Truly, honey is a superfood, a nectarian delight and an effective healing agent all in one. It is packed with vitamins and minerals, enzymes and antioxidants, lots of carbohydrates in the form of sugars and even some amino acids. So sweet is it that, taken together, its unique combination of fructose and glucose makes it sweeter than table sugar.
Certainly, honey is a most traditional superfood that is praised in ancient texts and a component of numerous traditional diets from around the world. Modern science has verified the health benefits of consuming honey as it contains vitamins, minerals, probiotics (Lactobacillus kunkeei), enzymes, antioxidants, and some amino acids.
You may have been using honey in your baking for some time now because you were told that it was a better alternative to refined sugar. You happily began altering all your recipes noting how to prevent the excessive browning that can be typical.
In a time when bees are becoming scarce and the fruits of their labor are becoming less abundant, we hardly need to prop up inappropriate use of honey. Rather we should be using honey as a healing food in a respectful way that preserves all of its benefits.
The good news? Raw honey is universally seen as safe to use in hot tea or coffee
The bad news? Honey should NEVER be heated. This does not just apply to how it is treated by the beekeeper before you buy it… if you buy raw honey because you know pasteurized honey is bad for you and then bring it home to bake into a loaf of fresh bread, guess what you’ve just made? Yep, you guessed it…pasteurized honey!
Honey is regarded as essential medicine and food in Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old system of traditional diet and holistic healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Tibetan medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine both have their roots in Ayurveda. In addition, early Greek medicine embraced many concepts originally described in the classical Ayurvedic medical texts dating back thousands of years.
In Ayurveda, honey is considered an important food for health of the heart and the eyes. It is also considered the only natural sweetener appropriate for those trying to lose weight because it warms the body (i.e., stimulates metabolism) rather than cooling it like other natural sweeteners. Along these lines, a popular and recommended weight loss tonic for those who follow an Ayurvedic diet is a small amount of raw honey in a cup of warm (not hot) water first thing in the morning to stimulate strong metabolism for the day.
While Ayurveda recognizes the many dietary and holistic benefits of honey, the dietary principles of this ancient system of health also strongly advise against heating it for any reason. The reasons are both practical and health-related.
First, Ayurveda claims that heating honey to 104°F/ 40°C or above causes a negative chemical change that causes it to become bitter. This makes it undesirable to use from a culinary perspective in comparison with other natural sweeteners like unrefined cane sugar or fruit.
In addition, Ayurvedic dietary principles warn that consuming honey that has been cooked, baked or added to hot liquids contributes to ill health over time. The reason is because honey that is cooked becomes like glue. The molecules then tend to adhere to mucous membranes in the digestive tract producing toxins, called ama. The literal meaning of ama is undigested food or toxins stuck within the digestive tract. It is considered to be the root cause of most ill health in Ayurveda with heated honey one of the most difficult forms to detoxify.
Here are my top 5 reasons for NEVER heating honey:
Antioxidant content of raw honey is extremely variable, but the heat required for pasteurization (or baking) can reduce the amount by up to 1/3.
Around the world most traditional medicine practices agree that heated honey has a negative affect 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.
Honey that is heated becomes one-dimensional. It loses the subtle nuance of flavor that raw honey contains and becomes overly sweet and cloying.
While the glycemic index of honey can vary depending on the type of nectar collected, it is in large part a low glycemic index food. There is some evidence to support my belief that cooking or pasteurizing honey increases the glycemic index.
Why pay high prices for honey that has been preserved in its natural, raw state only to take it home and kill it yourself?
So please, buy your honey from a beekeeper who NEVER applies heat to their honey…. take it home…. and use it RAW!
If you’re looking for a natural sugar to use in your baking, I highly recommend maple syrup. That is what we use in our house when evaporated cane juice is not the best choice. Maple syrup is rich in minerals and can stand high heat without changing its make-up.
Honey is certainly in many respects an extremely powerful medicine – antibacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-viral etc. It can be great for colds*, clearing sinuses/congestion etc etc. However, you should ‘NEVER ADD HONEY TO ‘BOILING WATER’.!!!
While warm water is fine, according to Maharishi Ayurveda, above 42 degrees centigrade, the all-important ‘medicinal’ molecular structure of honey is changed irrevocably, making it indigestible (in a sense…toxic!!!). So if you are ever adding honey to a hot lemon drink or use it instead of sugar as a ‘natural’ sweetener in your tea, that’s fine, but just wait until the water/tea has cooled somewhat…it’s nicely warm (rather than boiling hot), before you add the honey. *
A simple test ( to know when the temperature is below 42 degrees C is that you can ‘comfortably’ hold a sip of the drink in your mouth. i.e. it doesn’t burn your tongue.