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Are You Buying Fake Honey With Zero Health Benefits?

Are You Buying Fake Honey With Zero Health Benefits?

I’ve traveled around the world waiting in airports for days on end until I arrive at my destination. I’ve slept on dirt floors, tangled with wild animals, and endured extreme weather in remote locations. Why do I do it? Quality assurance.

When I’m sourcing new ingredients or hunting superfoods, I can’t rely on an email, video, phone chat or documents to provide me with the whole truth. I need to physically be there, meet the people who know the land where a product comes from, ask as many questions and possible, and be enchanted by the whole situation or totally disappointed; I have had both experiences.

Quality assurance is nonnegotiable for me, and there is absolutely no better way to know the quality of a product than to be there physically. That is how I am absolutely sure what goes into my formulations, product recommendations, and ultimately into your body.

Honey is one of the oldest sweeteners, and it is also considered a superfood in many cultures. Not only is it sweet, but honey is nutritional and medicinal as well.

Honey BeesUnfortunately today consumers don’t always get what they think they are purchasing when it comes to honey. You may have been adding honey to your morning pancakes, cup of tea, or something similar thinking you were doing something healthy, but the reality is that if you purchase your honey at large chain supermarkets your chances of getting pure, nutritionally-dense honey that actually can be classified as a superfood are slim to none. Get ready to say good-bye to the cute little bear full of “honey.”

Here are some keys to consider before you purchase honey.


Three out of four labels of honey in the market are not actually what they say they are. This number holds particularly true when it comes to large supermarket stores. The “honey” being sold here are not pure honey. They are generally diluted honey with any one of a large number additives such as high fructose corn syrup or agave. If it’s dirt cheap, it not likely real honey (however, some companies actually overprice their honey to convince consumers it is high quality, so don’t think you are safe just because you’re paying a lot).

The key between honey and fake honey is whether or not there is any pollen in what you buy.

A common industry practice  today is something called “ultra-filtering” where the honey is boiled, diluted with water and filtered through tiny orifices to remove all of the pollen. While this practice seems sound initially (after all, many individuals are allergic to certain pollens so why not remove them), the truth is quite different. By the FDA’s own admission, ultra-filtered honey is NOT honey. The true origination of this process have nothing to do with consumer health and have everything to do with the bottom line. When honey is ultra-filtered, the process eliminates all traces of honey’s origin. Labs can trace almost with pin point accuracy where honey originated when it has its pollen in it. It’s like a honey passport of sorts.

More than just providing us with a nationality, this honey passport points to the country of origin and processing standards, which are extremely important.

Antibiotics, heavy metals, and other undesirables are found in honeys originating primarily out of Asia. It just so happens that we buy around 60% of our honey from Asia.

Don’t falsely assume the FDA has you covered either; some unscrupulous honey brokers have found ingenious ways to get around regulations, combined with the industry-known fact that the FDA checks only about 5% of all foreign honey shipments. Ultra filtering is illegal, deceptive, and unethical not to mention it completely obliterates all the nutritional and medicinal benefits from the honey. The food safety divisions of the World Health Organization, the European Commission and many more all agree that without pollen is the only way to know if honey came from a legitimate, safe source, yet when Vaughn Bryant, a professor at Texas A&M University and one of the nation’s premier melissopalynologists (investigator of pollen in honey) tested 60 jars of honey from random stores, 76 percent of the samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed. Worse yet, 100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen. No pollen = NOT honey.

Unlike processed honey, raw honey  actually contains propolis, a mixture of resins the honeybees use to to protect their hives from viruses and bacteria. Propolis’ unique set of nutrients are what give honey its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.

When honey still contains a high pollen content, it will appear cloudy. While it may look unappealing compared to the crystal clear liquid of highly processed “honey” we are used to, believe me, the “cloudiness” is a very good thing!

Reviewing Manuka Honey

I’m reviewing Manuka honey trees and flowers in New Zealand.

Manuka honey is the gold standard of honey. Made in New Zealand from the nectar of Manuka flowers (Leptospermum scoparium), this honey is famous for its FDA-approved use in treating wounds, skin ulcers, post-surgical wounds, now-healing wounds (frequently seen in cancer patients), and ulcers. These have all responded to applications of Manuka honey. Because it is purified with ultra-violet light (not heat), its unique biochemistry is left unprocessed and protected. Look for the “Unique Manuka Factor,” or trademark UMF on the label. One note: a UMF rating of 0 to 4 means undetectable, while ratings of greater than 5, and over 10 is acceptable for clinical use. The most superior grades will have ratings of 15 and higher are considered superior grade. Medical grade honey (one brand is Medihoney) will often be processed into a gel for easy application.

Traveling in New Zealand

Traveling to personally investigate new superfoods is how I verify quality for everything I formulate and recommend. Here I’m up close and personal with Manuka trees!



Eat under your own fig tree was the motto used by the late Dr. John Christopher to point to the importance of eating the foods grown around us. Honey in particular is important because the bees use the pollen from the local flowers to make their honey and this benefits the consumer in helping boost immunity and reduce local allergies. Most importantly the possibility of your honey being adulterated are much smaller.

I am not slamming all large supermarket chains (they frequently have little to no control over the honey they sell), but many of them do choose processed honey because its shelf-life is longer.

Smaller supermarkets, coops, and, and most ideally, farmers markets are the more trusted venues where you can find high quality honey with people who can actually answer your questions. Be aware of large companies bringing in bulk honey to sell and look for true, local beekeepers to buy your honey. You can also look up your local beekeeping association and find listed sellers.

Some sample questions to ask would be:

      • What kind of flowers did the bees get the nectar and pollen from? (This will change the flavor and health benefits of the honey. More on that in another blog post soon).
      • Ask how the honey is processed and if so, whether the honey is heated during processing? (Heat kills the medicinal properties of honey, which is why raw, unprocessed honey is best).
      • Is it raw? Raw honey will not be clear. It is bottled as it is collected, but this preserves all the natural enzymes secreted by bees and phytonutrients.
      • What region does it come from? When you buy honey that is local, it has a greater impact on reducing and fighting local allergies for you.
      • Are the hives near commercial farms that use GMO crops?
      • Are any pesticides used in the hives or near the hives? (Commercial and small, local bee keepers alike will use pesticides to to kill varroa mites, small hive beetles, or wax moths. Plus flowers  the bees collect nectar can be sprayed with pesticides unless the beekeeper has take steps to ensure the honey you buy does not have that in it).
      • Are antibiotics in the hives? (As crazy as it sounds, even bees will be given antibiotics as a preventative. And we wonder why antibiotics are losing their effectiveness!?
      • What are the bees fed? (Some farmers will give bees a pollen substitute that can include GMO soy and powdered sugar,  sugar water,or GMO corn syrup. If the bees are eating it, by default you are too when you consume the honey they produce).

Many Americans have idealized honey to be this golden, transparent liquid product, but the truth is very different depending what variety of flowers were around for bees to pick the pollen from. The different flowers will give you completely different colors, aromas, textures and tastes. Experiment with different versions of honey to find the one that resonates with you!

Using the above simple tips can help you choose the best quality honey for your health. Have you tossed the bear-shaped bottle of fake honey yet?

  • Jamie
    Posted at 17:18h, 26 January


  • Leora Ann Urness
    Posted at 13:38h, 24 October

    Is it not advisable to put honey in hot water or hot tea?