3 Common Misunderstandings Regarding Raw Honey

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Local Honey for Allergies

After almost 10 years as a beekeeper, I have heard just about every myth and misunderstanding there is about honey. Our farmer’s market booth has served as our opportunity to correct the misinformation. Raw, local honey can be an important ingredient in natural home healthcare, but there are some important things that everyone needs to know.

3 Misunderstandings About Honey

Here are three of the most common misconceptions we hear:

1. It’s a good sugar replacement in baking

The truth? Honey is not a health food when it is cooked. This is why we avoid buying pasteurized honey in the store. Around the world, most traditional medicine practices agree that heated honey has a negative effect on the human body. In the case of ayurveda, it is believed that honey heated over 60 degrees celsius (140 degrees fahrenheit) creates “ama.” Ama is a condition of mucus that is brought on by inflammation and toxicity. Heating honey can also reduce the antioxidant content and increase the glycemic index.

Knowing that pasteurized honey isn’t the best, savvy shoppers head to the farmer’s market each week in search of raw honey. This is wonderful! Unfortunately, many of those who buy this liquid gold then proceed to head home and bake a batch of muffins using honey instead of sugar as the sweetener. Baking with raw honey effectively pasteurizes it… making it the same dead and damaging food that we tried to avoid in the supermarket in the first place.

2. Only local honey is healthy

Honey that is local, raw, and collected in the correct season is one of the best things you can use for your allergies. Somehow this came to be translated into the common knowledge that only local honey is healthy for you. The truth is that any raw honey is healthy regardless of where it comes from. It will enter your bloodstream at a slower pace than processed sugar and keep your insulin levels from spiking. It can support your immune system, help fight illness, soothe a sore throat and much more.

What is best for you depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you want to use honey to help with your allergies you must choose only raw, local honey. (Find raw honey in your area here.)

3. Pregnant women should avoid eating raw honey

Another common misunderstanding I hear a lot is the idea that honey isn’t safe during pregnancy. We don’t give honey to children under the age of one – this is because of the concern over botulism spores. If botulism were in raw honey, it would not pose a concern for an adult digestive system. The spores cannot grow in honey and the toxins associated with botulism are only produced with it is reproducing and growing. The problem with young children is that their digestive systems are not mature enough to handle even botulism spores that aren’t growing.

The good news is that pregnant women should feel free to enjoy this healthy food. If there were any contamination, the spores would be destroyed in the mother’s digestive system long before there was ever any chance of them crossing the placenta.

Were you led to believe any of these common myths about honey? Share your info in the comments below!


About Dawn Combs

Dawn is a wife, mother, farmer, author, ethnobotanist, professional speaker, and educator. She has over 20 years of ethnobotanical experience, is a certified herbalist, and has a B.A. in Botany and Humanities/Classics. Dawn is co-owner of Mockingbird Meadows Farm. Her books include Conceiving Healthy Babies and Heal Local.

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  1. chip says

    I believe there is a form of honey suitable for cooking. Honeydew is the honey like substance bees sometimes collect from the leaves of plants where some form of aphid or scale insect is actively feeding. This used to be sold wholesale to bakers as it is typically very dark and sometimes even cloudy. The difference can only be discerned by shining a light through it, pure honey bends light one way and honeydew the other. The ratio of glucose, sucrose and fructose is very different between the two also.

  2. Diane says

    Raw honey, because of its beneficial bacteria, is also very healing for minor skin cuts and abrasions. I’ve tried it and it works!

  3. Marsha says

    Thanks so much for the info. Everyone seems to be using a substitute for the honey in baking such as Stevia, maple syrup etc. but I am on the SCD diet and that is not allowed. They strictly use honey so even if they use raw honey and bake with it that is turning it into the same as we buy in the store. What can be used instead that is SCD Legal.

    Thank You

    • Dawn says

      Hmm… this is a new diet I haven’t looked too much into. I will say in a cursory glance I see that saccharine and aspartame are also “approved” on the diet. That makes me suspicious of the diet as a whole, or at least to following it to the letter. If the diet is supposed to focus only on things that humans have consumed since ancient times I would be much more prone to use maple syrup in coking than I would to use two substances which are relatively new and man-made (not to mention known carcinogens). I would use honey as a sweetener when I could add it without heating it. I would look into the rationale against maple syrup within the diet itself to understand why they’re against it and figure out what you could substitute that follows the rules.

  4. Drinda Rawlings says

    I have been to farmer’s markets recently where beekeepers have told me that their honey is staying in liquid form because it has been strained to remove impurities, but not heated which makes it processed. The honey is completely liquid while the raw honey I buy in the stores is a combination of liquid & solid. Can you explain?

    • Dawn says

      Hi Drinda,
      Most beekeepers have recently harvested their honey. You’re not likely to find any solidified honey at farmer’s markets right now. It won’t start to solidify for a few months. When asked how they “process” their honey, if the beekeeper says they strain it and don’t add any heat then it is your choice to either believe them or not… if it is true this is raw honey. The solidified stuff you get in the store is often the product of a really great marketing campaign designed to make you believe that only solid honey is “really raw”. Honey comes out of the comb liquid, this is its most basic form. The truth is that raw honey can be liquid, solid and everything in between depending on how long it’s been out of the comb, how much particulate matter is in the honey, what type of nectar it was made from, how it’s been handled and what the temperature in the home is. The honey in the store is often filled with comb and bee parts as part of the solid material you get in the jar…. the honey at the farmer’s market is often liquid and has been filtered of large comb and bee parts. Both of these raw honeys will be healthy for you. You have a lot of choices once you have asked your questions and assured yourself of quality.

  5. Teresa says

    Thank you so much for the info. I also have been a baker using honey. Good information and good job!

  6. kathy says

    I received a quart of raw, unpasteurized honey. my friend said to use it quick or it will go bad. I didn’t realize honey goes bad. how quickly do I have to use it and whats the best way to store it?

    • Dawn says

      Is your friend the beekeeper? The only reason to be concerned about raw honey is if it isn’t actually honey… in other words, if it were taken out of the hive while it was still nectar and not made into honey yet. Honey itself NEVER goes bad. I have no idea why someone would tell you that unless they have been misinformed themselves.

  7. Naomi says

    I have never understood the point of baking with raw honey, since it is not raw anymore by the time it comes out of the oven! It just seemed like a waste to me, but I did not know it is actually harmful. Great article.

    • Dawn says

      You just need to get it in an area that has the same types of things blooming at roughly the same time. Here in Ohio that covers most all of the state as “local”

  8. Sophie says

    In recipes that call for honey, to replace it with maple syrup, should we use the same amount considering that they don’t have the same consistency (let’s say a granola bar recipe, like the one from this site)?

  9. Noor Saadeh says

    Thanks for the article! but about heating honey, are we not always advised to add it to tea – especially when we have a cold?

    • Dawn says

      It’s not a problem to add to hot water… so long as it is cool enough that it wouldn’t burn your mouth.

  10. vivian says

    To Toni

    Microwaving your water for tea is not a good idea.

    Microwaving ANYTHING destroys it. I read about a test where they watered two sets of plants, one set with water from the tap and the other with only microwaved and cooled water.
    The plants watered with the microwaved water didn’t grow well and just died.

  11. Gia says

    I have always made organic muffins and baked goods without any sweetners, including honey, for the reasons mentioned in your article. My family is used to spreading the raw honey on top of muffins just out of the oven. We actually use less sweetner that way and enzymes are not destroyed.
    For years, raw honey has been used in surgery in other countries due to its anti-viral, bac-T and fungal properties. When I caught Mersa staph, while working in an ER, I used it on lesions.