Raw Honey Facts

Raw honey contains a number of different enzymes. But what exactly is raw honey? It’s honey that has never been heated above the temperature of the beehive. When raw honey is heated above this temperature, so that it might be poured into containers, it loses all of its health benefits. Raw honey is almost always in a solid or crystallized form. Cooked honey loses its crystal structure and becomes a liquid.

The bees introduce some of the enzymes, found in raw honey, while others are found in the nectar. Because of the different nectar sources, as with other aspects of honey, the enzyme activity will also vary greatly in different honeys. Honeydew honey has high enzyme activity while arbutus honey has virtually no enzyme activity because it’s produced in late autumn and over-wintering bees have reduced gland activity.

Enzymes in Honey

Raw honey contains the following enzymes: diastase, invertase, catalase, glucose oxidase, acid phosphatase, and inulase, which aid in digestion and assimilation. Diastase and invertase have received the most attention and study of all the enzymes. They’re introduced to the honey by the bees and their presence varies. Factors that can affect their presence are presumed to be the nectar composition, the age of the bees and the nectar flow. An intense nectar flow with a high concentration will have a low diastase and invertase activity.

The nectar is mixed with secretions from the salivary and hypopharyngeal glands of foraging bees. In the hive, the nectar is passed from bee to bee and more secretions are added before it’s stored in the cells. Thus the amount of enzymes present is due to the age, diet and physiological stage of the bees (when a bee is a forager its glands produce more digestive enzymes), strength of the colony, temperature of the hive and nectar flow and its sugar content.

Diastase in Honey

Diastase is an enzyme, which converts starch to dextrins and sugars, and is introduced into the honey by the bees. Another name for diastase is amylase. Diastase is used as a freshness indicator in honey because it decreases in old or heated honey. The presence of diastase in honey used as a sweetener in foods containing starch has been reported to cause the food to lose its viscosity.

Invertase in Honey

Invertase is the enzyme found in honey that converts sucrose in nectar to glucose and fructose. Because most ripe honey has very little sucrose, usually less than 5 percent, the enzyme’s work is done early in the life of the honey. Another name for invertase is sucrase.

Invertase activity greatly varies in different types of honey. Honeydew honey has the highest level of invertase activity. Invertase, as diastase, is also used as an indicator of honey freshness because of the same reasons that diastase is used. Because invertase is more susceptible to heat the best indicator is a ratio of the two enzymes.