Can I eat raw honey? (+5 Health benefits of raw honey)
In this article, we will answer the question “Can I eat raw honey?”. We will also discuss what are the health benefits and risks of eating raw honey, and how to safely consume raw honey.
Can I eat raw honey?
Yes, you can eat raw honey. Raw honey is a natural product containing various enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. For the general population, raw honey can be a nutritious and delicious addition to a balanced diet when consumed in moderation (1).
What are the benefits of eating raw honey?
Eating raw honey can provide several potential benefits due to its rich nutritional profile and bioactive compounds such the following (1):
Rich source of antioxidants
Honey contains powerful antioxidants such as flavonoids and polyphenols which protect the cells against aging and damage. Antioxidants such as polyphenols present in honey prevent the risk of heart disease. Antioxidants also prevent cancer.
Antioxidants found in honey are myricetin, chrysin, coumaric acid, apigenin, quercetin, kaempferol, luteolin and many others.
The enzymatic glucose oxidation reaction and some of its physical aspects are the main factors for honey’s antimicrobial activity.
But other factors that can show antimicrobial activity of honey include high osmotic pressure/low WA, low pH/acidic environment, low protein content, high carbon to nitrogen ratio, low redox potential due to the high level of reducing sugars, a viscosity that limits dissolved oxygen, and other chemical agents/phytochemicals.
Honey contains Hydrogen Peroxide, which has great antiseptic properties. Therefore, honey can heal wounds and kill fungi and bacteria.
Heal wounds and soothes a sore throat
Honey induces leukocytes to release cytokines, which is what begins the tissue repair cascades. Furthermore, it actives immune response to infection
However, do not use store-bought honey to treat your wounds. Because the honey used for medical purposes is inspected and sterile.
Eat a spoonful of honey or stir it in your lemon tea to soothe your aching throat. Honey is also used as a cough-suppressant.
Phytonutrients present in honey have excellent antioxidant, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties. These powerful antioxidants boost immunity and fight cancer. They are destroyed during processing.
Good for digestive health
Honey has been found to treat diarrhea and fight Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori); bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers. Honey acts as a prebiotic and nourishes healthy gut bacteria.
Besides, periodontal and other oral disorders,dyspepsia, and as part of oral rehydration therapy are other gastrointestinal conditions that honey is suggested as potentially useful.
How is raw honey different from regular honey?
Raw honey is extracted from honeycombs and strained through mesh or nylon cloth to get rid of beeswax and dead bees, followed by bottling (1).
On the other hand, regular honey is pasteurized and filtered before bottling. Pasteurization is a heat treatment that kills yeast to extend the shelf-life of honey while making its texture smooth. Filtration removes dirt, debris, and air bubbles to make it look attractive (2).
Some types of processed honey undergo ultrafiltration to further refine it while removing nutritious pollen, enzymes, and antioxidants (2).
Raw honey is more nutritious
It has approximately 22 amino acids, 30 types of bioactive plant compounds called polyphenols, 31 different minerals, and a wide range of vitamins and enzymes. Antioxidants have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties (1).
Minimally processed honey is somewhat similar to raw honey in nutritional profile but this is not the case with commercial honey which loses most of its nutrients due to heavy processing (2).
Most regular honey does not contain any pollen
Bees collect pollen from different flowers in the beehive. It serves as food for them. Bee pollen is incredibly nutritious, containing more than 250 substances, including vitamins, essential amino acids, and fatty acids, micronutrients, and antioxidants, etc. (2,3)
Bee pollen has anti-inflammatory properties and It promotes liver health and reduces the risk of heart diseases. Bee pollen is absent in commercial honey due to ultrafiltration and heat treatments (3).
Most health benefits are attributed to raw honey
Honey reduces the risk of heart diseases, regulates blood pressure and cholesterol, helps in wound healing, and serves as an excellent cough suppressant (1).
Most of these health benefits are attributed to raw honey which preserves most of its antioxidants, unlike regular honey which undergoes heat treatments and ultrafiltration.
An enzyme called glucose oxidase, responsible for the anti-microbial and antibacterial properties of honey is absent in regular honey due to heavy processing (1).
What are the risks of eating raw honey?
Raw honey may contain spores of Clostridium botulinum. This bacteria is particularly dangerous for infants (under the age of one). This bacteria causes infant botulism which can lead to lethal paralysis (4).
Clostridium botulinum contaminates raw honey when bees collect nectar from environments containing the bacteria’s spores. If raw honey is not processed correctly, the spores can survive in the honey and when ingested, especially by infants, the spores can germinate and produce toxins under low-oxygen conditions, leading to botulism (4,7).
Furthermore, honey is a natural source of sugars and should be used in moderation. Before ingesting raw honey, anyone with pollen allergies or other medical disorders, such as diabetes, should exercise caution and speak with a healthcare expert.
How can raw honey be safely consumed?
Raw honey may be taken safely if a few criteria are followed (4,5,6).
- Examine the honey for certificates or quality labels that show appropriate testing and processing.
- To reduce the risk of botulism, avoid administering raw honey to infants under the age of one year.
- When consuming raw honey, gently heat it to roughly 140°F (60°C) to destroy any possible microorganism or spores while retaining some of the beneficial characteristics.
- To avoid bacterial development and retain the quality of raw honey, store it in a cool, dry area at near 20 °C.
In this article, we answered the question “Can I eat raw honey?”. We also discussed what are the health benefits and risks of eating raw honey, and how to safely consume raw honey.
1. Samarghandian S, Farkhondeh T, Samini F. Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research. Pharmacognosy Res. 2017;9(2):121-127.
2. Eshete, Y., Eshete, T. A Review on the Effect of Processing Temperature and Time duration on Commercial Honey Quality. Madridge J Food Technol. 2019; 4(1): 158-162.
3. Komosinska-Vassev, K.,et al. Bee pollen: chemical composition and therapeutic application. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:297425.
4. Kuplulu O. Incidence of Clostridium botulinum spores in honey in Turkey. Food Control. 2006; 17(3): 222-224.
5. Subramanian R, Hebbar HU, Rastogi NK. Processing of honey: A review. Int J Food Properties. 2007; 10(1): 127-143.
6. Adhikari, S. Processing, Packaging and Storage of Honey. Foodwave Annual Bulletin, CCT, Tribhuwan University – 2010.
7. Nigam PK, Nigam A. Botulinum toxin. Indian J Dermatol. 2010;55(1):8-14.