Aster honey is a monofloral variety of honey that is produced from honey bees converting aster flower nectar into honey. The name “aster” comes from the Ancient Greek word ἀστήρ (astḗr), which means “star”, referring to the shape of the flowers head. It’s produced in the Mid-South region of the United States, and known for its light colour, smooth and thick consistency, sweet aroma, and rapid crystallization.
What Is Aster Honey?
Aster honey is known for the powerful odour that it produces when it is first gathered, but the aroma mellows as the honey ripens. It is made from a common variety of wildflowers that comprises well over 100 individual species.
The flowers vary widely in colour, but they are known for their yellow centres. The plants in this genus (Aster) range between 6 inches and 4 feet in height. They are common throughout North America and grow quickly, providing an essential source of late-season nutrients for honey bees.
Where Does Aster Honey Come From?
Aster is a wildflower which is common throughout the Mid-South region of the United States and is especially prominent east of the Mississippi River.
How Do the Honey Bees Produce the Aster Honey?
The moment the honey bee collects the aster nectar, it is mixed with an enzyme within the bees mouth. The enzyme itself is known as invertase or the “bee enzyme” which is secreted from the bee’s glands.
When the honey bees return to the hive, they will pass the aster nectar they have collected between themselves further mixing the nectar with the “bee enzyme”.
This will reduce the water content converting the nectar into honey.
They will then deposit the aster honey into wax cells, but at this point, the water content may be too high. To reduce the water content, the honey bees will fan their wings above the wax cell, this, in turn, will evaporate some of the water.
Once they’ve finished the process, the aster honey will have a water content roughly below 20%. It will then be capped, and the honey bees will repeat the process all over again.
How Is Aster Honey Produced?
Aster honey is produced from one of the few abundant late-season sources of nectar and pollen. Often other sources like goldenrod are likely to make up a portion of the source material used to create aster honey. The goldenrod plant will typically influence the colour of the final product.
When a hive sources nectar from aster flowers, the honey will be very light in colour. The presence of additional sources like goldenrod will darken the colour of the honey. When beekeepers observe aster pollen being brought into the hive, it is often a good sign that the queen is still laying eggs for worker bees that will contribute to the hive’s health in early spring.
Benefits of Aster Honey?
|Healing Wounds and Burns||There has been positive effects of using raw honey on wounds & burns reported.|
|Reducing The Duration of Diarrhoea||According the NCBI consumption of raw honey has been shown to reduce the severity & duration of diarrhoea.|
|Preventing Acid Reflux||Research has shown that with honey lining the oesophagus and stomach, it actually can reduce the upward flow of undigested food and stomach acid.|
|Fighting Infections||Scientists in 2010 reported that honey through its protein (defensin-1) has the ability to kill bacteria.|
|Relieving cold and cough symptoms||Its been proven that honey may prove beneficial in relieving cold and cough symptoms. The World Health Organisation actually recommend honey as a natural cough remedy.|
|Rich In Antioxidants||High quality raw honey contains many helpful antioxidants. These include phenolic compounds like flavonoids and organic acids.|
|Can Lower Triglycerides||Triglycerides are associated with insulin resistance and are a major driver of type 2 diabetes. Multiple studies have linked regular honey consumption with lower triglyceride levels, especially when it is used to replace sugar.|
This is based on raw honey. Filtered or pasteurised honey will break down and diminish these benefits.
Aster Honey vs Regular Honey
Aster honey is most commonly sold in its raw form. That means that it retains the bee pollen, propolis, and other beneficial compounds that are typically removed by fine filtering or destroyed by pasteurization during the processing that regular honey goes through.
In a raw state, it will naturally contain many if not all of the benefits listed above. In comparison, regular honey will hold that somewhat industrial standard taste and tends to be missing crucial benefits and nutritional properties of raw honey. This is typically due to “regular” mass-produced honey being fine filtered and pasteurized.
Which, unfortunately, destroys many of the antibacterial and active elements. Research shows that the processing of honey can reduce antioxidant levels by up to (and even more than) 30%.The reduction of these antioxidant reduces aster honey’s effectiveness as an antibacterial and antimicrobial agent.
Aster Honey as an Antiseptic
Treating wounds such as burns and ulcers is just one way that honey can be used topically as a therapeutic antiseptic. By absorbing water, and helping to dry out wounds, aster honey can help to inhibit the growth of fungi and bacteria.
Glucose Oxidase is an enzyme that is also in honey. This enzyme can catalyze the production of hydrogen peroxide. Because of its increased levels of antioxidants, aster honey functions well as an effective antibacterial agent.
When You Should Avoid Aster Honey?
If you are allergic to aster flowers or bee pollen, then you should avoid aster honey.
Infants younger than 1-year-old should never be given honey due to the presence of small amounts of harmful bacteria that can overwhelm their underdeveloped gastrointestinal tracts. Because these bacterias can be transferred to infants, it is essential for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to avoid honey as well.
Is Aster Honey Vegan?
The Vegan Society do not consider honey vegan, this includes cornflower honey. They believe that because some honey farmers replace honey with a sugar substitute when harvesting, it will naturally lack the essential micronutrients of honey, thus being detrimental to the honey bees.
Furthermore, they believe that in conventional beekeeping, honey bees are specifically bred to increase productivity. Which they believe leads to a narrowing of the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease and large scale die-offs.
They also believe that many honey farmers will cull their hives post-harvest and clip the queen bee’s wings to stop them from leaving to start a new colony. Thus the Vegan Society does not consider honey vegan. That, of course, doesn’t stop some vegans arguing its fine if they source their honey from reliable sources that do not practice the above.
What Is Aster Honey Used For?
Aster honey is used primarily as a sweetener for beverages and can be used as a topping for food or as an ingredient when baking or cooking. Furthermore, many may use it as a dietary supplement or topical antiseptic.
Is Aster Honey Expensive?
Aster honey is relatively inexpensive. It is easy to find at farmer’s markets or natural food stores in the regions where it’s produced.
It can be challenging to find as a high purity monofloral variety on the internet but it is widely available as a dominant source in late-season wildflower honey that balances aster and goldenrod as sources.