Honey holds health benefits
The healing qualities of honey are well known, and no one knows better than the beekeepers themselves.
“I take my share, five spoonfuls every morning,” said Norman Ensz, a beekeeper outside Hillsboro since 1973.
The key to health-rich honey is avoiding the pasteurization process, which involves heating the honey past 150 degrees, Ensz said. Pasteurization kills yeast and prevents any chance of fermentation; it also slows the crystallization process for a more commercial-viable product. However, pasteurization also eliminates beneficial enzymes.
That’s why Ensz only heats his honey to 100 degrees. That’s also why he no longer sells his honey to retail stores.
“I used to sell it at the grocery store until the state caught up to it because it wasn’t pasteurized,” said Ensz, 86. “You have to have everything pasteurized, but that takes too many items out that your body needs.”
Ensz’s beekeeping operation started as a 4-H project with his daughter, and more than 40 years later he’s considering retiring from his hobby. What he’s proud of is his product.
“What I have is pure honey, just the way bees make it,” Ensz said.
Honey just how the bees make it helps with metabolism and contains vitamins and minerals and a low moisture content so bacteria cannot grow in it, said Bill Vinduska of Vinduska Apiaries.
New Zealand’s manuka honey is often considered the most medicinal honey in the world, and that’s because bees make honey from the potently medicinal manuka and kanuka New Zealand plants, said Vinduska.
Those plants are the key ingredient in Medihoney, which the FDA approved in 2007 to treat skin ulcers and wounds.
“In the Civil War, they used honey as an antibiotic for wound dressing,” said Vinduska.
“The big thing about local honey if you want health benefits is it has to be raw honey,” Vinduska said.
Raw honey begins granulating a couple of weeks after harvesting. That’s not how honey is typically sold in stores.
Big honey companies sell their product as a liquid. They follow the pasteurization process with a filtering process that removes impurities, including bits of wax and pollen from the honey.
“In the U.S., they want it to be liquid,” Vinduska said. “All honey is different, just because of different plants available to the bees — not only is the taste different, but the pollen makes them different.”
Honey produced within a hundred miles of someone’s home contains big health benefits, Ensz said. By ingesting pollen from local plants, the human body builds a natural immunity to plants and a resistance to those allergens, Vinduska said.
“It’s also good for a cough, or if you have cold,” said Ensz.
Scientific studies back up Ensz’s claims. Research has repeatedly shown that those with colds experienced more relief from a serving of honey before bedtime than from over-the-counter cough suppressants.
Ensz prefers honey made from the pollen of dandelions blooming in the spring. “That’s the best tasting there is,” Ensz said, adding that the pollen from sunflowers makes the honey darker in color.
Clover and alfalfa remain the mainstay plants used to make honey in the Midwest, which typically produce a light color and mild flavor, said Gary Slater, a local beekeeper who also works for Barkman Honey.
“The darker honey tends to be stronger in flavor,” Slater said. “Buckwheat honey has some antioxidant qualities.”
Besides the health benefits of honey, just being around bees can be a healthy activity for the beekeepers.
“I love being around the bees,” Slater said. “To plant a garden and watch it grow and harvest from labor, it’s just like with bee keeping. It’s hard work. It’s labor intensive, and hot and dirty, but also very rewarding. It’s an awesome experience.”
Note: Children under one should never be given honey because of the risk of botulism. Dust spores can settle in the honey, and infants do not have developed immune systems to defend against infection.
Last modified Dec. 10, 2014