In-Depth Look at Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life and Medicinal Properties

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Not many raw foods have an indefinite shelf life, but there are a few: salt, sugar, dried rice, and above all honey.

The testament to the eternal shelf-life of honey is that archaeologists have found pots of honey thousands of years old in ancient Egyptian tombs, yet the honey is still unspoiled and preserved, as if it were a day old.

Of course if honey is left out and unsealed in a humid environment it will spoil. As long honey is in a jar with the lid closed, and no water is added to it, honey will not go bad.

But as Natasha Geiling with Smithsonian Magazine points out, honey’s eternal shelf life is only part of what makes honey such a special food. Honey also has many amazing medicinal qualities.

The ancient Egyptians applied it directly to cuts and scrapes, and consumed honey as an elixir. The earliest recorded use of honey comes from Sumerian clay tablets, which reveals honey was used in 30 percent of prescriptions.

The ancient Egyptians used honey to make ointments to treat skin and eye diseases. The secret to honey’s special properties is that it’s low in moisture and extremely acidic.

Honey in its natural form has very low moisture. Very few bacteria or microorganisms can survive in an environment like that, they just die, says Amina Harris, executive director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute at Univeristy of California. “They’re smothered by it, essentially.”

In other words, organisms can’t survive long enough within a jar of honey to even have the chance to spoil. Honey also has a pH between 3 and 4.5, and that level of acidity will kill off almost anything that wants to grow, Harris explains.

Bees play a crucial role in honey’s astonishing composition by gathering nectar from flowers, the first material collected by bees to make honey.

Harris points out that nectar is naturally very high in water, but through the process of making honey, the bees remove much of this moisture by flapping their wings to dry out the nectar.

When bees regurgitate the nectar from their mouths into the combs to make honey, an enzyme in their stomachs mixes with the nectar, breaking it down into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria such as e.coli, the ulcer causing bacteria, heliobacter pylori and even staphyloccus.

The reason honey works so well on wounds is because when honey isn’t sealed in a jar, it sucks in moisture.

“While it’s drawing water out of the wound, which is how it might get infected, it’s letting off this very minute amount of hydrogen peroxide. The amount of hydrogen peroxide comes off of honey is exactly what we need — it’s so small and so minute that it actually promotes healing.”

Geiling notes that honey for healing open gashes is no longer just folk medicine — in the past decade, Derma Sciences, a medical device company, has been marketing and selling MEDIHONEY, bandages covered in honey used in hospitals around the world.

Beware: 75 Percent of US Grocery Store Honey Is NOT Real Honey

According to Andrew Schneider with Food Safety News, more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t real honey.

Test results reveal that pollen has been filtered out of the majority of honey on the market, and without pollen any product sold as honey is NOT honey, and removing pollen from honey destroys all of honey’s inherent health benefits.

Ultra filtering is a variation of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have for years illegally unloaded tons of their honey on the U.S. market, some of which contains illegal antibiotics.

The contents of pollen in honey is the only fail-safe method of identifying the honey’s source, and is the only reason why the pollen is removed. Food scientists and honey specialists agree pollen is the only foolproof fingerprint to a honey’s source.

Richard Adee, who owns 80,000 hives in multiple states which produces 7 million pounds of honey annually, told Food Safety News “It’s no secret to anyone in the business that the only reason all the pollen is filtered out is to hide where it initially came from and the fact is that in almost all cases, that is China,” said Adee.

Only Buy Honey Labeled “Organic”

A consumer’s chances are better in obtaining honey that includes pollen if you buy brands labeled as “organic” at major grocery chains. Out of seven samples tested, five (71 percent) were heavy with pollen. All of the organic honey was produced in Brazil, according to the labels.

What the U.S. needs is a truth in labeling law as they have in other countries. Many concerned advocates have tried to convince the FDA that we need a single national standard for honey to help prevent adulterated honey from being sold.

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Spence Cooper
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
Spence Cooper


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