Sage Honey

Honey Pacifica - Sage Honey
Sage Honey - Credit: Honey Pacifica

Sage honey is a monofloral honey produced by honey bees by collecting and converting the nectar of the flowers found on the genus Salvia plants into honey. 

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    What Is Sage Honey?

    Sage honey is a prized monofloral variety due to its low moisture content and extremely slow crystallization rate. There are many species of sage that honey bees can use in the making of sage honey, but the most popular ones are Black Button Sage, White Sage, and Purple Sage.

    The type of sage that is most prominent in the honey will determine the colour, aroma, and taste profile of the harvested honey. Black Button and White Sage are common in the state of California, and the honey made from Black Button or White Sage will be light in colour with either a pure golden glow or a greenish-yellow tinge. Purple Sage is more common in the state of Texas, and the Purple Sage produces a darker honey that looks almost black.

    Chefs and bakers commonly give sage honey preference in their recipes out of respect for this variety’s long shelf life and mellow flavour.

    Where Does Sage Honey Come From?

    Sage grows wild in rocky terrains, thrives in dry climates and thus sage honey is most common in the Mediterranean region in Europe and in Southern California and Texas in the United States.

    Most of the sage honey on the market comes from the United States, and California is the largest source of sage honey worldwide. In Southern California, Black Button (salvia mellifera) can be found naturally growing along the central California coast and in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

    Whereas White Sage (salvia apiana) is the most prominent source flowers for the honey and they’re found predominantly in Southern California. In the state of Texas, Purple Sage (salvia leucophylla) is the most common variety cultivated.

    In addition to Texas, the purple sage can be found across the South West, but the concentrations are not as dense. One of the most prominent European exporters of sage honey is Greece, with key harvesting locations including the Parnonas mountains and Crete.

    Sage Honeycomb
    Sage honeycomb

    How Is Sage Honey Produced?

    In order to produce sage honey, farmers must allow their crops to blossom. By doing this, the honey bees will be able to gather the nectar from the sage blossoms and later converting that into honey.

    Typically, sage is produced for its leaves, which is the part of the plant used for seasonings. In order to supply the market for sage leaves, farmers harvest the plants before the flowers have had a chance to bloom. This means that producing sage honey isn’t a secondary market/benefit from pollinating their original product, like other monofloral varieties such as Buckwheat honey, Chestnut honey, Macadamia honey, Rapeseed honey etc.

    How Do Bees Produce Sage Honey?

    The moment the honey bee collects the sage 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 sage 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 sage 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 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.

    Honey Bee Extracting The Nectar Of Russian Sage
    Honey bee extracting the nectar of Russian sage
    Honey Bee Pollinating Sage Flower In Tuscany
    Honey bee pollinating sage flower in Tuscany

    One of the ways that honey farmers know they are going to get a yield of quality sage honey is by taking note of the scent in the air around their colonies. Typically, bees seek to cool the air temperature inside the hive during the hottest part of the day.

    They gather on the exterior surfaces in what is called “bee beards”. Together they beat their wings to displace hot air inside the hive and cool the interior. When the colony is making sage honey, the aroma of sage permeates the area around the colony as they perform this activity.

    Benefits of Sage 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.

    Honey Pacifica - Sage Honeys
    Jars of Sage Honey - Credit: Honey Pacifica

    Sage Honey as an Antiseptic

    Sage honey has low levels of antioxidants but relatively high levels of antibacterial activity. It is often compared to manuka honey in this respect and is known to have both low moisture content and high levels of peroxide activity. Like all honies though, it offers antibacterial activity, maintains a moist wound condition, and its high viscosity helps to provide a protective barrier to prevent infection.

    Furthermore, its immunomodulatory (immunomodulators are medications used to help regulate or normalize the immune system) property is relevant to wound repair too.

    When You Should Avoid Sage Honey?

    You should avoid sage honey if you have any allergies that may make you sensitive to either honey or sage. If you have an allergy to bees and you are unsure if you will react to honey, you should consult with your doctor.

    Furthermore, raw honey of any kind, including sage honey, should never be given to a child under a year old. This is because raw honey can cause a rare but serious disease (Infant Botulism) caused by a specific type of bacteria.

    Honey Bee Harvesting Clevelane Sage Nectar
    Honey bee harvesting clevelane sage nectar

    Is Sage 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 Sage Honey Expensive?

    Typically, in the US prices range from $2.5 to $4 per 100g and in the UK £2 to £3 per 100g.

    Raw, organic sage honey can be found easily from online retailers, natural food stores, and farmer’s markets.

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