Honey-Madhu, Madh, Mel

2.1.1 Honey
Synonyms Madhu, Madh, Mel, Honey (English);
Biological Source Honey is a viscid and sweet secretion stored in the honey comb by various species of bees, such as: Apis dorsata, Apis florea, Apis indica, Apis mellifica, belonging the natural order Hymenotera (Family: Apideae).
Geographical Source Honey is available in abudance in Africa, India, Jamaica, Australia, California, Chili, Great Britain and New Zealand.
Preparation Generally, honey bees are matched with social insects that reside in colonies and produce honey and beeswax. Every colony esentially has one ‘queen’ or ‘mother bee’, under whose command a huge number of ‘employees’ exist which could be mostly sterile females and in certain seasons male bees. The ‘employees’ are entrusted to collect nector from sweet smelling flowers from far and near that mostly contains aqueous solution of sucrose (ie; approximately 25% sucrose and 75% water) and pollens. Invertase, an enzyme present in the saliva of bees converts the nector into the invert sugar, which is partly consumed by the bee for its survival and the balance is carefully stored into the honey comb. With the passage of time the water gets evaporated thereby producing honey(ie; approximately 80% invert sugar and 20% water). As soon as the cell is filled up completely, the bees seal it with wax to preserve it for off-season utility.
The honey is collected by removing the wax-seal by the help of a sterilized sharp knife. The pure honey is obtained by centrifugation and filtering through a moistened cheese-cloth. Invariably, the professional honey collectors smoke away the bees at night, drain-out honey, and warm the separated combs to recover the beeswax.
Appearances : Pale yellow to reddish brown viscid fluid,
Odour : Pleasant and characteristic,
Taste: : Sweet, Slightly acrid,
Specific gravity : 1.35-1.36
Specific rotation : +3o to –15o
Total Ash : 0.1-0.8%
However, the taste and odour of honey solely depends upon the availability of surrounding flowers from which nector is collected. On prolonged storage it usually turns opaque and granular due to the crystallisation of dextrose and is termed as ‘granular honey’.
Chemical Constituents The average composition of honey rangles as follows: Moisture 14-24%, Dextrose 23-36%, Levulose (Fructose) 30-47%, Sucrose 0.4-6%, Dextrin and Gums 0-7% and Ash 0.1-0.8%. Besides, it is found to contain small amounts of essential oil, beeswax, pollen grains, formic acid, acetic acid, succinic acid, maltose, dextrin, colouring pigments, vitamins and an admixture of enzymes eg; diastase, invertase and inulase. Interestingly, the sugar contents in honey varies widely from one country to another as it is exclusively governed by the source of the nector (availability of fragment flowers in the region) and also the enzymatic activity solely controlling the conversion
of nector into honey.
Substituents/Adulterants Due to the relatively high price of pure honey, it is invariably adulterated either with artificial invert sugar or simply with cane-sugar syrup. These adulterants or cheaper substituents not only alter the optical property of honey but also its natural aroma and fragrance.
1. It is used as a sweetening agent in confectionaries.
2. Being a demulsent, it helps to relieve dryness and is, therefore, recommended for coughs, colds, sore-throats and constipation.
3. Because of its natural content of easily assimilable simple sugars, it is globaly employed as a good source of nutrient for infants, elderly persons and convalescing patients.
Ashutosh Kar (2003), Pharmacognosy and Pharmaco biotechnology, 2nd Edition
‘Handbook of Medicinal Herbs’ (2001), J.A. Duke, CRC-Press, London, 1st Edn.
William Charles Evans (2002), Trease and Evans Pharmacognosy 15th Edition by: Trease, Bailliere Tindall; Evans.
Ramstad (1956), E., ‘Modern Pharmacognosy’, McGraw Hill, London.

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