One of my favorite Winnie the Pooh-isms is, “If you live to 100, I hope I live to 100 minus one, so I never have to live a day without you.” For Winnie the Pooh and me that not only includes people we love, but honey.
Sometimes people fall into the trap of thinking honey is just fructose so it’s sugar; it must be bad for you, right? Honey is a real food. It has been accessible to humans throughout history and is still obtained only in its natural form. Unfiltered or raw honey has many health benefits compared to honey that is processed, filtered or pasteurized according to beekeeper and Ski-Hi Orchard Manager Jacob Franzen.
“My honey is only filtered for hive debris. I don’t ultra-filter or pasteurize or add water to my honey, it’s considered raw. If you look closely at the jars you’ll see a white substance at the very top of the jar. If you see that white in your honey, consider yourself lucky. This is a sign that the great stuff in raw honey is still there. Things like trace bee pollen granules, bee propolis, wax, vitamins, minerals enzymes and, of course, raw honey.”
Bee products are touted to have incredible healing powers and the art of using bee products has been around for centuries and is called apitherapy. Many studies are being done on raw honey and bee products. One study is looking at the bacteria carried in the stomach of bees, used by the ancient Chinese, Egyptians and Greeks, thought to maybe provide an alternative to antibiotics. Other studies being done are with bee products to help manage arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, HPV, Alzheimer’s, cancer and certain autoimmune diseases.
Dozens of studies already tout the health benefits raw honey has including aiding diabetics, blood pressure control, cholesterol, allergies and coughs and colds. Remember it’s still a sugar so you will want to limit your raw honey consumption to one tablespoon a day for adults and one teaspoon a day for children older than 12 months.
According to Franzen, he began beekeeping because it was fascinating but knows there are other reasons it’s important.
“It’s so biologically interesting to have bees; it’s also a necessity to pollinating crops and for a healthy environment. Bees are totally social insects, yet in the apple orchard they will go down rows of apples but never cross rows. This becomes really important in orchard design so we put crab apple trees in the right place plus locating hives accordingly.”
I know I’m not the only one who loves honey, look at what we often call our loved ones. I also love it because I feel it makes you healthier. Even though the exact composition of honey varies by location of beehives, all raw honey contains the sugar molecules, oligosaccharides. They are valuable prebiotics that help beneficial gut bacteria thrive, even though the body doesn’t easily digest oligosaccharides.
Uses for raw honey include over-the-counter cough medications, which soothe coughs and irritations in the upper respiratory tract. It has antioxidants, antifungal and antibacterial properties that make it an effective wound treatment for burns, cuts and bites. It soothes seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp. It can bring 60 percent reduction in allergy symptoms in some people. The antioxidants and flavonoids in honey can reduce heart disease and some cancer risks. Honey also offers skin-enhancing qualities.
Talking with Franzen, you not only think about the health benefits of raw honey but Henry David Thoreau’s “The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams,” comes to mind as he stands near the more than 100-year-old original national landmark orchard home. Franzen doesn’t lack a sense of humor either. His honey is called “Bear’s Bees Honey,” but don’t be fooled, it has nothing to do with Winnie or any other bear. Bear is Franzen’s black standard poodle, and, yes, he loves honey too.
Rebecca Powell Hill is a New York Times best-selling author of ChefMD, founder of ChefDocs and a marketing consultant. She lives in Baraboo.