Looking for honey for health benefits we must take into consideration Lavender Honey. Sometimes called “lavander honey”, coming probably from its botanical name “lavandula” or from the French “lavande”.
Collins Dictionary recognizes only the form “lavender” as “any of various perennial shrubs or herbaceous plants of the genus Lavandula, esp L. vera, cultivated for its mauve or blue flowers and as the source of a fragrant oil (oil of lavender)”.
People know lavender only as lavender oil, with a specific smell, perfect to keep moths away from your wardrobe! But this is not the only form of using lavender. There are lots of therapeutical uses of the flower. The nectar of it also offers an exquisite honey, highly appreciated in Europe. But first, let’s see what’s with this beautiful flower.
Name: There are many names associated with lavender, due to the many species (39 known by now) of the genus, Lavandula. It belongs to the mint family, Lamiaceae.
The most common lavenders are known as:
· Lavandin or French Lavend, used for L. x intermedia.
· English Lavender or True Lavender, used for the L. angustifolia species.
· Spanish Lavender, used for L. stoechas, L. lanata or L. dentata.
· Spike Lavender or Portuguese Lavender, used for L. latifolia.
Origin: Lavender comes from Persia and the Spanish Canary islands. But these days, lavender is grown in many countries, such as: Tasmania, Spain, India, Arabia, Italy, England, China, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, North America, Australia and New Zealand, and, of course, southern France, where traditionally lavender honey is produced and highly priced.
Etymology: it is thought that the name “lavender” comes from the Old French lavandre, though other people say it may come from the Latin lavare (= to wash), or from the Latin livere, meaning “blueish”.
When referring to lavender honey, people use words like: premium, exquisite, fantastic, luxurious and delicate, the most elegant of all honeys.
But we should be very careful, as there are 2 types of “lavender honey” on the market.
1. Real lavender honey. The genuine honey made from the nectar of the lavender flowers.
2. Infused honey. This type of honey isn’t always labeled like that, and we often don’t know when this is the case. It is made from heating honey in which lavender plants are introduced. The flavor of the flower will be infused into honey and then it will be strained to remove the plants. The cheaper lavender honey jars that we can find, are definitely filled with only infused honey. Here is an example of heather honey infused with lavender. Essence of Lavender Honey 9oz
Lavandula unifloral honey is produced from:
• L. x intermedia Emeric, ex Loiselieur, a hybrid between other two species: augustifolia and latifolia. It is cultivated especially for the essential oil in France, Spain and, to a lesser extent, in other Southern and Mediterranean countries. Also known as Lavandin or French lavender. It produces three times more oil than angustifolia.
The flower has beautiful, vibrant colors, often used for herbal crafts and potpourris (mixtures of dried petals and spices placed in a bowl or small sack to perfume clothing or a room). The scent of its oil is woody, spicy-green, camphor It is quite different from true lavender and while it has many fine properties, it is not a substitute for true lavender or its aromatherapy properties.
Bees absolutely love it! From this type of flower we have the famous France Lavender honeys.
• L. angustifolia Miller (France and Spain). Considered to be the best Lavender for medicinal and aromatherapy purposes, it is also known as True Lavender, Fine Lavender, English lavender (though not native to England) or narrow-leaved lavender. Formely called Lavandula officinalis.
It has a green, hay-like sweetness and gives “fruity aspects” to perfumes and other scented products. It has the lowest camphor content of all species. Medicinally it is used for its anti-inflammatory properties and its capacity to alleviate tension-related illnesses.
L. Augustifolia is also used for its essential oil, with great health benefits.
• L. latifolia Medicus (from Spain and France) – more of local interest. Also known as: broad-leaved lavender, Spike lavender or Portuguese lavender. It has branched flower stalks, otherwise similar to English Lavender.
It is the classic lavender used in sachets, perfumes, wands etc. It has a higher camphor content than True Lavender and the aroma is camphoraceous, floral, fresh and herbaceous. The leaves are aromatic and grey-green and the flowers are mauvish-blue, appearing in July and August.
• L. stoechas L. It is cultivated (but it grows wild, too) in Spain, Portugal and Italy (Sardinia). In Australia it is considered invasive. (There are different characteristics between the honeys coming from L. latifolia and L. stoechas.) Also known as Spanish lavender or Butterfly lavender.
The flower differs from the other Lavenders as it is barrel shaped. In traditional medicine it is used as anticonvulsant and antispasmodic.
The honey made from Lavandula stoechas is white to extra light amber, has a faint floral aroma, less intense, a little persistent, sometimes with very slight camphor notes. It has a sweet taste, in some cases with slightly sour notes, or a hint of almond, or even stale tobacco.
Color: light with bright yellow tone. Some people say this honey “seems to glow from within and pours like melted butter or spun sugar”.
Odor: woody, floral – fresh fruit (floral) and vegetal, of medium intensity. A delicate floral scent of Lavender.
Aroma: woody, fresh, floral – fresh fruit and warm, of medium intensity
Persistence/aftertaste: medium, sometimes a blackcurrant taste is present
Crystallization rate: moderate, into fine crystals
Electrical Conductivity: very low values: 0.21 mS/cm (compared to honeydew honey which has 1.20, chestnut honey with 1.38 or heather honey with 0.73)
Water: 16.7 g/100 g
Fructose: 36.0 g/100 g
Glucose: 30.6 g/100 g
Sucrose: 5.7 g/100 g. This is a high value of sucrose. For this honey the European Directive allows a sucrose content up to 15 g/100 g.
Phenolic and other compounds characteristic: Naringenin, Luteolin, Gallic and caffeic acids.
Antibacterial potency: medium to low.
The pollen coming from L. x intermedia is low and even absent. Yet the honey is considered monofloral. I mention this, because in the EU, to be classified as a single flower (monofloral) lavender honey, only 15-20% pollen count is required (due to the low pollen count of all Lavandin varietal).
A honey connoisseur will always say that the best honey
comes from Provence, South of France.
Bees scour the delicate lavender blossoms on the hillsides of Provence to produce this perfectly perfumed, richly flavored honey.
Yet, the lavender honey is produced in many different countries and it is not a cheap one.
• New Zealand: 1kg of Lavender Honey from the HoneyWorld, New Zealand, is $70.00
• Australia: the Tasmanian Honey Company produces lavender honey and sells 400 grams ( 14 ounces ) at $16.75 (see tastyhoney.com) They are out-of-stock most of the time.
• France, Provence: On zingermans.com we find 17.6 OZ jar of French lavender honey at $36. Or from saveurdujour.com, Miel de Lavande 8.8 oz (250 g) at $13.99
• US, California: 9 oz. Honey Bear of Petaluma Lavender Blossom Honey at $20.00, found on lavenderbeefarm.com.
Or you can simply order it on Amazon.com: Manoir des Abeilles · Lavender honey or Amazon.co.uk: Sunita Organic Raw Honey Lavender or Littleover Apiaries Lavender Flower Honey, wherever suits you best.
Lavender honey contains the highest level of TYROSINE from all studied honeys – This is what a Spanish study says in the Food Chemistry Journal, in its number of November 2003 (2003. Free amino acid composition and botanical origin of honey. Food Chem 83:263–8.), , .
Other amino acids found in honeys: phenylalanine, proline, tyrosine, and isoleucine. All honeys have rich free amino acids, and and this qualifies them even more as supplementary materials for food products, especially for foods for children.
What is tyrosine and why is it so important?
It is one of the primary amino acids and our body uses it in many places:
– to make neurotransmitters that may help prevent or treat certain conditions involving the brain.
– using niacin, folic acid, vitamin C, and copper, our body converts tyrosine into many important substances, including melanin, a skin pigment, and the female-hormone estrogen.
– to treat depression, anxiety, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impaired alertness caused by lack of sleep, stress, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic fatigue. For this there are Supplemental Tyrosine that we can find on our markets. But there is still need for more studies to know for sure if the tyrosine found in lavender honey has the effect the supplements have on our bodies.
– Consumption of tyrosine in royal jelly increases brain levels of dopamine and tyramine and promotes transition from normal to reproductive workers in queenless honey bee colonies. (source) Which is the main reason for which royal jelly treats infertility problems.
Lavender honey has antimycotic properties
A study published in October 2001 in the Journal of Food Science and Technology. “Antifungal effect of lavender honey against Candida albicans , Candida krusei and Cryptococcus neoformans” says that the it was not the sugar content that gave the antifungal effects (in vitro). Three fungi were studied: Candida albicans, Candida krusei, and Cryptococcus neoformans, and lavender honey showed high antifungal activity against all of them, particulary agaist Candida krusei. The study concluded that honey could perhaps be used in the future as a natural remedy for myocotic infections.
It helps in wound healing
A 2006 study A comparison of wound healing following treatment with Lavandula x allardii honey or essential oil, by Lusby PE at al., from Charles Sturt University, Australia, investigated the action of Lavandula x allardii honey and essential oil, and Medihoney, a standard therapeutic honey, on a rat wound. Wound healing was analysed by wound contraction and capillary volume at 5 and 12 days post-surgery. Both honeys were shown to reduce the capillary volume in the wound site at day 12, with no difference between the honeys. The data suggested that the essential oil, did not showed beneficial action in wound healing, only the honeys.
In another study the effects of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, Saline Solution, Povidone-Iodine, and Lavender Oil were studied in treating wounds. The best results were obtained with Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, followed by lavender honey.
It has high antioxidant properties.
This effect is considered to be due to its flavonoids and phenol compounds: naringenin and luteolin, found in high amounts in lavender honey, just as there are high levels of gallic acid and caffeic acid. It is considered that the gallic acid has the ability to kill cancer cells without harming the healthy ones. Caffeic acid is used in supplements to boost athletic performance and treat exercise-related fatigue.
It is anti-convulsant and anti-spasmodic
Honey extracted from Spanish Lavender variety is used as anti-convulsant and anti-spasmodic to relieve muscle spasms.
It is not very effective as antimicrobial honey
Compared to manuka honey and some other 2 honeys, lavender honey showed the lowest antimicrobial activity, even it had the lowest pH and water content (study):
– Manuka honey was the most effective against Staphylococcus aureus Oxa R and S. aureus Oxa S
– Wild carrot honey was the most effective against Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
In that study, the sample of manuka honey had the highest content of polyphenols, with 899.09 ± 11.75 mg gallic acid/kg, whereas lavender honey had the lowest, with 111.42 ± 3.54 mg gallic acid/kg.
The most important volatile compounds found in lavender honey: Heptanal, Hexanal, nerolidol oxide, coumarin, high concentrations of hexanol and hotrienol, n-Hexanal, n-heptanal, phenylacetaldehyde, phenylacetaldehyde.
How to enjoy lavender honey
This honey is thick but spreadable. A pleasure at breakfast, a delicacy to relax you and promote a perfect day.
It can be spread on bread, toast, waffles, pancakes, biscuits, croissants or crispy bread.
It also makes a very unusual honey ice-cream. There are people absolutely in love with it, who buy lavender honey only for this ice-cream.
It is most suitable for beverages, desserts and baking. It is delicious over feta cheese, and pairs well with blue cheeses and semi-soft cheeses such as Camembert, Brie, or the decadent triple-crème-styles like Pierre Robert or Brillat-Savarin.
There is no way we can make your taste buds understand lavender honey.
There is only one way for this: try it and feel it yourself.
Greeks and Romans used lavender to scent their baths or their freshly laundered linen, and also for the plants’ soothing and healing qualities. It is said that during the plague of 1720 in Europe, people tied lavender around themselves as protection from the disease, and were using it for healing burns. In 1770, the Parliament of Provence, France, aware of its beneficial attributes, regulated the cutting of lavender and its extraction into an essential oil.
L. angustifolia is the most commonly used lavander for essential oil. There is much literature about its uses in aromatherapy.
L. x intermedia, or Lavandin, doesn’t have many studies and books, yet the oil obtained has its own distinctive propoerties. It is very effective in colds, as in contains a higher quantity of camphor, which will help clear the nose better. BUt we should not use it for burn treatment (because of this camphor content.)
Some people say lavandin oil is a better insect repellent (moths, mozzies, carpet beetles, ants) and freshens the atmospher better, when used in a burner.
1. Soothes the nervous system
Probably the most popular of all its properties, lavender essential oil has a soothing effect on our nervous system.
It can be ingested as a tonic or used in vapor form.
Besides boosting the nervous system, it also helps in other common conditions like: migraines, nervous tension or emotional stress. It promotes relaxation and helps with our sleep, which is why you will find it prescribed for insomnia. I personally take it and it does help.
2.Treats the respiratory system
Lavender oil is included in a wide range of medicines and complimentary balms for helping with respiratory problems. It can be used as a vapor applied on the neck, back or directly on the chest. Or inhaled.
It is used in colds, but also in asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, laryngitis, tonsillitis and influenza.
3. Care for the Skin
Often found in beauty products, lavender essential oils can also be used in treating skin conditions. It is believed to have both antifungal and antiseptic characteristics which means it can be very effective in treating a wide range of conditions from acne to psoriasis, as well as wrinkles and inflammation to the skin.
Scientists are researching now its good effects on urinary disorders and its capacity to bring pain relief.
“bee on lavander flower” picture credit Maureen Barlin, published under CC via flickr.com;
“Lavander field” picture credit Pete Favelle published under CC via flickr.com;