I admit it. I love honey. Not a lot, not all the time, but man, when I do treat myself to some raw organic honey on my toast or in my tea…yummmy. But is honey good for your health and body? Is manuka honey better? And before we go any further….does buying honey help or harm honey bee populations? Let’s break this topic down a little.
Is Honey Good for You?
I LOVE good honey-in moderation of course (two of my favorites are YS Organic Bee Farms Raw Honey and Wedderspoon Wild Raw Organic Honey.) But honey is sugar, and too much sugar is bad bad bad. Unlike plain sugar, however, honey contains trace enzymes and amino acids with antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Raw unfiltered honey also contains vitamins and minerals, such as iron, copper, phosphorus, magnesium and B vitamins. Certain honey, particularly local honey, has been found useful for allergies. And the World Heath Organization has labelled honey an excellent cough reliever and heeck, who doesn’t like a little lemon tea with honey when you’re hacking up a lung? Just the thing to improve your spirits!
A Brief Pause to Talk About Manuka Honey
I want to take a moment to talk about a particular type of honey, called Manuka honey. Manuka honey is different than regular honey because it contains higher enzymatic activity. This higher enzymatic activity is a mark of the honey’s antibacterial capability.
Each bottle of manuka honey has a number on it, called the UMF number. The UMF (which stands for Unique Manuka Factor) is a standardized measuring methodology which indicates just how ‘strong’ the enzymatic and antibacterial activity of that particular jar of honey is. Basically, UMF is a measure of the manuka honey’s healing ability. To get any of the benefit, you want to look for a Manuka honey that contains at least 10 UMF., but I shoot for 20 or above. You also want to be sure that the Manuka honey you get is manufactured in New Zealand. If the bottle does not have a UMF number and is not licensed by a New Zealand UMF licensed company, you’re not getting the real deal. And keep in mind–this stuff isn’t cheap, but it’s worth the cost.
What is manuka honey good for? The list is seemingly endless:
- acid reflux
- irritable bowel syndrome
- boosting immunity
- MRSA (yes, really!)
What about the bees? Does buying honey help or hurt their population?
As you’re probably aware, honey bee populations are in decline. This decline is know as colony collapse disorder. According the USDA, colony collapse is defined as a dead colony with no adult bees and with no dead bee bodies but with a live queen and immature bees still present. This syndrome has increased dramatically since 2006, as the population of Western honey bees (apis mellifera) has dropped. The production of many agricultural crops have been affected as these crops are pollinated by honey bees.
What’s causing colony collapse disorder? Theories abound, but many scientist have converged on one culprit as the main source of honey bee decline: the use of the pesticide containing neoniconitoids. Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides, which means they permeate all parts of the plant onto which they are sprayed. Unfortunately, honey bees are harmed by these residues.
One of the best ways to help the bee population is to buy LOCAL honey. Local beekeepers generally care a GREAT deal about the health of their bees, unlike mass production facilities in China or Argentina. If you buy your honey from local producers at farmers markets or well-stocked stores, you’re helping your neighbor’s small business (hooray for small business!).
Supporting your local honey producer means you’re helping your local bee population….which means you’re actually helping pollinate your local food system! Go local! You can find local honey producers by heading over to this handy-dandy Honey Locator website. I found a local producer and bought some of their honey yesterday (shout out to Hani Honey!!) and it is simply delicious.
Enjoy your honey, folks!
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