Mel. Honey. Mel Depuratum, B.P., Clarified Honey.

Botanical name: 

Related entry: Beeswax

Honey is a saccharine secretion deposited in the honeycomb of the bee, Apis mellifica, Linn. (Order Hymenoptera), the saccharine matter being extracted from the nectaries of flowers by the bee, the intestine of which contains invertin, a substance which converts cane sugar into the invert sugar found in honey. It is official in the U.S.P. The finest is that which is allowed to drain from the comb, and is known as virgin honey if it is obtained from hives which have never swarmed, but most of the honey of commerce is obtained by submitting the honeycomb to pressure, with or without the application of heat, or by extraction with a centrifuge. Honey occurs as a viscid, translucent, syrupy liquid, or soft, opaque and crystalline semi-solid, and varies in colour from white or pale yellowish to yellowish-brown or reddish-brown. Soluble in water. It has a characteristic aromatic odour, and a sweet, faintly acrid taste. It usually exhibits slight laevorotation. On incineration, it yields from 0.3 to 0.8 per cent. of ash.

Constituents.—The chief constituents of honey are about 70 to 80 per cent. of dextrose and levulose; other constituents are water, small quantities of cane sugar, dextrin, wax, proteins, volatile oil, and formic acid, while pollen, spores, and other flocculent matters are usually also present in suspension, and tend to induce fermentation.

Uses.—Honey is used in pharmacy chiefly in the form of Mel Depuratum.

Dose.—2 to 8 mils (½ to 2 fluid drachms).


Clarified honey or Mel Despumatum is prepared by melting honey on a water-bath, and straining through new flannel previously moistened with hot water. It is also official in the U.S.P. It occurs as a viscid, translucent liquid of a light yellowish or brownish-yellow colour, gradually becoming stiff and opaque owing to crystallisation of the grape sugar or dextrose. Specific gravity, about 1.4. It has a pleasant, characteristic odour, and a very sweet, faintly acid taste. The slight acidity is due to the presence of a minute quantity of formic acid, which acts as a preservative. If the honey contains excess of moisture, it is liable to fermentation in warm weather, the taste becoming pungent and the colour deeper. The aqueous solution has a faintly acid reaction to litmus, and is laevogyrate, or occasionally dextrogyrate, according to the nature of the food on which the bees have been fed. If absolute alcohol be carefully poured on to a 20 per cent. solution of the honey, there should be no permanent milky zone formed at the point of contact of the two liquids (absence of starch sugar). On pouring a 20 per cent. solution carefully on to pure sulphuric acid, there should be no immediate colouration at the point of contact, and at the end of one hour not more than a yellowish or clear brown zone (absence of cane sugar).

Readily soluble in water or diluted alcohol.

Action and Uses.—This is a convenient form of honey for use in liquid preparations as a demulcent and sweetening agent. It is employed in cough mixtures with expectorants and sedatives, and is a convenient vehicle for the application of borax to the mouth in aphthous conditions (see Mel Boracis). It is used in the preparation of oxymel, and to prepare confections.

Dose.—2 to 8 mils (½ to 2 fluid drachms).


Linctus Acidus, B.P.C.—ACID LINCTUS.
Each fluid drachm contains 20 minims of oxymel, 5 minims of diluted sulphuric acid, 2 minims of emulsion of chloroform; with treacle. Dose.—2 to 4 mils (½ to 1 fluid drachm).
Oxymel, B.P.—OXYMEL.
Clarified honey, liquefied, by weight, 80; acetic acid, 10; distilled water, sufficient to produce about 100. Mix the honey with the acid and add about 10 of distilled water, or sufficient to produce a preparation of specific gravity 1.320. Oxymel is employed in gargles and cough mixtures, and is a domestic remedy for colds and sore throats. Dose.—4 to 8 mils (1 to 2 fluid drachms).

The British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1911, was published by direction of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.