisp, owner of 3Beez Honey Farm in St. Cloud. Another benefit is quick energy: “It’s a complex sugar, so it’s healthy for you,” he says.

Producers avoid heating or chemically processing raw honey to preserve its naturally occurring enzymes, vitamins, minerals, pollens and other nutritional benefits. It also is not diluted by corn syrup, a common practice in the commercial honey industry.

“Once honey is heated beyond 118 degrees, that starts breaking down some of its natural properties. It’s no longer considered raw,” says Tammy Sadler, co-owner of Bee-Haven Honey Farm of Lakeland. “Commercially packaged honey will be heated to prevent crystallization. They superheat it so they can push it through microfilters. At that point, they’re removing traces of pollen and enzymes.” Crystallization is a natural process that does not affect honey quality and that can be reversed with gentle heating, she says.

Because high heat destroys honey’s medicinal properties, Crisp recommends cooling hot beverages with an ice cube before adding honey. For day-to-day consumption, he recommends “a wildflower type of honey because it will have so many different blooms in it and pollens from different sources.” 

Winter Park Honey’s Vasicek, a physicist who worked on the space shuttle program, has a patent-pending process for collecting and injecting a specific ratio of pollens into her company’s signature Local Bee Honey. And Vasicek’s cinnamon-orange honey has become a favorite for heart health among
her customers, she says. 

Sadler of Bee-Haven Honey says raw honey is a natural humectant and is ideal for skincare. It also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that promote gut and joint health, immunities and wound healing. A tablespoon a day is all it takes. “I’ve had customers tell me they have greatly reduced their arthritis medications,” she says.

Customers who want to ensure their honey is unprocessed can go right to the source: the honeycomb. “Comb is the rawest and best way to get it,” says Charlie Sanford of Honey Feast. He also suggests buying honey in glass containers to ensure it hasn’t been heated to avoid crystallization, a problem with storage in plastic containers.

Even if you don’t use a lot of honey, it’s okay to buy it in larger quantities. “Honey never goes bad. It only changes state,” says Crisp. He recommends keeping it sealed at room temperature to prevent crystallization and to keep moisture out. 

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