Honey Facts vs Myths
There are a lot of honey myths out there that in many cases have come to replace honey facts, misconceptions that include that honey may not be good for humans to consume. This fallacy comes from the fact that honey is sweet, and we associate anything sweet as being bad for the body. While it is true that some sweet foods (especially those that are artificially created or processed) are bad for us, honey is a natural food that is good for us. So let’s explore some of the myths about honey as well as the honey facts.
1. Crystallized honey is spoiled honey
Myth: There’s a lot of misconception when it comes to crystallization, also known as granulation. Crystallization is a natural process within honey. It is not a sign that honey has spoiled. In fact, honey is miracle food that does not spoil when stored properly. To remedy honey that has crystalized, simply place the container of honey in a bowl of warm water. To learn more about the reasons that honey crystallizes, see Honeypedia.
2. Honey is healthy
Fact: Research on the health benefits of honey shows it to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet and among the best known of honey facts. According to Doctor Ester Yogev, a natural health expert. “Honey is the healthiest food in nature. Bees produce honey for feeding purposes and its product – propolis, long dubbed ‘nature’s antibiotics’ – is used to protect the queen bee from disease. Hence, honey is an antibacterial substance with many virtues, it has healing properties and antioxidants which strengthen the immune system. When directly applied to a wound, it can help cure and prevent infections. And all of this is before we even talk about the vital vitamins and minerals it gives the body when consumed” (Meyrav, 2013).
3. Darker honey or white “foam” means the honey has gone bad
Myth: Honey comes in all colors and flavors. The color, taste and even scent can vary widely depending on the source of the flower nectar, region, soil and climate. Warmer temperatures, storage and age also tend to darken the honey and change the flavor. The white “foam” that appears at the top of honey is simply air. This “foam” is a result of tiny air bubbles in the honey escaping to the top of the bottle. To reiterate the point, honey never spoils when stored properly. In fact, the appearance of foam is an indication that the honey is pure and fresh.
4. Honey is great for skin care
Fact: Honey can be a great all-natural way to give your skin the glow you’ve been looking for. Since it’s naturally hydrating, honey is the perfect ingredient to add to your daily skin care routine. That this is also among the best known honey facts is reflected in a myriad of skin care treatments that include honey or beeswax.
5. Honey is gluten-free
Fact: Honey is naturally free of gluten. It contains no wheat, barley, rye or oats or their byproducts. No gluten-containing products are stored or used in Sue Bee Honey facilities.
6. It’s dangerous to use metal spoons with honey
Myth: This is an old wives’. Honey is acidic, but scooping your honey with a metal spoon is such a quick movement that corrosion of the metal is unlikely. On the other hand, it is not recommend to store a metal spoon within your honey for long periods of time.
7. Honey can be used to treat wounds
Fact: Honey has been used as a wound dressing for thousands of years, but only in more recent times has a scientific explanation become available for its effectiveness. It is now realized that honey is a biologic wound dressing with multiple bioactivities that work in concert to expedite the healing process. The physical properties of honey also expedite the healing process: its acidity increases the release of oxygen from hemoglobin thereby making the wound environment less favorable for the activity of destructive proteases, and the high osmolarity of honey draws fluid out of the wound bed to create an outflow of lymph as occurs with negative pressure wound therapy.
Honey has a broad-spectrum antibacterial activity, but there is much variation in potency between different honeys. There are two types of antibacterial activity. In most honeys the activity is due to hydrogen peroxide, but much of this is inactivated by the enzyme catalase that is present in blood, serum, and wound tissues. In manuka honey, the activity is due to methylglyoxal which is not inactivated. The manuka honey used in wound-care products can withstand dilution with substantial amounts of wound exudate and still maintain enough activity to inhibit the growth of bacteria. There is good evidence for honey also having bioactivities that stimulate the immune response (thus promoting the growth of tissues for wound repair), suppress inflammation, and bring about rapid autolytic debridement. There is clinical evidence for these actions, and research is providing scientific explanations for them.
8. All bees produce honey
Myth: Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the roughly 20,000 known species of bees in the world. From this number, only 5 percent make edible honey. Only honey bees and stingless bees produce enough honey to make harvesting worth the effort. Bumblebees produce a small amount of honey for their own survival.
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9. Honey is a healthier choice compared to artificial sweeteners
Fact: This would seem to be a bit of a no-brainer, but we’re putting it in as it is a bit of a different question than, ‘Is honey healthy?”. Honey contains healthy nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that artificial sugars don’t have. Since honey is sweeter than table sugar, you can use less to achieve the same effect and still have a natural, healthier option. If this isn’t a good enough reason to switch to honey over artificial sweeteners, consider the ever-growing evidence of the damage that these sweeteners are doing to those consuming them over long periods of time.
10. Honey is the only food source produced by an insect that humans eat
Fact: Out of the more than 950,000 known insect species in the world, honey bees are the only insect to produce edible food for humans. As with other such questions about honey, you might answer ‘myth’ if you have your fingers crossed behind your back because you are thinking about some obscure insect that produces something that could be eaten by a human. However, those insects cannot produce enough of this food in any quantities remotely sufficient to make them a genuine food source for humans. So, from a practical and real-life standpoint, the answer is fact.
11. Honey helps soothe a sore throat
Fact: Honey is a very good sore throat remedy that is proven to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Homemade remedies have long used honey to help aide the symptoms of sore throats (just ask your mom about this most well adopted of honey facts). It has been used for centuries by Greeks, Italians and Hungarians. Honey acts as an anti-inflammatory and reduces swelling. It also contains an enzyme that fights bacteria and can kill infections. A recent study by a Penn State College of Medicine team also found that honey may offer parents an effective and safe alternative to other cough suppressants. Also, due to the consistency of honey, it is very soothing for sore throats, coughs and bronchial ailments.
12. Honey is a great source of natural energy
Fact: Honey’s composition of carbohydrates and glucose levels result in longer lasting energy. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel we use for our energy and are necessary in our diet to help maintain muscle glycogen. The glucose in honey is absorbed by the body quickly and gives an immediate energy boost, while the fructose is absorbed more slowly providing sustained energy.
13. Honey never goes bad
Fact: Honey has been called the only food that truly lasts forever, thanks to its magical chemistry and the handiwork of bees. The nectar from flowers mixes with enzymes inside the bees that extract it, which changes the nectar’s composition and breaks it down into simple sugars that are deposited into honeycombs. Fanning action from the bees’ wings and the enzymes from their stomachs create a liquid that is both highly acidic and low in moisture. This is a truly inhospitable environment for bacterial growth.
The processing and sealing of honey also adds to its indefinite shelf life. Despite being low in moisture, honey’s sugars are hygroscopic, which means that they take in moisture from the air. When the heated and strained honey is sealed properly, moisture cannot be absorbed, and the honey stays the same forever. While it is true that honey never spoils or goes bad in the sense of harming you, it can lose its aroma and flavor if it’s not stored properly. So, while it may not go ‘bad’ in the sense of being harmful, it can ‘spoil’ in the sense of losing its optimum flavor and other characteristics if not stored properly. Because of honey’s composition, it absorbs moisture like a sponge. Properly preserved honey retains its quality for much longer than the “best by date” printed on bottles. So save your honey and discover the best practices for storing your favorite sweetener.
15. Honey contains no cholesterol
Fact: Honey doesn’t contain any cholesterol at all.
16. Can honey make babies sick?
Fact: Honey is the one identified and avoidable source of botulinum spores and as such can make babies sick, possibly fatally so. This is because the honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores. These won’t usually effect people over 12 months old or so as microbes in most people’s intestinal tracts will inhibit the Clostridium botulinum spores from multiplying, but can germinate inside a baby’s less cultured digestive system and cause infant botulism. Specifically, these spores will produce botulinum toxin in the baby’s large intestine. This toxin will cause nerve problems, such as blocking their nerve endings’ ability to signal a muscle to contract. 
It’s OK for a breastfeeding mother to eat honey though as Clostridium botulinum cannot be transmitted via breast milk to the baby. However, babies like to put everything in their mouths, so if you eat a lot of honey, best to make sure nothing with honey on it gets near the baby.
17. Pregnant women should avoid eating raw honey
Myth: Another common misunderstanding is the idea that honey is not safe during pregnancy. As mentioned above, you should not give honey to children under the age of one, however, another of the great honey facts is that pregnant women should feel free to enjoy this healthy food. If there were any contamination, the spores would be destroyed in the mother’s digestive system long before there was ever any chance of them crossing the placenta.
Honey Facts Sources
(1) Honey: A Biologic Wound Dressing, Peter Molan, PhD and Tanya Rhodes, PhD, Volume 27 – Issue 6 – June 2015, woundsresearch.com/article/honey-biologic-wound-dressing
(2) Can Honey Go Bad Or Make You Sick?, June 23, 2012, Daven Hiskey, todayifoundout.com/index.php/2012/06/can-honey-go-bad-or-make-you-sick/
Do you have any Honey Facts or Myths to share?
If you see anything in our Honey Facts & Myths that you think is incorrect or incomplete – or there are other honey facts that we should add, please contact us by email with that information.