Cherry blossom honey is a monofloral variety of honey made from the nectar and pollen of cherry flowers belonging to the sweet cherry species (Prunus avium), also known as wild cherry. The raw, unfiltered, unprocessed honey is a source of essential nutrients, antioxidants and other elements with beneficial effects on human health. Unless you are allergic to the honey, cherry pollen or cherry fruit, this particular variety is great for treating symptoms of respiratory infections such as a sore throat or relieving cough, exerts a strong antimicrobial action, favors wound healing and skin health and boasts energizing properties.
Cherry blossom honey is not so common compared to other varieties. This is because cherry trees blossom early in spring, in March-April. At this time of the year, honey bees are in search of nectar to raise new offspring and may thus use cherry blossom nectar primarily as sustenance, rather than make honey out of it. If cherry nectar sources are not plentiful, by the time honey bees get to making honey, they may be out of cherry nectar and thus go for other flowers that are in bloom at the time. However, where there are vast cherry tree plantations, honey bees usually have plenty of nectar both for them and their offspring and for starting the production of honey.
What does cherry blossom honey look like? Generally, this variety may range from a light amber color to rich golden hues and dark amber with reddish reflexes. However, most commercialized varieties are a light golden color. The honey is known to crystallize somewhat slowly (but faster than acacia, eucalyptus, chestnut and pine nut honey) and become paler as a result. What does cherry blossom honey taste and smell like? Cherry blossom honey doesn’t have an intense aroma. Its mild fragrance is reminiscent of cherry flowers and bears a floral, cherry smell. The variety has a distinctive fruity, but sweet-tangy, warm taste with cherry notes. Some people find it also has an earthy-woody or almondy aftertaste. As for its consistency, it is not usually very dense, but rather slightly flowing (but not liquid).
Like all other honey varieties, cherry blossom honey has a great range of culinary uses, from being added to tea to being used for desserts and baked sweets in general. However, honey is not very healthy when heated. Because it is made up mostly of sugars, albeit natural ones, heating it can lead to the formation of toxic, cancer-causing byproducts that could prove hazardous for our health in the long run. Moreover, heating honey causes it to lose most, if not all of its beneficial properties. This is why it is recommended to postpone adding honey to your tea until it’s at least lukewarm or, better yet, room temperature.
Processing cherry blossom honey in any way can lead to it losing its most beneficial effects. Diluting it makes it less biologically active. Filtering it can remove elements with a beneficial action such as propolis and some resins. Heating it causes it to form dangerous metabolites. Similarly, using (certain) pesticides on the flowers bees feed on can cause said pesticides to leek into the flower nectar and the honey, but also put honey bees at risk. So if you want to enjoy the wonderful health benefits of cherry blossom honey or any other honey, make sure you choose certified brands and go for raw honey whose natural properties have not been altered by processing methods in any way.
What are the properties and benefits of cherry blossom honey? The variety is a source of special elements, nutrients, enzymes and antioxidants with surprising antimicrobial, antiseptic, regenerative, energizing, immune-boosting and detoxifying effects. Their action is what makes cherry blossom honey good for us.
1) Antibacterial properties. The strong natural antibacterial properties of the honey are a result of its hydrogen peroxide content, acidic pH and low moisture content. When glucose from cherry blossom nectar interacts with a special enzyme from honey bees called glucose oxidase, hydrogen peroxide forms. Hydrogen peroxide is a potent antimicrobial agent responsible for the antibacterial effect of all honey varieties except for manuka honey. It is known to both inhibit and destroy bacteria.
The acidic pH of the honey also plays an important role in this respect because bacteria do not generally thrive in an acidic environment, hence the reason why honey yields great results when used to combat acne, relieve sore throat and other respiratory tract infections or help wounds heal faster. The low moisture content contributes to inhibiting growth of pathogenic bacteria, further enhancing the properties of the honey.
2) Energizing effect. Cherry blossom honey is made of natural sugars mostly (about 36.5% fructose and 33.5% glucose). And, of course, sugar gives you instant energy. But it’s actually a far better choice than refined sugar or artificial sweeteners because of its natural composition. Moreover, the variety contains essential nutrients (particularly dietary minerals) and enzymes (as well as pollen and propolis in the raw, unfiltered types), all of which contribute more or less directly to a revitalizing, energizing effect.
3) Good for respiratory infections. Raw, unprocessed, unfiltered cherry blossom honey contains pollen and propolis, two natural compounds with immune-boosting effects, as well as a significant hydrogen peroxide content, a compound known to exert a potent antibacterial effect. These elements are what make the honey good for improving the evolution of respiratory tract infections because they both suppress bacterial growth and destroy certain pathogenic bacteria. When eaten or taken in tea, the honey comes into direct contact with the throat lining where pathogens may reside and helps prevent a bacterial infection from advancing.
This is why taking honey when you have a cold helps reduce throat soreness, relieves cough (at least to a certain extent), stimulates appetite and so on. Moreover, because of its energizing action and content of propolis and pollen, it encourages recovery following a period of poor immunity, contributing to strengthening the immune response.
4) Gentle on the stomach. The raw, unprocessed, unheated and undiluted honey is gentle on the stomach, provided it is consumed in small amounts. Its moderately viscous consistency helps it form a sort of protective layer over damaged mucous membranes, allowing them to heal. In cases of gastritis, it is recommended to take one tablespoon of a honey of your choice on an empty stomach in the morning and avoid eating or drinking anything for up to an hour. The honey has to be high-quality and raw, unprocessed and unheated to produce any beneficial effect. Nevertheless, this alone will not treat your gastritis completely. All sufferers need to comit to making serious and more ample dietary changes to heal gastritis completely and improve their stomach health in the long run.
5) Encourages faster wound healing. Since the beginning of time, honey has been used as a natural dressing for wounds and even today it proves effective in cases when even antibiotics fail. Research confirms its wound healing effects and reveals its success is a result of a strong anti-inflammatory and antibacterial action (Honey: A Biologic Wound Dressing). Currently, different varieties of honey are used to make sterile wound dressings that can promote faster healing of open wounds, but also possess mildly analgesic properties.
However, it is important to first address a doctor if you have a more serious open wound and proceed to disinfect it before everything else. Just because raw honey can help, that doesn’t mean you can just slather it on your wound without seeing a doctor. You have to consider the possibility you might need antibiotics to prevent an infection from spreading to our blood and becoming potentially life threatening.
6) Rich source of antioxidants. Research shows cherry blossom honey contains potent antioxidants such as quercetin, kaempferol, luteolin, galangin, naringenin etc (Analysis of flavonoids in honey by HPLC coupled with coulometric electrode array detection and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry). Overall, flavonoids are the most prominent antioxidant compounds in the variety. Antioxidants protect against cell damage caused by harmful reactive oxygen molecules called free radicals. They actually prevent excessive damage to cells and related inflammation, discouraging the development of chronic disease (cancer, diabetes, heart disease and so on) and premature aging.
7) Detoxifying and diuretic action. Cherries are known for their purifying effect and it has been suggested that the honey made from cherry blossom nectar may share the same properties as the fruit. However, it is important to understand that just eating the fruit or the honey will not turn around years of poor dietary and lifestyle habits, nor will it magically rejuvenate our liver and kidneys (our detoxifying organs). Detoxification means eating and living clean so that we do not put strain on our health in any way and thus allow our body to work as it’s supposed to. It doesn’t mean that a certain food will purge us of toxins, but rather help our liver and kidneys whose job this is work optimally.
8) Good for the skin. Honey in general is used extensively for skin care. The light-colored cherry blossom honey can be used as a face mask for dull skin because of its illuminating effect, making skin look radiant and fresh, and it’s also a good natural remedy for uneven skin tone. In my experience, it is also okay for oily skin because of its slight tightening effect. I also find it quite efficient as a pore cleansing mask and to prevent acne breakouts as a result of its antibacterial action.