In India, honey is fondly called the golden elixir of the Gods by the Siddhas. And it is not an exaggeration, as pure honey is considered to have incredible healing effects. Rightly so, honey has been used as the main ingredient in medicinal compounds all around the world for millennia. But the problem with consuming honey is its availability, and even if it is available, the purity of the product is rarely intact.
Honey is one of the most adulterated products in the world. And, India obviously is not an exception to the malpractice. Even recently, in this COVID-prevalent time, the newest scandal in our country is honey adulteration. Rightly named as the Honeygate, almost 90 percent of brands that commercially sell honey have been found to sell adulterated honey. This has a huge impact not just on the health of its consumers but also on the environment and upsets the whole production ecosystem. I will explain the health benefits and importance of having pure unadulterated honey and how to get your hands on a quality product. Let’s go!
Health Benefits of Honey
Honey is a dense liquid produced by insects, mainly honey bees. Honey bees extract nectar from flowers and store it in their waxy hive. In due time, the stored nectar gets processed into honey that we all know. Ingesting a small quantity of honey per day would provide you myriad health benefits.
Reinforced Energy: Pure raw honey contains almost eighty percent vital sugars like glucose and fructose. The rest is just water and micronutrients. Ten grams of honey gives approximately 25 calories of energy. When honey is used instead of artificial sweeteners, the body will be able to absorb and use the energy more efficiently.
Weight Management: Honey can be used perfectly for weight management. It works both ways – weight loss and weight gain. Weight loss is a difficult process wherein we will have to resist eating sugar-filled high-calorie junk food. Honey acts as an excellent substitute for the white sugar that we regularly use. Honey is sweeter than white sugar, and by substituting it, you will be cutting down unwanted calories. For instance, replacing two spoons of sugar with one spoon of honey in your tea will help you in the long run. Also, honey increases the metabolism, which in turn burns body fat.
Strengthens Immunity: Immunity is the need of the hour during this pandemic time. To be honest, immunity is required at all times to lead a healthy, disease-free life. A tiny dash of honey, when fed upon, regularly cleanses the system and reinforces the immunity. Honey has antibiotic properties that neutralize the harmful organisms in the body. Antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols are present in honey, which are responsible for inhibiting the free radicals in the body from damaging the immune cells. Research also suggests that consumption of honey helps in increased production of t-cells, antibodies, neutrophils, etc. This fortifies the defenses and prevents infections effectively. And it is the exact reason why honey is suggested for people during this COVID pandemic.
Instant Home Remedy: Honey and ginger combination has been used for ages to treat cough and sore throat. Because of honey’s anti-inflammatory properties, it is widely used to treat injuries. The antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties help prevent infections on the wounds and also helps in the recovery process. Honey plus warm water mitigates indigestion problems and settles acid reflux in the stomach.
Skin Treatment: Ever went to a salon and received a honey massage or bought honey face masks from a health store? The golden liquid moisturizes your skin and cleans the skin pores. A periodical honey massage will leave you with soft and tight skin. Apart from healthy skin, honey’s anti-inflammatory properties will fight acne and heal scars. The antioxidants in the honey will make you look younger by reducing skin wrinkles. The overall nourishment will contribute to healthy glowing skin.
Honey Adulteration (Explained)
Honey is one of the most highly adulterated food substances in the world. Ranging from plain old dilution by adding water to spiking with sugar syrup, honey adulteration happens so much so that it is very rare to find pure unadulterated honey. Even commercially available big brands sell adulterated honey. Firstly, we need to address the question, “why is honey adulterated widely?”
Availability: Honey is a rare substance that has several factors like geography, climate, flora, etc., impact its availability. It is seasonal, and that means it is not available throughout the year. So, in order to meet demand, manufacturers add adulterants to achieve production targets.
Quality: The flavor profile of honey is highly dependent on the type of plants that the honeybees obtained nectar from. Some batches of honey might be bitter for our indulgence. Or the color might be different. The color of the honey is also one of the important determiners of its quality and price. So, in order to standardize the product, sellers might add artificial sweeteners and color enhancers to make the product more marketable.
Difficulty: Obtaining wild honey or producing honey in honeybee farms is not a simple task. Commercial manufacturers have large bee farms and suitable plantation for their product. Even with this extensive setup, it is very hard to meet the product demand in a country like India. Therefore, companies try every trick in the book.
Honeygate – India’s Honey Adulteration Scandal
Amidst the global war against the COVID pandemic, the latest scandal in the Indian consumer market is the news that broke out in December 2020. CSE – Centre for Science and Environment revealed that the majority of the commercially available honey is adulterated. There are several health risks involved with consuming adulterated honey filled with sugar syrup.
Usually, honey would be adulterated with corn syrup or plain cane sugar along with water. This can be easily detected even by simple home tests. There are certain parameters to be met, like the color range, viscosity, percentage of water presence, etc. The report suggested that even popular brands like Dabur and Patanjali were adulterating their product with Chinese sugar syrup that could bypass standard tests devised by the Indian regulatory body FSSAI. This specially designed Chinese sugar syrup is very hard to detect. But latest advancements like NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) will be able to detect this. CSE sought help from a German lab wherein NMR tests were conducted. And the results proved to enlighten us about the malpractice by the companies.
Only three companies – Saffola, MarkfedSohna, and Nature’s Nectar – out of the thirteen tested brands passed the NMR test. What does this mean? It means you really need to know what you are consuming. If you are buying from the supermarket, make sure to check certification in the future. Alternatively, you can try procuring honey from local traders. For example, Hoopoe on A Hill is a small NGO/business that employs indigenous tribes of Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu. They extract wild honey using traditional methods and sell their quality produce in small batches. This is not a promotion for the NGO, but an example for you to choose a quality product by properly understanding it. If you are buying from a local trader, well, you indeed will be taking a risk. But it might be worth the try if you really know what you are getting your hands on.
Honey is a healthy substance that might help you lead a balanced life. But, as times pass, people/companies will get greedier and introduce novel ways to adulterate their products. If India’s regulations are not updated to global standards, the risks involved will surely outweigh the health benefits. This bad trend is not something new to the Indian market. The consumer product market is filled with adulterated products. We, the consumers, will have to stay updated about the products we buy. Products sold by mass manufacturers aren’t always a quality product. Understand the product you are buying, do not settle for something cheaper, thoroughly check for certifications and disclaimers. Honey is one of the products which does not go bad for a long time. Make sure you get your hands on the right product and have a healthy, blissful life!