Honey Varieties

Reprinted from The Honey Prescription by Nathaniel Altman.

The color and flavor of honey differ depending on the nectar source (the blossoms) visited by the honeybees. In fact, there are more than 300 types of honey available in the United States alone, each originating from a different floral source. The variety of honey around the world numbers in the thousands. It’s not surprising that some honey enthusiasts compare the different colors, textures, tastes and aromas of honey to those of fine wine.

Honey color ranges from nearly colorless to dark brown, and its flavor varies from delectably mild to distinctively bold, depending on the plants where the honeybees obtain their nectar. Some honeys- like lavender and orange blossom- are renowned for their delicious taste, while others –such as almond- taste bitter or are otherwise unappealing. As a general rule, light-colored honey is milder in taste and dark-colored honey is stronger.

Honey is produced throughout the United States (there is even a beekeeper who has hives on the roofs of dozens of New York City apartment houses). Yet depending on floral source location, certain types of honey are produced only in a few regions. Tupelo honey, for example, is produced mainly in northern Florida, while macadamia nut honey can be found primarily in Hawaii.

Manuka honey is produced only in certain parts of New Zealand, and the Sidr honey harvest is limited to parts of South Yemen. In addition to the United States, which ranks number four in honey production, the top ten honey producing countries in the world include China (the world’s largest producer and exporter), Turkey, Argentina, Ukraine, Russia, India, Mexico, Ethiopia and Spain.

Following is a listing of some of the honey varieties produced in North America and abroad. To learn more about the types of honey available in your area, contact a local beekeeper, farmer’s market, beekeepers’ association or honey packer.


Ranging from almost transparent to light yellow in color, acacia honey is known for its pleasant fragrance and mild taste. It does not crystallize easily, and is recommended as a wholesome, nutritious food. Russian folk healers use acacia honey to treat acute respiratory diseases, headaches, kidney diseases, atherosclerosis and as a sedative for nervous disorders and insomnia. Acacia honey is produced in a number of countries around the world, including the United States, Russia and New Zealand.


Alfalfa honey is produced extensively throughout Canada and the United States from this purple-blossomed plant. Some varieties are light in color and feature a mild flavor and aroma, while others have a deep smooth flavor and texture that has been likened to molasses. A perfect kitchen companion, alfalfa honey is popular for cooking and baking.


Avocado honey is gathered from avocado blossoms in California, Mexico and Chile. Avocado honey is dark in color, and –like the fruit- has a rich, buttery taste.


Wild blackberry honey is gathered in abundance from Alaska to California, although most is produced in the coastal areas of Washington State. The honey is white to extra-light amber (in some areas it is reported to have a smoky cast) with a robust yet pleasant flavor.


Blueberry plants are especially dependent on pollination from honeybees. The nectar from the white blossoms makes a honey that is light amber in color, but with a full, well-rounded flavor. In North America, blueberry honey is produced primarily in New England, Michigan and Ontario.

Blue Borage

Blue borage is a small plant commonly found in the dry wastelands of New Zealand’s South Island. The honey is light pinkish brown in color, with a clean taste with hints of lemon. In New Zealand, blue borage honey is a popular remedy for relieving fatigue and stress.


In Yemen, a creamy winter honey made from buckthorn blossoms is known as bariyah honey. It has a heady floral aroma, and the taste is said to be like a mixture of butter, wildflowers and herbs. Rare and expensive, bariya is traditionally enjoyed mostly by wealthy men from Yemen and Saudi Arabia.


Buckwheat honey is dark and full-bodied. Because it contains more antioxidant compounds than most other honey varieties, it is considered one of the most medicinal honeys money can buy. It has long been an importajt part of traditionaland folk medicine, and Russian healers recommend it to prevent and treat a wide range of health problems, including hypertension, rheumatism, scarlet fever, measles and spotted fever. They also prescribe it for prophylaxis and treatment of blood vessels after radiotherapy and for people suffering from radiation sickness. While native to many parts of Europe (one of the finest buckwheat honeys I’ve ever tasted came from Russia), it is produced mostly in Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well as in eastern Canada.


Dark in color, chestnut honey has a strong aroma and somewhat bitter taste. Being a darker honey, it has a large amount of minerals and strong antioxidant and antimicrobial properties than many other honey varieties. Traditional folk healers in Europe use it to treat diseases of the respiratory tract, alimentary canal, and kidneys; they also recommend it for symptoms of rheumatism and malaria. It is also a diuretic remedy.


Known for its pleasing, mild taste clover is also one of the most popular honey types. Taken together, the numerous varieties of clover contribute more to honey production in United States and Canada than any other group of plants. Depending on the location and type of the clover itself, clover honey varies in color from white to light amber to amber.Red, alsike and the white and yellow sweet clovers are most important for honey production. Sweet clover in particular (also known as melitot honey) is considered an important source of medicinal honey. Traditional Russian healers use this honey to treat atherosclerosis of both coronary and cerebral arteries and to lower high blood pressure. They also use it externally in the form of plasters on furuncles and in the form of compresses (with propolis) on festering wounds and cuts.


Native to Australia, eucalyptus honey varies greatly in color and flavor. It tends to have a stronger flavor than other honeys and has a slight medicinal scent. In the United States, this type of honey is produced primarily in California.


Fireweed honey is light in color and comes from a perennial herb that is considered prime bee pasture in Western Canada, as well as in the Northern and Pacific regions of the United States. Featuring attractive pinkish flowers, fireweed grows in the open woods, and reaches a height of three to five feet (one to 1.6 meters). It is among the first plants to grow after a forest fire.


Goldenrod honey comes in a variety of colors and tastes. Many who buy this honey locally use it to resolve their allergy problems since goldenrod honey is often produced late in the season when goldenrod is primarily the only plant in bloom. Especially popular with mead makers, this honey tends to granulate quickly.

Hawaiian Christmas Berry

This honey is gathered by bees from the Christmas berry shrub (Schinus terebinthifolia), a native of Brazil that is considered one of the worst invasive plants in Hawaii. It has a rich amber color and a bold taste, with hints of brown sugar and molasses. A study at the University of Illinois found that this honey has a very high concentration of healthful anti-oxidants, scoring second after buckwheat honey.


Known for its bitter taste, hawthorn honey is considered wholesome and nutritious. Like the berries that come from this plant, European traditional
healers recommend it for treating heart-related disorders, including poor heart rhythm, atherosclerosis, tachycardia, cardiac asthenia and hypertension; they also recommend it for treating heightened thyroid gland function, insomnia.


A New Zealand native, the creamy-colored kamahi flower imparts a light amber color along with distinctive, full-bodied complexity of flavors, including what some gourmets describe as “smoky”.


This rare honey is made from nectar gathered from Ohi’a trees, which grow on Hawaiian lava flows. Lehua is a water-white honey with a floral, buttery flavor. Lehua honey crystallizes quickly, making it naturally creamy.


Linden honey (also known as basswood) is produced from the blossoms of the linden tree. Water-white in color, it has a fresh lime taste and a distinctive lingering flavor. It is renowned in Europe for its sedative and antiseptic qualities.

Long’an Honey

The long'an tree is native to southern China, but it is found in Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. Long’an honey is dark in color, very sweet in taste and has a strong fruity flavor. It is a popular ingredient in Taiwanese-style tapioca “bubble” tea.

Macadamia Nut

Indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands, honeybees from macadamia nut orchids produce this sweet, flowery honey. It is reputed to be great on oatmeal, pancakes, ham and in tea.


Native to parts of New Zealand, manuka honey is dark amber in color. While not considered a gourmet honey for eating or flavoring food and drink, it is perhaps the most medicinal of honeys available. Generally speaking, the varieties with the lowest (or no) UMF rating are considered the most pleasant to eat, while those of UMF 20 or higher are considered less palatable.


May honey is especially popular among people living in Russia and Ukraine. It is traditionally made from the nectar of the first spring flowers, including foalfoot, willow and those from blooming orchards. In the middle belt of Russia, they begin to produce May honey in the second part of June. A popular medicinal honey, it is widely used to treat cough, headache, fatigue and fever. It is also said to be useful for strengthening hair.


The flowers of the mesquite trees are prized by honeybees living in the American Southwest. Light in color, mesquite honey offers a lighter and sweeter taste than other honey varieties. It is often used in barbecue recipes of both fruit and meat, making it a “must-have” in many kitchen cabinets.


Made primarily from the nectar of a medicinal herb, motherwort honey is light gold in color and features a delicate aroma and distinctive taste. In Russia, traditional healers use it to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases and for strengthening the heart muscle. They also recommend it as a sedative and to facilitate wound healing.


Popular in Russia, this viscous honey is usually dark-yellow to reddish brown in color, with a distinctive tart and bitter taste. Bees gather this honey from primarily from chestnut trees, acacia, heather, citrus plants, and eucalyptus trees, as well as the grasses in of alpine meadows etc. Russian healers consider it effective for treating cardiovascular diseases, stress and endocrine system disorders

Orange Blossom

Orange blossom honey often comes from combination of citrus sources. Usually light in color and mild in flavor, it features a fresh scent and light taste of citrus. In the United States, orange blossom honey is produced in primarily in Florida, Southern California and parts of Texas.


Saw palmetto honey is produced from North Carolina to Florida and west along the Gulf Coast to Texas. A popular table honey enjoyed primarily by locals, it has a distinctive light flavor and a light amber to amber color.


This exotic honey comes from the nectar of the flowers of a tough, adaptable coastal tree is commonly referred to as the New Zealand Christmas tree. The honey’s color is off-white and its aroma is one of musky damp leaves. The flavor has been described as earthy butterscotch. Because Pohutakawa honey will crystallize quickly, it is always packed as a cream rather than a liquid.


A yellow flowering plant that is part of the mustard family, rapeseed is the largest single floral source for honey production in China, and it is also an important honey source in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Rapeseed honey is sold primarily for bakery use. Its color ranges from light amber to amber, and it has a slight peppery taste.


Produced from the blossoms of the wile raspberry bush, this honey is light yellow in color and has a pleasant raspberry taste. In folk medicine, it is widely used for treating diseases of upper respiratory tract, inflammation of the alimentary canal and respiratory organs. In addition to parts of Russia, this honey is produced primarily in the Canadian province of Quebec.


Also native to New Zealand, rewarewa honey comes from a bright red needle-like flower also known as the New Zealand Honeysuckle. Its general appearance is light amber with orange hints, with a flavor described as clean, sweet, smoky and herbaceous.


Light in color, sage honey is known for its mild but pleasing flavor. It is extremely slow to granulate, making it a favorite among honey packers for blending with other honeys to slow down granulation. It is produced primarily in California, but it is also found in Europe.


Sidr honey is produced from the blossoms of the sacred sidr or jujube tree, which grows primarily in uncultivated desert areas of Hadramot in southern Yemen. Considered a highly medicinal honey, it is used by traditional healers to treat liver problems, stomach ulcers, respiratory infections, digestive problems, constipation and eye diseases. Yemeni men also mix it with carrot seeds to use as a powerful aphrodisiac. This rare honey is very difficult to find outside of the Middle East and can cost over $200 a pound.


Especially popular among residents of the Appalachian mountains from Northern Georgia to Pennsylvania, honey from the blossoms of the sourwood tree has a sweet, spicy, anise aroma and flavor.

Star Thistle

Although this honey comes from a plant regarded as a troublesome weed in Northern California, it is considered so delicious that people eat it by the
spoonful. White to light amber in color, this mild tasting honey is especially recommended to sweeten tea.


Popular in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, sunflower honey tends to be yellow, oily, and coarse-grained. Russian folk healers recommend it to treat heart disease, bronchial asthma, alimentary canal colic, malaria, influenza and catarrh of the respiratory tract.

Popular in the Mediterranean from Spain to Greece, thyme honey is harvested during the summer. It has a light color very similar to the orange, and the taste and aroma have been described as pungent and herbal.

Tulip Poplar

Native to the eastern United States from Georgia to New York, the tulip poplar is considered a major honey-producing tree. This honey is generally dark amber in color but has a distinctively mild flavor.


Highlighted in the movie Ulee’s Gold, tupelo honey is a premium honey produced mostly in the swamplands of northwest Florida. It is heavy- bodied and is usually light golden amber in color with a slight greenish cast. Tupelo honey also has a mild, distinctive- and delicious- taste. Because of its high fructose content, tupelo honey tends to granulate very slowly.


Perhaps the most popular honey variety in the world, wildflower honey is often used to describe honey from a variety of undefined flower sources. As a result, it can vary considerably in taste, flavor and medicinal value.


Nathaniel Altman is the author of The Honey Prescription (Healing Arts Press). Click the book cover picture for more information.

© 2019 by Nathaniel Altman. All rights reserved.


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