Did you know there are more than 300 types of honey in the United States alone? Add to that number the 300 to 400 different species of bees in the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon jungle and the honey they can make, and that’s enough to make your head spin!
One reason there are so many different types of honey is that some beekeepers restrict the flowers their bees visit, which results in a honey that is sourced from a single species of flower and honey produced from a wide variety of plants, such as alfalfa, avocado, buckwheat, clover, cotton, orange blossom, safflower, snowberry, soybean, and sunflower, among others. Most honey, however, is a blend because the bees gather nectar from a range of flowers.
Aside from the scores of different sources of honey, there are some general types and terms that we are often presented with when shopping for this natural sweetener.
Pure honey. In the United States, the term “pure honey” refers to honey to which no sugar or food additives have been added. This is not true for other countries, however, including China, which often blend sugar syrups, glucose, dextrose, molasses, invert sugar, flour, corn syrup, starch, or other similar ingredients in their honey. Your best bet it to purchase locally made pure honey.
Pure honey can include raw and/or organic honey. Use pure honey in your tea and recipes that call for honey. It also is recommended for its health benefits, which can be seen under “raw honey” and “certified organic honey,” (below) and for taking care of your skin.
Manuka honey. Honey made from nectar gathered from the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium), which is indigenous only to New Zealand, has been recognized as having some special health benefits. In fact, Manuka honey is the basic ingredient of Medihoney, an FDA-approved topical product for use in treating post-surgical wounds and skin ulcers, such as bed sores, abscesses, and leg ulcers.
One of the most important advantages of Manuka honey is that is effective against Helicobacter pylori, bacteria that are associated with the development of gastric ulcers, duodenal ulcers, and gastric cancer. Manuka honey also has been shown to reduce the growth of tumors.
Manuka honey can be applied to the skin to treat cuts, insect bites, and skin infections. It also is a great addition to homemade skin products to moisturize and exfoliate your skin. A spoonful of Manuka honey can help soothe a sore throat and the digestive tract, and you also should feel free to use it as you would any other honey product in tea and recipes.
Filtered honey. The US Department of Agriculture defines this form of honey as one that has been filtered to remove virtually all pollen, wax, fine particles, and air bubbles typically seen in raw honey (see “raw honey”). Filtered honey is also heated to allow it to remain liquid longer yet while also retaining its natural fragrance and flavor.
However, basically filtered honey has had much of its nutritional value removed. The best thing to do with filtered honey is to walk past it in the market and go for more natural honey.
Wild honey. If you ever get down to the Peruvian or Brazilian rainforests, you can get a real treat: wild honey. This dark amber honey has a more liquid consistency than commercial honey and typically contains a real “taste” of the tropics, including bark, twigs, beeswax, and pollen. Wild honey is valued by local native populations for its healing properties, such as regulating heart rate.
If you get your hands on some wild honey, consider using a teaspoon or two for coughs, sore throat, and digestive problems, as well as a salve on irritated skin, cuts, and wounds.
Raw honey. This form of honey is as close to dining with the bees as you can get. Raw honey is obtained by taking the honey from the hive and putting it into an extractor or centrifuge, where it is spun. This strains the honey without filtering it, so it still has its natural pollens and some wax particles. The honey is never heated higher than 95 ° F, since this is the natural temperature of a beehive. This retains the natural enzymes in this amber-colored, unpasteurized honey.
Raw honey has been credited with warding off allergy symptoms, boosting the immune system, aiding sleep (by assisting in the release of melatonin), helping with blood sugar balance, and easing coughs. Take a teaspoon or two of raw honey once or twice a day for these health concerns.
Certified organic honey. Finding certified organic honey can be a bit of a challenge. Beekeepers must ensure their bees’ foraging range is completely pesticide-free. A five-kilometer radius from the beehives must meet this requirement, plus the area needs to be tested periodically to ensure there are no pesticides or environmental pollutants. Beekeepers also cannot use any nonorganic sugar or honey or antibiotics for their bees (the latter to control mites). Certified organic raw honey is the best choice for your health, and most is produced in Mexico, Canada, and Brazil.
Certified organic honey is the primo type of honey you want in your pantry, medicine cabinet, and makeup table. The natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties of honey, along with its ability to promote absorption of calcium and selenium and help promote a healthy digestive system, are at their best in this form of honey. Use certified organic honey when treating yourself to a beauty treatment!
Light vs dark honey. Honey can range in color from light to amber and dark, with variations in between. Generally, the lighter the honey, the milder the taste, but there are exceptions. Light honey, such as those made from clover, is often used as a sweetener for teas and other beverages as well as cereals and grains. Think of it as the “white” sugar. Dark honey, such as those made from buckwheat, is the “brown sugar” of honeys. It has a bolder taste and is often used in making breads and other baked goods. Amber honey can be made from sources such as alfalfa and sage.
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