“Bee pollen is one of the most complete natural foods that can be found on earth,” said Widmark. “It has a wide array of vitamins — Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, as well as anti-oxidants.”
Consumers can mix bee pollen into smoothies, yogurt, or cereal. They can spread it on their toast with honey and cinnamon. Some will even eat a teaspoon of it raw. “It’s nature’s own multi-vitamin!” said Wdimark, who has 100 producing hives.
Vicki Koenig, a nutritionist and dietician with patients throughout the Hudson Valley, is a consultant to several companies, including Stonyfield yogurt. “Honey has been used for thousands of years as both an immune booster as well as for wounds and burns,” she said. What she finds particularly fascinating are the “pro-biotic and pre-biotic” qualities which encourage the growth of live active cultures. “When you mix raw honey with yogurt,” she said, “you’re getting great pro-biotics with living enzymes that are wonderful for overall health and sickness prevention.”
Koenig, who lives in Stone Ridge but has her office in New Paltz, finds taste the most obvious difference between local, raw honey and commercially produced honey. “There’s no comparison,” she said. “But more importantly the living enzymes, the pre-biotics and anti-bacterial properties thrive in local raw honey as they do not in commercial honey.” Pasteurization processes commercial honey at high temperatures.
If Koenig feels a cold or flu coming on, she will drink tea with raw honey in it as often as she can “until whatever it malady that was on its way is gone. I get sick rarely.”
While she has read studies that touted raw, wildflower honey as being effective in lessening allergies, Koenig has spent more time researching the anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, pro-biotic and topical benefits of raw honey. While today’s pharmaceutical drugs are more “effective” at treating these conditions. Honey has remained a consistent complementary therapy for treating many ailments. Several recent studies support the long-term history of using honey for healing.
While bees do so much to keep the ecosystem thriving, pollinating flowers and fruit crops and producing honey and pollen with all of its natural sweetness and healthy attributes, they’ve been subject to wide-spread diseases that have caused a decline in their population and much worry among farmers, beekeepers, honey producers, gardeners, environmentalists and those that understand their critical place in nature’s cycles.
There’s an additional social benefit. “When people support their local farms, and in this case honey farms, they’re not only getting raw honey and all of the deliciously healthy benefits of it, but they’re also supporting small, independent beekeepers who are doing what they can to keep the bee population thriving and healthy,” said Clement.