Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fermented Honey

This is about my experience eating fermented honey.
 I live in an area with high humidity and even when the honey is capped, it can have a little extra water in it that can lead to fermentation.  So, although I harvest only capped honey, I ended up with some honey that fermented.  
Not having had honey ferment on me before I became curious about it. It turned out that a lot of people I talked to, throw fermented honey out. I could not bring myself to do that. So, it sat there for a year and I watched it grow a fermentation cap. I did loosen the lid a bit so my mason jars would not break.

I eat fermented foods all the time. I looked at the honey and thought about how it resembled other foods I ferment. It visually looked OK.   It had a cap on it.  I smelled it. It smelled fine to me. There was the usual honey smell with a slight smell of what I would expect from fermenting fruit. This smell was ever so slight and not everyone could smell it when they sniffed the jar.  

I thought about how I have drank a fermented honey drink called mead. I decided that this fermented honey was OK for me to experiment with even though many people seemed to feel it was something to toss out. I took the cap off like I would in any other fermented food. I took out a little of the honey found underneath the ferment cap and popped it into my mouth. I mixed it around my mouth and savored it like you would wine. It tasted like honey. I noticed nothing else. So, I ate a whole teaspoon, Yum.  I think I like this fermented honey.

I began using it as usual in my diet. I usually don't cook with honey as I eat it raw and want the enzymes, natural bacteria etc. to enrich my diet. So, I was adding it to tea or a dab on oatmeal after it cooled a bit, or just straight on a spoon. So, far it is simply yummy. I think I have found yet another food I can ferment to add to the diversity of my gut microbiome. I decided to enlist friends in my experimentation. I was moving and could not move a couple boxes full of quart jars of fermenting honey that had their lids slightly unscrewed. So, I gave friends who wanted to try the fermenting honey, a jar of this delicious treat. In some cases they took a few jars. I explained the fermenting honey to them and some were a bit cautious, but others exuberantly accepted the gift of fermenting honey. Now we had a fermenting honey club. I will continue to experiment with my fermenting honey and get feedback from my friends. 

I  was also curious about the particular bacterias that are found in honey. I and other herbalists have used raw honey on wounds with good success. Could it be that good bacteria/yeast in the honey compete with bad bacteria in wounds to keep wounds from being infected? I was wondering what I could find on bacteria in honey.  I found a research article from 2007 that lists the following bacteria, yeasts and molds in honey.  I would caution you to realize this is not raw honey taken from our healthy family hive as many of us with bees would procure.


BacteriaAlcaligens, Achromobater, Bacillus, Bacteridium, Brevibacterium, Citrobacter, Clostridium, Enterobacter,  Escherichia coli, Erwinia, Flavobacterium, Klebsiella,  Micrococcus, Neisseria, Pseudomonas, Xanthomonas

YeastAscosphaera, Debaromyces, Hansenula, Lipomyces,  Nematospora, Oosporidium, Pichia, Saccharomyces, Schizosaccharomyces, Trichosporium, Torula, Torulopsis, Zygasaccharomyces

MoldsAsperhillus,  Alihia, Bettsia alvei, Cephalosporium, Chaetomium, Coniothecium, Hormiscium, Peyronelia Peronsporoceae, Triposporium,  Uredianceae, Ustilaginaceae

Most of us know that microbes do not usually grow in honey. Honey lasts forever it seems on the shelf. The most interesting thing I found in the article was that when honey was diluted with water, it supported the growth of non-pathogenic bacterial strains and killed the dangerous strains. The original researcher concluded from their various experiments that the concern of honey as a carrier of various diarrheal infections is only a slight possibility. I had to wonder if they were missing the boat completely and rather than worrying about it being a carrier of dangerous microbes, perhaps we should be considering a vehicle of health.

Honey has been used for centuries on infected wounds. The antimicrobial effect has been attributed to: 

1) Osmotic effects - Osmotic effects would remove moisture from a wound and keep bacteria from growing.

2) Acidity - The acidity of honey is 3.2-4.5 which is a range most bacteria can't grow in.

3) Hydrogen peroxide - hydrogen peroxide is produced enzymatically in honey by a bee induced reaction. The hydrogen peroxide and acidity grows on dilution of honey which acts antimicrobially but there is not enough to cause tissue damage.

4)Phytochemical factors - Many complex phenols and organic acids (flavonoids) are in honey.

I have not seen anyone considering the fact that healthy bacteria in the honey might add to its effect. Additional thoughts are that the honey has a local effect on white blood cells that causes them to proliferate. Cytokines released from a white blood cell called a monocyte are also found to increase locally.

The article mentioned, Pure honey has been shown to be bactericidal to many pathogenic microorganisms including Salmonella spp, Shigella spp; other enteropthogens like Escherichia coli, Vibrio cholerae and other Gram negative and Gram positive organisms.

I would keep in mind that different kinds of honey from different plants and collected at different times or in different areas of the world will have different antimicrobial abilities or lack thereof. 

Honey is fascinating, magical stuff that is definitely one of the many gifts I thank spirit for.




4 comments:

  1. It looks like one of the bacterium in honey IS e coli, so how is it bactericidal to it?

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    1. E. coli in honey is usually going to be added due to unsanitary manufacturing processes. As I mention above, this is not raw honey taken from your own hive that you are careful with. The research is even a little sketchy that this was taken from. It looks like they mixed data about bacteria found in bees and that found in various honeys together. I won't go into the details but you can trace it all to the original articles listed as references in the article I link to above. A lot of the honey on the market in the U.S. is pasturized and all the original bacteria and enzymes that I and other people are eating it for is not available in this pasturized honey. When you pasturize milk, or honey etc "good bacteria" are killed as well as other constituents that can keep "bad bacteria" in check. Then dirty manufacturing processes of the company selling the honey can add bacteria to the honey. However, something I did not mention above that is interesting, is that researchers have found some of these bacteria can disappear from the honey over time also. Honey is an under-researched food product and I would love to see more data on it. The data available is a bit sketchy. All food products can get contaminated, but with other foods those bacteria can quickly grow out of hand. Honey has a long history of safety and not growing dangerous bacteria. This research is presenting some interesting ideas as far as why that might be.

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  3. Dr. Tilgner, I am curious if you have further experience with this now that it has been about a year since this post.

    I began consuming fermented foods several months ago after years of horrendous and seemingly untreatable bowel problems. Kefir and kombucha have been a life-saver for me and seem to have cured what my gastroenterologist couldn't with modern pharmaceuticals. My husband is an apiarist and believes some of his honey has fermented. Apiarists seem conflicted over whether fermented honey should be discarded, but I was hesitant to throw it out considering my own experience with fermented foods in addition to the fact that his honey is typically low in water content (high water content is likely to cause spoilage).

    Without further information, my own lay-opinion is that if it smells like honey or smells like yeast (bready), I am willing to consume it. If it smells like sewage, I would discard it. This is hardly an informed choice, though, and I would love further information and recommendations for further reading.

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