Pharmacognosy of Honey


Madhu, Honey purified, Mel

Biological Sources

Honey is a sugar secretion deposited in honey comb by the bees, Apis Mellifera, Apis Dorsata and other species of Apis, Belonging to family Apidae, order Hymenoptera.

Geographical Source

Honey is produced in Africa, Australia, New Zealand, California & India.

Preparation for the Market

The Nectar of the followers is a watery solution containing 25% sucrose and 75% water. The worker bee sucks this nectar through its hollow tube of mouth (Proboscis) and deposits in honey-sac located in abdomen. The enzyme invertase present in saliva of the bees converts nectar into invert sugar, which is partially utilised by the bee and the remaining is deposited into honey comb. Hindi comb is smoked to remove the bees and honey is obtained by applying the pressure to its or allowing it to drain naturally. The honey of commercial is heated to 80°C and allowed to stand. The impurities which float over the surface are skimmed off and liquid diluted with water to produce honey of 1.35 density. Natural honey has density of 1.47 . Many a time honey is extracted from the comb by centrifuge. It must be free from foreign substances. Honey is liable to fermentation, unless it is suitably processed. Honey is heated 80°C before it is sent to the market, so as to avoid fermentation. It should be cooled rapidly or else it darkens in colour in keeping. If necessary (and if not prepared by centrifugation method), honey is required to be filtered through wet cloth or flannel.


Colour: pressure yellow to yellowish-brown

Odour: Characteristic, pleasant.

Taste: sweet and faintly acid.


Weight per ml: 1.35 to 1.35 g

Specific rotation: +3° to -10°

Total ash value: 0.1 to 0.8%

Chemical constituents

Honey is an aqueous solution of glucose 35% (±3%), fructose 45% (±5%) and sucrose about 2%. The proportion of sugar may vary depending upon the source of nectar and the enzymatic activity responsible for converting nectar into the honey. The other constituents of honey are maltose, gum, traces of succinic acid, acetic acid, dextrin, formic acid, colouring matters, enzymes (invertase, diastase, inulase) and traces of vitamins. Proteins and pollen grains from various flowers are also found in honey.

Since, honey is a saturated solution of sugar in keeping it starts crystallising. A product which contains crystallised dextrose is called as granulated honey. Heating of honey serves the purpose of minimising the Granulation.

Artificial invert sugar an adulterant of honey contains furfural which is detected by Fiehe’s test. It gives instant red colour with resorcinol in hydrochloric acid.

Chemical tests

Test for reducing sugar is positive


Honey is used as a demulcent and sweetening agent it is readily assimilated and hence is a good nutrient to infants and patients. It is antiseptic and applied to burns and wounds. It is a common ingredient of several cough mixtures, cough drops, and vehicle for ayurvedic formulations. Recently it is used in preparation is creams, lotion, soft drinks and candies also.