Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety
produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type
of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans.
Honey bees form nectar into honey by a process of regurgitation, and store
it as a primary food source in wax honeycombs inside the beehive.
Beekeeping practices encourage overproduction of honey so the excess can be
taken from the colony.
Honey gets its sweetness from the monosaccharides fructose and glucose, and
has approximately the same relative sweetness as that of granulated sugar.
It has attractive chemical properties for baking, and a distinctive flavor
that leads some people to prefer it over sugar and other sweeteners. Most
microorganisms do not grow in honey because of its low water activity of
0.6. However, honey sometimes contains dormant endospores of the bacterium
Clostridium botulinum, which can be dangerous to infants, as the endospores
can transform into toxin-producing bacteria in the infant's immature
intestinal tract, leading to illness and even death.
Honey is produced by bees as a food source. In cold weather or when fresh
food sources are scarce, bees use their stored honey as their source of
energy. In the hive (or in a wild nest), there are three types of bee: a
single female queen bee, a seasonally variable number of male drone bees to
fertilize new queens, and some 20,000 to 40,000 female worker bees. The
worker bees raise larvae and collect the nectar that will become honey in
the hive. Leaving the hive, they collect sugar-rich flower nectar and
In the hive, the bees use their "honey stomachs" to ingest and regurgitate
the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested. The bees work
together as a group with the regurgitation and digestion until the product
reaches a desired quality. It is then stored in honeycomb cells. After the
final regurgitation, the honeycomb is left unsealed. However, the nectar is
still high in both water content and natural yeasts, which, unchecked,
would cause the sugars in the nectar to ferment. The process continues as
bees inside the hive fan their wings, creating a strong draft across the
honeycomb, which enhances evaporation of much of the water from the nectar.
This reduction in water content raises the sugar concentration and prevents
fermentation. Ripe honey, as removed from the hive by a beekeeper, has a
long shelf life, and will not ferment if properly sealed.
As a food and in cooking:
The main uses of honey are in cooking, baking, as a spread on bread, and as
an addition to various beverages, such as tea, and as a sweetener in some
commercial beverages. Honey barbecue and honey mustard are common and
popular sauce flavors.
Honey is the main ingredient in the alcoholic beverage mead, which is also
known as "honey wine" or "honey beer". Historically, the ferment for mead
was honey's naturally occurring yeast. Honey is also used as an adjunct in
Honey is a mixture of sugars and other compounds. With respect to
carbohydrates, honey is mainly fructose (about 38.5%) and glucose (about
31.0%), making it similar to the synthetically produced inverted sugar
syrup, which is approximately 48% fructose, 47% glucose, and 5% sucrose.
Honey's remaining carbohydrates include maltose, sucrose, and other complex
carbohydrates. As with all nutritive sweeteners, honey is mostly sugars and
contains only trace amounts of vitamins or minerals. Honey also contains
tiny amounts of several compounds thought to function as antioxidants,
including chrysin, pinobanksin, vitamin C, catalase, and pinocembrin. The
specific composition of any batch of honey depends on the flowers available
to the bees that produced the honey.
Typical honey analysis:
• Fructose: 38.2%
• Glucose: 31.3%
• Sucrose: 1.3%
• Maltose: 7.1%
• Water: 17.2%
• Higher sugars: 1.5%
• Ash: 0.2%
• Other/undetermined: 3.2%
Its glycemic index ranges from 31 to 78, depending on the variety.
Honey Nutritional value per 100 g(3.5 oz):
• Energy - 1,272 kJ (304 kcal)
• Carbohydrates - 82.4 g
• Sugars - 82.12 g
• Dietary fiber - 0.2 g
• Fat - 0 g
• Protein - 0.3 g
• Water - 17.10 g
• Riboflavin (Vit. B2) - 0.038 mg (3%)
• Niacin (Vit. B3) - 0.121 mg (1%)
• Pantothenic acid (B5) - 0.068 mg (1%)
• Vitamin B6 - 0.024 mg (2%)
• Folate (Vit. B9) - 2 μg (1%)
• Vitamin C - 0.5 mg (1%)
• Calcium - 6 mg (1%)
• Iron - 0.42 mg (3%)
• Magnesium - 2 mg (1%)
• Phosphorus - 4 mg (1%)
• Potassium - 52 mg (1%)
• Sodium - 4 mg (0%)
• Zinc - 0.22 mg (2%)
Indicators of Quality:
High-quality honey can be distinguished by fragrance, taste, and
consistency. Ripe, freshly collected, high-quality honey at 20 °C (68 °F)
should flow from a knife in a straight stream, without breaking into
separate drops. After falling down, the honey should form a bead. The
honey, when poured, should form small, temporary layers that disappear
fairly quickly, indicating high viscosity. If not, it indicates excessive
water content (over 20%) of the product. Honey with excessive water content
is not suitable for long-term preservation. In jars, fresh honey should
appear as a pure, consistent fluid, and should not set in layers. Within a
few weeks to a few months of extraction, many varieties of honey
crystallize into a cream-colored solid.
Historically, honey has been used by humans to treat a variety of ailments
through topical application, but only recently have the antiseptic and
antibacterial properties of honey been chemically explained.
In Ayurveda, a 4000-year-old medicine originating from India, honey is
considered to positively affect all three primitive material imbalances of
the body. It has sweetness with added astringent as end taste. It is heavy,
dry and cold. Its effect on doshas (imbalances) is that it aggravates vata
(air / moving forces), scrapes kapha (mucus / holding forces) and
normalizes pitta (catabolic fire) and rakta (blood). It promotes the
healing process. Some wound gels which contain antibacterial raw honey and
have regulatory approval are now available to help treat drug-resistant
strains of bacteria (MRSA).
As an antimicrobial agent honey may have the potential for treating a
variety of ailments. Antibacterial properties of honey are the result of
the low water activity causing osmosis, chelation of free Iron, its slow
release of hydrogen peroxide, high acidity, and the antibacterial activity
Honey appears to be effective in killing drug-resistant biofilms which are
implicated in chronic rhinosinusitis. When honey is used topically (as, for
example, a wound dressing), hydrogen peroxide is produced by dilution of
the honey with body fluids. As a result, hydrogen peroxide is released
slowly and acts as an antiseptic.
Antioxidants in honey have even been associated with reducing the damage
done to the colon in colitis. Such claims are consistent with its use in
many traditions of folk medicine.
Honey has also been used for centuries as a treatment for sore throats and
coughs and, according to recent research, may be an effective soothing
agent for coughs.
Other Medicinal uses:
Some studies suggest the topical use of honey may reduce odors, swelling,
and scarring when used to treat wounds; it may also prevent the dressing
from sticking to the healing wound. Honey has been shown to be an effective
treatment for conjunctivitis.
Unfiltered, pasteurized honey is widely believed to alleviate allergies,
though neither commercially filtered nor raw honey was shown to be more
effective. Pollen collected by bees to exert an antiallergenic effect,
mediated by an inhibition of IgE immunoglobulin binding to mast cells.
Because of the natural presence of botulinum endospores in honey, children
under one year of age should not be given honey. The more-developed
digestive system of older children and adults generally destroys the
spores. Infants, however, can contract botulism from honey. Honey produced
from the flowers of oleanders, rhododendrons, mountain laurels, sheep
laurel, and azaleas may cause honey intoxication. Symptoms include
dizziness, weakness, excessive perspiration, nausea, and vomiting. Less
commonly, low blood pressure, shock, heart rhythm irregularities, and
convulsions may occur, with rare cases resulting in death. Honey
intoxication is more likely when using "natural" unprocessed honey and
honey from farmers who may have a small number of hives. Commercial
processing, with pooling of honey from numerous sources, generally dilutes