Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, January 20, 2014

Honey Good for Dogs, Cats - Honey is a Natural, Healthful, Healing Food

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Honey Good for Dogs, Cats - Honey is a Natural, Healthful, Healing Food


5.0 Defining and Understanding the
      Different Types of Honey
5.1 Types of Pure Honey
5.1.1 Natural Honey
‘Natural’, ‘pure’, ‘raw’, ‘unpasteurized’ are interchangeable terms used to describe honey that has not had anything added to it and has simply been extracted from the honeycomb, and may also be passed through a fine sieve to remove particles of honeycomb, foreign particles that may have been introduced inadvertently during extraction or been present prior to extraction. This minimal processing ensures that honey remains thick and rich with nutrients. Raw honey contains pollen and a full range of health promoting properties typically present in unpasteurized honey. Natural honey may be purchase in various forms such as honeycomb, chunk, liquid and creamed.
5.1.2 Honeydew Honey 
Also known as Bug Honey, Flea Honey, Forest Honey, Tree Honey may also be named after the type of plant it was harvested from - i.e. Cedar Honey, Elm Honey, Oak Honey, Maple Honey, Pine Honey. Honeydew honey is a natural honey but it is not made from the nectar of flowers, instead it is made from a sweet, sticky liquid excreted by specific insects such as the aphid as they feed on plants. Most honeydew is manufactured by insects (aphids and/or scale insects) that feed on the sap of trees however some plants also provide a source of sap for honeydew. These plants include alfalfa and cotton plants, currant vines, grape vines, gooseberry bushes and sunflower plants.
Insects such as aphids feed on the sap of plants by piercing the plant (stem, leaf, etc.) with their needle-like mouthparts. The sap is released under pressure and shoots into the aphids food canal and forces previously ingested sap out of the aphids ‘bottom’ - elimination canal. The expelled liquid (now a processed sap) lands on the branches, leaves, needles of the plant and the surrounding ground. The sap - once it has been processed by aphid’s digestive and eliminatory system is called ‘dew’…it is no longer just sap. Bees and other insects collect the honeydew the same way nectar is collected from flowers and processes the sap the same way floral nectar is processed. The bee may also mix the honeydew with floral nectar. Honey that is produced primarily of honeydew is called honeydew honey.
While bees prefer floral nectar - if environmental conditions (i.e. drought, or seasonal constraints) or geographic location result in a lack of flowers from which to collect nectar, honey bees will collect (more) honeydew. In some regions honeydew is as a major source of nectar for bees - northern California is one such region. New Zealand exports Beech Tree Honey as a premium export honey. Honeydew honey tends to be more expensive to purchase than standard natural honey.
Honeydew honey is typically lower in glucose and fructose, higher in complex sugars, richer in minerals and antioxidants, tends to be very dark in colour and stronger in taste than standard natural honey. Honeydew honey typically contains more oligosaccharides than floral honey which makes honeydew an excellent prebiotic. Oligosaccharides help to promote and maintain friendly bacteria in the GI tract. Honeydew is very rich in antioxidants - some types of honeydew honey contain higher levels of antioxidants than floral honey. New Zealand Beech Tree Honeydew Honey has exceptional high levels of glucose oxidase providing antibacterial activity that exceeds the activity of some Manuka (Leptospermum - tea tree) honey.
Honeydew can be used in the same manner as standard natural honey and daily dosage is the same as standard natural honey.
5.2 Types of Modified Honey
5.2.1 Medical, Pharmaceutical, Surgical Honey
Medical, pharmaceutical and surgical honey / products used in hospitals and available in pharmacies are typically made from extracts of Leptospermum (tea tree) or alpine honey. The methylgloxal is sterilized and mixed with sugar and turned into a powder that can then be used to make creams/ointments, eye drops, nasal sprays, pills etc. Unfortunately these products made by extracting methlygloxalfrom honey lack the other beneficial substances that would be present in whole natural honey. 
The company Medihoney uses whole Leptospermum honey (as opposed to extracted elements) in the making of their products. Medihoney uses a sterilization process to eliminate any Botulism spores that may be present. The sterilization process used does not destroy the beneficial properties of the honey.
5.2.2 Processed Honey
Most of the honey found on grocery store shelves is processed honey. Processed honey is filtered, clarified and pasteurized, and may also be watered down. Processed honey is usually a blend of various honeys from multiple sources.
Pasteurization
During pasteurization the honey is heated. The enzymes in honey can sustain heat up to 160 degrees for a short period of time. Pollen, other health promoting substances and friendly bacteria cannot sustain the heat and are destroyed in the pasteurization process.
Processed Blended Mix of Honey
Typically the food manufacturer or distributer will combine a regional honey with the most inexpensive imported honey that they can find. The imported honey may be less expensive to purchase as it may be produced in high volume under very unrestricted/ non-regulated conditions resulting in high volume at the expense of safety and quality of product.
Processed Watered Down Honey
If water is mixed with honey it loses its low water activity and therefore its anti-microbial properties. Watered down honey is nothing more than sugar water. Much of the commercial honey found on a grocery store shelves has been processed and watered down. The water creates more volume thus adding to the profit margin of the manufacturer and retailer - but destroys its antibacterial quality, as does pasteurization. A very large portion of the honey sold on grocery store shelves in Canada and the U.S. is not truly ‘honey’ instead it is a conglomerate made up of corn syrup or rice syrup, malt sweeteners  (also called ‘jiggery’ - a cheap, unrefined sugar) to which is added a minimal portion of honey.
5.3 Colour of Honey
Honey comes in many colour variations including amber, brown, (almost) black, red and white. The colour of honey is influenced by the floral species that the nectar comes from and as well from the time of year that the nectar is collected. A few examples can be fund just below…
5.3.1 Colour Variation by Floral Species
  • Nectar from the buckwheat plant results in a very dark colour honey as does nectar from the Manuka tree (also called Leptospermum or Tea Tree)
  • The time of year that the pollen is harvested
  • Nectar from early spring flowers results in white honey
  • Dark honey occurs naturally when bees harvest nectar from plants in the later part of the summer season.
 
Darker honey offers greater potency of health promoting properties - the darker the honey the stronger the taste, health and medicinal properties. The exception to this rule occurs when an unethical beekeeper dilutes a good quality dark honey with tailings from the processing of beeswax which results in remaindered burnt honey. An unethical beekeeper may add the burnt honey to the prized dark honey to extend volume and increase profit. Remember - heating honey destroys its beneficial properties so the introduction of the burnt honey results in a lesser quality product.
 
5.4 Forms of Honey
5.4.1 Natural Comb Honey
Recommended
The rawest form of honey is honey comb honey. Bees manufacture honeycomb using beeswax which the bees also make. The bees fill the cells of the honeycomb with honey. The bees then cap-off each filled honeycomb cell with a plug of beeswax. Comb honey provides excellent nutritional and health promoting value as both the honey and the comb contain pollen and a full range of health promoting properties typically present in unpasteurized honey. You can give comb honey to your dog or cat as a treat or as a part of their daily diet. Daily dosage should be similar to that of raw liquid or solid honey. My dogs love comb honey.
5.4.2 Natural Chunk Honey
Recommended
Chunk honey is simply raw honey that is put in a jar or container with a piece of honey comb. Chunk honey can be fed to your dog or cat the same way as comb honey and liquid honey.
5.4.3 Natural Liquid Honey
Recommended
Natural honey extracted from the honeycomb is a thick viscous liquid. You can give liquid honey to your dog or cat as a treat or as a part of their daily diet. Daily dosage is provided further below. My dogs and cats all eat natural honey as part of their daily diet. Natural honey is part of my daily diet as well. Natural liquid honey is the preferred from of honey for use as a topically applied medicine to treat skin conditions and various types of wounds.
5.4.4 Natural Creamed Honey
Recomended
Creamed honey is made by adding a little finely crystallized honey into liquid honey. The transformation from liquid to creamed does not affect the health promoting properties of the honey. Daily dosage for dogs and cats is the same as liquid honey. Don’t use creamed honey topically to treat wounds or skin conditions as the sharp microscopic crystals can cause irritation to the skin.
5.4.5 Processed Honey
Not recommended
Processed honey is equivalent to sugar-water. It lacks the beneficial properties of natural honey and when consumed it spikes insulin levels. Processed honey is an inflammatory food and does not provide the medicinal properties of natural honey.
5.5 Taste Variation in Honey
The taste of honey - insipid or flavourful, weak or strong is directly influenced by the: Floral source of the honey, for example lavender honey will have a distinct taste as will buckwheat honey or orange blossom honey;
The richness of the honey - for example natural honey vs. processed honey and dark vs. light colour honey.
5.6 Variation in Health Promoting, Sustaining and Healing
      Properties
If the floral source of the pollen was contaminated with herbicides, pesticides, or other environmental pollutants the honey will also be contaminated. Honey that contains a high level of toxins is not healthful.
This is determined by a host of factors…
5.6.1 Antioxidant Value
The floral source of honey accounts for great variance in the antioxidant composition in honey.
  • Honey produced from bees that are feeding off organic floral sources contains greater nutritional and medicinal value.
  • Honey that is made of nectar collected from a single source floral, such as buckwheat or clover or lavender or rosemary will have different antioxidant profiles.
  • Honeydew honey is very high in antioxidents.
  • Honey that is made from nectar collected from multiple floral sources will differ in antioxidant value by localized region.
  • Honeydew honey has very high antioxidant levels. 
5.6.2 Probiotic Value
The probiotic properties of honey also vary based on environmental and floral species - in general honey contains a large quantity of good (friendly) bacteria comprised of four species of Bifidocacteria and six species of Lactobacilli.
5.6.3 Healing Compounds
Honey that is made from the nectar of plants that contain active healing compounds (i.e. lavender or oregano) will contain those specific healing compounds found in the plant.
Any good quality unpasteurized honey can be used as both a dietary supplement and as a treatment for healing and wound care.
The honey currently most prized for wound healing properties is produced from the nectar of the Leptospermum (tea tree) trees or shrubs. Leptospermum is a genus of 80 to 86 species of plants from which the nectar of the flowers is gathered by bees to make Leptospermum honey. Leptospermum honey from New Zealand is produced from the nectar of the Manuka tree. The Kanuka tree (a close relative of the Manuka tree) is also a source of potent anti-bacterial honey. Leptospermum honey from Australia is produced from the Jelly Bush or Lemon-scented tea tree. Leptospermum honey such as Kanuka, Manuka and Lemon-scented Tea tree honey contain a higher concentration of methylglyoxal than other honey. Methylglyoxal is a potent antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal agent.
Manuka honey is readily available in natural health/natural food stores, grocery stores, etc. around the globe as New Zealand exports Manuka honey to many countries around the world.
Buckwheat honey is prized for its use as an ingested treatment for upper respiratory tract infections and related symptoms such as coughing.
5 .6.4 Degradation of Health Promoting Properties due to
          Toxins
The plants and the local environment from which the bees harvested the floral and plant nectar, pollen, resins and saps used to produce the honey is a determining factor in the quality of the honey as pertains to purity safety - quality. If the soil that the flowers and plants grew in were contaminated with heavy metals, if the plants and soil were dosed in herbicides and pesticides, and fertilized with manure high in antibiotic residue the honey can be toxic.
Another example of tainted honey can be seen in the practice of honey ‘laundering’. Cheap honey imported from Asia was being dumped on the Canadian and U.S. market at artificially low prices. This cheap Aisan honey has been found to contain multiple toxins including antibiotics such as chloramphenicol, lead and other heavy metals. Many large and some small North American honey producers/packers/distributers/ were buying up this honey to either: a) sell after falsely relabeling it, or; b) use it to water down locally produced honey. The U.S. Department of Justice added import duties to discourage the dumping of the cheap Asian honey. The importers simply worked around this by first shipping the Chinese honey to Thailand and then imported to the U.S.  
When honey is stored in lead welded storage tanks, or plastic storage containers that were not BPA-free the honey will be contaminated. The same can be said of honey that is packaged in non-BPA-free plastic containers. There are many factors that can degrade the health-promoting value of honey.
I know of many local bee keepers that use the utmost of care when harvesting, processing, storing and packaging honey. I know of other local beekeepers that introduce toxins to the honey during the harvesting, processing, storage and packaging of the honey. The sad thing about those beekeepers is that many of them have absolutely no idea that storing honey in non-food grade plastic storage tanks puts their customers - the purchasing public at risk. And yes, there are other beekeepers and distributers of honey that know but just don’t care.
5 .6.5 Degradation of Health Promoting Properties due to
          Honey ‘Laundering’
As noted further above the colour of honey darkens with age. Some bee keepers take advantage of this fact by using old honey that has sat at the bottom of a pail or holding tank for +/- 5 years to mix with dark speciality honeys such as buckwheat. In so doing the unethical beekeeper is able to stretch the volume of the specialty honey with non-descript aged honey.
This stretching of a finer quality honey is also done by mixing the fine quality specialty honey with tailings (burnt honey) - a waste product created during the processing of raw comb wax to solid beeswax.

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