It’s produced by Brazilian, stingless bees! It’s rare and very expensive! It has amazing medicinal benefits! It’s even a cure for cancer!
Sour honey certainly sounds incredible. It even sounds too good to exist.
That’s because it doesn’t.
A few years ago, a YouTube video made those wild “cancer cure” claims about Brazilian “sour honey.” It sparked a worldwide craze, and sales soared for products sold on Amazon which were purported to be sour honey.
But unfortunately for those with cancer – and for those whose money was taken by vendors selling this magical elixir – it’s all a hoax.
What Is Sour Honey, Anyway?
That’s a very good question. In fact, it’s a question that baffles scientists and reputable honey producers.
Anyone who’s ever sampled a few types of honey knows they have one thing in common. They’re all sweet, not sour. And those in the honey industry are unanimous when asked about sour honey: they’ve never heard of it.
How is that possible? Just check Google, and you’ll discover the most important thing about sour honey. There’s no such thing.
The Origins of the Sour Honey Scam
The fact-checking website Snopes.com has uncovered the story behind the sour honey hoax. (1) It was anti-Democrat propaganda devised by a conservative Baltimore publishing company, published in something called (believe it or not) Insider’s Book of Cures: The Real Cures Buried By Clinton’s Cartel.
The book was “free” if you paid $79 to join the company’s “Health Sciences Institute.” Among other things, it claimed that Democrats led by Hillary Clinton, along with pharmaceutical companies, were hiding the existence of life-saving natural cancer cures and other miracle treatments in order to make money – including the “fact” that this rare honey can cure cancer.
None of it was true (except the part about paying $79, naturally). But the hoax made a lot of money for the publisher, and big profits for people who saw the marketing possibilities. They scored big by selling what they claimed was a magical cancer treatment, all in a small and extremely expensive jar of honey.
Why Would People Believe the Sour Honey Story?
Sadly, it’s easy to make money from people when you tell them what they want to hear. It’s also easy when you’re selling a “cure” to desperate people.
The book was marketed to an audience that already believed the worst about big pharma and Hillary Clinton. And cancer patients (and their loved ones) desperate for anything that could treat serious types of cancer were understandably willing to shell out a lot of money for natural products they thought might help.
In short, they wanted to believe – so they believed. That leaves one question, though: what was in those jars of “sour honey” that they bought?
No one is positive what was sold as sour honey (and is still being sold, in a few cases, since the FDA or other government agencies haven’t stepped in). Some producers believe it was actually sourwood honey, since they saw a major increase in their sales of that honey variety after the hoax began.
Sourwood honey, though, isn’t sour and isn’t a cancer cure. It’s a delicious (and sweet) variety primarily produced in the Southeastern United States. In raw honey form it’s known for its antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial health benefits.
Along with wild manuka honey, raw sourwood honey is one of the most beneficial varietals you can eat. Among other things, they can help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, lower blood pressure, fight infections and improve digestion. They have high vitamin B and C content, too, and of course, have no side effects.
Alternative medicine practitioners believe sourwood is a great type of honey for overall health and immune system protection. But no, it doesn’t kill cancer cells.
Many others believe that what the snake oil salesmen were really putting into their “sour honey” jars was bee propolis, better known to some as bee glue.
This is the resin-like substance that honey bees make when they mix tree sap with beeswax and their natural fluids, and then use to fill small gaps in their hive. Small amounts of propolis are usually contained in raw honey.
That’s not a bad thing; propolis and bee pollen are two of the major substances in honey largely responsible for its wealth of health benefits – and yes, scientists believe they may contain some anti-cancer properties, although neither propolis nor bee pollen have been proven to actually be anti-cancer agents on their own.
That doesn’t mean the sour honey myth was completely made up. The characteristics of propolis vary greatly depending on the type of bee, the source of the sap and the geographic location where the bee glue is made.
And there is a grain of scientific truth regarding potential anti-cancer agents contained in some forms of propolis found in Brazil.
What May Be In Brazailian Propolis
It’s important to stress that most of this information comes from single studies on animals.
However, initial studies have found that CAPE (a form of ester) in propolis may slow the progression of breast cancer. (2) There are signs that green propolis produced by Brazilian bees contains artepillan-C, which may help fight prostate and breast cancer. (2) And red propolis from the region contains vestitol and formononetin, believed by scientists to have some ability to fight colon cancer. (4)
None of those preliminary studies comes anywhere close to suggesting that any Brazilian propolis sold as “sour honey” is a cancer cure, or even guaranteed to help fight the disease. The hoax was definitely a hoax. But there could be at least some hope for the future.
Sour Honey vs. Honey
There’s an old saying: “Once burned, twice shy.” If you’re not good at interpreting old sayings, it basically means that people are afraid to try something a second time after being “burned” by a vendor the first time.
No one who’s been tricked into buying sour honey, or has even thought about it, should feel bad. But honey is widely viewed as one of the healthiest foods on earth – and for good reason. The health benefits of varieties like manuka and sourwood honey, as well as many others, mean that everyone should be including honey in their diet.
Just not “sour honey.”