Since ancient times, honey has been considered a source of important healthy properties, so much that this precious product of bees also appears in various myths and legends, like the one that little Zeus was fed with honey and goat's milk. Well, honey seems really a food worthy of the Gods! There are different types of honey obtained from the different plants used by bees, such as chestnut, citrus or linden just to mention a few examples. Another difference is given by the raw or processed honey. The processed honey is the product that we can commonly buy at the supermarket. After it is extracted from the hive, the honey is subjected to various processes such as filtering and pasteurization that takes place at high temperatures and serves to kill the yeasts present in honey and to prolong its life. The raw honey instead, once it is taken from the hive, is passed through a cloth to separate it from impurities and beeswax and then it is poured directly into the jars. These are therefore two products that, although starting from the same raw material, are subject to different processes that modify their properties. Let's see better in details all the differences between these two products.
Property and comparison
Both raw honey and processed honey have antibacterial properties, similar to those of antibiotics. These properties have been tested on various pathogens such as Staphylococci, Pseudomonas, common cause of infections, and Escherichia coli (Mohapatra et al, Biotechnol Res Int, Dec 2011). However, the processed honey shows a lower antimicrobial activity than the raw honey. In fact, this healthy activity is due to an enzyme, called glucose oxidase, which, because of the high temperatures of the pasteurization, is partly inactivated or removed with the filtering operation.
In addition to this, raw honey has a higher antifungal action than processed honey (Chen et al, Front Microbiol, Jul 2012). The fact that raw honey is not subjected to special processing guarantees that this product preserves the maximum amount of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances in the form of polyphenols and flavonoids. In fact, when raw honey is applied to wounds it acts by reducing inflammation and is able to accelerate healing (Mandal et al, Asian Pac J Trop Biomed, Apr 2011). Instead, the honey subjected to pasteurization, due to the high temperatures, loses some of these precious substances. According to a scientific study, it is possible to observe that the raw honey has 4 times more antioxidants than the processed honey (Blasa et al, Food Chemistry, July 2006). Finally, the processed honey can be added with sugar or sweeteners. Given these considerations, the raw honey is of higher quality than the processed honey, however an observation must be done. The consistency of the raw honey may not be very pleasant because it undergoes crystallization, unless it is chestnut or acacia honey that instead remains always liquid. Pasteurization, on the other hand, makes the honey liquid and therefore easier to use and eat. Finally, honey, both processed and raw, should never be given to children under the age of 1 year or to pregnant women as there may be spores of Clostridium botulinum (Midura et al, J Clin Microbiol, Feb 1979), the neurotoxin botulinum, which is blocked in the intestine in all other cases and is therefore harmless. Pasteurization does not eliminate the risk of botulinum as this process is used just to improve the consistency of the final product.