All About Honey: How It’s Made, Types, Benefits for Skin and Hair
Honey, the age-old known golden liquid is known to all of us. Honey is the sweet substance by the bees and related insects. Bees produce honey by extracting the sugary secretion in plants and then storing in wax structures known as honeycomb. We use it almost every day for cooking, medicinal purpose, and cosmetics. Humans have valued the benefits of honey from an early old age. And why not? When we can solve our problems with an organic natural substance then why use artificial products, which contain harmful chemicals and cost a lot of money.
Honey contains hidden benefits and an enormous amount of health benefits. This sweet, thick liquid can cure most of the health and beauty related problems. Whether it’s a pimple or losing weight or treating wounds, honey can be very effective in getting safer and quicker results. But the quality might matter a lot when dealing with serious cases.
Before knowing the many nutritious facts and benefits of honey, first, let us look through when honey was found and how it was used and its importance.
History and culture of Honey
Honey has a long history and it can be trashed back to 8000 years ago. It is evident from cave paintings in Spain that humans began hunting for honey about 8000 years ago. Although evidence of keeping and cultivating of bee colonies is only up till 2400 BC. And from 4000 years ago honey had been used in ayurvedic medications.
The oldest honey remains are found in Georgia. The honey remains are found in the inner surface of clay vessels that were unearthed by the archaeologists in Georgia. The remains date back to 4700-5500 years. By the remains, it is also found that in ancient Georgia, people buried honey with the dead body, for their afterlife journey.
The Romans used honey for healing wounds after the battles. The warriors gave their army honey and vinegar as token as they journey for battle. The royal families especially the Kings and Queens used fermented honey wine, also known as Mead, during the 10th century.
Man Honey and the World
The affairs between man and honey are from the days of hunter and gatherers. The need for calories to them made them recognize even weak sources of sugar. For early man, honey was a miracle, and the evolution of man also evolved our love for honey, as in the present date we domesticate the bees to suit our needs.
In this evolution of man through harsh ages, many species went extinct but the ability of honey bees to survive is remarkable. Honey bees have adapted to the harsh environmental changes, they have lived from the heated equator regions to beyond the arctic regions. Honey bees also play the most major role pollination of the vegetation that the world feeds on. Bees provide their pollination service for the fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that we eat. If honey bees go disappear from the earth, there will be a serious food shortage in less than 4 years.
What Honey Is Made of?
We know honey is sweet but what does this sweet substance is made up of. Honey is a concentrated water solution of two simple sugars, which are dextrose (glucose) and levulose (fructose) and 22 other complex sugars in small amounts. The other components that occur in honey are water, proteins, acids, amino acids, minerals (like potassium. Chlorine, sulfur, calcium, etc), enzymes, essential oils.
Apart from the other substances that occur in honey sugars are the major components in honey. Since the largest portion in the dry matter of honey are sugars, this concentrated solution of sugars forms the characteristic physical properties of honey – which are high viscosity, high density, stickiness, its tendency to absorb moisture, etc. Below are the few important components of honey.
The components of honey
Honey, above all, is a carbohydrate material, where 95 to 99.9 percent of the solid is sugar. The main sugars in honey are dextrose (glucose) and levulose (fructose). These two sugars constitute 85 percent of the solids in honey. These two sugars are the simple sugars or you can say monosaccharides (simple group of carbohydrate) which acts as a building block for the other more 22 more complex sugars to form.
Until the middle of the 20th century, the sugars in honey were thought to be a simple mixture of dextrose, levulose, sucrose (table sugar), and a carbohydrate material called honey dextrin. Later with new advance methods of separations and analyzation of sugars, different countries like the United States, Europe, and Japan identified many sugars in honey.
Most of these complex sugars are not found in nectar but are formed as a result of enzymes that are added by the honeybee during the ripening of honey or as a result of the chemical action of the concentrated.
The natural moisture in the honeycomb is the remaining from the nectar after ripening. The amount of moisture in the honey depends on the original moisture present in the nectar and the weather condition. However, the moisture content may change after extraction, depending on the conditions of storing. The water content varies greatly in honey; it may range from 13 to 25 percent.
There is no preferred or proper moisture content for honey. But if the honey contains more than 17 percent of moisture and a sufficient amount of yeast spores, it will ferment. This type of honey should be pasteurized, that is, the honey is heated sufficiently to kill such an organism.
If the honey has a moisture content as low as 13 to 14 percent, it is somewhat difficult to handle but is most useful for blending to reduce the moisture content.
The amount of acids in honey is less than 0.5 percent of the solids. But this much amount of acid in honey not only adds to the flavor but also is partially responsible for honey’s excellent stability against micro-organism. This is what aids to honey’s unspooling properties. It helps honey in staying fresh in extreme heat or cold.
Gluconic acid is the major acid found in honey. and there are also a bunch of other acids like formic, lactic, oxalic, citric, etc.
According to research 40 to 65 percent of the nitrogen in honey is protein and the rest of the nitrogen resides in amino acids. There are 8 to 11 types of protein found in honey. Four of them are common to all. The 4 common types appear to originate in the bees rather than the nectar. The others are collected during pollination when the bee travels through different flower species.
The protein in honey causes it to have a lower surface tension that marks its tendency to form scum and encourage the formation of fine air bubbles
The number of minerals in floral honey varies from 0.02 to slightly above 1 percent. When honey is dried and it burns, the small amount of residue as ash is the mineral content.
Honeydew honey is richer in minerals. So much so as they are responsible and are the prime cause of its unsuitability for winter storage. Darker the honey more minerals it store, and lighter the honey fewer minerals it contains.
The presence of an enzyme in honey is a characteristic that sets it apart from all other sweetening agents. Enzymes are complex protein materials that under certain condition bring about a chemical change.
The enzyme in honey arises from pollen, bee, nectar, yeast or even micro-organisms. Some of the most important enzymes in honey are invertase, diastase, and glucose oxidase.
This sweet substance is made out of many different species of flowers and hence is of many different types. Honey can be classified by its floral source. And basically, there are two sources of getting honey. They are: Floral source and honeydew honey
This type can be classified as the general process by which the bees collect the nectar from the floral source. This can be from specific flowers or can also be blended after collection.
The types available are;
Most of the commercially available kinds of honey are blended. Which means it is a mixture of two or more honeys that differ in floral source, flavor, color, density and also geographic location
Polyfloral is also known as wildflower honey, and is derived from the nectar of many different types of flowers. The quality, the aroma may vary every year depending on which blooming are present at that time.
This kind of honey is made from the nectar of only one type of honey. This honey generally has distinctive colors, flavors, and aroma because of the difference in their original nectar sources.
Honeydew honey is the honey that is prepared by the bees by taking the honeydew that is the sweet secretions of aphids (various plant sap-sucking insects). This honey is dark brown and has a rich fragrance of stewed fruit. Honeydew honey is not as sweet as the honey made from the nectar.
There are some complications and dangers in the production of honeydew honey. Honeydew honey has a large proportion of indigestible than that in floral honey that can cause dysentery to the bees and this can result in the death of colonies of bees in areas of cold winter. They need extra maintenance like, the honeydew need to remove from the cold region before winter and they also have to be feed with protein supplements as they lack the protein-rich pollen that is gathered from flowers.
Now let us look at some of the most common and popular types of floral honey
Types of Floral Honey
Alfalfa honey comes from alfalfa flowers. Also, know as Lucerne honey, this honey is famous for its probiotic properties. Alfalfa honey advantages are; it can treat anemia, fever, and diabetes and it also improves digestion.
Acacia honey is produced from acacia flower. It has vitamin A, C and E, fatty and amino acid and also some flavonoids. This honey also has properties of anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, and DNA protection.
This honey is processed from buckwheat and is high in bactericidal properties. And due to its excellent antioxidant properties and also an abundance of micro and macro-nutrients, this honey can protect your body from oxidation or chemical stress.
Out of all the honey clover honey is the safest for your antibacterial dietary requirements. It does not need hydrogen peroxide for antibacterial effects and has great antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
The Sage honey is produced from the black sage blossoms that mostly comes from the California regions (famous for aroma and flavor). This is one of the dark, thicker honey varieties and has great sweetening and antioxidant properties. Sage honey can also control some types of diabetes.
The bees that feed on the flowers of the manuka bush of New Zealand produce Manuka honey. This honey has excellent wound-healing properties. This honey also stimulates the formation of new blood cells when applied to wounds. Manuka honey is rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
This monofloral honey derived from eucalyptus flower have acids like ellagic and myricetin and minerals like sodium and potassium etc. now this honey be given to infants in mild amount can be helpful with compromised immunity and also particularly children in general.
Let’s look at some of the most known honeydew honey types
Types of honeydew honey
Silver fir honeydew Honey
In making this honey the aphids that are responsible belong to the Cynara genus. It is considered as one of the best varieties of honeydew honey in Europe especially I central Europe. Its color is dark amber to the black, less sweet and mild aroma and has a flowery fruity odor.
Pine honeydew Honey
This honey is more popular in regions of Turkey and Greece. It is produced by marchalina hellenica, the insect that lives in pine trees. Some people question by using the honey of this insect, can honey cause diabetes or can honey cause acne, but till now its proved to help rather than reduce your health. Reddish-brown in color and a spicy aroma with a woody flavor.
Oak-tree honeydew Honey
Its quality is inferior to spruce and silver fir but unusual to them it crystallizes quickly. The insects involved are tuberculous annulalas and T. Borealis. This honey has an intense aroma and very spicy taste. Darker the color, more its aromatic flavor.
Beech-wood honeydew Honey
Both Red beech and Black beech are original in New Zealand. The insect partners that produce beechwood honey, both feed on Nothofagus species. Beechwood honey is a rich amber, intense odor with an earthy flavor. It’s thick in consistency, low in sweetness and does not crystallize easily.
Willow-tree honeydew Honey
This honeydew honey is found in Tuscany, piedmont, and Umbria. The insect medium responsible for this honey is tuberolachus salignus. But this excellent honeydew honey is produced on a small-scale.
Citrus honeydew Honey
This honeydew honey is produced from citrus plants. The insect responsible for this honey production is Rinchota. It’s produced in citrus groves. The places where it’s found are Tunisia, Sicily, and Calabria.
How Honey is Made?
The nectar that is collected by the bees transform into honey in the honeycombs in the beehive. This honey goes under further processes before reaching to the larger public.
Production of Honey
The process of making honey starts with the bees collecting the nectar from the flowers. In a bee colony, there is one queen and thousands of worker bees and drones. The worker bees do not live more than three to six weeks and each of them collects 1 teaspoon of nectar during this time.
After 20 days of the birth of worker bees, they leave the hive to collect nectar. To collect the nectar, that is the sweet secretion of the flower glands, bees penetrate the flower’s petals and suck out the nectar with its tongue and deposits it into their abdomen or the honey sac. In the body of the bee, as the nectar journeys to its intestine, the water is drawn out and enzymes are added, which enrich the nectar. The pollen attached to the bees legs also mixes with nectar.
Once the worker bees are no longer capable of holding any more honey they return to the hive. There the nectar is deposited into the empty honeycomb cells. The other worker bees also ingest the honey. Enzymes are added during this process and this helps in further ripping of the honey. Once the honey fully ripens, for one last time it is deposited into another honeycomb and capped with thin beeswax.
Manufacturing of Honey
The manufacturing starts from removing the honeycomb up till packaging the honey and shipping them for consumer use.
Removing of Honeycomb
Step 1: Removing the honeycomb from the hive
For this, the beekeepers wear a veiled helmet and gloves for protection. Now to remove the actual honeycomb different ways are applied.
- The beekeeper might simply sweep off the bees from the comb and guide them back into the hive.
- The beekeeper might inject smoke into the hive, alternatively. The bees gorge themselves into the honey in an attempt to take as much as honey they can take with them before feeling, as soon as they sense the presence of fire. Hence the bees won’t sting due to being calm after the engorgement.
- A separator board is kept to close the honey chamber from the actual brood chamber. Now as the bees in the honey chamber realize that they are separated from their hive queen they move to the brood chamber through a hatch, without rendering the honey chamber.
Most of the cells should be capped in the honeycomb. Around 1/3th of the honey is left for feeding the honeybee colony.
Step 2: Removing the caps of the honeycomb
- The honeycomb with 2/3rd capped area is placed into a transportable box. This box is taken into a room free of bees. The caps on both sides of the honeycomb are scraped and placed onto a capping tray.
Exaction of Honeycomb
Step 3: Extraction from the comb
- The honeycomb is dumb into a large drum-type extractor. The extractor spins at a low speed at first so that the comb does not break. As it picks up speed the honey is pulled out and gets in the walls. From there it drips down into the cone-shaped bottom. The honey then comes out of the extractor through a spigot. A bucket is kept under the extractor and two sieves are topped upon it. The sieves are for holding back any wax material or other debris.
- The honey is then poured into drums and sent for commercial distribution.
Step 4: Processing
- The honey is poured into tanks at the commercial distributors and heated to melt out the crystals, at 48.9C (120F). The honey is kept at that temperature for 24 hours. The bee parts or pollen that rise to the top are skimmed off.
- Then it is heated to 73.8C (165F) and filtered through paper. Then the honey is again cooled down to 48.9C (120F). This process happens in approximately seven seconds.
- Then the processed honey is packed in jars and cans for shipment in retailing stores and industries.
- 5% of the honey is left unfiltered. After processing the honey loss some of its health properties but most consumers prefer the lighter brighter honey.
This is how honey is made, both by bees and man. Now, let’s look at the benefits and uses of honey in different aspects of our lives.
Honey for All Health Problems
Till now we have seen the benefits of honey for our skin and hair, the beauty aspects. But very little people know about honey health benefits that actually exists. Honey had been used in medicinal substances for the last 5000 years. In fact, there is a way to use honey for all health problems, from healing wounds to treating a disease like cancer (a few types). Let’s look at some of the health benefits of honey.
Honey Nutrition Facts
- Honey is rich in antioxidants. Especially the high-quality honey contains more antioxidants. They also include organic acids and flavonoids which makes it a more powerful antioxidant. Buckwheat honey is a major type that increases antioxidant content in your blood.
- Honey is better than sugar. Not the best but less bad than sugar. Diabetic patients have a strict restriction on sugar intake, but honey is a sweetener that can be taken in moderate amount. It is found that it reduces the risk of certain heart diseases that are common in type 2 diabetes patients. But it should be taken with caution since certain kinds of honey are also found to increase blood sugar levels.
- High cholesterol level is a reason for heart disease. And several studies have found that honey may help in improving your cholesterol level. It increases ‘good’ cholesterol and reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Some Common Facts
- It has wound-healing properties. Honey had been used from ancient times for healing difficult wounds like infections after surgery. Any burns or cuts may heal fast by applying honey. It is also found that honey mixed with some ingredients may also heal foot ulcers of type 2 diabetes patients.
- Honey for cough is a great option. It has been found that honey works more effective than two types of cough medications. Children usually suffer from cough and cold and it affects both their sleep and health overall. Honey improves sleep and reduces cough symptoms. But honey is given to infants is not advisable, especially kids below 1 year.
- Taking a glass of warm water and honey can also aid in constipation. Honey has properties that improve digestion and metabolism and purifies the blood. You can also take raw honey in empty stomach for this reason.
Ways to Increase Your Honey Intake
Here are some quick ways to include honey in your diet.
- You can use honey for sweetening your marinades and dressings.
- Drizzling honey on top of toast or pancakes is a better alternative instead of other high-calorie spreads.
- Pour some honey in your cereals, oatmeal, and yogurt.
- Add honey to your coffee and teas.
- Honey be mixed up with hot water and taken in the morning will improve your digestive system.
- Take raw honey in empty stomach for better digestion, heart health, and immunity.
- Also, you can make honey lemon water in the morning to start your day before you eat anything. Take warm water.
- Take honey before sleeping for better sleep and prevent cough and cold. Especially for kids, this is very beneficial.
Even though honey is better than sugar it still has calories. Therefore honey should be consumed in a moderate amount to avoid other harmful consequences. Now, looking at the benefits, honey be given to infants is not a good idea, especially below 12 months.
Honey for Hair
Hair an important aspect in shaping our looks. So having good healthy hair is quite essential. But using chemical products might not be the answer if you have damaged hair. And at this point honey may be the thing, answer to your hair issues. First, let’s look at the benefits of honey for your hair.
Benefits of Honey for Hair
- Honey has conditioning characteristics and hence smoothens your hair incredibly. It will improve your hair texture and add shine.
- Exposure to sun and pollution makes our hair lifeless, make them dry and itchy. Using honey will give them some healthy shine and softness back. It will protect your hair from further harm and also rejuvenate the lost health in your hair.
- Dandruff is a big issue for many people. And a dry infectious scalp is the reason. Honey is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial. Hence using honey prevents the scalp from infection and keeps it bacteria-free. And also removes dandruff and itchiness in the scalp.
Some More Benefits
- Honey is an emollient. Hence, it enhances the strength of hair follicles. Since they are in charge of hair development, healthier hair grows and even the resting hair follicles wake up and support hair growth.
- Honey is a natural antioxidant. Hence it oxidizes the scalp and improves the blood flow. This stimulates hair growth. It also has vitamins and minerals, so honey can help you get shinier and softer tresses.
- Honey is also a natural humectant. That means it adds moisture to whatever it is added to. Hence it holds moisture in the scalp and which reinforces hair follicles and likewise healthy hair growth.
Some Users of Honey for Hair
Honey for hair conditioning and shine
Honey and milk hair mask. Mix up 4 tbsp of coconut milk and 2 tbsp of honey till you get a smooth mix. Massage it from scalp to tips and leave for an hour. Wash off with cold water and follow with a mild shampoo. Repeat once a week.
Honey for frizzy hair
Lemon and honey. combine 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp honey and 1 cup of water. Pour it through freshly washed hair and massage through the scalp for a couple of minutes. Then let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water and use a milk shampoo.
Honey for dandruff
Make a paste of a cup of yogurt, 2 tbsp of lemon juice, and 1 tbsp of honey. Apply this mask onto your hair and let it sit for an hour. Rinse off thoroughly with warm water. You may use a mild shampoo.
Honey for hair fall
For reducing hair fall and increase hair growth you can use this very simple honey home remedy. Mix up 2-4 tbsp of coconut oil and 1 tbsp of honey. Apply this mask on clean damp scalp. Use a shower cap for protection and leave it for 30-60 minutes. Wash off with shampoo. Use it once a week.
We are pretty blessed to have a natural ingredient like honey. This beautiful golden substance can do wonders for your hair if used religiously. But do remember to wash off your mask very properly or else the residue may cause irritation and other issues.
Honey for Skin
Honey is such a helpful ingredient for your skin. It can cure many of your skin issues when used with some other products. Whether you are irritated by a pimple or itchy dry skin make a honey face mask, scrub or and use it religiously. It has antioxidants, anti-septic, anti-inflammatory properties that add glow, clears skin, and removes bacteria and calms irritation, and gives you a healthy glowing, and bright skin.
Benefits of Honey for Skin
Honey for oily skin
We all have natural skin oils to protect our skin from the environment. But some people happen to produce more oil and normal. And this excess oil attracts dust and dirt and cause irritations, pimples, and marks. To treat your oily skin with honey follow through these.
- To scrub your face mix 1 tbsp each of honey and sugar (white or brown) and apply in a circular motion. Wash it off after 5-10 minutes.
- To treat pimples mix 1 tbsp honey and 1 tsp cinnamon powder. Apply and let it dry for 20-30 minutes. Wash off.
- Cucumber honey and milk face mask. Mix up ½ grated cucumber, 1 tbsp milk, and 1 tsp honey. Apply it evenly and leave it for 15 minutes. Wash it off with water.
Honey for dry skin
Like oily skin produces excess oil, dry skin produces less oil. And hence the skin is dehydrated and open pores are attacked by the bacteria in the air. Then hydrating is most important.
- To keep your skin hydrated you can apply pure raw honey directly on your face. Apply it evenly and leave it for20-30 minutes. Wash off with normal water.
- To clean your pores and get rid of irritation make a paste of 2 tbsp coconut oil and 1 tbsp of honey. Gently massage onto your skin and leave it for 20 minutes and wash off with warm water.
Honey for aging and spots
The antioxidant qualities of honey can help rejuvenate your aging skin and give a new glow.
Here is a honey face mask to help you get clear skin and a great anti-aging mask.
- Mix up 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of raw honey. Apply and leave it for min. 20 minutes and max. 1 hour. You can use a warm towel or deep cotton in warm water and weep off the mask. You can use it once every week.
Honey is food for your skin
- Honey ginger lemon tea. Boiling water with some ginger and later adding lemon and honey detoxify your body. Add lemon to cold water and add that to the hot tea and make lukewarm water.
- Add honey instead of sugar to your beverages like tea, coffee or juices.
- Have a glass of warm water and honey right when you wake up. This hydrates, detox and increase your metabolism.
- Eating honey on an empty stomach increase insulin content in the blood. This also prevents diseases related to digestion.
The antiseptic, anti-inflammatory properties of honey keep your digestive system working great and your immune system healthy. This also detoxes and hence cleanses your blood which gives you clear skin and a fresh glow. A healthy body aids in having good skin. Hence using honey both directly and by consuming will help your skin.
Some more facts on Honey
- Honey also helps in lowering blood sugar levels. This is due to the antioxidant compounds present in honey that have been linked with lower blood sugar levels. Consuming honey can modestly lower blood pressure levels.
- Honey and weight loss are a famous topic. Honey can reduce weight quite effectively when taken instead of sugar and the carbohydrate and trans-fat intake is reduced.
Kinds of Honey
- An important floral honey type is Lavender Honey. Lavender honey has great bioactive elements that aid to its antifungal activities. This honey also has phenolic compounds and amino acids. It can treat food ulcers and other fungal infections on the skin. Although not as good as manuka honey, it possesses antioxidant properties.
- A type of honeydew honey is Melcalfa pruinosa honeydew Honey. This honey is produced from the insect melcalfa pruinos. This insect was introduced in the 1970s in Europe, hence it is a new type of honey. After discovery, it spread through Italy, France, and Slovenia. With citrus this insect feeds on 200 more plants, both ornamental and cultivated. Its hard amber to almost black, with a medium odor of warm fruity flavor. It tastes moderately intense with low to medium sweetness.
- Another type of honeydew honey is Spruce honeydew Honey. This honey is mainly produced in Czech, Slovenia, and Europe. The insects involved in production are cinara coslala, piceae, and physokermes hemicryphus. Its color can vary from light amber to dark, with smoke caramel aroma and medium intensity taste.
Global Honey Facts
- World’s largest honey-producing, beekeeping, the largest exporter and domestic consumer is china. They produce the purest and sweetest honey in the world. China produces more than 650,000 tons annually and 3/4th is consumed locally.
- Turkey and the USA are the 2nd and 3rd highest honey producing countries in the world, respectively. Turkey produces 115,000 tons and the USA produces 82,500 tons of honey annually.
- The oldest honey was found in Europe and hence we can say the Europeans were the first to discover honey.
- The global market of honey is estimated to increase by about 2.6% until 2023. Europe is a dominant market in marketing and bee products and as people know the more benefits of honey, the market will grow more and more in oncoming years.
Hence, we can see that honey plays a very important role in our life aspects and also the life-cycles on this planet. Even though it has many advantages but it still is a low-key subject, even in the market. But in recent years the honey market has significantly increased and is expected to grow even more in oncoming years. The more people know about this precious substance more they can reap its many essential benefits.