Last updated: September 6, 2020

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Honey is a sweet and viscous food that bees produce from the nectar of flowers or the secretions of certain parts of plants. There are many types of honey, each variety having organoleptic characteristics (taste, aroma, color, texture) and specific medicinal properties.

Pure honey is an excellent replacement for table sugar, as it has a delicious taste and is much more nutritious and healthier. In the following guide, we will delve into the different types of honey and recommendations for adequate consumption. We will also explain how to identify pure honey and detect false products.

Key Facts

  • Honey is a food derived from the flower sap or the secretions of certain plants. Bees transform the nectar and secretions into honey, which is stored in hives.
  • Honey consists of water, simple sugars (glucose and fructose), free acids, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and some amino acids. From a medicinal point of view, honey is attributed with anti-inflammatory, healing, antiseptic, laxative, and expectorant properties.
  • Buying pure, unadulterated honey is a challenge. You will have to evaluate various vital criteria to find high-quality honey: origin, authenticity and certifications, variety, and value for money.

Our Selection: The Best Honeys on the U.S. Market

Honey is one of the most adulterated and counterfeit foods on the market. This is partly because consumers don’t know the difference between pure and adulterated honey, nor do they know the therapeutic properties of each variety. In the following section, we have selected the best honeys currently out there to help you find the right one:

Best Organic Honey

Nature Nate’s has over two decades of experience making honey, and this product is a favorite among online buyers. Certified organic and gluten-free, this polyfloral honey is raw and unfiltered – so you know you’re getting all the good stuff from nature. Made from a blend of honeys from the U.S. and Canada, this product has a deep-yet-balanced, sweet flavor that you will simply love.

Best Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is one of the most nutrient and tasty types of honey. Bees produce it with the nectar of the manuka tree, which is endemic to New Zealand and Australia. This raw, Non-GMO, and unpasteurized honey is packed and sealed in New Zealand, with an incredible flavor only matched by its health benefits. From workout shakes to DIY face masks, manuka honey does it all.

Best Honey for the Whole Family

If you and your family are true honey lovers and tend to go through bottles at an alarming rate, then you might want to opt for this 80-ounce bottle. Happy Belly is Amazon’s very own brand, and this product has received excellent reviews from past consumers. This wildflower honey is heated and filtered, with no other ingredients added to it. Incredible value for money for your whole family!

Best Honey for Your Meals

Last but not least, this product is a little different from the rest. Advertised as honey with a kick, it is 100% pure but also includes real chili peppers as an ingredient. You’ll have guessed that this is exactly what makes this product attractive. Spice up and sweeten your favorite dishes – from pizzas to snacks or desserts – and drinks with Mike’s Hot Honey, a real staple in American cuisine!

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Honey

Honey offers many properties that are unknown to most of us. In addition, each variety of honey has specific indications and distinctive organoleptic characteristics. In the section below, we will delve into these aspects and answer any question you might have regarding this product.

Miel en un frasco

Honey is one of the most adulterated products.
(Source: olegdudko: 48203062/ 123rf.com)

What is honey exactly?

Honey is a sweet and viscous food produced by honeybees (Apis mellifera) from flower sap or the secretions of certain plants or insects. The bees take the nectar or secretions, associate them with substances that they produce themselves and create honey, which is then gathered in honeycombs.

The honey can be monofloral or polyfloral, depending on whether the bees collect most of the nectar from a single type of flower or several flowers, respectively. Honeydew honey, on the other hand, is obtained from the non-flower secretions of certain plants or from the excretions of insects that feed on plant sap.

foco

Did you know that dark honeys tend to have more antioxidants than lighter honeys?

What nutrients does honey provide?

Simple sugars are the primary nutrients in honey. However, other minor components (minerals, polyphenols) are also precious from a nutritional and medicinal point of view. Let’s have a look at the average chemical composition of a pure and authentic floral honey:

  • Single sugars (carbohydrates): 82 grams, with a predominance of fructose (28-40 grams) and glucose (22-38 grams) We also find sucrose and maltose in smaller proportions.
  • Water: 15-20 milliliters.
  • Proteins or amino acids: 0.3 to 2 grams.
  • Fat: 0 grams.
  • Small amounts of vitamins: B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin C.
  • Minerals: calcium, magnesium, copper, potassium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and manganese.

The caloric value of 100 grams of honey is 328 calories. In addition to the above-mentioned nutritional principles, honey also contains antioxidants and enzymes – the latter being added by the bees themselves. The most important enzymes are α-glucosidase and glucose oxidase, both responsible for many of the medicinal properties of honey.

Un apicultor trabajando

Laboratories carry out chemical analyses to check the authenticity and purity of honey.
(Source: Bodo: 41673658/ 123rf.com)

What are the medicinal properties of honey?

Ancient civilizations – from Egypt to Greece – have used honey as food and medicine. Records dating back hundreds of years before our era show that honey was used for therapeutic purposes. Hippocrates used it to cure sores and ulcers of the skin. Here is a list of the properties of honey that have been demonstrated:

  • It is antimicrobial since it inhibits the growth of pathogens (bacteria, fungi, viruses). Its antibacterial activity is carefully studied and can prevent bacteria from multiplying in skin wounds and causing infection. It also hinders the development of bacteria that could cause tooth decay.
  • It is mildly laxative due to its content in fructose. This is helpful for people suffering from constipation.
  • It has antioxidant activity, as it neutralizes the molecules called free radicals responsible for oxidative damage. Higher levels of antioxidants in the blood are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and early aging.
  • It acts as a natural anti-inflammatory medicine when consumed orally and applied topically. Applying honey on a wound reduces inflammation, while massaging the gums or gargling with honey helps in treating gingivitis (gum inflammation).
  • It relieves throat irritation, promotes the expulsion of bronchial secretions (expectorant) and reduces coughing (antitussive). Honey is consumed to mitigate the symptoms of colds, bronchitis, and flu.
  • It participates in the digestion, thanks to the enzymes it contains. In addition, it can soothe indigestion and promote passing gases.
  • It is a natural prebiotic. This means that the oligosaccharides in honey serve as a substrate for the good bacteria of the colon.
  • It improves aerobic performance (cycling, marathon) because its simple sugars are a fast-release source of energy for the muscles. Honey also helps in restoring glycogen stocks after exercising.
  • It prevents anemia. Consumption of floral honey is associated with higher numbers of red blood cells and higher levels of hemoglobin.
  • It contributes to treating gastric ulcers, gastritis, and gastroenteritis. Honey inhibits the development of a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori that produces gastritis and peptic ulcers.
  • It accelerates wound healing, both externally (ulcers, burns, or skin sores) and internally (peptic ulcers).
  • Honey induces relaxation and improves the quality of sleep.
  • It provides quick-release energy and helps fight fatigue.
Varias abejas en un panal

Detecting adulterated honey before purchasing it is a real challenge.
(Source: Trischberger: 35122464/ 123rf.com)

What types of honey are there?

The broadest and most common way of classifying honey consists of differentiating the types according to the substrate that bees collect and transform. In that regard, we talk about floral honey and honeydew honey. While their nutritional profile is similar, each type of honey has its own characteristics:

  • Blossom honey (or floral honey): Bees collect flower sap to make honey. It is called monofloral if it contains between 45 and 70% of the pollen of a single type of flower, or polyfloral if it is made from the nectar of different types of flowers. You can find the characteristics of the most widely consumed monofloral honeys in the table below.
  • Honeydew honey: Bees collect the non-floral secretions of plants or the products excreted by certain insects that feed on plant sap, making honey from these substrates. Forest honey is one such example, with a dark color, a malty aroma, and a sweet taste with salty notes.
 Thyme honey Orange blossom honey Eucalyptus honey Manuka honey
Source of the nectar Thymus vulgaris flower Citrus sinensis flower Eucalyptus globulus flower Leptospermum scoparium flower
Color Amber Light, between yellow and gold Light amber Dark
Aroma Floral, intense, and persistent Floral and persistent Woody, intense, and persistent Reminiscent of the smell of damp earth
Taste Sweet and acid Sweet and acid Slightly acid and sweet Intense, bittersweet
Does it crystallize? It is unlikely to crystallize. Yes, it crystallizes slowly and forms fine crystals. Yes, it crystallizes and creates fine crystals. Manuka honey also crystallizes slowly to form thick crystals.
Specific properties Healing, digestive, antibacterial, expectorant, and antitussive Sedative Expectorant, decongestant, and antitussive Antibacterial and healing
Recommendations Respiratory conditions (cold, flu, bronchitis).
Flatulence, indigestion.
Treatment for acne.
Nervousness.
Stress.
Insomnia.
Coughs, colds, flu, bronchitis Severe cases of ulcers, sores, and acne.
Gingivitis.
Gastritis due to Helicobacter pylori.
Prevention of infections in wounds.
Prevention of tooth decay.

How can honey benefit the skin?

Honey can be used topically for cosmetic or therapeutic purposes. Its healing, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent natural ingredient for treating acne, bedsores (skin lesions that occur from being in the same position for a long time), dermatitis, and rashes.

Cosmetic-wise, honey can be applied to the face to nourish, clean, brighten, and soften the skin. In addition, it hinders the appearance of pimples and delays the creation of wrinkles. You can use honey on its own on a moistened face or mix it with other ingredients (oats, coconut oil, lemon juice).

Miel en el panal

Bees combine the nectar or secretions gathered with substances they produce themselves.
(Source: cskn: 37621371/ 123rf.com)

How can I consume honey?

While most people simply like to spread honey on a slice of bread or to sweeten tea, you can use it in so many more ways. However, you should avoid overheating it so that its nutritional properties do not deteriorate. Here are more ways you can consume honey:

  • As a sweetener for smoothies, milk, coffee, tea, and yogurt;
  • As a replacement for sugar in baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, and breads;
  • In sauces and dressings;
  • As a topping for breakfast cereals, pancakes, and waffles.

Can people with diabetes consume honey?

This is a controversial subject if there ever was one. No food is actually off-limits for people who have diabetes, but they should consult their nutritionist before including honey in their diet. Some types have a moderate glycemic index (so they won’t produce a sudden rise in blood sugar), but you should always be cautious.

World Health Organization

“Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. The most common is type 2 diabetes, usually in adults, which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin.”

Is honey suitable for vegans?

No, honey cannot be part of this type of diet. Vegan individuals do not consume any animal foods, and bees are insects and, therefore, belong to the animal kingdom. In addition, some people are against the exploitation of bees and claim that these insects produce honey for their own consumption and not for humans.

Un apicultor retirando miel

Honey can be obtained from the non-floral secretions of certain plants.
(Source: Brggemann: 19686281/ 123rf.com)

Buyer’s Guide

Remember that the incredible properties of honey we have discussed only come from pure honey. This food is often adulterated, and its benefits disappear. If you want to make the most of the medicinal attributes of honey, make sure that it is 100% authentic. The following criteria will help you:

Purity & Authenticity

We keep saying it: honey is one of the most adulterated products out there. Laboratories analyze it to check its authenticity and purity. Now, how can you tell if the honey you buy is pure? You can do a few simple tests at home to make sure your honey is authentic:

  • If you put one spoonful of honey in a glass of water and it dissolves easily, it is adulterated. Pure honey sticks to the spoon and won’t dissolve.
  • If you see foam when mixing honey with water and a few drops of vinegar, this is another sign of adulteration.
  • Put honey on a paper napkin. The product is adulterated if a wet halo forms around it.

It is very difficult to detect adulterated honey before buying it, but you should be wary of those that are too liquid. In addition, you should avoid products sold as honey-based foods. They are a mixture of honey and other sugars, including fructose-rich corn syrup.

Una abeja en una flor

Simple sugars are the main nutrients in honey.
(Source: lupobianco: 55339146/ 123rf.com)

Origin

Unfortunately, honey is adulterated in many countries. Spain, New Zealand, the United States, and Turkey produce high-quality honey, while those from India and China should also be avoided. Analyses have detected heavy metals and chloramphenicol (a toxic antibiotic) in specific batches.

Variety

The type of honey doesn’t simply determine its specific medicinal properties; it also influences its taste, aroma, texture, and color. Honey can be made from thyme, orange blossom, Manuka, and rosemary, among many others. Check the first table of our article for the properties and characteristics of the most common varieties.

foco

Did you know that honeydew honey has a lower tendency to crystallize than blossom honey?

Certifications

Manuka honey, for instance, must have a certification that specifies its methylglyoxal (MGO) content. This is expressed as milligrams (mg) of MGO per kilogram of honey, and the concentration of this compound generally varies from 100 mg to 800 mg. On the other hand, celiac individuals should buy honey that is gluten-free certified.

Summary

Pure honey is delicious, versatile, and nutritious, with incredible potential to improve health and relieve respiratory, skin, and digestive conditions. Its antimicrobial, antioxidant, healing, and expectorant properties make it a genuine natural remedy for everyone.

You can find floral or honeydew honey, each with its own particular taste, aroma, and color. Either way, it is essential that you buy authentic honey if you want to make the most of it. While adulterations are common, you can detect them with simple tests at home.

Did you know all the properties and uses of honey? If you liked our guide, feel free to share it on your social media, and leave us a comment in the section below!

(Source of featured image: Volkov: 47442895/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Pearl Williams Homoeopath
Pearl is convinced of the healing effect of herbal substances. That is why she decided to pursue an education in homeopathy. She works as a freelance homoeopath and in her spare time she loves to read and write. This gives her a great deal of expertise in the field of herbal medicine.