Borage Honey

Honey Bee Preparing To Pollinate Borage Flower
Honey bee preparing to pollinate borage flower in order to make borage honey

Borage honey is produced from the nectar of the starflower otherwise known as the borage flower. Borage is an easily recognisable blue flower with a star pattern of dark leaves inside of the blossom. The flower itself has been held high regard for most of human history. It was believed to be hold notable benefits by the ancient Greeks, who used it as a strong sedative.

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    What Is Borage Honey?

    Borage honey is a honey that is produced from honey bees pollinating and extracting the nectar of the borage plant (starflower). It can be recognised for its light, almost clear colour.

    Europeans in the middle ages used the plant to make teas and syrups, that they believed relieved sadness/depression.

    In the modern era however, borage flowers are grown around the world not only because they’re pretty and easily pollinated. They’re grown because when honeybees extract their nectar, they’re able to produce the delicious and renowned borage honey.

    Furthermore it is known for its subtle aroma and sweet taste.

    Where Does Borage Honey Come From?

    In the United Kingdom, borage honey comes from East Yorkshire where the borage is grown in commercial quantities.

    Across the world in New Zealand on south island borage honey is cultivated on the South Island.

    Within the United States, the Pacific Northwest is the most common source for commercially produced borage honey.

    Whilst the borage plant is grown commercially all over the world. There are sources across the world but New Zealand and Oregon are most demanded origins of borage honey. 

    Western Honeybee Extracting Nectar Of Starflower
    Western honey bee extracting nectar of starflower

    How Is Borage Honey Produced?

    Borage oil is a commercially viable product so there are many farmers who grow borage commercially. These farmers rely on migrant beekeepers to help improve the pollination rates of their fields and increase their productivity. A beneficial byproduct of this arrangement is the production of large amounts of borage honey.

    Many landowners have begun to cultivate borage as an ornamental variety in their landscaping and others have made the effort to cultivate wildflower fields that feature the borage. This is due to the benefits that borage flowers have for honey bees.

    While this is a significant element of a worldwide effort to help preserve healthy populations of honey bees, these methods typically do not result in honey that has a high enough concentration of borage to allow it to be labeled as a monofloral variety.

    That being said, should the beekeepers or land owners isolate the apiary surrounded by borage flowers it will produce a high enough concentration of borage to allow it to be labelled as monofloral – borage honey. Borage flowers are a voluminous source of pollen and nectar. They tend to be most productive when the weather is very warm or hot.

    When conditions are right, a hive can gather enough pollen and nectar to produce honey yields that range from 80 to 100 lbs. per acre.

    Honeybee Extracting Nectar of Borage Flower
    Honeybee extracting nectar of borage flower

    So how do the honey bees do it?

    The moment the honey bee collects the borage nectar it is mixed with an enzyme within the bees mouth. The enzyme itself is otherwise known as invertase or the “bee enzyme” which is secreted from the bees glands. When the honeybees return to the hive they will pass the nectar they have gathered between themselves further mixing the nectar with the “bee enzyme” reducing the water content and converting the nectar to honey.

    They will then deposit the borage honey into wax cells, but at this point the water content will be too high. In order to reduce the water content the honeybees will fan their wings above the wax cell, this in turn will evaporate some of the water.

    Once they’ve finished the process the borage honey will have a water content roughly below 20%. It will then be capped and the honeybees will repeat the process all over again.

    What Is Borage Honey Used For?

    Borage honey is prized primarily as a food item. It’s sweet flavor, unique color, clarity and delicate aroma find it often used as a topping for many foods & beverages.

    Furthermore its often used throughout baking and cooking, for example many use it as a substitute of sugar within bread & cakes. Of course, the fact that you can chill borage honey and eat it like toffee cannot be overlooked!

    Isn’t Borage Honey Poisonous?

    Borage flowers do not contain any toxic alkaloids so it is safe for human consumption. A cousin of the borage flower, the viper’s bugloss, does contain these alkaloids which leads to the production of toxic honey.

    Thus when setting up their apiary, the beekeepers will check the surrounding area to ensure there isn’t any viper’s bugloss within the vicinity.

    Close Up Of The Honey Bee Extracting Borage Nectar
    Close up of the honey bee extracting borage nectar

    What Are the Benefits of Borage 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 pasturised honey will break down and diminish these benefits.

    Borage Honey as an Antiseptic

    All raw honey is an effective topical treatment when used in wound or burn care. It can be spread on wounds and covered with a bandage. Doing this will help to draw excess moisture out of the area, which helps to prevent the growth and spread of bacteria and fungus.

    Some honey has additional antibacterial properties. Borage honey has been shown to have relatively low antibacterial activity compared to other varieties like acacia.

    When You Should Avoid Borage Honey?

    If you are allergic to borage or to bee pollen, then you should avoid borage honey at all times.

    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 bacteria can be transferred to infants, it is important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to avoid honey as well.

    Honey Bee Flying To Collect Borage Flower Nectar
    Honey bee flying to collect borage flower nectar
    Honey Bee Extracting The Nectar Of The Borage Flower
    Honey bee extracting the nectar of the borage flower

    Is Borage 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.

    Is Borage Honey Expensive?

    The best way to find inexpensive borage honey is to shop natural food stores and farmer’s markets in the areas where it is produced. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in one of those areas, you can easily obtain high-quality, raw, organic borage honey from an online retailer.

    Common varieties of borage honey are relatively inexpensive.

    You can typically find quality borage honey for under $10 per pound. Of course, the price can go up in relation to higher levels of purity or origins in a particularly sought-after region.

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