Breakfast,  French,  Honey and other bee products,  Nutritional information,  Sweet

Raw honey and learning when to stop talking

We went to a local Christmas market this weekend and, while I was busy buying my own bodyweight in locally-produced Landaise honey, Léo was busy consuming his bodyweight in garbure (a duck and vegetable soup typical of Southwestern France). The quantities of food that Léo consumes and the enthusiasm with which he does so, are becoming acute sources of embarrassment to me — you would honestly think that he wasn’t fed at home. Sometimes, for example, we drop into a local café at about 11am for a cup of coffee and he orders a three-course ‘menu du jour’. I desperately feel the need to justify his appetite and end up woefully tying myself in knots with comments like: ‘I do feed him at home you know! In fact I feed him extremely well!’. On realising that this sounds horribly pretentious, I might add: ‘When I say extremely well, obviously I mean, you know, normally. Well not out-of-a-packet normally, but, errr, very healthily’. Of course I end up sounding like a furiously back-pedalling crazy person who should probably learn when to shut up.
Anyway, back to honey. Honey has been used for its healing properties since biblical times when it was used, amongst other things, to treat diphtheria. Physicians of ancient times, such as Aristotle, Hippocrates and Cornelius made reference to its healing qualities. A recent Russian study showed that beekeepers in Georgia who consumed raw honey and pollen on a regular basis frequently lived to over 100, a few even living as old as 150.
Raw honey is honey that has not been heated, pasteurised or processed in any way. It is alkaline-forming and contains a multitude of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and powerful antioxidants as well as other natural nutrients. It also contains the enzyme amylase, which aids in the digestion of starch. A piece of toast spread with honey, for example, is more easily digestible than a piece of toast without as the enzymes in the honey ‘predigest’ the starch. (Beware of pasturised honey, which is more or less equivalent to refined sugar.)
Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It promotes general health as well as digestive health and also strengthens the immune system. It helps to control allergies and is an excellent remedy for skin wounds and all types of infections. It can also stabilise blood pressure, balance sugar levels, relieve pain, calm nerves and has been used to treat ulcers. It is an expectorant and has anti-inflammatory properties which means that it is useful in the treatment of respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma.
The different varieties of honey have varying properties as well as quite distinctive aromas. Here are a few:
Acacia, a light and clear honey, is one of the most popular and sweetest honey varieties because of its mild delicate floral taste. Due to its low sucrose content, it is a good choice for diabetics. Acacia cleanses the liver, regulates the intestine, and has an anti-inflammatory action on the respiratory system.
Buckwheat honey is a dark, full-bodied and rich in iron. It contains a higher percentage of antioxidants than other honeys and is perhaps the strongest and darkest of all varieties.
Heather honey is thick, amber in color and has one of the strongest and most pungent flavours. It is fragrant and floral with a very lingering aftertaste that is almost bitter. Prized since ancient times due to its medicinal properties, heather honey is extremely high in protein.
Linden honey is pale yellow in colour with a distinctive yet delicate fresh woody scent. Due to its sedative quality, it is effective in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety. It may also be used to treat colds, coughs and bronchitis.
Pine Tree honey is not overly sweet, has a strong aroma and is rich in minerals and proteins.
Thyme honey’s healing benefits are second to none. It is currently being used in hospitals in France for its infection-fighting, powerful antioxidant properties. A 2009 Greek study found thyme honey to reduce the viability of both endometrial and prostrate cancer cells..
Wildflower honey can vary in colour from very light to dark its flavour ranges from light and fruity to tangy and rich, depending on the mix from the different seasonal wildflowers.
Raw honey should not be given to children under a year old as they lack the stomach acid to de-activate any bacteria.


  • Lucie

    Is manuka honey over rated (and over priced)? Have read different things about the active + benefits but only if it is 10+ or higher, blah blah! Thought you would know oh wise one x

    • The Healthy Epicurean

      Hi Lucie! No Manuka honey isn’t overrated (as long as you buy from a reputable source) — it’s excellent from all points of view. The only reason I didn’t specifically mention it was that I was concentrating on local honeys and obviously Manuka is only made in New Zealand…

  • apuginthekitchen

    Wonderful, love raw honey. So many properties that are healthful. I can’t wait to get to the Christmas Markets here in NYC, they are wonderful.I have to look up that soup that Leo had, sounds great.

  • annelifaiers

    What an informative post. I ADORE garbure. Best soup/stew ever created (apart from seafood chowder which is also great). It is very important to eat as much of it as you can when it is on offer so well done Leo!! xx

    • The Healthy Epicurean

      Thanks Anneli 🙂 I adore it too – it’s really moorish. And in restaurants around here it’s always ‘as much as you can eat’. Mind you, they might change that policy once Léo’s eaten there a few times! I’m going to post a recipe just as soon as I have time to chop up all the vegetables 😉

  • Martyn Oliver

    Mmm, honey – now you’re talking! I love honey (and even more, comb honey), and I used to keep bees. But my taste these days is for honey with strong flavours, rather than the delicate flower honeys you describe. Here in England there’s a lot of rape honey sold at the farm gate and by amateur beekeepers; it has a slightly cabbagey taste which a lot of people find a bit much, but I rather like it. However, the best shop-bought honey I’ve found recently comes from Waitrose, packed by Tropical Forest and sourced and collected from wild bees in Zambia ( It’s raw – no heat treatment – and it’s full of pollen. Try it if you can find it, but be careful, it’s certainly strong. Incidentally, Tropical Forest do a great job in support of African beekeepers.

    • The Healthy Epicurean

      I didn’t even know that rape honey existed! Live and learn… Thank you so much for the recommendation for the raw Zambian honey. That sounds like a double whammy if it’s full of pollen too. I shall be trying some a Christmas hopefully.

  • superfoodista

    Love this!! 😉 I actually bought my first jar of raw honey last week! I was reading a post about really healthy sugar alternatives and raw honey was one of them (and I always thought agave was, but it isn’t) – anyways, I ate it on the weekend with my pancakes – and was simply amazed by the taste! it tasted so much better than all the honeys I’ve had before! thanks for this interesting article!

      • KJ

        An excellent post and very timely, as we were just discussing the pros and cons of raw honey, yesterday. Our container of raw honey, purchased in Germany, actually states on the label that no one under 12 months should be given the product. I would wonder if that is universal?

        • The Healthy Epicurean

          Hi KJ – it’s advised not to give honey (particularly raw honey) to children under one due to the clostridium bacteria that causes botulism. Children over one and adults have the stomach acid to fight the bacteria.
          I do hope enjoy your container of honey. What sort is it?

  • Fig & Quince

    Garbure sounds very delicious! Wish could taste some – and good for Leo and his hearty appetite too, ha ha. Meanwhile: mmmm honey. Thank you for listing all its benefits. Excellent post!

  • Lucie

    Thanks Martyn Oliver have converted fom manuka to Tropical Forest honey, saving money and enjoying the taste and goodness!

  • Martyn Oliver

    I’m glad you like it, Lucie. I love it, wouldn’t be without it now. And – without wanting to appear patronising – I think the venture is worthy of our support, too. And I hope you like it as well, Mme THE, when it arrives!

    • The Healthy Epicurean

      Martyn –
      I finally tasted the Tropical Forest honey and wow! It is so delicious. It’s quite strong but really perfumed and fragrant – I love it! In fact, I’m already halfway down the pot – I’m going to have to find a way to have it shipped out by the barrel! Definitely not a ‘beginners’ honey though I would say… Hope you had a good Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.

      • Martyn Oliver

        Ah, good! I’m glad (and relieved) that you like it. I hoped you would. You’re right about it not being a ‘beginner’s’ honey – but I did warn you!
        Thanks for your good wishes, and I send the same to you. Christmas was just what it ought to be for us: good company, good food, and the right amount of uncertainty (in this instance, we had floodwater advancing and receding throughout the whole Christmas–New Year period, but so far at any rate, it hasn’t trespassed inside the house. Christmas dinner was touch and go, since we had half the ingredients in our fridge but were due to prepare and serve it, along with the other half, in our friend’s house 20 miles away. But not much gets between us and our food …).

  • Sally

    I buy some amazing raw honey from Yemen. I’ve heard that Manuka honey isn’t completely untreated. By New Zealand law all honey has to be pasteurised in some way – albeit to lower temperatures than the mass produced stuff. Great article. Do you have a link to the Russian study about Georgians?

  • Sam Freek

    I drink lots of lemon and honey everyday. The honey I use is made from heather and is amazing…I actually think its magic and should be given out on the NHS for lots of ailments.

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