by Dr. Will Cole
Honey has long been used as a sweetener and ingredients in all-natural healing remedies. The earliest reference to honey dates back 8,000 years to a cave painting in Spain of honey foraging. In my functional medicine clinic I always encourage my patients to use raw honey as their alternative sweetener of choice because of its particular health benefits. It’s more than just a zero-calorie low-glycemic sugar substitute.
Honey can come in two forms – raw or pasteurized. Raw honey is honey in its purest form. It has not been altered in any way and is extremely high in nutrients. In fact, because it is not processed raw honey still contains some bee pollen since it is not processed which has been shown to boost the immune system. Pasteurized honey on the other hand, has been processed to help remove any potential bacteria, but in the process removes the awesome nutritional value as well.
In general honey contains a wide variety of powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols, which have been shown to help combat cancer and promote heart health. Additionally it is great for helping in wound and cold protection due to its intensive antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. And when you really break down the nutritional profile of raw honey you’ll be amazed at all the goodness hiding in this common sweetener:
- Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
- B vitamins – B6, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin
- Minerals – Calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and more
- 22 amino acids
There are multiple different varieties of honey depending on the plant source and each one provides a different flavor profile of their own. The darker the honey the deeper more intense its flavor is going to be. Some of my favorites include:
- Clover – This is what you will typically find in grocery stores and what you are probably most familiar with flavor wise.
- Orange Blossom – Straight from the blossoms of orange trees this variety is very light and almost citrusy in flavor.
- Alfalfa – Most common in Canada and the U.S. it is harvested from the purple blossoms of alfalfa and can be slightly less sweet than clover honey.
- Buckwheat – Produced right here in Pennsylvania where I am from, it is a very dark honey with a deep almost molasses like flavor.
There are over 300 different kinds of honey in the United States alone! But my all-time favorite when it comes to taste and medicinal benefits is Manuka honey. It is only produced in New Zealand from pollination of the Manuka bush. It is a darker color with a deeper more earthy-sweet flavor. Manuka honey takes the health benefits already present in honey and takes them to the next-level. If you are going to invest in honey Manuka is your choice!
The antibacterial and antimicrobial qualities in Manuka are intensified so much more so, research has shown that it is powerful enough to heal intensive injuries such as burns and infected wounds as well as fight off pathogens such as E. Coli, Salmonella, and even S. aureus, better known as MRSA.
Because Manuka honey is so valuable, New Zealand has come up with its own system for assuring the quality of Manuka honey being sold. The UMF grading system looks at the natural antibacterial properties such as, leptosperin, methylglyoxal, and DHA, in Manuka to rate it’s quality. When purchasing Manuka honey you’ll want to look for the UMF symbol along with an accompanying number. A rating between 10-15 is very standard for antibacterial benefits with anything above that providing the most intensive antibacterial properties for Manuka. Anything less than 5 won’t provide nearly the same level of health benefits.
My go-to brand of Manuka honey is Wedderspoon. They take their quality seriously, so much so that they even created their own quality system, known as KFactor, in accordance with New Zealand’s Manuka standards to ensure that you are always getting the highest quality Manuka and its nutritional benefits.
One of my favorite ways to use Manuka honey are in my matcha green tea (the EGCG in matcha + the antioxidants in Manuka are a power combo) or other herbal teas such as Echinacea to enhance each of their immune boosting properties. So if you are looking for an all-natural healing remedy you can rely on, give Manuka honey a try.