Cornflower honey is honey that is made from the nectar of cornflowers, also known as “Bachelor’s Buttons” or “Bluebottles”. They are similar to star thistles and daisies, interestingly both star thistles and cornflowers are from the same genus; Centaurea.
One of the main reasons cornflower honey is popular among beekeepers is due to the high levels of nectar cornflowers produce. This allows honey farmers a higher yield of honey versus other flowers and plants.
History of the Cornflower
Cornflower has a long, rich history of healing. Cornflower’s genus, Centaurea, is named after a mythical centaur (Chiron) who used plants such as cornflowers to heal and treat wounds. The centaur Chiron is credited in myth with teaching mankind about the healing powers of herbs including cornflowers.
In folklore, cornflowers were worn by young men in love; if the flower faded too quickly, it was a sign that the man’s love was not reciprocated. Cornflower can be traced in the British Isles as an archaeophyte (ancient introduction – non-native to a geographical region) since the Iron Age.
Where Does Cornflower Honey Come From?
While many types of plants that share cornflower’s genus Centaurea are native to Europe and the Mediterranean. Furthermore, they are prolific in certain places in the United States, such as in the mountainous areas of Montana, and throughout the Midwest.
How Do Bees Produce Cornflower Honey?
The moment the honey bee collects the cornflower 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 cornflower 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 cornflower 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 cornflower 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.
Best Cornflower for Honey Bees
While cornflowers are normally thought of as their signature bright blue colour, they come in a wide variety of shades including violet, pink, purple, lavender and white. There are two main types of cornflower the honey bees will pollinate.
The first is the perennial cornflower (Centaurea Montana) which is predominantly found in the British Isles, Scandinavia and North America.
The second is the annual cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) which is native to Europe but has naturalised in numerous other parts of the world, including North America and parts of Australia.
Cornflowers are loved by honey farmers because they’re easy to grow, even in poor soil, and often thrive in areas they aren’t purposely planted, such as in wheat fields or cornfields. Often farmers will plant cornflower among their crops, not for its nectar yield but to attract insects that are harmful to crops, protecting their harvests.
Cornflower Honey as an Antiseptic
Raw cornflower honey can be used as an antiseptic, particularly for wounds such as burns. Cornflower honey is a natural antibiotic and even has antiradical properties. The honey keeps wounds moist while protecting it from exterior dirt and contaminants.
Furthermore, there has been some interesting research regarding the healing properties of cornflower honey. Research has found that cornflower honey has a high hydrogen peroxide content (0.5-0.9 mM/h) and a high antibacterial activity.
In a study, cornflower honey was used as an alternative treatment of digital dermatitis, which is a disease that causes lameness in cattle. The study was conducted on an organic dairy farm and the cows’ hooves treated with cornflower honey showed significantly faster healing than the control group without any treatment.
When You Should Avoid Cornflower Honey?
If you have a very young child or infant, they should never consume any kind of raw honey, or honey products, including processed or baked goods. This is because until they reach a year of age, they are at risk for a rare and very serious complication called infant botulism.
Once children reach a year of age, their digestive systems are usually developed enough to process honey safely. If your child has a developmental or health issue that affects their digestive system, it is always safer to ask their paediatrician if it is safe for them to consume honey and/or honey products.
Cornflower Honey vs Regular Honey
Cornflower honey has a specific, tangy, sometimes slightly bitter taste and contained a high hydrogen peroxide content and antibacterial activity. Regular honey 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.
Is Cornflower 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 Cornflower Honey Expensive?
Cornflower honey is not particularly rare and is usually the same price as other raw local kinds of honey. That being said, unless you find a local supplier, finding it online can be somewhat difficult to obtain at times.
What Is Cornflower Honey Used For?
Cornflower honey is most commonly used as a sweetener for food and beverages or consumed on its own. You can also use cornflower honey as an antiseptic, or for multiple cosmetic applications.
People use cornflower honey as a hair mask, in face masks, and even on pimples/acne for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.