Clostridium botulinum spores in honey.

Botanical name: 

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
Subject: Re: Medicinal Uses of Honey, Babies and Botulism
From: Geri Guidetti <>
Date: 11 Mar 1996 19:12:20 GMT

>>Honey can also be used as a medium for extracting herbs. Esp. those which are strong flavored, such as garlic and bitter roots. Then, you just have to take a spoonful to get dosage. Nice with children (who are old enough to safely take honey).
> How do you extract herbs using honey? This would be very handy with my 18 month old because she's had a cough, no other symptoms, for the longest time and I'd like to try making something for her that she can handle. I've tried mixing powders with honey and that works fairly well. Any advice appreciated.

In the early '80s it was discovered that honey actually contained, naturally, the spores of the botulism bacterium, Clostridium botulinum. These spores are everywhere in nature, but especially in soils and on everything that ultimately comes from soil. Bees tending flowers inadvertently carry the spores to the hive and they get into the honey.

This is not a problem for grown folks, but several babies at that time were dying of botulism and had, in common, been drinking honey-sweetened liquids in bottles. It seems that the babies' intestines were sufficiently small, oxygen free, and low in acid, that they provided a nearly perfect environment for the spores to germinate and the resulting bacteria to release its deadly toxin into the poor kids' blood streams. Scary!

This is just what these spores do in non-acidic canned foods. In effect, the kids' bodies were acting like contaminated cans of green beans! The CDC, at the time, confirmed that honey was the culprit and suggested that young children not be given honey.As a science correspondent,I covered the story for a newspaper. Now, I don't recall the cut-off age concerning when it would be okay to start with honey. If you have an up-to-date pediatrician, I would ask that question. It is serious stuff and worth the time to find the correct answer.

From: Geri Guidetti <>

>From what I've read, 1 year old is the generally agreed upon age, after which, honey is considered "safe". Please correct me if I'm wrong on this. Also, I have heard that if honey is heated to a rapid boil for 1 minute, in a solution (such as a cough syrup) that it also will kill any harmful micro-organisms. I still prefer to wait until a child is over 1, which was the case in this question. If others have additional or different knowledge, please do advise!

Boiling for 10 minutes of any Clostridium botulinum infected food will kill the exotoxin secreted by the bacteria in the food. BUT...any further existing bacterial spores still present in the food, honey in this case, will NOT be killed by boiling for ANY length of time. The spores are built by nature to be highly heat and drought resistant, among other things.They must be killed only under pressure (2 Atmospheres) where much higher than boiling temperatures can be reached. It is simply not worth the risk of giving an infant honey, boiled or not. Again, the cut-off date has slipped my mind. The reference was the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Report in an early 80's issue. These are archived. A call to CDC or visit to their internet address should help to flush it out if it is important to the questioner. Hope this clears things up, as it is MOST important that it be understood.