Heating Honey is Toxic – a follow up

10653507_776252872431085_3352986314135942997_nWas it a season ago that I wrote about honey?

Buying which Manuka.
Finding unpasteurised, raw honey.
Thinking about where your bees are living. Are they making honey neighbouring kiwifruit orchards (heavily sprayed)? Are their homes sitting on roadsides perfumed by the fumes of transport? A bee ‘farms’ a 3 km radius from its hive.

“It takes 160,000 bees numerous trips to two million flowers to gather the four pounds of nectar required to produce only one pound (500 grams) of honey; a single honeybee will produce only one teaspoonful in its entire lifetime (Wholefoods Companion, by Dianna Onstad)”.

I promised I’d get back to you about this strong claim that:
Honey is toxic when heated above 40 degrees celcius.

I haven’t heard back from Gabriel Cousens. Nor David Wolfe. I have made contact with the GNS Scientist. Karyne (from GNS) couldn’t give me specifics on the heating honey=toxic debate (although she tended to disagree with the idea)and advised I make a follow up with a call to their Carbohydrate Scientist. I talked Karyne through my investigations into white sugar and her substitutes, because they at least contained other helpful minerals whilst downing ‘sweet’. I shared with her, my concern that perhaps the properties (minerals) changed once heated. I am happy to report she has assured me minerals can’t change during a heating (cooking/baking) process. Organic matter can, but not mineral.

I have also talked with local Ayurveda practitioner Glen Crowther.
The phonecall we shared was fascinating. I’m going to do my best to sum it up.
Glen studied Ayurveda in America for years ‘under’ a teacher from India.
His Indian teacher ‘bagged’ honey – in keeping with the Ayurvedic theory that honey is toxic when heated.
Glen learnt this (which I find very moving): “Honey is the best medicine. Honey is a yogavahi – a substance the penetrates into the subtlest form, to a capillary level, which quickly carries it through to the  tissues. ” (1 – Dr Vasant Lad).

“When honey is used with other herbal preparations, it enhances the medicinal qualities of those preparations and also helps them to reach the deeper tissues (Bill Martin).”

With this in mind, honey is also very difficult to remove from the body if it has caused harm.

Glen returned to Aotearoa and continued to study Ayurveda – this time with a Kiwi practitioner who was also a beekeeper.
It’s not a surprise that the Ayurvedic practitioner and a beekeeper from Auckland, gave honey the thumbs up, for health.

Glen got to thinking. He got to thinking about Ayurveda – the qualitative assessment of things through the senses.
He thought:
New Zealand has the best honey in the world. Period.
He’d tried the honey in India and America and his senses didn’t like it. The honey tasted ‘sharp’.
Honey is made very differently in these countries. The harvesting results in more deaths of bees. More (toxic) wax is kept in the honey in India. In most of America they feed their bees sugar.
He thought:
About what he was learning about pasteurisation. Beekeepers ‘zap’ their honey for different periods of time (and mostly to make it more free flowing). Unpasteurised / Raw liquid honey crystallises (so is harder, thicker, not runny, and looks slightly white). In Glen’s ‘meandering journey with honey’ he came across a time versus temperature graph which exposed the idea that for example 70 degrees C for 2 minutes, may be as harmful to the honey as 40 degrees C for 3 weeks.
He thought:
More about honey from India. India has hot summers. And the way honey is harvested there typically results in more wax found in ‘Indian’ honey. Could  the Ayurvedic belief that honey is toxic when heated be a locational honey/bee problem as opposed to a global honey/bee problem? He thought the hot temperatures and wax may combine to make it a more toxic mixture.

In general, Glen thought pasteurised honey wasn’t a good idea, but heating it to 50 degrees was probably okay if it only stayed at that temperature for a few hours, or to 45 degrees if only for a few days.

I then quiz-ed Glen.

Okay Glen, do you add honey to your hot lemon and honey drink?
No. Not really.
He has honey almost as a chaser for a hot lemon drink. He eats some honey from a teaspoon after a swig of the citrus elixir. It softens the tartness. Glen treats honey as medicine rather than food. Bottom line. He suggested if you wanted to have it all in one (hot lemon AND honey) to add the honey when the lemon and hot had cooled down a bit (until it’s drinkable). I’m sticking with my globule of honey at the bottom of the mug then?

Would you bake with honey Glen? Absolutely not. Would you substitute refined white sugar with honey in a cake like Love Bake Nourish’s Amber Rose’s recipes suggest. He’d use a neither white sugar or baked honey.

Glen concluded our conversation with this beautiful truth about honey. In Ayurveda honey is best used to treat kapha types (rather than vata or pitta). Kapha types are ‘too’ sweet. If there is imbalance in these ‘sweet’ people, they should cut out the cakes and cookies and all sweeteners, with the exception of honey. Honey pulls excess fluids out of the body.

If you’d like a consultation with Glen (or his wife Barbara Cook who teaches and practices Ayurveda also ) they can be emailed: glenandbarbara@futuresforpeople.co.nz

I have heard back from Jason Shon Bennett who says this: Fantastic work Emily ! [me = smiley face]. We believe that foods are wonderful eaten in their raw state to help with preserving the nutrient content, digestive enzymes and quality of the active constituents. Honey is certainly one of those foods best eaten when raw due to all of the beneficial active properties which it contains. The active ingredients don’t tolerate heat oxidation very well, so for these reasons and in order to preserve the existing nutritional quality, it certainly is important to look into the processing the honey has undergone prior to arriving on your shelf! (raw and unpasteurised are the important words to look for, along with the quantity of Methylglyoxal (MG) and the UMF). Hopefully that helps. Keep up the great work! [me = smiley face x 2]

Nestled in the cookbooks at Amber Hendry’s house I did find this book (new must for my library?): Healing with Whole FoodsOriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition (Revised Edition) by Paul Pitchford.
Here’s what Paul Pitchford says about heating honey: ” Heat-processed honey should not be used by people with copious amounts of mucous. Raw, completely unprocessed, unheated honey is preferable; it has the ability to dry up mucuous and is helpful for those with damp conditions including edema and too much weight.”

Earlier though Pitchford does say this (in general) about the benefits of (any) honey: “For centuries honey has been used as medicine. All types of honey, both raw and heated, work naturally to harmonize the liver, neutralise toxins, and relieve pain. Its warming/cooling energy is neutral. In addition pasteurised or cooked honey moistens dryness and treats dry or hoarse throat and dry cough. Both raw and heated types of honey are useful for treating stomach ulcers, canker sores, high blood pressure, and constipation and can be applied directly to burns. Honey’s sweet and antitoxic properties are used to break the cycle of alcoholism (alcohol is a sugar); give honey by the spoonful during a hangover when more alcohol is craved. Honey’s harmonising effect is also beneficial when a person is overworked, having menstrual problems, or is exhausted from salty and rich foods.”

Even if we um and ah about whether honey is toxic when heated we do categorically know that when honey is heated (for any amount of time) above 45 degrees C/ 117 degrees F, active enzymes are deactivated.

Apart from giving our honey bees a bit of a break (cos the little cuties are declining at world-concerning rates) I am sticking with Glen’s thinking. Honey = Medicine in this whare. I will keep baking with maple and coconut sugar (cos I can get them from the supermarket). Some of my cake recipes could cope with muscovado sugar which I adore too.
Whilst on the topic if anyone has any films/resources to recommend re: the plight of the honey bee…

“My son, eat thou honey, for it is good” — King Solomon – Proverbs: 24:13

I love reading your comments, kia ora for taking the time to share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s