Humans have been eating honey for thousands of years; the sweet, sticky stuff is a cornerstone of food cultures and wellness traditions around the globe. Similarly, researchers have found that humans have been consuming cannabis for over 2,000 years. I can’t help but think it’s possible that sometime during that 2,000 year overlap, humans got creative with honey and cannabis.Historic conjecture aside, in the modern era of cannabis products and exploration, honey and cannabis are proving to be a match made in heaven. From cannabinoid-infused honey sticks for on-the-go consumption, to gourmet canna-honeys that are actually changing the way we can metabolize cannabinoids in honey, this evergreen category is seeing some exciting innovation — and not just from cannabis companies.
Why Honey and Cannabis?
Multi-generational family beekeeping company Happy Organics is rooted in a legacy of beekeeping and hive management. In recent years, the business has turned to CBD-infused honeys in order to reap the health benefits of both honey and CBD. When her father became ill with cancer and could no longer tend the hives, Happy Organics founder Jessica Gonzalez thought CBD might be able to help him manage his pain. “The idea of infusing harvest raw honey with CBD came to me as I searched to find a way to ease my father’s pain as he got sicker,” she recalls. “The raw plant was just too harsh to ingest; infusing CBD oil with the sweet honey improved the experience and taste, while maintaining pain relief.”Happy Organics isn’t the only one to make the honey-cannabis connection, in part because each of these ingredients is bursting with health benefits on its own. Honey is a known antioxidant, proven to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial abilities. It's a cough reliever, and supports a healthy gut; and consuming locally-made honeys has been touted as a method to lessen seasonal allergies. CBD is also a powerful antioxidant, and other compounds across cannabis contain myriad health benefits, so it’s a no-brainer for classic honey producers like Happy Organics to begin looking at the cannabis space and double down on these powerful ingredients.
Finding Wellness with Infused Honey
One of the biggest names in the cannabis honey space is Potli, whose line of infused honeys, vinegars, oils and more has earned the brand shelf space at some of the hottest high-end and health-focused grocers across the country. While its products are gourmet, at its core, Potli is rooted in reaping the health benefits of cannabis and honey. “Potli CBD honey was our first product, originally made for my mom who has inflamed lungs from allergies and asthma,” says Potli co-founder Felicity Chen. The brand still sources its honey from bees foraging in Chen’s parents’ Bay Area backyard, and maintains close control on sourcing all of its ingredients to ensure maximum quality.Honey has long been used as a vehicle for medicinal treatments, according to Chen. “In ancient Ayurveda, honey was used to amplify the properties that make the medicine go down, so honey with CBD is truly the perfect fit,” she says. Moreover, by offering products that can become part of both one’s food and wellness routine, Potli is positioned to offer an easy way for consumers to incorporate CBD into their everyday diet. “Our customers like to use our essentials to build rituals for sleep, anxiety and pain management,” says Chen. “Oftentimes, these rituals can be centered around a cup of tea before one meditates, or around the foods you eat three times a day.” With this perspective in mind, Potli wisely leans in to honey’s endless culinary applications, offering a wide variety of recipes and chef-driven partnerships that explore using cannabis and honey for both health and deliciousness.In addition to Potli CBD honey, the brand’s recently released Dream Honey is rich in CBN – a.k.a. the “sleep” cannabinoid. Like its CBD counterpart, CBN is available for sale nationwide. While CBD has penetrated the mainstream consciousness, CBN is still mostly unknown to the average consumer; but as more and more people seek all-natural sleep aids, CBN may be the next big thing in minor cannabinoids. Potli is primed to help consumers maximize their nighttime routine with the help of a little infused honey.
Cannabis Honey Innovation
Another CBD-infused honey taking a food-as-medicine approach is Red Belly Honey, which sees both honey and cannabis as functional food nutraceuticals. According to company founder Joline Rivera, “functional foods have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition; they promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of disease.”Red Belly Honey takes a unique approach to production that supercharges the wellness factor by increasing the cannabinoids’ bioavailability and overall health functionality of the honey, according to Rivera. While most cannabis-infused honeys are made from a blend of honey and cannabis extract or oil, the bees making Red Belly Honey are foraging on plants and flowers, and they’re also offered a proprietary full-spectrum whole-plant hemp nectar.The type of honey bees make is dictated by the types of flowers and plants they feed on, and the flavors of that honey are dictated by the plants they forage from. For example, orange-blossom honey is made from bees who eat orange blossom nectar; the resulting honey has a distinct citrusy floral note. In this case, the bees making Red Belly are making wildflower honey with a side of CBD infusion. “As they eat the nectar they are breaking down the hemp oil, adding their bee belly enzymes, and making the cannabinoids water-soluble,” claims Rivera. This puts Red Belly Honey in a unique position to be a single-ingredient cannabis-infused edible, which is unique across the entire category – not just for honey. Additionally, because the bees metabolize cannabinoids directly into the honey, the final result is fully water soluble and more easily absorbed by the body, as opposed to infused honeys made via other methods, which are simply water dispersible.
The Growing Buzz
As honey and humans continue to evolve alongside each other, expect to see future cannabinoid innovations making their way to the honeypot. In the meantime, explore the products we've listed here – or try making your own infused honeys at home. Simply combine high-quality cannabis tincture with your favorite local honey over low heat, stir to incorporate, and pour back into a jar. Keep in the refrigerator for best results, and reincorporate using low heat if needed by submerging the jar in warm water and giving it a shake!Follow author Rachel Burkons @smokesipsavor on Instagram