When you think of honey, certainly sweet thoughts come to mind. However, it may surprise you to find the word sour next to it. Sourwood honey is the only honey that contains pinocembrin, an antioxidant similar to those found in green tea and dark chocolate. Sourwood honey health benefits include antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatory effects, antibacterial effects, and more. Thankfully the name does not define the taste.
Sourwood honey is a type of honey derived from ‘Oxydendrum arboreum’, a deciduous rubber tree that grows in the appalachian mountains of north Georgia. The beautiful appalachian native sourwood tree blooms in late summer and into autumn, which is when bees collect the nectar from its fragrant white flowers. The name sourwood comes from the taste of nectar. Sourwood honey is not actually sour, but has a tinge of tartness that gives it its unique taste.
It’s no secret that honey helps with your health. It’s always used for sore throats, coughs, and other ailments. However, sourwood honey benefits are specifically with its antioxidant properties. It has been found to have more antioxidants than most other honey because of the pinocembrin in sourwood nectar. Related: 3 Benefits of Pippali with Honey for Weight Loss
What are Antioxidants? They are chemicals that destroy free radicals in your body, which can lead to cancer and other diseases. Most antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables, but there are also those that can be found in certain honey as well as red wine.
In a study conducted by the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry, sourwood honey was tested to see its antioxidant strength against 27 other types of honey from nine different countries. It was found that out of all the different types of honey tested, pure sourwood honey had the highest antioxidant strength.
Sourwood honey has been studied in a laboratory setting to see if it can fight against collagen-induced arthritis. In one study, rats were injected with collagen and then given a daily dose of sourwood nectar for six weeks. The best honey health benefits were seen when the rats consumed sourwood nectar orally1.
Health Benefits of Sourwood Honey
1. Antioxidant Properties
Sourwood honey’s health benefits include antioxidant properties. A study by Diana Lefevre at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) and Mireille Broccardo at the University of Reading, UK found that sourwood honey contains pinocembrin. This antioxidant is similar to those found in green tea and dark chocolate and can help fight against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms and molecules that damage healthy cells and cause disease when they’re out of control. The study found that pinocembrin has the ability to act as an anti-inflammatory agent, which can be helpful against conditions like arthritis, stroke, and heart disease2.
Oxidative stress, caused by free radicals, is thought to contribute to more than 200 diseases and conditions. This includes cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and diabetes. The antioxidant power of sourwood honey has been found to be as effective as those in fruits and vegetables, but because of its low water content which is also the reason for its dark color, sourwood honey contains a much higher number of antioxidants.
The amber color of sourwood honey is created by the presence of carotenoids, which are antioxidants that help fight against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. These carotenoids are also found in many fruits and vegetables, but because of their low water content, sourwood honey is filled with these nutrients. Darker honeys generally contain higher levels of carotenoids, but sourwood contains the highest concentration. Statistics show that 100 grams of sourwood honey has an antioxidant level of 700-1,000 milligrams per liter3.
2. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Sourwood honey health benefits may also contain quercetin and gallic acid. Quercetin is a flavonol, which has been known to have anti-inflammatory properties. These can be beneficial against conditions like asthma, arthritis, and heart disease. Gallic acid is a phenolic compound that reduces inflammation and acts as an antibacterial agent4. This can be helpful against infections, acne, wounds, and ulcers. Related: 11 Amazing Arbutus Honey Health Benefits
3. Antibacterial Properties
Sourwood honey also has antibacterial properties. A study by Markus Glocker at the University of Vienna, Austria found that sourwood honey is effective against “the opportunistic pathogen Enterococcus hirae”, which can cause infections in people with weakened immune systems. The researchers believe this is due to sourwood honey’s ability to fight against free radicals and its antimicrobial activity5.
4. Anti-Fungal Properties
Sourwood honey is also anti-fungal, which can help against a variety of health conditions like athlete’s foot, candida, warts, and skin infections. A study by the Department of Biology at Louisiana State University tested the activity of several kinds of honey, including sourwood honey, on “four fungi that cause superficial infections in humans: Candida albicans , Trichophyton mentagrophytes , Trichophyton rubrum, and Epidermophyton flocosum”. The researchers concluded that candicidin, which is found in sourwood honey, “has potential as a promising anti-fungal agent”6.
5. Rich in amino acids
Sourwood honey is rich in amino acids, which help the body grow and repair cells. Amino acids are also necessary for metabolism and contribute to healthy hair, skin, nails, and bones. Amino acids also help lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety and stress, and increase serotonin levels. In addition to being rich in amino acids, sourwood honey is also a good source of copper, which the body needs for collagen production7.
6. Low on the glycemic index
When it comes to picking a sweetener for your health – less is more! This is why raw honey, which has been minimally processed is a great option. Because of its high antioxidant content, sourwood honey has a low glycemic index (GI). A study by the Department of Food Science at the University of Nebraska tested 22 kinds of honey and found that “the median GI value for all samples was 35.2”. This means sourwood honey is low on the glycemic index, which is beneficial to health because it does not spike blood sugar.
7. May Help Manage Diabetes
Sourwood honey health benefits may also be beneficial for people that have diabetes or pre-diabetes. A study by Jose Otero at Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that honey had a positive effect on blood sugar control in type 2 diabetics. The researchers found that “honey raised the level of hemoglobin A1c”, which is an important marker of how well diabetes has been managed.
8. Contains bee pollen
Sourwood trees are high up in the Appalachian Mountains, where bees make sourwood honey foraging for nectar from the sap of the sourwood tree. Bees mix their secretions with this nectar, which forms bee pollen. Bee pollen contains essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6), B-complex vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants – all necessary for optimal health.
9. Boosts the immune system
Sourwood honey is packed with antioxidants that act as an immune system booster. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body which can cause harmful effects like chronic disease and aging. A study by Rinkesh Kumar Jain at Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences found that “honey contains high quantities of nutritional bioactive compounds, including antioxidants, which are known to have cell-protective properties against diseases caused by free radicals”8.
10. Helps fight cancer cells
Sourwood honey is rich in polyphenols that also act as an effective anti-inflammatory agent. A study by Muhannad Malas at the University of Aleppo found that “polyphenol extracts from wild honey…had a significant effect in inhibiting the growth of human cancer cells”. The researchers concluded that “the inhibitory effects of polyphenol extracts on cancer cell growth, migration and invasion may contribute to honey’s potential as an anti-cancer agent, particularly against breast cancer”9.
11. Facilitates digestion
As mentioned before, sourwood honey health benefits contain bee parts and other debris. While this may sound unappealing, it’s actually beneficial to your digestive system. The debris can act as a mild laxative and stimulate the release of pancreatic enzymes in your gut. This helps with the proper digestion of food and nutrient absorption.
12. Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases
Research has found that the antioxidants in sourwood honey help decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides while increasing HDL (good cholesterol). A study by Akhila Pahan at the University of Louisville found that “honey delivered as a pre-treatment to LDL inhibited lipid peroxidation both in vivo and ex vivo, significantly reduced atherosclerotic lesions, increased HDL-C and decreased LDL”.
13. Helps Soothe a Sore Throat
One teaspoonful of sourwood honey taken half an hour before bed can help relieve symptoms of a sore throat. Several studies have proven that honey is more effective than cough syrup in suppressing nighttime coughing, which causes difficulty sleeping. Honey has been shown to be an effective suppressant for nighttime coughing because it coats the throat. This coating helps provide temporary relief from symptoms like dry mouth and scratchy throats. Hot tea with honey and lemon is also a popular sore throat remedy.
Alternative medicine uses honey for wound healing, treating allergy symptoms, and soothing a sore throat. One study found that honey can help prevent infection in pre-term infants who were born at high risk for developing a serious bacterial infection. Honey may have antibacterial activity against certain microorganisms – but keep in mind that it should never be used to treat infections as this may cause bacterial resistance or other problems.
Raw honey is honey that has not been heated or filtered. Because of this, sourwood raw honey may contain bee parts and other debris. However, this isn’t something to worry about with most honey because the honey bees do a good job of filtering out unwanted parts like legs and wings. You can still buy sourwood honey in processed form, but it will be more expensive.
There are varieties of honey and similar to manuka honey, sourwood honey is effective against a pathogenic bacteria called “Staphylococcus aureus”. A study by J. Alex Harris at the University of Sydney found that “the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values for, sourwood honey were in the range 1-2%”, while manuka honey had MIC values under 1%.
There are many kinds of honey that provide different benefits. For example:
- Buckwheat honey is known for having the highest amount of antioxidants compared to other honeys.
- Clover honey is known for having the highest amount of protein compared to other honeys.
- Wildflower honey is known for its pronounced yet complex flavor that results from mixing nectars from different types of flowers.
- Orange blossom honey is known for having a common allergy fighter- antihistamine.
- Acacia honey known for having high levels of antioxidants.
- Cherry blossom unfiltered honey is known for being great for treating daytime fatigue.
- Tupelo honey is known for having the highest amount of fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which is like a prebiotic.
The health benefits of honey have been known for thousands of years and modern science has revealed that it is because of compounds like antioxidants and enzymes. Sourwood honey has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years to treat coughs and other ailments. More recently, studies have shown that it contains many essential compounds necessary for optimal health. Based on the number of enzymes, antioxidants, and other healthy compounds – it makes sense that sourwood honey would be effective against many diseases.
Raw sourwood honey is making a big splash in the natural health world as people discover its potential health benefits. Honey connoisseurs are often willing to pay top dollar for raw sourwood honey because of its rich, sweet flavor. As with any supplement, please consult your doctor before beginning a new regimen.