Is It Safe To Heat Honey Above Body Temperature?

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From bee hives to honey jars in stores, natural bee honey is heated to stall crystallization and prevent spoilage. Honey’s antimicrobial H2O2 content is reduced even on mild heating. Processed honey retains its benefits as long as we don’t further heat it to high temperatures before use. A spoonful of honey in warm to cold water is fine. Avoid mixing it in boiling hot coffee or tea.

Honey is a go-to sweetener for many in this health conscious world. Most dieticians suggest a glass of warm water with a spoon of honey to detox and kick-start the body’s metabolism every morning. Apart from its multiple uses in food and drinks, honey also has antimicrobial properties. And heating it can be detrimental. This is why we need to be concerned about how warm or hot the honey gets.

Natural Versus Processed Honey

A jar of honey tucked away in the refrigerator may be crystallized and hard. Your natural reaction will be to heat it and let it “melt.” Well, heating is the basic treatment given to natural bee honey to convert it into the commercial honey that we use.

Natural honey is first heated to convert it from a solid to a liquid state and then filtered to remove various elements like air bubbles and pollen grains so as to prevent crystallization of the honey. A study found that melting was maximum at temperatures between 400‒500 C and the honey has to be kept at that temperature for a while, up to 30 minutes, for effective melting of the crystals.1

So the jar of commercial honey at home has already been heat-treated to delay the crystallization process and prevent spoilage. What happens when you heat this honey again either for cooking or by mixing a spoonful in a very hot cup of tea or coffee?

Heat And Honey

The ancient Indian science of Ayurveda unequivocally states that heating of honey should not even be attempted – heat destroys the nutrients and certain enzymes and turns honey into a harmful substance for the body.2

Of the many complex components of honey, the primary antimicrobial component is hydrogen peroxide(H2O2). For the honey to be effective as a topical application to the skin and work against a wide range of bacteria and fungi, retaining the H2O2 levels in processed honey is important.3

A study across different types of natural honey and the effect of heat and H2O2 levels clearly showed that even mild heating significantly reduces the anti-microbial properties of honey via the reduced H2O2 levels. So when we take commercial honey(which, remember has already been heat-treated up to 45 degrees on average) and raise its temperature again, it is detrimental. Also, honey viscosity is pretty much the same after 300 itself. This means that there may even be scope to reduce the temperature of heat treatment for commercial honey to around 300 from the current 400–500. This may go a long way in retaining the antimicrobial and antifungal properties of honey intended for medicinal benefits.4

So if you like to use a spoonful of honey as a pure sugar substitute for your beverages, go right ahead. Just stick to warm to cold water and avoid boiling hot tea or coffee (which can be anywhere from 700–850) so that the benefits of honey are not lost.5

References   [ + ]

1. Bakier, Sławomir. “Description of phenomena occurring during the heating of crystallized honey.” Acta Agrophyisca 3, no. 3 (2004): 415-424.
2. Annapoorani, A. et al. “Studies on the physicochemical characteristics of heated honey, honey mixed with ghee and their food consumption pattern by rats.” Ayu 31.2 (2010): 141–146. PMC. Web. 9 May 2016.
3. Molan P. C. (2009). “Honey: antimicrobial actions and role in disease management,” in New Strategies Combating Bacterial Infection, eds Ahmad I., Aqil F. Weinheim: Wiley VCH 229–253
4. Chen, Cuilan et al. “The Effect of Standard Heat and Filtration Processing Procedures on Antimicrobial Activity and Hydrogen Peroxide Levels in Honey.” Frontiers in Microbiology 3 (2012): 265. PMC. Web. 9 May 2016.
5. Brown, Fredericka, and Kenneth R. Diller. “Calculating the optimum temperature for serving hot beverages.” Burns 34, no. 5 (2008): 648-654.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.