As COVID-19 has caused a major global health crisis in different human communities, attention to the natural approaches is significant. Natural Supporting Approaches are the best way for the body, such as traditional herbal and traditional medicines.
Honey is a natural food product, which next to its nutritional importance, possesses valuable therapeutic properties due to bioactive ingredients. More than 150 phenolic compounds in honey have been investigated, including phenolic acids and flavonoids. Phenolic compounds in honey (flavonoids and phenols) contribute to most of its pharmacological properties.
Honey has been long used to treat several diseases because it has a variety of pharmacological properties: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antidiabetic, antilipidemic, antifungal, and bactericidal activities. Moreover, traditional medicine in many countries considers natural honey as the first line of treatment for acute cough caused by upper respiratory tract infection, an acute symptom in COVID-19.
Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial, immunomodulatory and anticoagulant activities are the main benefits of the black seed. These activities are coming from Thymoquinone (TQ) ingredient in the black seed. Thymoquinone is an easy, cost-effective natural source. TQ use may thus look forward to improving COVID-19 treatment and defending against specific antiviral drug-induced side effects and toxicities.
Different Scientific reports confirm that honey plus black seed are beneficial natural products for any viral diseases, even COVID-19. Wanderer Honey will soon offer this new product for the first time in Australia.
If you go on a hunt for good quality honey, what would you need to know? So when I get asked what makes my honey different from others, I take a deep breath and provide a short explanation. This is because I realised that most people don’t know much about honey, other than the fact that it is sweet.
So here we go – I’m happy to share my short explanation about honey here, to allow honey lovers to understand honey a lot better:
There are plenty of Honey sources such as Bush flowers, Tree flowers, Ground flowers, Seasons and Climates. Flowers will attract bees by perfume, colours, nectar and pollen. Pollen is the protein source for bees; the protein is essential for feeding brood, as, without protein, the hive loses its capacity of reproducing new bees. That’s how bee colonies may shrink from production size into survival size swarm. When bees have rich pollen in reasonable amounts, the hive can double in population and become very powerful. Some of the plants will have lots of nectar, while others will have next to none. Some of the plants will have lots of pollen, some much less. For bees to survive in good conditions, they need excellent combinations of pollen and nectar.
What does honey consist of? The composition of honey varies from one floral source to another. The average composition of Australian honey produced from native and exotic plants is water 15.6%, fructose 42.5%, glucose 30.6%, sucrose 2.9%, minerals 0.16% and other constituents 8.24%. These are all-natural, while the concentration of each component can change from plant to plant, while other parameters such as rainfall, floods, cold weather, hot weather, drying winds, and the season of the year would have their influence.
A beekeeper knows all the above, including the best locations to put their hives to get the highest yield of honey. Some beekeepers prefer not to move the bees to other areas and harvest only local seasonal honey, relying on the local flora.
Every honey tastes differently. The flavour is changing as per the bees capacity to preserve the perfume of the flowers into the honey. Honey will also vary in colours and in consistency. Perfume, minerals, moisture (water content), and enzymes (that either the bees make with their salivary or enzymes brought from flowers) all play their part.
When honey is appreciated and bees are loved and cared for by the beekeeper, flavours can differ. It resembles wine tastings – variety extends to as many flower types as we know and beyond.
Beekeepers (like us) LOVE honey. We taste honey every day, sometimes a few times a day, to make sure the flavours and perfumes match our expectations.
We recommend honey in good faith as a healthy product of nature. We trust our mates, the beekeepers, to do the same and recommend every good looking honey to be tasted. So every day, you might hit that amazing bite you have never had before.
There is an extraordinary relationship between farmers and trees. Farmers understand their trees by simply observing them as they nourish and irrigate their land and plants. It is in the way farmers watch how the trees grow, as fresh leaves appear, as the bloom gradually evolves, and as the flowers flourish.
Beekeeper’s livelihood depends on their capability of tree reading combined with all the knowledge they have accumulated and processed over the years. However, knowledge about the evolutionary trees is considered a top-secret for beekeepers. Therefore, they will never share the information they have gathered about trees and honey with others. Well, at least not accurately… which means you will always have to do your research about the trees.
Let’s dig a little deeper into what Tree Reading means. Tree reading in the forest is about trying to understand when the trees will flower, will it have any nectar or pollen or possibly both, and any other information that may be useful to us as beekeepers. Amazingly, trees know all about drought cycles. This is because they have a very long memory, and they can analyse the ‘power of light’. They feel the power of the sunlight and can react to it.
We expect trees to flower every year because our thinking is around the annual cycle in nature. But in reality, some of the trees rest every second year, while some create different flowering cycles. Some trees will flower and regrow at the same time, and some will put more energy and resources into leaf growth rather than for nectar production. Trees have the autonomy to choose their time to bloom or flower. Sometimes it could happen out of season, sometimes at the wrong time within the season, and in some cases, they would skip a season altogether.
But why do trees behave like that? The scientist may be looking for answers, but beekeepers know the answer. Trees have their memory and ability to feel the power of the sun and react to what they “feel and know”. Add dry season and wet season to the mix, and the tree becomes a sophisticated weather prediction plant.
I had seen trees blooming in drought areas weeks before the flood arrived, sometimes in a very small and isolated area. In those areas which were eventually flooded, the trees just “knew” it was going to rain soon and produced new leaves as if it already rained, to enable themselves to pump water up when the rain comes. Other trees outside the flood areas did not bloom since they knew it would not rain for them. This is an astonishing behaviour we humans refer to as “predicting the future”.
In the beekeeper world, we utilise a lot of knowledge and experience, sometimes with a bit of luck, to be able to spot the right flower in the right location, with plenty of nectar flowing out. Hunting flowers is about knowing where they are located, estimating the timing they will flourish, and picking the right patch to get honey accumulated by the bees. Beekeepers will often travel to the flowers, verify they have enough nectar, and bring their beehives to the site to collect pure honey. This process happens all year round, including the slow winter season and even in the coldest areas. Experienced beekeepers will always find flowers that will provide nectar throughout the year, enough to create modest crops of honey during winter and much more during spring and summer.
Every tree that produces nectar from its flowers is a significant contributor to the honey-making process. In addition, trees can give farmers the most valuable piece of knowledge: how to treat the soil properly to make a living out of it, without damaging the ground or the trees themselves in the long run.
The soil requires the protection of the trees from the burning drying sun. In return for supplying a protecting shade, the soil will store moisture and water for the trees. Together, they will produce flowers that will provide nectar for our honey. Ultimately, no other plant can do what trees do to the soil beneath them.
Some of the big mature trees around Australia can yield up to 750L of nectar in three to four weeks during the flowering season. The bees will produce about 325Kg of honey out of it, which is quite significant.
Unfortunately, some big trees are treated like scars within our landscapes, as not every farmer is a beekeeper, and most farmers do not know nor appreciate the actual value of the old trees. A mature tree doesn’t require any maintenance; it preserves the land, keeps the water cycle within the soil and above it, and most importantly, as long as the tree is alive, it can create an ongoing income for honey production lines.
Once the tree has been taken down, the farmer will have to store water in dams, treat the soil with expensive equipment, invest vast resources in the land, only to get a fraction of what one could gain from managing beehives, in combination with intelligent and modest farming in between the trees.
A beekeeper is a forest guard and a forest gardner. Every beekeeper becomes a necessary forest maintainer and educator who cares for the trees through profound understanding that without the forest, we will not have pure and fresh honey or any honey at all.
Honey tasting is essential for the beekeeper, as every honey will taste differently. Some may have more robust flavours than others, some may have bad taste altogether, while others may have the savour of a lifetime experience.
But what are we tasting in the honey?
All various types of honey have 3 types of natural sugars produced by the flowers: Fructose, Sucrose and Glucose. These are contained in different ratios depending on multiple parameters such as plants, rain, sun, the season of the year, continent, etc.
Is it sweet? Well, honey produced by bees will have 80% sugars and 20% moist (water), while these ratios may change either up or down by 1-3%. Note that if the honey becomes too wet, i.e. more than 24% of water, it will go sour and ferment.
Once we have tasted the sweetness of the honey, there is a strong flavour going all around our mouth (the same concept as wine tasting!). This flavour reflects the flowers’ perfume – the hard-working bees have within their skills the capability to bring flowers aroma into the honey, and consequently process the honey with its flowers origin perfume. These perfumes can be at times extraordinary, while at other times they can be bad, as if the honey has gone off.
Yet, while all kinds of honey will be edible for the bees, for us human-being honey-eaters, the bad honey can cause a few runs to the loo or tummy aches caused by overeating of the good ones.
Most kinds of honey will usually taste very different from each other, which is remarkable for diversity. It will depend on plant type, soil type, season, weather, minerals in the soil, and possibly other factors.
Honey will improve its flavours as it goes solid and grows older. This is because it preserves itself for hundreds of years in sealed jars. So, we have been tasting 38-year-old honey, and continue to taste it every year to find that it is still great to eat.
Most importantly, the taste will tell you how much these bees are loved by their beekeeper. By tasting our honey, you will understand the relationship we have with our gracious bees. We treat every bee like a Queen!
Finally, everything is about moderation. A few teaspoons of honey a day are good for you, however, over-consuming can make you sick, and it’s not recommended. I know from personal experience because I’ve done it many times before.
In Australia, beekeepers can experience “Honey Events”. This phenomenon occurs every once in a while in different parts of the Big Red Island (AKA Australia). In these events, beekeepers suddenly observe a high volume of honey being accumulated in short periods of time. This can be combined with flowers that flower out of season, either early or late, following heavy rain or after a flood.
These events are so unique that they might occur once every 3 to 9 years. On some occasions, it may even happen once in 30 years. These uncommon events create different types of honey given the unusual flowers and nectars involved, which do not flower together usually. Some of these events make a fantastic combination of flavours.
Typically, a seasonal harvest can be extracted within days. The honey would keep coming in. Effectively, the bees will accumulate as much as the beekeeper can extract. Experienced beekeepers will always be on the lookout for Honey Events. Some has got the memory of the fantastic run in 1989 and 2002. Each of us still remembers how we pooled out 18kg of honey on a Monday arvo to find another 18kg on the following Sunday within the same hives, produced from the same flowers… Apparently, the legend of a “new swarm in a new box” who filled a full hive box within a week is true. I have seen it happening with my own eyes, when for a period of 3-6 weeks straight, our hives were kept filled with honey, week in and week out.
These honey events have created myths and stories and a constant chase after the ultimate flow, where honey is constantly produced by the hard-working bees. Beekeepers will drive thousands of hives on road trains around Australia, expecting to experience these honey events, but unfortunately, in many cases, the disappointment is as high as the expectation.
Not anywhere else around the world plants and trees can produce so much nectar like the trees in the Land Down Under can. This is one of the unique characteristics of the Australian flora, where a single large mature tree can flow more than a tonne of nectar. How do we know? The bees collect the nectar and produce honey out of it; hence they help us with those calculations. Alternatively, four big mature ironbark trees or blue gum trees on a single acre can produce 4 tonnes of honey. No other crop will provide that much income per acre. It’s a fact.
Through extensive honey production, bees can teach us a lot about the cycles of honey flows, rain and drought, and much more. Bees can teach us how to make the most out of the land without impacting the trees, forests, or even take us to the next level of intelligent farming where bees and trees create the best environment for other forms of agriculture, all combined.
Most of the people who approach me at the markets ask me all sorts of questions. Is the honey pure? Why is it solid? Is it raw? Which honey is actually good honey? and so forth. Being a beekeeper for many years and coming from a family with generations of experience, I’m more than happy to share some of my knowledge here with you.
Every honey is effectively produced out of different flowers, though interestingly the total sugar level in all types of honey reaches the same level of 80% sugar. That means all honey flavours have the same sweetness level overall. However, the bees also bring in the “flowers perfume” into the mix – the stronger the perfume smell is, the more “sweet taste” we feel, whereas the weaker perfume level would give us a sense of “mild honey taste”. Interesting, isn’t it?
In the old days honey was consumed in several ways:The simplest and most natural form was the honeycomb, simply by biting into the honeycomb. Generally, the whole honeycomb is edible, though sometimes it is sticky and hard to chew on.
The second way of consuming honey was by squeezing the honey off the honeycomb by hand into a sump, then store it in clay jars, to be later on consumed as is.
The third way was to collect the hives from either caves or trees, kill all the poor bees, and boil the honeycomb and brood comb in a large pot. Once boiled and brought into an even mix, the wax was taken out and the leftovers at the bottom of the pot were essentially cooked honey mixed with everything that came out of the hive comb. It was then stored and ready to be eaten as is.
These ways of extracting honey are not in use by beekeepers nowadays, but they were widespread until the 19th century.
Today, honey gets extracted from beehives in two major ways. One way is the “Cold Extraction”, which is how honey was extracted since the honey frame was invented roughly 150 years ago. In the cold extraction system, the honey gets extracted as is, lightly sifted and packed.
The second way honey get extracted these days is by large extraction plants also called “extracting lines”. These are lines designed to extract large quantities, and operates like small factories. This method was developed in the late 19th century, during the industrial revolution, and over time it improved its capacity of extraction from 1 tonne a day up to 5 tonnes a day and even more.
So, what is good honey?
Good honey always goes solid.
The perception of honey as liquidy is well known, yet only beekeepers will see the honey in its real original colours and perfume. Honey changes as soon as we extract it, and sometimes it can change from clear to fogy in 4 days. The honey will remain as liquid only for a few weeks, sometimes even few days, depend on the type of flowers it was produced from.
Once the honey changes its texture into solid, it goes through a slow process that turns it into a butter-like form, and after some time the honey may become butter solid. Some types of honey may evolve even further and turn into sugar-like crystals. This is the self-preserve system of honey. Once it has gone solid it would last for many years. We have tested (and tasted) honey up to 35 years old, and we can report that such honey is fully edible! Its colour will go darker after 3-5 years and may become black or deep purple, while its taste could be similar to plum jam.
Our honey always turns solid. The rare ones, of a tropical nature, will solidify much slower and sometimes would stay half solid half liquid. This type of honey has variant flowers which react differently given their bees and plants enzymes.
Honey solidifies for many reasons, starting with low temperatures, but mainly for its chemical structure. Honey is a highly concentrated natural flowers sugar solution. It contains more than 80% sugars and less than 20% water. This means that the water in honey contains more sugar than it should naturally hold. The overabundance of sugar makes honey unstable. Thus, it is natural for honey to crystallize since it is an over-saturated sugar solution. The two principal sugars in honey are fructose (fruit sugar) and glucose (grape sugar). The content of fructose and glucose in honey varies from one type of honey to the other, as each flower contain different levels of sugars. Generally, the fructose ranges from 30- 44% and glucose from 25- 40%. The balance of these two major sugars causes the crystallization of honey, and the relative percentage of each determines whether it crystallizes rapidly or slowly. What crystallizes is the glucose, due to its lower solubility. Fructose is more soluble in water than glucose and will remain fluid. When glucose crystallizes, it separates from water and takes the form of tiny crystals. As the crystallization progresses and more glucose crystallizes, those crystals spread throughout the honey. The solution changes to a stable saturated form, and ultimately the honey becomes thick or crystallized.
By heating up honey you can change the chemical structure of the Fructose into Glucose. This will keep the honey liquid for a longer period, before it turns back into solid form, though it will break all the enzymes, vitamins and anti-bactrians properties, which will give you a high quality honey sourced syrup-jam.
Finally, is there bad honey at all? Yes, there are a few flower types which produce very bad honey. These honeys can not be eaten and can make you sick. So stay away from them!
Manuka honey is widely known for being more ACTIVE than other types of honey. It is produced from the Leptospermum Scoparium tree, commonly known as Manuka, which is only native to Australia and New Zealand. Manuka, in fact, is the Māori word for “tea-tree”.
Among the tea trees – Leptospermum – there are a few species that produce various types of Manuka, i.e. at least 3-6 types of Leptospermum are producing active nectar.
In accordance with the New Zealand standards, we need to check the MGO level in a NZ laboratory to ensure we are within the right levels of so-called “active honey”. MGO stands for “Methyl Glyoxal”, which is a natural occurrence of a chemical that enables the honey to be an “active germ killer”.
Yet, we must remember that most RAW honeys will have the capacity to be a germ killer, but we don’t test each one of them in order to find which chemical exists in each that helps the honey become a germ killer.
The following table outlines the Manuka Honey UMF to MGO ratio, where:
UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor
MGO stands for Methyl Glyoxal milligrams per 1Kg of honey.
Other than New Zealand, Manuka bushes can also be found in mainland Australia. There are about 70 types or more of Leptospermum – Tea tree bushes – and a few more from the Melaleuca Species defined by beekeepers as “Tea tree” because the leaves have the same perfume when broken by hand, although this is a common mistake.
New Zealand accounts for the most significant portion of production, with exports worth 300 Million NZ dollars. In Australia, tea tree honey used to be considered low-graded honey, as flavours are not always that great compared to other kinds of honey. Australia and Argentina have planted large areas with Leptospermum, and it is expected that Manuka honey will reach every household that likes the tea tree honey at a reasonable price. All honey goes into high viscosity form and becomes solid if treated as RAW honey, yet the Manuka is creamier and more complex to extract than other types of honey.
So why does the Manuka honey cost so much?
As beekeepers, all we can see with our own eyes is that people believe in the medicinal capabilities of the Tea Tree honey and are willing to pay more for it.
Yet, we do have other honey types, not formally known as medicinal, with good effect on winter colds such as cough and flu. We have seen few kinds of honey with good capacity to heal burns or sunburns and also ease allergies to some people.
Validation of medicinal properties is a long process and might go over hundreds of types of honey in order to define what each one of them can do for us.
If you like our extensive range of honey or found that it had a medicinal impact on you, we would like to hear from you, as we will aim to research the qualities in that specific honey.