Raw Honey: Liquid Gold in Your Pantry

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

When selecting foods for your stockpile, the most budget-friendly, space-conscious way to do it is by selecting items that multitask. This criterion places honey high on your “to-buy list”. 

Tess Pennington of Ready Nutrition lists honey as one of the top SHTF sweeteners to store.

Honey is indeed nature’s sweetener, but don’t write it off as just a condiment. The sweet sticky substance is far more than something to stir into your tea or spread on your toast. Since ancient times, the healing properties of honey have been documented. Some of this knowledge seems to have been forgotten (and purposely marginalized), and drug companies have replaced honey with chemical ointments, antibiotics, and antivirals. (This is always about money – they can’t patent honey, can they?)

  • Honey has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 4000 years. Honey is an ingredient in 634 remedies in ancient Hindu Vedic texts.
  • The Ebers Papyrus of ancient Egypt expounded on the medicinal properties of honey, and it is contained in nearly every ancient Egyptian remedy.
  • In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine”, wrote, “Honey and pollen cause warmth, clean sores and ulcers, soften hard ulcers of lips, heal carbuncles and running sores.”

Just Because the Label Says “Honey”…

Now, you can’t go and get the ubiquitous squeezy bear full of honey at the grocery store and expect it to cure all your ills. Some of the squeezy bears don’t even contain real honey at all. Our good friends at the FDA have defined honey as “anything containing pollen. Even with that broad definition, some Chinese companies have “ultra-filtered” the honey that goes into those little bears to the point that there isn’t any pollen left.

Do you want to know why they ultra-filter the honey?

Ultra filtering removes the pollen so that the source of the honey cannot be determined. Providers of cheap honey do this so that consumers cannot discover the origin. Often the cheap honey is tainted with pesticides, illegal antibiotics, and heavy metals. Some of the cheap honey is watered down with High Fructose Corn Syrup. Much of the questionable honey originates in China.

According to independent testing ordered by Food Safety News and performed by Vaughan Bryant, a professor at Texas A&M University and one of the nation’s premier melissopalynologists, or investigators of pollen in honey. 76% of the golden stuff sold in grocery stores as honey doesn’t contain even one little drop of pollen.

  • Seventy-six percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed (Some of the stores: TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.)
  • One hundred percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.
  • Seventy-seven percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target, and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.
  • One hundred percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smuckers, McDonald’s and KFC had the pollen removed.
  • Bryant found that every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and “natural” stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.

Despite its definition, the FDA does not care about the false labeling of these products. The FDA has ignored requests from Congress, beekeepers and the honey industry to develop a U.S. standard for honey. The FDA has tested less than 5% of honey on store shelves for purity.

How can you be sure you are buying real honey?

As with most products, the closer you can get to the actual source, the better off you’ll be. Short of scooping the sticky stuff directly from the hives, purchase as locally as possible, directly from beekeepers, or at your favorite farmer’s market. There are more than 300 varieties of honey sold in the U.S. The difference in these varieties is the source of the nectar. Buckwheat honey is reputed to have the most healing properties of any type of honey. As a general rule of thumb, the darker the honey is, the more benefits it has.

Pasteurized vs. Raw

The FDA is more concerned that honey is pasteurized (i.e., heat-processed) and not so worried about it being real honey. The problem with pasteurization is that it kills off many of the beneficial components in the honey, most particularly propolis.

The processing of honey often removes many of the phytonutrients found in raw honey as it exists in the hive. Raw honey, for example, contains small amounts of the same resins found in propolis. Propolis sometimes called “bee glue,” a complex mixture of resins and other substances honeybees use to seal the hive and make it safe from bacteria and other micro-organisms. Honeybees make propolis by combining plant resins with their secretions. Other phytonutrients found both in honey and propolis have been shown to possess cancer-preventing and anti-tumor properties. These substances include caffeic acid methyl caffeatephenylethyl caffeate, and phenylethyl dimethylcaffeate. Researchers have discovered these substances prevent colon cancer in animals by shutting down the activity of two enzymes, phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C and lipoxygenase. When raw honey is extensively processed and heated, the benefits of these phytonutrients are primarily eliminated. (Source: http://beehumbleapiaries.com/honey-facts/ )

Despite the significant benefits of raw honey, there are some caveats.

  • Infants under the age of 1 should not be fed raw honey because of the risk of botulism. Their underdeveloped immune systems cannot prevent the Clostridium botulinum spores from multiplying. Botulism can cause paralysis and death.
  • People with bee venom allergies sometimes suffer an allergic reaction to honey. These allergic reactions can quickly become life-threatening.
  • Some people believe that there is a higher risk of food poisoning when you consume raw honey vs. pasteurized honey, however, there are no studies that support that belief.

With the knowledge of the above warnings, I still purchase only raw honey for my household. The pros outweigh the cons for me.

What are the benefits of raw honey?

Raw honey is antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal, making it one of the most healing substances on earth. It is also highly nutritious. Honey is a natural multivitamin. It contains significant amounts of B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulfur, and phosphate.

Internal and external uses of honey: 

  • Apply honey liberally on a wound to speed healing.
  • Apply honey to a rash, burn or scrape, and cover loosely.
  • A tsp taken 3 times per day can help alleviate seasonal allergies.
  • A tbsp of raw honey sprinkled with cinnamon taken 3 times per day can boost the immune system and fight off a cold or sore throat.
  • A spoonful of honey to soothe a cough caused by a sore throat.
  • 2-3 of tablespoons in hot tea can lessen cold and flu symptoms.
  • Honey, mixed with equal parts of coconut oil, makes an excellent skin conditioner.
  • Some studies say that honey can help control blood sugar fluctuations.
  • Raw honey increases the production of antioxidants in the bloodstream.
  • Recent studies proved that honey reduced overall cholesterol levels when taken daily.
  • Honey applied topically to a wound or incision, moistens the skin, and helps prevent or minimize scarring.

Recipe: Homemade Cough Syrup

I keep a honey-lemon-ginger remedy in my refrigerator all winter long. This homemade cough syrup tastes so good that I don’t have to ask my kids twice to take it. You can also stir a few tablespoons of the syrup into hot water for a homemade “Neo-Citran”-style hot drink without all the nasty chemicals.

Ingredients

            • 2 lemons, scrubbed and thinly sliced
            • 6 tbsp of grated ginger root
            • Honey as needed

Directions

            1. In a glass jar, layer the lemon slices and grated ginger until full
            2. Pour honey into jar, using a kitchen knife to stir ingredients
            3. Store in fridge for 2 weeks prior to use.
            4. Take 1-2 tsp 3x per day, as needed for coughs/sore throats

Related: Avoid the Pharmacy: Fight the Flu with Remedies from the Kitchen

Long Term Storage of Honey

The great news about buying honey for your stockpile is that it stores forever. Honey was discovered in the pyramids of Egypt – over 5000 years old – and still edible. Given that, I strongly suspect it will remain viable in your stockpile for as long as you care to store it. The only thing that will happen is that, in time, it will crystallize. You can resolve this issue by placing the jar of honey in a bowl of hot water until it returns to liquid form. However, you can also use it in its crystallized form – you can stir it into tea, spread it on hot toast, or take a spoonful of it as one of the remedies mentioned above.

Frequently heating and cooling honey can lessen its nutritional potency, so I recommend putting honey in a small jar for regular use and using the big jars just to restock your little one. Store your honey in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Are you wondering how to use all that honey?

Related: Show Me the Honey: How to Cook with that Gooey Goodness.

If you have any tips, suggestions or uses for honey,  let us know!

Raw Honey: Liquid Gold in Your Pantry
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • YUM, YUM…
    Hey Daisy, I have alergic reactions to bee stings. Not so bad with the honey ones, but much more so with the hornets and yellow jackets. Did you know that 12 stings from bald face hornets can equal the poison from a rattle snack bite?
    I can swell from one bendable joint to the next one, (hoping never to get stung on the neck,)
    And you know what works for me to alleviate the rash and swelling and reaction?
    BEE POLLEN! Taken by the spoonful. It works for me!

    • Just so you know: yellow jackets and hornets are not bees – they are wasps. What you have is a *WASP* allergy, not a *BEE* allergy.

    • Yes, halfkin, wasps, bees, and yellow jackets have different venom, or so I’ve been told. So one can be allergic to one, but not the others. But one can also be allergic to all of them. I’m badly allergic to one of them, but, unfortunately, don’t know which. So, despite wanting to do bee hives, I can’t risk it.

      Thanks for this article, as you talk about the honey quality and authenticity scandal. I did read that tests done on honey showed the most tainted (or fraudulent, that is, not really honey) honeys were without a USA label in grocery stores. However, some of the USA labeled brands were also ultra filtered or fraudulently labeled. It’s not just China, but all over Asia. And there are sophisticated laundering schemes to authenticate tainted, fraudulent unhoney (just as for olive oil, supposedly).

      The one source of honey that reliably showed no adulteration and was true honey, was the honey from local vendors at farmers markets.

  • Great post, Daisy. I love the “well balanced” nature of this. It is appreciated.

    However, not all “honey articles” that we run across are. I recently saw an article touting the power of honey to fight “strep throat”.

    I cringed when I read that piece. Having had a cousin that died when this infection moved to his heart, and having yet a second cousin who almost got into the same fix. I implore everyone to use common sense. If you feel like you’ve been run over by a freight train, don’t try to treat yourself. A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.

    I don’t push the use of antibiotics for every little sniffle or cough that comes along. However, it is important to remember that many these bacteria that we are talking about now have been mutating for the last century that we’ve had antibiotics, largely from the overuse and misuse of such, and I fear only antibiotics can fight some of the deadly strains that are out there now…. and in some cases they are now failing.

    In a collapse situation, you many not have a choice in the matter, but that’s another story and we aren’t there yet.

    Sorry for blurting out here, but I thought it was important to do so.

  • This will be our 3rd year with our bee hives. The first year, we only bought one group of bees. The second year, we acquired a hive from our schools playground. It was really quite interesting taking on a wild hive, never knew what you were going to get. Last year, we actually got honey and hoping for more this year. Actually, it is looking like our free bees looking for a home are going to be our best producers. The honey is a nice addition to our pantry:)

  • Honey is the greatest thing since Earth! I once had a car radiator blow up on me. I was literally boiled from my waist, to my armpit, the whole underside of my arm, my chest, neck, and the side of my face around to my ear were covered in huge water blisters. my grandmother made a salve from honey and it healed completely with 0 scars. I just wish I could remember the other ingredients.

  • Also, Daisy, as a user of honey for some decades, I must take issue with the whole idea of putting crystallized honey in a bowl of warm water to liquify it. In my total, biased, humble, opinionated, opinion – this is malarkey! I’ve seen this put out for decades, and tried and tried it decades ago. It just doesn’t work. Sort of on par with carob tasting like chocolate – not! Looks like cocoa powder, but that’s it.

    Anyway, the only surefire reliable way of liquifying crystallized honey, that I know of from just my own experience, is in the microwave. Use low heat, but longer, and your honey will be liquid. Personally, I would never buy crystal honey, even in a farmer’s market, unless that was the only honey available.

    • Unless you need liquid honey for a recipe I have to ask why? Why does crystallized homey bother you? It works fine in hot beverages, spreads beautifully on toast – and it means the honey hasn’t been high heat treated or filtered with a micron filter that takes out all ‘impurities’ like pollen, etc. It’s most likely local, too. Do not microwave honey, it changes the chemical composition and causes the creation of HMF (Hydroxymethylfurfural), a nasty side effect of heating sugar. HMF is thought to be the contributing factor to the increase of adult onset diabetes (which corresponds to the rise in the use of high fructose corn syrup in our industrialized food system).

      • This is personal preference. I happen to find crystallized honey more messy than liquid honey. I also find it harder to measure. And, for me, it’s difficult to spread.

        I’ve also thought that crystallized honey sold by the same producer is possibly older than non crystallized honey sold by that producer. And even tho honey lasts for a long time and doesn’t spoil, I just like honey to be as fresh as possible when I first purchase it.

        The one factor that does seem to promote crystallization is cold. My honey crystallizes much faster in winter than summer.

        Also, I’ve never heard that filtered or heated honey doesn’t crystallize. If so, why does that happen and what is your source?

    • If I need to liquefy my honey…which I usually don’t, I run it under hot water in my sink. I am not sure why warm water doesn’t work for you….? It takes longer than the microwave for sure. I have also set it out in a bowl of warm water too, but just make sure to keep changing the warm water. If this doesn’t work for you either, maybe just scoop some out and heat it in a sauce pan on your stove. That would be more preferable than to the microwave, less damaging to the nutrients.

  • “There is a higher risk of food poisoning when you consume raw honey vs pasteurized honey.” Please show me your cite for *any* cases of food poisoning being caused by consuming raw honey. Please, unless you have firm information, don’t spread misinformation. Honey doesn’t go bad. It might turn to mead, but even that won’t hurt you (other than via a hangover, or if you drive drunk!). There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to pasteurize honey. Ever.

    • I’m suffering from this at this very moment. I purchased from a reputable local farm to combat seasonal allergies. Raw honey is great, until you literally can’t eat or drink without vomiting and suffering from diarrhea for several days. Though I “may” have benefited marginally from raw honey by way of reduced allergy symptoms, it certainly does not make up for the hell I’m going through now. I stumbled on this blog while researching whether it was possible to make raw honey safe for consumption while still receiving allergy benefits. It looks like I will just have to live with allergies.

  • Great article! I buy honey from a local beekeeper/postmaster general, who raises bees in his organic garden (lots of sunflowers), for around $30 / gallon 🙂 The honey begins to crystallize in about 2 years, but it is easy to remelt it by placing it in glass jars in a warm (not hot) water bath. If it doesn’t work, just a little more time and slightly warmer water should do the trick. And because it is antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal, there is no need whatsoever to pasteurize … unless of course you’re getting it from some industrial operation where bees are pollinating franken/pesticide laden crops. The buckwheat honey is the best here in the US, maybe, but the best honey from a health and medical standpoint, I believe, is Manuka. I’ve seen manuka honey in NZ (in the stores, they have hives enclosed in glass, working away, inside tourist sort of honey stores … amazing!). I bought 8 or 10 kinds of honey there (including Christmas berry honey, who knew?), and they had probably 80+ varieties, just depends on what bees use to create the honey with. Then I had to stop in Australia on the way home, for a day, and the customs officials “held” my NZ honey for 24 hours (and nicely returned it to me), because both the Australians and Kiwis take their honey VERY seriously, and want to make sure no product cross-infects bees (although bees in both countries are healthy). Now, why do they take this honey so seriously (unlike here?), is of course because they know what a gift this honey is. To allow corn syrup masking as honey in most stores in the US, well, truly criminal. And I think use of the fake honey (which people mistakenly assume is real) probably accounts for most of the ineffectiveness.

    Love your cough / cold syrup, by the way. I infused mine (in addition to lemon/ginger) with a mix of elderberry flowers, echinicea, and black seeds for a month, then drained out these herbs through an unbleached coffee filter, to make a concentrated honey syrup, PLUS I then ran filtered water through the same herb/honey soaked filters, which resulted in an amazing, slightly sweetened tea elixir.

    • Hi Debbie, the reason Australian Customs took your honey (but gave it to you when you were leaving) is that Australia is the only continent left on the planet whose bees have not been affected by the varroa mite which has caused a crisis in bee populations all over the world. A lot of the pesticides that are used in other parts of the world are not needed here in Australia so we guard our industry very vigilantly. Even NZ has had the varroa mite for over 10 years so us Aussies keep our fingers crossed and our eyes wide open.

  • This is personal preference. I find crystallized honey more difficult to measure, it’s messier, and difficult to spread.

    I’ve also thought that crystallized honey sold by the same producer as non-crystallized honey is probably older. And even tho I know that honey doesn’t spoil and lasts a long time, I prefer to have honey as fresh as possible when I first purchase it.

    You say that filtered or heated honey doesn’t crystallize. I’ve not heard this before. How do you know this, and why is it so?

    • The reason some raw honey crystallises quickly is not due to its age but because it has a higher glucose content and less fructose. It depends on what the bees have been drawing on, eg dandelion, wild radish, flooded gum (a form of eucalypt), canola, grass trees. It can crystallise within 14 days after it has been extracted from the hive. Often it is pollen-rich and always true to taste, nutrient and health benefits. I am a bee keeper in Western Australia and prefer to keep my honey raw and maintain its integrity rather than produce a syrup that has no real value.

  • Oh I really dislike auto spell correct.
    My question was you don’t add any liquid like purified water to the home made cough syrup?

    • I know – that darned autocorrect!!!

      No, we like it just a very thick syrup-y consistency. It melts quite nicely into hot water as a tea or is very tasty right off the spoon. 🙂

      Best wishes

      Daisy

  • I “died” in August! Was stung in excess of 10 stings by yellowjackets and had circulatory, vascular arrest! My veins shut down due to the amount of venom! My son did CPR on me and saved my life! I now carry an epi-pen and have a medic alert bracelet. My question is, how safe would it be for me to consume raw unpasteurized honey! Can’t seem to find the answer to this!

  • We often see or hear claims that raw honey is “more nutritious” or
    “better for you,” primarily because raw honey may contain small amounts
    of pollen grains that are often removed during processing or filtering.

    Honey is produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants, not pollen.
    Pollen occurs only incidentally in honey as its clings to the bees.

    the National Honey Board analyzed vitamins, minerals and antioxidant
    levels in raw and processed honey. The study showed that processing
    significantly reduced the pollen content of the honey, but did not
    affect the nutrient content or antioxidant activity, leading the
    researchers to conclude that the micronutrient profile of honey is not
    associated with its pollen content and is not affected by commercial
    processing.

    • I read that same article from the National Honey Board… the only thing I can get from that is that they say that stuff not because its necessarily true but because there is a lack of regulation of honey in our country, because they want to protect their own interests (money and sales), and because they aren’t required to be honest – it might cause more people to eat healthier and disrupt the amount of meds people buy in our country. I don’t believe anything a “corporation” says about health and food. Most people on food health and safety boards these days are former CEO’s of large food companies.

      • Have read a few articles in raw honey and just an fyi the person above commenting that raw honey isn’t as good as pastuerized honey has left the exact same message on every single one of those sights. I believe them to be a hack!

  • Hi, I made the honey/lemon/ginger cough syrup yesterday and cloudy liquid from the lemons and ginger appears to be collecting on top of the honey. Does this need to be stirred in from time to time, or is it okay to leave it and just stir in prior to using? Or should it sink to the bottom eventually? Thanks!!

    • Pat ~

      It will probably separate again, so I’d most likely stir it just prior to using it each time 🙂

  • Just wondering if you could help me with some research. It’s an interesting story too. My mother just sold her house, as my step father passed away a couple years ago. Well in the process of packing up her things to move, and my step father’s belongings, we found a large barrel in a shed. After asking her, my mother told me that my step father stored the barrel there for a friend (who is out of the picture now). She said the barrel if filled with honey and honey comb. So this barrel is HEAVY! My husband thinks it weighs at least a few hundred pounds or more. We moved it to our house (just curious to see what was inside), opened it and found fairly clear honey substance. It seems to be crystallized half way down. If there are combs in the barrel, they must have sunk to the bottom. The liquid smells sort of fermented. My mother was brave and tasted it. She said it didn’t taste bad. The inside of the barrel seems in good shape, but outside is a bit rusted. Interestingly enough, it’s been in that shed for over 10 years. What do you think? Do you have any research suggesting the viability of this honey? Thanks.

  • Awesome article! I love raw honey and haven’t bought the pasteurized form for a long time now. Plus I got more in the big jar of raw honey for the price than with the other alternatives.

    We’re not often sick during the winter but I will definitely keep a jar of that Honey Lemon Ginger mix ready for the “just in case” times!

    Thanks Daisy!

    Shaun
    (P.S. I linked to this page on my site hope ya don’t mind!)

  • Boy are you lucky. I doubt you can go wrong with that raw unheated unfilteted barrel of honey, Shaun

  • I realize this post is a little old but I wanted to comment anyway. Just wondering how others store honey from their own hives? We’ve had our own bees for 1 1/2 years and are just now reaping what we’ve sown … we are so excited! But what’s the BEST way to store it? I know a cool, dark place is the best climate and glass is the best vessel, but when you are getting gallons at a time, that’s a lot of glass gallon jars! We are doing it that way but wondering if there’s a better option.

    What do other beekeepers use? I am concerned about using plastic (even the food-grade stuff) because of the chemicals. I realize I might just have to find a more creative spot in the pantry to keep all those glass gallon jars.

    Thanks!
    Joanne in SW MO

  • Hi…am looking after my very elderly mum..the place where I got honey from locally was a guy who had his own bees and hives..the honey was beautiful and both my girls( now grown and gone) were never sick..it was an awesome thing..but our council shut him down..
    I was wondering if the black and gold honey (no brand Australian label) was real or made up of mostly corn syrup..cheers for your blog

  • I have purchased two different jars of “raw” honey at a farmer’s market but both were mostly clear. So does that mean that it is not raw?

    • I’m not sure about this but I purchase raw, unfiltered honey from a local source and I think that the time of year/what the bees are pollinating may make a difference in the color of the honey. This summer my honey was a light amber color and this winter my honey is very dark, both are delicious. Hope that helps!

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