In this article…
2. History of Honey - As a Food and Medicine
3. Health Promoting Properties of Honey
4. Health Benefits of Honey - Prevent, Treat, Remedy Illness
5. Defining and Understanding the Different Types of Honey
6. How to Select a Quality Honey
7. How to Store Honey - Retaining Quality
8. How to Add Honey to Your Dog’s, Cat’s Diet
9. Daily Dietary Dosage for Honey
10. Cautions and Interactions
The following provides a comprehensive guide on honey for you and your dog...
Natural Honey (Apis mellifera, also known as raw, unprocessed or unpasteurized honey) is said to be the world’s perfect food - a food that has been revered by the human race for many thousands of years.
Honey offers a rich source of nutrients packed into a simple food which delivers pure energy. Honey also contains multiple, powerful health-promoting and healing compounds that make it a versatile medicine. Honey can be used in emergency medicine, for the treatment and remedy of chronic ailments as both an ingested and topical medicine.
Natural honey is unlike any other food in that honey never spoils.
During their exploration of ancient Egyptian tombs, archaeologists discovered honey that was interred along with the pharaohs. Upon tasting the honey the archaeologists where able to determine that the ancient honey is still perfectly edible.
As a bee keeper, a dog whisperer / behaviourist, wellness adviser and guardian to my own dogs and cats - the topic of honey, dogs and cats holds a place near and dear to my heart and soul.
As beekeepers ourselves, my partner and I work as a team taking great care to provide the bees we have in our care, with a safe and healthy chemical-free environment. We have great respect for our bees and treat them with consideration.
We plant and grow cultivated and wild flowers using organic methods. We do not use any herbicides or pesticides. We are fortunate in that there are no GMO crops near our land on which we keep our bees. We take great care in the handling, processing and packaging of our bees’ honey to ensure the honey and other bee products retain their pristine condition and optimal health promoting properties.
I love to tend to the bees and feel honoured and humbled to do so. I am comforted by the sound of their wings and fascinated to watch them go about their business. There is nothing that can compare to holding a frame of honeycomb fresh from the hive. Gazing upon the beauty of the comb structure, breathing in the wonderful scent of the honey and wood, appreciating the beautiful golden colour of the honey as my finger accidently creates an indent in the wax of the comb, causing some honey to well-up - which of course I must taste to clean my hands. In awe always, of the grace and tolerance of the bees, as I stand next to the hive while the bees flit about declining to sting me.
Bees are insightful beings. Bees respect those humans who are calm, grounded, quite and can normalize being in their (the bees’) presence, free of fear. Bees will not tolerate intrusion by anxious, aggressive, loud disrespectful humans.
Bees themselves are amazing beings with a complex social structure and language of their own. The products that they produce are amazing and many - apis (bee venom), bee pollen, honey, honey comb, propolis, royal jelly…
Much respect should be according to the bee. Approximately every third-bite you take of any given meal comes to you by the grace of the bee. As for the precious life giving and healing food they produce which we garner great benefit from...
It takes approximately twelve (12) bees a combined distance of flight equalling 6,000 miles (9656 km) - which also equates to their lifetime’s worth of foraging time, to produce just one (1) precious teaspoon (21 grams) of honey.
2.0 History of Honey - As a Food and
The use of honey as a beneficial food and medicine is mentioned in the ancient writings and depicted in the artwork of ancient civilizations and cultures such as those found in Egypt, Greece, Roman, Saxon, Christian (i.e. bible), Islam (i.e. Koran), Judea (i.e. Torah), Vedas.
Physicians from ancient times have written about the many healing properties and uses of honey - those ancient practitioners that extolled honey’s virtues include Aristotle, Aristoxenus, Cornelius Celsus, Dioscorides, El Basry, El Mad Joussy, Hippocrates, Porphyry and many more.
The following chart provides just a few examples of honey’s use over the past thousands of years to present day…
150 Million Years
Oldest known physical evidence of bee-life…
150 million year old fossils of honey bees
Earliest known record of beekeeping…
found on Cave paintings in Spain
Earliest known record of apiculture - keeping bees in hives…
found in the Sun Temple near Cairo - the ancient Egyptians used honey in medicinal compounds and as a sweetener
First documented use of honey in wound management. The Egyptians cherished honey as a food.
Xin Dynasty Period …
First recorded use of Juice of Parrot Tree (Butea monosperma, or palash on Sanskrit) and honey as an Ayurvedic curative
The Saxons used honey to treat…
Sties and wounds, including those from amputation
The practice of bee keeping flourishes
The practice of bee keeping flourishes
Use of honey as a therapeutic cure becomes very popular in England, Germany, Finland and Ireland
Ancient Islamic literature honey bees are often extolled for their creativity, industry and intelligence. One such example is that of a Muslim physician who describes the many healing powers of honey.
The ancient Greek physician Dioscorides uses honey to treat sunburn and infected wounds.
Honey (Feng Mi) is praised by Li Shizhen for its many medicinal uses.
Honey is used as a therapeutic drug in combination with Alum to treat ulcers
Honey is used as an antiseptic and mouthwash
Researchers begin to document the healing properties of honey - which later dies off due to the development of antibiotics. This research initiative will resume in the later part of the 20th century.
Second Balkan War…
Honey is used to heal the wounds of soldiers
Researchers at Purdue University discover that honey acts as a catalyst to calcium absorption in the body
A large hospital in New Zealand begins use of manuka honey to control MRSA 9methicillin-resistant Staphylococcue aureus) and other bacterial infections
Professor Basel Al Ramadi of the Microbiology and Immunology Department at UAE University discovers that Manuka honey can be used to inhibit the growth of several types of cancer.
In Europe, honey continued to be of great importance as a cherished food until the Renaissance period when sugar was introduced to the Europeans. In the seventeenth century - for the first time in its long history of use as a cherished food and sweetener, honey took a back seat to sugar.
Today sugar is recognized as a significant trigger for illness and disease including cancer, while honey is regaining its reputation as a health promoting, healing food and medicine.
The same properties that make honey valuable to human health make honey valuable to canine and feline health.
3.0 Health Promoting Properties of Honey
The ancients knew that natural honey had many health promoting properties - modern science has revealed that the ancients were correct. Science is now revealing some of the reasons why honey is so beneficial…
3.1 Antibacterial, Antifungal, Antimicrobial, Antiseptic,
Anti-tumor, Antiviral, Prebiotic, Probiotic
Anti-tumor, Antiviral, Prebiotic, Probiotic
Natural honey is a powerful broad spectrum antibiotic and kills bacteria by creating an inhospitable environment for the bacteria to thrive and reproduce…
3.1.1 Bacteria do not like acidity
Natural honey has a relatively high acidity level (low pH level) of between 3.2 and 4.5 pH. The acidity level in combination with honey’s natural composition deprives bacteria of nitrogen thereby shutting down the ability of bad bacteria to reproduce.
3.1.2 Bacteria need water to survive; honey dehydrates
Natural honey is primarily composed of two monosaccharides leaving very few water molecules available for microorganisms - this condition is called low water activity. Low water activity creates a very unfriendly environment for the growth of microorganisms.
3.1.3 Bacteria can’t thrive in the presence of hydrogen
Natural honey contains an enzyme called glucose oxidase. When glucose oxidase is mixed with a small amount of fluid (i.e. from an animal’s body - canine, feline, human and other non-human animals) creates a small amount of diluted hydrogen peroxide solution. This solution is strong enough to kill bacteria and gentle enough not to irritate or inflame skin.
In the case of a flesh wound hydrogen peroxide forms when the honey mixes with body fluids present on the surface of the wound. The hydrogen peroxide is released slowly and acts as an antiseptic.
If you use honey to treat an eye infection or sty a light burning sensation may be felt momentarily due to the formation of the mild hydrogen peroxide solution. Stinging is not usually an issue when using honey to treat skin wounds.
3.1.4 Honey is Free of the Dangers Posed by Conventional
Natural honey has been proven to protect against at least sixty (60) species of bacteria - some of which cannot be killed with the use of conventional antibiotics. Unfortunately the number of species of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is on trajectory of rapid incline.
Unlike conventional antibiotics, natural honey does not cause a myriad of adverse temporary and long-term side effects, and disease causing bacteria do not become resistant to honey’s anti-bacterial properties.
Honey is also a prebiotic and a probiotic - both functions provide additional support to the immune system. In its capacity as a prebiotic, natural honey provides food to support the beneficial flora (‘friendly’ or ‘good’ immune system supporting bacteria) in the gastrointestinal track (GI Tract).
In its capacity as a probiotic natural honey contributes significant friendly bacteria to populate the GI tract, once again supporting the immune system and healthy serotonin levels. Depending on the floral origin and other factors that contribute to potency natural honey contains varying amounts of the following friendly bacteria - four (4) species of bifidobacteria and six (6) species of lactobacilli.
Conventional antibiotics have the opposite effect as they kill all bacteria good and bad leaving the GI Tract in an unbalanced state, affecting a drop in serotonin levels and depressing the immune system. A potentially dangerous condition at anytime and for a body that is already fighting illness a precarious state in which further infection, virus and anxiety can take hold.
Natural honey offers a potent natural alternative to conventional antibiotics.
New research has shown that natural honey also contributes to building the body’s natural antibiotic - white blood cells. Recent findings show that honey may stimulate white blood cells. White blood cells are the body’s natural bacteria fighting cells.
3.1.5 Honey Can Help Prevent further Degradation of
Antibiotics are the most over misused, over-prescribed conventional medication used today in both human and veterinarian medicine. With this overuse comes great risk to the individual patient and the collective population. As bacteria become increasingly resistant to mankind’s array of conventional antibiotics - the ability of those antibiotics to fight many diseases has become seriously compromised.
If if you are drinking tap water; if you are eating non-organic meat; dairy, fruit and vegetables you and your dog or cat are probably ingesting antibiotics on a daily basis. Now on addition to that daily exposure imagine if you, your dog or cat is also taking a course of prescribed antibiotics. Not only is the body getting over-dosed and over-exposed, so to is the environment and the disease causing bacteria.
Conventional antibiotics - like most substances that we humans and our animal companions ingest, pass through the body and into the environment. In this manner antibiotics make their way into municipal water treatment systems, into ground water, then on into streams, rivers and oceans. The same antibiotics then end up in municipal drinking water and in the water you shower and bath in.
If you or your companion animal are consuming meat from large factory farms - confined animal feeding operations (CAFO) you are consuming antibiotics in the meat. Animals in CAFOs are fed antibiotics with their feed. CAFO animal manure is also spread on fields. The grains, fruits, vegetables etc. harvested from these fields also contain antibiotic residue.
The collective and accumulated result is antibiotic-resistant disease. If you put your cat or dog on multiple courses of antibiotics you put your cat’s and dog’s short and long-term health at serious risk. In the absence of effective antibiotics all surgery becomes extremely risky. As for the collective risk - antibiotic resistant superbugs are killing more cats, dogs and people every year. If you are interested in reading more about the real threat posed by over/misuse of conventional antibiotics you can read the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Antibiotic and Antimicrobial Resistance Threat Report 2013.
Conventional antibiotics should only be used when absolutely necessary. If your dog or cat is on conventional antibiotics adding natural honey to the daily diet can help to fight some the adverse affects of conventional antibiotics.
3.2 Antioxidant Properties
Natural honey contains multiple powerful antioxidants as noted further above. Antioxidants prevent and delay cell damage. Free-radicals are biologically destructive chemical agents that are linked to many chronic diseases such as arthritis and cancer. The antioxidants in honey destroy free-radicals.
The antioxidant properties in honey come from monosaccharides (natural sugars) and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are non-nutritive plant chemicals with disease preventing and protective compounds that shield the plant from disease, drought, excessive heat, injuries, insects, poisons (air and soil) and ultra violet rays. When added to the animal (canine, feline, human, etc.) diet, phytochemicals act as antioxidants that protect the body from various conditions and diseases such as aging, cancer, coronary diseases and other inflammatory disorders, neurological degeneration and a host of other conditions.
The antioxidants in natural honey include: Ascorbic acid; Amino acids, and;
The polyphenol antioxidants in honey include: Acacetin; Apigenin; Caffeic acid; Caffeic acid phenylesters; Chrysin; Galangin; Kaempferol; Quercetin; Pinocembrin, and Pinnobanskin.
In addition to containing phytochemicals produced by plants, natural honey also contains health promoting resins manufactured by the bees themselves. Bees use plant phytochemicals to make resins which are one of the ingredients of Propolis. Propolis, also called ‘bee glue’ is manufactured by bees for use as a sealing substance to keep the bee hive free from health threatening bacteria and other undesirable microorganisms. Honey contains trace amount of Propolis.
These antioxidant properties also contribute to the natural ability of honey to help heal wounds as the antioxidants in honey provide nutritive value to cells which translates into the growth of new, healthy tissue.
The antioxidant composition of natural honey varies based on the botanical and environmental origin of the honey as explained further below.
The antioxidant value of honeydew honey has been found to be greater than that of most other honey.
3.3 Hygroscopic Properties - a Natural Humectant
Natural honey is hygroscopic. When exposed to air honey naturally absorbs moisture from the air. When used to treat open wounds the hygroscopic nature of honey can help to prevent scaring as the moisture collected by honey keeps skin hydrated and fresh; supports the growth of new tissue; helps to ensure wound dressings do not stick to healing wounds/skin.
3.4 Nutritive Properties
Natural honey contains vital minerals and vitamins including…
- Vitamins -
- B Complex…
- B1 (thiamine)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B6 (pyridoxine)
- B9 (folic Acid)
- C (ascorbic acid)
- Niacin (Nicotinic acid)
Darker honey contains higher quantities of nutrients than lighter honey. For a more detailed listing of the nutrients found in honey you can look at this chart.
4.0 Health Benefits of Honey - Prevent,
Treat, Remedy Illness
Treat, Remedy Illness
4.1 A Food For Health and an Ingested Treatment
Natural honey can be used as an ingested treatment for many conditions including…
- Anxiety and Stress
- Allergies - environmental
- Analgesic - pain reduction
- Blood and Vascular Health
- Anemia by stabilizing hemoglobin levels
- Blood circulation - improve poor circulation
- Blood sugar control
- Maintenance of optimal glucose metabolisim during sleep and exercise in support of avoiding the development of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Insulin resistance
- Lower LDL cholesterol
- Obesity - prevention and weight loss
- Raise low blood platelet count
- Raise levels of protective antioxidant compounds (specifically polyphenolic)
- Septicaemia, prevention and treatment
- White blood cell stimulation
- via improving endothelial (cells that line the blood vessels) function
- Bowel, Urinary Tract Health
- Laxative (gentle)
- Relieve constipation
- Calcium absorption
- Cancer prevention, treatment
- Digestive Health
- Diarrhea healing, also see fasting below
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome - IBS
- Proliferation of good gut flora
- Stomach ulcers
- Urinary Tract Infections - UTIs
- Ear Infections
- Energy source (instant) without spiking insulin levels
- Fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
- Fasting animal due to illness such as diarrhea - these animals can be given honey to help sustain energy levels, fight off ailment and help heal the GI tract
- Infections caused by catheters used for kidney dialysis
- Immune system support - activity stimulator
- Insomnia - relief of
- Muscle recuperation support after physical exercise
- Osteoporosis due to calcium absorption enhancement
- Reduce oxidative damage
- Restorative sleep promotion
- Upper Respiratory Infections - URIs
- Fight infection and symptoms (cough, mucous, sore throat etc.)…
- Bronchitis, including chronic bronchitis
- Chronic and allergic rhinitis
- Chronic and allergic sinusitis
- and other URIs
Some of the minerals (found in specific concentrations in honey) combine together to form a serum that mimics blood serum - this similarity allows the body to easily metabolize honey. While this is an advantage for healthy beings who choose to consume honey, it is even more of an advantage for those who are ailing.
4.2 A Topcial Treatment
Natural Honey can be used topically as a treatment for many conditions including…
- Dental and Oral Health - i.e.
- Inflamed and infected gums - gingivitis
- Infected teeth
- Oral ulcers
- Sore mouth - mucositis, i.e.
- Due to radiation treatment
- Eye Conditions - i.e.
- Ear infections
- Skin Conditions - i.e.
- Bacterial infections
- Irritated, inflamed skin, rashes
- Fungal infections, i.e.
- Ring Worm
- Ulcers - i.e.
- Foot and leg ulcers including diabetic foot ulcers resistant to healing and conventional drugs/salves
- MRSA ulcers
- Wound dressing and healing -
- Draw poison from bites, stings
- Infected wounds
- Skin grafts
- Surgical incisions
- Surgical wounds
- Trauma wounds
- including the healing of stubborn wounds
If you want to give honey as a dietary supplement or topical treatment on a kitten or puppy under 6 months of age go to the pharmacy and purchase medicinal honey - don’t use natural honey. See section 10.0 below for more information.
5.0 Defining and Understanding the
Different Types of Honey
Different Types of Honey
5.1 Types of Pure Honey
5.1.1 Natural Honey
‘Natural’, ‘pure’, ‘raw’, ‘unpasteurized’ are interchangeable terms used to describe honey that has not had anything added to it and has simply been extracted from the honeycomb, and may also be passed through a fine sieve to remove particles of honeycomb, foreign particles that may have been introduced inadvertently during extraction or been present prior to extraction. This minimal processing ensures that honey remains thick and rich with nutrients. Raw honey contains pollen and a full range of health promoting properties typically present in unpasteurized honey. Natural honey may be purchase in various forms such as honeycomb, chunk, liquid and creamed.
5.1.2 Honeydew Honey
Also known as Bug Honey, Flea Honey, Forest Honey, Tree Honey may also be named after the type of plant it was harvested from - i.e. Cedar Honey, Elm Honey, Oak Honey, Maple Honey, Pine Honey. Honeydew honey is a natural honey but it is not made from the nectar of flowers, instead it is made from a sweet, sticky liquid excreted by specific insects such as the aphid as they feed on plants. Most honeydew is manufactured by insects (aphids and/or scale insects) that feed on the sap of trees however some plants also provide a source of sap for honeydew. These plants include alfalfa and cotton plants, currant vines, grape vines, gooseberry bushes and sunflower plants.
Insects such as aphids feed on the sap of plants by piercing the plant (stem, leaf, etc.) with their needle-like mouthparts. The sap is released under pressure and shoots into the aphids food canal and forces previously ingested sap out of the aphids ‘bottom’ - elimination canal. The expelled liquid (now a processed sap) lands on the branches, leaves, needles of the plant and the surrounding ground. The sap - once it has been processed by aphid’s digestive and eliminatory system is called ‘dew’…it is no longer just sap. Bees and other insects collect the honeydew the same way nectar is collected from flowers and processes the sap the same way floral nectar is processed. The bee may also mix the honeydew with floral nectar. Honey that is produced primarily of honeydew is called honeydew honey.
While bees prefer floral nectar - if environmental conditions (i.e. drought, or seasonal constraints) or geographic location result in a lack of flowers from which to collect nectar, honey bees will collect (more) honeydew. In some regions honeydew is as a major source of nectar for bees - northern California is one such region. New Zealand exports Beech Tree Honey as a premium export honey. Honeydew honey tends to be more expensive to purchase than standard natural honey.
Honeydew honey is typically lower in glucose and fructose, higher in complex sugars, richer in minerals and antioxidants, tends to be very dark in colour and stronger in taste than standard natural honey. Honeydew honey typically contains more oligosaccharides than floral honey which makes honeydew an excellent prebiotic. Oligosaccharides help to promote and maintain friendly bacteria in the GI tract. Honeydew is very rich in antioxidants - some types of honeydew honey contain higher levels of antioxidants than floral honey. New Zealand Beech Tree Honeydew Honey has exceptional high levels of glucose oxidase providing antibacterial activity that exceeds the activity of some Manuka (Leptospermum - tea tree) honey.
Honeydew can be used in the same manner as standard natural honey and daily dosage is the same as standard natural honey.
5.2 Types of Modified Honey
5.2.1 Medical, Pharmaceutical, Surgical Honey
Medical, pharmaceutical and surgical honey / products used in hospitals and available in pharmacies are typically made from extracts of Leptospermum (tea tree) or alpine honey. The methylgloxal is sterilized and mixed with sugar and turned into a powder that can then be used to make creams/ointments, eye drops, nasal sprays, pills etc. Unfortunately these products made by extracting methlygloxalfrom honey lack the other beneficial substances that would be present in whole natural honey.
The company Medihoney uses whole Leptospermum honey (as opposed to extracted elements) in the making of their products. Medihoney uses a sterilization process to eliminate any Botulism spores that may be present. The sterilization process used does not destroy the beneficial properties of the honey.
5.2.2 Processed Honey
Most of the honey found on grocery store shelves is processed honey. Processed honey is filtered, clarified and pasteurized, and may also be watered down. Processed honey is usually a blend of various honeys from multiple sources.
During pasteurization the honey is heated. The enzymes in honey can sustain heat up to 160 degrees for a short period of time. Pollen, other health promoting substances and friendly bacteria cannot sustain the heat and are destroyed in the pasteurization process.
Processed Blended Mix of Honey
Typically the food manufacturer or distributer will combine a regional honey with the most inexpensive imported honey that they can find. The imported honey may be less expensive to purchase as it may be produced in high volume under very unrestricted/ non-regulated conditions resulting in high volume at the expense of safety and quality of product.
Processed Watered Down Honey
If water is mixed with honey it loses its low water activity and therefore its anti-microbial properties. Watered down honey is nothing more than sugar water. Much of the commercial honey found on a grocery store shelves has been processed and watered down. The water creates more volume thus adding to the profit margin of the manufacturer and retailer - but destroys its antibacterial quality, as does pasteurization. A very large portion of the honey sold on grocery store shelves in Canada and the U.S. is not truly ‘honey’ instead it is a conglomerate made up of corn syrup or rice syrup, malt sweeteners (also called ‘jiggery’ - a cheap, unrefined sugar) to which is added a minimal portion of honey.
5.3 Colour of Honey
Honey comes in many colour variations including amber, brown, (almost) black, red and white. The colour of honey is influenced by the floral species that the nectar comes from and as well from the time of year that the nectar is collected. A few examples can be fund just below…
5.3.1 Colour Variation by Floral Species
- Nectar from the buckwheat plant results in a very dark colour honey as does nectar from the Manuka tree (also called Leptospermum or Tea Tree)
- The time of year that the pollen is harvested
- Nectar from early spring flowers results in white honey
- Dark honey occurs naturally when bees harvest nectar from plants in the later part of the summer season.
Darker honey offers greater potency of health promoting properties - the darker the honey the stronger the taste, health and medicinal properties. The exception to this rule occurs when an unethical beekeeper dilutes a good quality dark honey with tailings from the processing of beeswax which results in remaindered burnt honey. An unethical beekeeper may add the burnt honey to the prized dark honey to extend volume and increase profit. Remember - heating honey destroys its beneficial properties so the introduction of the burnt honey results in a lesser quality product.
5.4 Forms of Honey
5.4.1 Natural Comb Honey
The rawest form of honey is honey comb honey. Bees manufacture honeycomb using beeswax which the bees also make. The bees fill the cells of the honeycomb with honey. The bees then cap-off each filled honeycomb cell with a plug of beeswax. Comb honey provides excellent nutritional and health promoting value as both the honey and the comb contain pollen and a full range of health promoting properties typically present in unpasteurized honey. You can give comb honey to your dog or cat as a treat or as a part of their daily diet. Daily dosage should be similar to that of raw liquid or solid honey. My dogs love comb honey.
5.4.2 Natural Chunk Honey
Chunk honey is simply raw honey that is put in a jar or container with a piece of honey comb. Chunk honey can be fed to your dog or cat the same way as comb honey and liquid honey.
5.4.3 Natural Liquid Honey
Natural honey extracted from the honeycomb is a thick viscous liquid. You can give liquid honey to your dog or cat as a treat or as a part of their daily diet. Daily dosage is provided further below. My dogs and cats all eat natural honey as part of their daily diet. Natural honey is part of my daily diet as well. Natural liquid honey is the preferred from of honey for use as a topically applied medicine to treat skin conditions and various types of wounds.
5.4.4 Natural Creamed Honey
Creamed honey is made by adding a little finely crystallized honey into liquid honey. The transformation from liquid to creamed does not affect the health promoting properties of the honey. Daily dosage for dogs and cats is the same as liquid honey. Don’t use creamed honey topically to treat wounds or skin conditions as the sharp microscopic crystals can cause irritation to the skin.
5.4.5 Processed Honey
Processed honey is equivalent to sugar-water. It lacks the beneficial properties of natural honey and when consumed it spikes insulin levels. Processed honey is an inflammatory food and does not provide the medicinal properties of natural honey.
5.5 Taste Variation in Honey
The taste of honey - insipid or flavourful, weak or strong is directly influenced by the: Floral source of the honey, for example lavender honey will have a distinct taste as will buckwheat honey or orange blossom honey;
The richness of the honey - for example natural honey vs. processed honey and dark vs. light colour honey.
5.6 Variation in Health Promoting, Sustaining and Healing
If the floral source of the pollen was contaminated with herbicides, pesticides, or other environmental pollutants the honey will also be contaminated. Honey that contains a high level of toxins is not healthful.
This is determined by a host of factors…
5.6.1 Antioxidant Value
The floral source of honey accounts for great variance in the antioxidant composition in honey.
- Honey produced from bees that are feeding off organic floral sources contains greater nutritional and medicinal value.
- Honey that is made of nectar collected from a single source floral, such as buckwheat or clover or lavender or rosemary will have different antioxidant profiles.
- Honeydew honey is very high in antioxidents.
- Honey that is made from nectar collected from multiple floral sources will differ in antioxidant value by localized region.
- Honeydew honey has very high antioxidant levels.
5.6.2 Probiotic Value
The probiotic properties of honey also vary based on environmental and floral species - in general honey contains a large quantity of good (friendly) bacteria comprised of four species of Bifidocacteria and six species of Lactobacilli.
5.6.3 Healing Compounds
Honey that is made from the nectar of plants that contain active healing compounds (i.e. lavender or oregano) will contain those specific healing compounds found in the plant.
Any good quality unpasteurized honey can be used as both a dietary supplement and as a treatment for healing and wound care.
The honey currently most prized for wound healing properties is produced from the nectar of the Leptospermum (tea tree) trees or shrubs. Leptospermum is a genus of 80 to 86 species of plants from which the nectar of the flowers is gathered by bees to make Leptospermum honey. Leptospermum honey from New Zealand is produced from the nectar of the Manuka tree. The Kanuka tree (a close relative of the Manuka tree) is also a source of potent anti-bacterial honey. Leptospermum honey from Australia is produced from the Jelly Bush or Lemon-scented tea tree. Leptospermum honey such as Kanuka, Manuka and Lemon-scented Tea tree honey contain a higher concentration of methylglyoxal than other honey. Methylglyoxal is a potent antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal agent.
Manuka honey is readily available in natural health/natural food stores, grocery stores, etc. around the globe as New Zealand exports Manuka honey to many countries around the world.
Buckwheat honey is prized for its use as an ingested treatment for upper respiratory tract infections and related symptoms such as coughing.
5 .6.4 Degradation of Health Promoting Properties due to
The plants and the local environment from which the bees harvested the floral and plant nectar, pollen, resins and saps used to produce the honey is a determining factor in the quality of the honey as pertains to purity safety - quality. If the soil that the flowers and plants grew in were contaminated with heavy metals, if the plants and soil were dosed in herbicides and pesticides, and fertilized with manure high in antibiotic residue the honey can be toxic.
Another example of tainted honey can be seen in the practice of honey ‘laundering’. Cheap honey imported from Asia was being dumped on the Canadian and U.S. market at artificially low prices. This cheap Aisan honey has been found to contain multiple toxins including antibiotics such as chloramphenicol, lead and other heavy metals. Many large and some small North American honey producers/packers/distributers/ were buying up this honey to either: a) sell after falsely relabeling it, or; b) use it to water down locally produced honey. The U.S. Department of Justice added import duties to discourage the dumping of the cheap Asian honey. The importers simply worked around this by first shipping the Chinese honey to Thailand and then imported to the U.S.
When honey is stored in lead welded storage tanks, or plastic storage containers that were not BPA-free the honey will be contaminated. The same can be said of honey that is packaged in non-BPA-free plastic containers. There are many factors that can degrade the health-promoting value of honey.
I know of many local bee keepers that use the utmost of care when harvesting, processing, storing and packaging honey. I know of other local beekeepers that introduce toxins to the honey during the harvesting, processing, storage and packaging of the honey. The sad thing about those beekeepers is that many of them have absolutely no idea that storing honey in non-food grade plastic storage tanks puts their customers - the purchasing public at risk. And yes, there are other beekeepers and distributers of honey that know but just don’t care.
5 .6.5 Degradation of Health Promoting Properties due to
As noted further above the colour of honey darkens with age. Some bee keepers take advantage of this fact by using old honey that has sat at the bottom of a pail or holding tank for +/- 5 years to mix with dark speciality honeys such as buckwheat. In so doing the unethical beekeeper is able to stretch the volume of the specialty honey with non-descript aged honey.
This stretching of a finer quality honey is also done by mixing the fine quality specialty honey with tailings (burnt honey) - a waste product created during the processing of raw comb wax to solid beeswax.
6.0 How to Select a Quality Honey
A truly organic product will have the best potency of flavour, nutrients and medicinal qualities. A non-organic but good quality natural honey will also offer good nutritional and medicinal value
Look for honey that is labelled ‘100% Pure’.
Read the product label - including the fine print. Fine print may divulge important details regarding the quality of the product. For example…
- That the honey is imported, or;
- A blend of local honey mixed with imported honey;
- Make sure the place of origin for the honey is not a geographic location where the soil is said to be highly contaminated…for example China;
- If the label includes the word ‘Pure’ the honey may be watered down;
- If the label states ‘100% Pure’ then the honey should be truly pure.
Look for honey that is viscous (a thick fluid) rather than a honey which is thin, runny or watery - an indicator that the honey has been ‘watered down’.
Purchasing locally produced honey from a reputable beekeeper is a good way to ensure you are getting a quality product. Remember that any good quality natural honey will be rich in nutrients, health promoting and medicinal qualities.
As noted in the sections further above if you want a honey to have optimal nutritive content look for a dark coloured honey.
If you want a honey to have optimal wound healing properties look for a dark coloured honey. Remember don’t use crystallized honey on wounds as the sharp crystal molecules can irritate the skin.
For medicinal purposes and wound healing you can look for honey known to have exceptionally high glucose oxidase levels, for example:
- Buckwheat honey to treat upper respiratory infections
- Manuka honey or New Zealand beech tree honeydew honey for wound healing.
Remember that honey derived from herbal flora such as chamomile, garlic, lavender, marjoram or sunflower will take on the medicinal qualities inherent in that particular plant species.
If you want to give honey as a dietary supplement or topical treatment on a kitten or puppy under 6 months of age go to the pharmacy and purchase medicinal honey - don’t use natural honey. See section 9.0 below for more information.
7.0 How to Store Honey to Retain Quality
To maintain maximum potency of the honeys nutritious and healthful properties…
Honey should be stored:
- In an air tight container so that the honey does not absorb moisture from the air
- A glass container is preferable to a plastic container
- While pottery is attractive if the glaze is not impermeable, moisture from the air can be absorbed through the pottery by the honey.
- At room temperature or slightly cooler;
- In a dark place (i.e. cupboard) vs. a place exposed to high light levels.
Over time natural honey will eventually crystallize and solidifiy. This does not mean that the honey has lost any of its beneficial properties (other than being a little more difficult to spoon out or spread) nor is the honey spoiled or gone bad in any way. Don’t heat the honey at a high temperature as beneficial attributes will be destroyed. Don’t microwave the honey as doing so will also destroy honey’s beneficial properties. If you want to return the honey to a more liquid state simply place the honey (still in its container) in a warmer room or in some warm water. Leave the container standing in the warm water until the honey can be stirred or poured. The fact that the honey does solidify indicates that it is pure and not processed.
Due to lower glucose and fructose content, honeydew honey crystallizes at a much slower rate than floral honey. Some honeydew honeys do not crystallize at all.
Don’t use crystallized, solidified honey to treat wounds or skin conditions as the sharp microscopic crystals can cause irritation to the skin.
8.0 How to Add Honey to Your Dog’s,
Cat’s Daily Diet
Cat’s Daily Diet
- You can add the honey to your dog’s or cat’s food once a day at meal time
- You can give the honey to your dog or cat as a treat
- You can use the honey as part of a treat - you can find example recipes here.
9.0 Daily Ingested Dosage for Honey
Non-Therapeutic Use - for daily intake as part of a health-promoting diet
Dogs and Cats
¼ tsp for every 20 pounds of body weight
9.0 Application of Honey on Wounds
As noted in section 4.2 above honey can be used topically to treat and remedy multiple types of skin conditions and wounds of various types and severity. Honey can be applied directly to skin to aid and speed healing, cleanse the wound, prevent and remedy infection, reduce pain, pus, and swelling, slough away dead cells, etc. and prevent dressings from sticking to wounds, heal stubborn wounds that conventional treatments have failed to cure.
9.1 Applying Honey to a Wound
- Honey should be applied liberally and for deep wounds make sure that the honey flows into the recesses of the wound;
- If possible cover the wound with a dressing;
- For wounds that are stubborn/ resistant to healing, daily application of honey to heal may require a course of treatment that extends over the course of months;
- Honey and fresh dressings must be applied daily;
- If it is not possible to cover the wound then try to discourage your dog or cat from licking the wound for a minimum of 20 minutes by which time the honey will have had an opportunity to begin it’s healing effects;
- Reapply 2 to 3 times daily
- For wounds that do not require dressing apply honey 2 to 3 times daily
- You can also purchase pre-made dressings that contain medical honey made by companies such as Medihoney.
9.2 Applying Honey to Treat Other Skin Conditions
- Apply honey two to three times daily on the affected area
- Persist until conditions clears
10.0 Cautions and Interactions
Kittens and Puppies under six (6) Months of Age
Natural honey can contain a few Botulism spores - not enough to harm a teenage or adult dog or cat but may have the potential to harm a very young puppy or kitten. For this reason natural (raw) honey should not be ingested or topically used on:
- Newborn puppies or kittens;
- Puppies or kittens less than 6 months of age or older puppies and kittens with a suppressed immune system or otherwise weak constitution.
If you want to give honey as a dietary supplement or topical treatment for a kitten or puppy under 6 months of age you can purchase medicinal honey from a pharmacy or on-line. Medihoney is a well known manufacturer of sterilized medicinal honey.
Nigerian Citrus sinensis Osbeck honey reduces peak blood-alcohol (ethanol) levels, as such interactions with alcohol may occur. This is a caution more for humans than for dogs or cats however as alcohol is itself toxic to dogs and cats and should be strictly avoided.
When ingesting honey plus other herbs and supplements that may affect blood sugar levels employ caution.
Carbamazepine and other Anticonvulsants
If your dog or cat is on carbamazepine or another conventional anticonvulsant drug use honey with caution as honey may react with anticonvulsants.
Honey is a broad spectrum antibiotic. If your dog or cat is on a conventional antibiotic and you do not want additive antibiotic effect employ caution. If you do want additive effect then use honey.
Honey can spike insulin levels if too much honey is ingested in a single serving;
If your dog takes insulin, reduce the standard dosage of honey (provided further above) to 1/4 of the full dosage.
Honey can spike insulin levels if too much honey is ingested in a single serving;
If your dog takes insulin, reduce the standard dosage of honey (provided further above) to 1/4 of the full dosage.
If your dog or cat has an allergy to pollen some allergic reaction may occur.
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