Food & Nutrition

Pure Honey, Raw Honey & Fake Honey- Differences & how to Test Purity

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Pure honey, raw honey and fake honey are popular terms if your are a fan of honey. What is the difference between these terms? Read on find out what these terms mean, how to check purity of honey using both lab and at home methods, the nutritional facts and health benefits of pure honey, best brands where you can buy.

Is Pure Honey Raw Honey-What is the difference between raw honey and pure honey

Raw Honey

The most straight forward definition or description of raw honey is the naturally sweet liquid that comes from the beehive. It is the floral nectar gathered by honeybees, processed, and stored in the comb inside the hives. H Raw in this sense means it is absolutely unprocessed, unrefined, unheated, untreated or unpasteurized. It is natural or original. It is at times referred to as real , natural or organic  honey

One ingredient that makes raw honey unique in its own way is bee pollen. Since time immemorial, bee pollen has been considered to be one of nature’s top and most nutritious foods.

Compared to processed ‘pure’ honey, raw honey has the following advantages;

  • Tastes better
  • Has more enzymes
  • Comes with more antioxidants
  • Thought to have the ability to relieve allergies

Is pure honey raw honey?

Pure means uncontaminated or simply not mixed with any other substance. Common additional substances include;

  • Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Flavoring both natural and artificial

Basing on the particular plant from which the bees collected the nectar, some sources say that pure honey can be labeled as raspberry or clover honey.

Most definitely pure honey can be raw honey. At the same time, raw honey is pure honey. If there’s an additional substance be it natural or artificial, then it is not pure.

Natural Honey

Natural honey is honey that does not come with substances that are artificial or not produced by nature. The substances can be color, artificial flavor or any other substance that is synthetic. To be sure all you need is to look at the ingredient list on the label for any artificial additives.

Testing Pure Honey at the Lab

You can test the purity of honey either at home or in the labs.

This section focuses on checking if honey is pure at the lab.

There are a couple of methods that can be used to check if honey is original. The Stable Carbon Isotope Analysis is one of the commonly used procedure to detect adulteration of honey. It is a complex industrial process suitable for companies or organizations which check large amounts of honey.

This method is in fact recommended by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC)

The idea behind is to measure differences between stable carbon isotope ratios of protein and sugar compounds with an elemental analyzer mixture

Although the concept behind the carbon isotope methods is the same, companies have different ways of doing it. Some companies have developed systems to carry out this process. One such system is the Thermo Scientific EA IsoLink IRMS System

Test honey purity lab EA IsoLink IRMS system

Thermo Scientific EA IsoLink IRMS system

Fake Honey vs Pure, Real,Organic, Original Honey-How to tell the difference at Home

If you want to enjoy most of the benefits derived from honey, its purity is what you should consider before buying. Most of the honey in the grocery stores isn’t exactly what the bees produce but fake and impure honey. Why? Simply because of the high demand for pure honey resulting from its medicinal and nutrient value. Individuals and companies have taken advantage of this (high demand) in a move to make an extra buck by selling fake honey.

What is fake honey

Also referred to as  impure, artificial or adulterated, fake honey is ‘honey’  that has been added glucose, dextrose, molasses, sugar syrup, invert sugar, flour, corn syrup, starch, or any other similar product, other than floral nectar. By just looking packaged honey on the shelves, it is almost impossible to tell whether the honey is fake or real.

 Fake or Pure honey? How can you tell the difference?

If you cannot afford to check your honey at the lab, here are simple ways by which an average day to day consumer can quickly tell if the honey he/she buying is fake or pure. The first and probably the most obvious step, for anyone who is concerned, is to check the label. The label contains some information that might be helpful. Shown in the table below are the most common and simple ways check for honey purity. Discover the ways to tell if that honey you want to buy is fake or real.

TESTPURE HONEY
FAKE HONEY
StickinessNot sticky if rubbed between fingersSticky due to additional sweeteners
ThicknessFairly thick, takes time to move from one side of the jar to the otherFake honey is very light and runny
TasteThe taste vanishes in a matter of minutes Note: heating and cooling many times may alter the tasteTaste will remain for a little longer because of the presence of sugar
Smell/AromaMild scent, probably the actual smell of the flowers from which the nectar was collected. Note: heating and cooling many times may alter the aromaNone or sour  smell
HeatingCaramelize quickly and doesn’t not form foamBecomes bubbly and never caramelizes
Dissolving Method Doesn’t get dissolved in water, will lump and settle at the bottom. Gets diluted when stirred for a while. Mixing in equal amounts of honey and methylated spirits, honey settles at the bottomStays incoherent and gets dissolved water right away.Dissolves in methylated spirits while making the solution milky
Flame Test.(Note: Depends on the amount of honey into which the matchstick is immersed )Matchstick lights even and easily after it has been immersed in pure honey Matchstick does not light easily due to presence of moisture.
Bread testWhen spread on a slice of bread, the slice hardens  in minutes Wets the bread due to moisture content
Absorption TestFew drops poured on bloating paper do not get absorbed. When poured on piece of white cloth, it doesn’t leave stainsGets absorbed in bloating paper.Leaves stains on a white piece of cloth.
Impurities(depends on how fine the filtering process was)Presence of impurities: dirty-looking particles, pollen and bee body partiesAbsence of impurities
Egg yolk TestWhen poured into a container with yolk alone and the mixture stirred together the yolk appears like it is cookedHas no effect on the yolk

 

There are also other ways to test for honey purity but they have raised  debates. One major  test  that is controversial is the “ant test”. A group of individuals argue that ants are attracted to fake honey due to its sugar content but not attracted to pure honey due to a component that is a natural pest repellent. First and foremost, there is not much information  available to back up  the “natural pest repellent”.

Further, it is argued that some dubious individuals mix the fake honey with repulsive mixture that tends to irritate ants therefore keeping the ants off. Not a lot of information exists to support this test and in addition there is no known reason why the little creatures (ants) would favor processed sugar over real honey not forgetting  the ants may not always be “available” at all places for a honey assessment (“no ants observed” may not necessarily mean pure honey). The reason why a sweet liquid is more attractive than another for the ants could also be due to other factors such as liquid density, flavors which vary depending on the floral types.

does-pure-honey-crystallize

Crystallized honey

Does Pure Honey Crystallize?

The answer is yes! However, not necessarily always. This process is characterized by the honey becoming thick and cloudy. And more important, crystallization does not mean that your honey has gone bad. Why does it crystallize? Simply because of sugary substances in honey. What happens during crystallization? During the process, glucose sugar separates from water and becomes crystals, while on the hand fructose remains in a liquid form. How long does it take to crystallize? From a few weeks to months after buying. The time it takes to crystallize depends on;

Conditions under which the honey is stored-Hot or high temperatures slow the process while while low or cooler speed up the process

Type of honey ( Glucose to fructose ratio)– The composition ratio of glucose and fructose in a floral nectar source is another factor that dictates the rate of honey crystallization. Honey types with a low fructose to glucose ratio, such as floral varietals  Aster, Dandelion, Rata honey, and Clover crystallize faster compared to honey types with a high fructose to glucose ratio for example,  Acacia,  Leatherwood, Longan, Eucalyptus, Honeydew, and Tupelo. [benefitsofhoney]
Amount of processing-Did you buy your honey raw (straight from the honeycomb), semi-processed (for example strained), or processed? There is proof that when stored properly  raw pure honey,  does not welcome crystallization compared to the processed honey.

Bottom line- Considering  that most grocery attendants wont  allow you to practically perform most of the above honey purity tests before buying  your honey, the surest way is to visit a bee keeper in your local area and get pure honey from him or her. However, if you must buy your honey from the local stores be sure to check what is on the label as aforementioned .

Remember that the more the honey is processed and refined the less the benefits. Raw, unfiltered honey is so far the healthiest choice for your health.

Health Benefits of Pure Honey & Nutritional Factstest-honey-purity-know-fake-pure-honey

Why does it have to be pure honey? What are the health benefits  and nutritional facts of pure honey?  Since ancient times, honey has been a well-liked food. Following are reasons why pure honey is considered nutritious and beneficial for your health.

Real Honey Nutritional Facts

It is a source of energy –Pure honey provides carbohydrates, both fructose and glucose, which the body converts to energy. A tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams of these natural sugars.

Pure honey is a natural source of minerals and Vitamins: calcium, iron and potassium and vitamin C & B complex in addition to phytonutrients.

Pure Honey Benefits

Treatment of Burns– According to researchers at the University of Florida, honey can effectively be used to treat burns. How? When honey is applied to burns, it reduces air contact, relieving pain and possibly infection. The New York Times supports this evaluation, saying honey is faster in treating small, non-serious burns compared to some antibiotic ointments

Antimicrobial Activity –According to research published by the National Institutes of Health, applying raw pure honey to infected wounds can diminish redness and swelling as well as lowering healing time from bacterial infection just as in the case of burns. This can be compared to what some antibiotics do. In addition, pure honey has been proven effective in treatment of infective conjunctivitis (eye infection), reducing healing time for the infection as well as decreasing swelling and pus discharge.

It has worked as remedy for herpes sores.How does this antimicrobial and wound-healing come about? According to Dr Mercola,

  • Pure honey pulls fluid away from your wound
  • The concentration of sugar content is quite in pure honey. In turn, the high  concentration provides unfavorable conditions for the growth of microorganisms
  • Glucose oxidase, an enzyme that is secreted into the nectar by the worker bees , releases low levels of hydrogen peroxide when the honey is applied on  your wound

Other benefits of pure honey include, immune booster for seasonal allergies, antioxidant, food additive, an ingredient for skin care, weight loss etc.

Where to buy Pure Honey- Where can I find Pure Honey?

Where can pure honey be found and bought? Well, you already know the health benefits of real honey, you have learnt some tips on how to choose between pure and impure honey…what next? You probably want to know where you can find pure honey.

According to experts, the best place to buy 100% pure honey is from a trusted local bee keeper. However, this type of honey can be quite expensive and at the same time the bee keeper may be far away meaning that you will have travel miles to find him/her.

However, you can also find pure honey in the local stores near you or online but it depends on where you reside. Some regions have honey purity laws while other do not have. The laws issue honey standards that require the mention of added substances

  • In the European Union, any product sold as honey MUST be free additives by law
  • In the United States, there is no law to govern the purity of honey. Trace amounts of antibiotics are allowed in the honey. Note, a USDA logo on the packaging doesn’t necessarily mean pure.
  • Florida is the only state in the united states that requires honey to display all additives provided it is manufactured and sold with this state

Do you have a sure way(s) of testing the purity of honey other than those shown above? What is your new honey purity test? Your contribution will be highly appreciated. Do share this post to your friends and family members…spread the word.

22 Comments

  1. harsha

    June 12, 2015 at 10:39 am

    realy it helps me to identify real honey. Thanks

  2. Lala

    June 21, 2015 at 12:30 am

    I beg to disagree to one of the things you said. We get honey from Beehives from Balete trees in Zamboanga City and it smells sour. It smells sour but its not fake. It depends on the flower source of the bees

    • Charl

      June 22, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      Hi Lala, thanks for visiting durablehealth. Well, I have not come across pure honey that smell sour for sure. But if the honey at Zamboanga smells sour then that something new I have learnt today. Thanks for your contribution, though.

  3. Dires Demissie

    September 10, 2015 at 8:45 am

    I have heard about a test with coca cola. Drop coca to honey on the spoon, if not pure ,it bubbles a lot . I use this method. Could it be wrong ? And what about the honey from bee fed with sugar or glucose or syrup ?

    • Charl

      September 10, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      Hi Dires, thanks a lot for your contribution. Testing honey purity using coco cola is a new concept to us. If the results are similar to what has been highlighted here then you may be right. However we a yet to find out how your method works.
      Then, when there is little or no food and supplies of nectar are poor or unavailable beekeepers opt to feed bee colonies with sugar/syrup/glucose to prevent starvation. This is not necessarily pure honey…it may be contaminated. Pure honey comes from nectar

  4. Mythily Swaminathan

    November 4, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Hi, This article on honey testing is more informative on how to know about the pure honey. I am a bee keeper as well.
    Thank you.
    With regards,
    Mythily Swaminathan

    • Charl

      November 5, 2015 at 2:11 am

      Hi Mythily, thanks for your comment.

  5. danny

    December 12, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    i have honey from bucks county pa that claims to be pure honey . if i do say 8 of the tests and it passes 5 of them can i say for sure that it’s pure honey ????

    • Charl

      December 12, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      Hi Danny. Thanks for your comment. Assuming it is honey you have bought from the shelves, five passes out eight could to some extent be pure or nearly pure honey but you cannot be 100% sure. So long as it is processed, purity will be reduced to some extent. The only way to be sure is to get it from a bee keeper or farmer.

  6. Shiti

    February 8, 2016 at 5:38 am

    I purchase my requirements of purest Bee Honey, Bee Pollen, Royal Jelly & Bee Propolis from Bee keepers. By joining through the website http://www.foreverbizowner.flp.com , I am highly satisfied.

  7. Amos

    February 16, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Thanks a lot for educating us. one of the test I have heard is that pure honey don’t freezes when kept in a deep freezer. Is that true?

    • Charl

      February 16, 2016 at 6:41 pm

      Hi Amos. Glad you found our information educative. We did this taste two days a go.In a deep freezer, pure honey does not freeze. It remains in its original form.

  8. Diamond

    March 24, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks for these expositions about natural honey. As I am proposing to go into the business, having a local supplier, your enlightening tips will be very useful to me. So far the ones he has supplied have very good according to your information.

    • Charl

      March 25, 2016 at 4:19 am

      Hello Diamond!Thanks for your contribution. We are glad you found this piece of information useful. Remember to share it with your friends and family.

  9. S

    August 23, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Regarding the comment that pure honey doesn’t freeze, does that mean the adulterated kinds will?
    Thanks very much.

    • Charl

      August 23, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      Yes it may freeze depending on its content.

  10. Andy Lee Weng Poh

    September 12, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Does pure honey have sucrose content during lab test? The seller who sold me the honey showed me a lab test result but with 0% sucrose content. Now I am having doubts if it is pure honey.

    • Charl

      September 17, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      Hello Andy, thanks for your contribution, sucrose is Granulated table sugar hence that honey is possibly pure. Honey is made up fructose and glucose and these two remain in individual units. We’re digging deep into this.

  11. Rogelio Jr Fuentespina Lim

    June 30, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    What is wild green honey?

    • Charl

      July 18, 2017 at 2:35 am

      Normal honey is usually golden yellow. Honey in any other colors like green or blue is unnatural. According to some sources the colors come as a result of what the honeybees feed on. For instance, in France 2012, bees that fed on sugar waste produced colored honey.

  12. Derrick Brannon

    September 6, 2017 at 7:21 am

    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Barbera Peters

    September 18, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    I have always wondered what the difference was for raw honey compared to other honey and you helped a lot with this article. My favorite part that you talked about was how one ingredient that makes raw honey unique is the bee pollen. That is really interesting to me since I never knew it consisted with real bee pollen. Thank you for the great information that I can keep in mind next time I look for honey.

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