Mel. U. S. Honey. Mel Depuratum. Clarified Honey.

Botanical name: 


U. S. Honey.

"A saccharine secretion deposited in the honey-comb by the bee, Apis mellifera Linné (Fam. Apidae)." U. S.

Miel, Fr. Cod.; Mel, P. G.; Honig, G.; Miele, It.; Miel, Sp.

From the nectaries of various flowers the bee and other insects extract a thin, aqueous fluid, nearly without flavor and insipidly sweet, usually known as nectar. As honey is made out of this substance it is very much affected by the character of the nectar, so that the nature of the plants which predominate in the vicinity of the hive is a matter of great importance to the bee culturist, not only in regard to the flavor of the honey which is yielded, but even to its freedom from poisonous qualities, cases having been reported from time to time of poisoning produced by the eating of honey which had not been tampered with after extraction from the hive. In the United States honey made by the bee from the flowers of the Mountain Laurel (Kalmia) is especially poisonous. See N. J. M. K., 1852, 46; "Poisonous Honey," by L. F. Kebler, Proc. A. Ph. A., 1896, 167; H. Bley, Ph. Ztg., Nov., 1885. The latter states that Datura Stramonium and Gelsemium are for honey making especially dangerous plants. The nectar when taken in by the bee is chemically changed by secretions from glands in the head and thorax, levulose, dextrose, and rarely sucrose being formed. The finest honey is that which is allowed to drain from the comb. If obtained from hives that have never swarmed, it is called virgin honey. An inferior kind is procured by submitting the comb to pressure, and if heat be employed previous to expression, the product is still more impure. The honey which is most highly esteemed is that made from the nectar of the white clover blossom. Equally valuable is the honey derived from raspberry blossoms and bass-wood flowers. The honey made late in the summer from the flowers of the buckwheat is darker in color. The largest producer of honey in the United States is California. The United States is said to be the greatest honey producing region on the globe, the annual production being between 60,000,000 and 75,000,000 pounds annually. Nearly 2,000,000 pounds of wax are also produced in this country.

Propolis is a resinous substance, deposited by bees at the base of the hive, and in other parts which require protection from the outer air, of a nature entirely different from that of wax or honey, and supposed to be intended for the protection of the comb from injurious agencies. H. 0. Hitchcock (Chicago Med. Journ., 1867) considers it one of the best remedies in diarrhea and dysentery. It is of a dark reddish or yellowish-brown color, of a shining fracture, an aromatic taste and odor, quite insoluble in water, nearly so in ether, but readily dissolved by alcohol and solution of potassium hydroxide. Hitchcock used a tincture (two drachms of propolis and four fluidounces of alcohol) in doses of from thirty minims to a fluidrachm (1.8-3.75 mils).

Bee bread is the name given to a material found in some of the cells of the comb, consisting mainly of the pollen of plants. (Chicago Med. Examiner, Sept., 1865.) Jas. S. Whitmire found that in the dose of a drachm (3.9 Gm.) three times a day it caused great increase of the urinary secretion. No disagreeable affects followed its use, except a slight flatulency and looseness of the bowels. It is entirely palatable and inoffensive to the stomach. (A. J. P., 1866.)

Eucalyptus Honey, or Black Honey.—This honey, a detailed description of which may be found in U. S. D., 16th ed., appears to have been not a natural but a sophisticated article.

In the recent state honey is fluid, but on being kept it is apt to form a crystalline deposit, and to be ultimately converted into a soft granular mass. In commerce it is found of every consistence, from that of a viscid liquid, like thin syrup or oil, to that of lard or soft suet. Its color is sometimes white, but usually yellowish, and occasionally of a brownish or reddish tinge. It has a peculiar agreeable odor, varying somewhat with the flowers from which it was collected, and a very sweet, feebly aromatic taste. which is followed by a slight prickling or sense of acridity in the fauces. Cold water dissolve's it readily, alcohol with less facility. "Honey is a thick, syrupy liquid of a light yellowish or yellowish-brown color, translucent when fresh, but gradually becoming opaque and crystalline; having a characteristic odor, and a sweet, faintly acrid taste. It is slightly acid to litmus and is laevorotatory. Dilute Honey with twice its weight of water; the resulting liquid is only moderately turbid, not stringy, and has a specific gravity of not less than 1.099 at 25° C. (77° F.) (corresponding to a specific gravity of not less than 1.370 for the original Honey). Incinerate about 1 Gm. of Honey, accurately weighed, in a platinum crucible, in small portions at a time; not more than 0.3 per cent. of ash remains. Separate portions of 5 mils each of a filtered aqueous solution of Honey (1 in 5) acidified with nitric acid, are not rendered more than slightly opalescent by the addition of a few drops of silver nitrate T.S. (chlorides), nor more than slightly cloudy by a few drops of barium chloride T.S. (sulphates). Boil about 2 Gm. of Honey with 10 mils of distilled water; the resulting solution, when cold, is not rendered blue, green or reddish on the addition of iodine T.S. (starch or dextrins). The color of an aqueous solution of Honey (1 in 2) is not changed at once when mixed with an equal volume of ammonia water (foreign coloring matter); 5 mils of an aqueous solution of Honey (1 in 2) does not at once acquire a red or rose color on the addition of a few drops of hydrochloric acid (azo dyes). A solution of 10 Gm. of Honey in 50 mils of distilled water requires not more than 0.5 mil of normal potassium hydroxide V.S. for neutralization, phenolphthalein T.S. being used as indicator. Triturate about 1 Gm. of Honey with 20 mils of ether in a mortar, filter it into a porcelain dish or crucible, allow the filtrate to evaporate and add to the residue one drop of resorcinol T.S. At most only a pink color may be produced, which disappears in half a minute, but not an orange," cherry, or brown-red color (artificial or added invert sugar)." U. S.

It is essentially a strong aqueous solution of mixed dextrose and levulose, amounting generally to from 70 to 80 per cent. According to Wm. A. Selser, who separated wax from honey on a large scale, the proportion of wax in the honey comb averages 1 per cent.; from 1500 pounds he obtained 14 1/4 pounds of wax by actual experiment. (A. J. P., 1904, 267.)

A large number of samples of genuine honey analyzed in 1897 for the Department of Inland Revenue, Canada (Bull. 47), showed the following variations:

Direct polarization, -2.4 to -19.
Invert polarization, -10.2 to -28.
Sucrose (by Clerget), 0.5 to 7.64 per cent.
Invert sugar, 60.37 to 78.8 per cent.
Water, 12 to 33 per cent.
Ash, 0.03 to 0.50 per cent.

Neufeld in Der Nahrungsmittelchemiker als Sachverstandiger, Berlin, 1907, p. 275, gives the following limits for pure honey of European origin:

Water 8.30 to 33.59 per cent.
Protein 0.03 to 2.67 per cent.
Invert sugar 49.59 to 93.96 per cent.
Sucrose 0.10 to 10.12 per cent.
Dextrin 0.99 to 9.70 per cent.
Formic acid 0.03 to 0.21 per cent.
Ash 0.02 to 0.68 per cent.

Browne has published a comprehensive article on American honey (U. S. Dept. Agric., Bur. of Chem., Bull. 110, 1908) of which the tabular analyses are given in Leach, Food Inspection and Analysis, 3d ed., p. 635.

The honey sugar may be obtained by treating granular honey with a small quantity of alcohol, which, when expressed, takes along with it the other ingredients, leaving the crystals nearly untouched. The same object may be attained by melting the honey, saturating its acid with calcium carbonate, filtering the liquid, then setting it aside to crystallize, and washing the crystals with alcohol. Inferior honey usually contains a large proportion of uncrystallizable sugar and vegetable acid. Diluted with water, honey undergoes the vinous fermentation. In warm weather, honey, itself, if not very pure, sometimes ferments, acquiring a pungent taste and deeper color. The presence of dextrin in pure honey seems to be established. G. L. Spencer (A. J. P., 1895, 27) has found as much as 4 per cent. of dextrin, and Haenie (Zeit. An. Chem., xciv, 99) has found that honey from Coniferae always contains dextrin. Kunnmann and Hilger (A. J. P., 1896, 570) state that dextrin is present in all honey, whether dextro-rotatory or laevo-rotatory, and claim to have identified it as achroo-dextrin. Müllenhoff believes that the honey is preserved in the sealed cells of the comb by the secretion with it of a minute quantity of formic acid, and has found by experiment that the addition of one part of 25 per cent. formic acid is sufficient to keep permanently 250 parts of honey, but in this' connection it should be remembered that the absence of contact with the air would account for the preservation of honey in the comb. Starch is said to be occasionally added to the inferior kinds to give them a white appearance. The adulteration may be detected by adding water, which dissolves the honey and leaves the starch at the bottom of the vessel. Dilution with water may be suspected from the greater thinness of the honey and its want of disposition to crystallize.

Honey is sometimes adulterated with artificial glucose. This cannot be detected by the official tests with certainty, but the safest method is to employ the polariscope. (See Leach, "Food Adulteration and Analysis.")

According to Oscar Haenie, glucose can also be detected by first dialyzing thoroughly and then polarizing, under which circumstance, if glucose be present, rotation to the right occurs; if the honey be pure the light is not affected. Undialyzed honey ordinarily polarizes to the left, but unadulterated conifer honeys are dextrogyrate. (P. J., xxi.)

Honey has been frequently adulterated with artificial invert sugar. This is best detected by the official method given above.

Uses.—Honey possesses the same medicinal properties as sugar, but is more disposed to affect the bowels. Though largely consumed as an article of food, it is seldom employed medicinally, except as a vehicle. Its taste and demulcent qualities render it a useful addition to gargles, and it is sometimes employed as an application to foul ulcers.

Off. Prep.—Mel Depuratum, U. S., Br.

Mel Depuratum. U. S., Br.

Clarified Honey. Mel Depurat. [Mel Despumatum, U. S. 1890]

"Purified Honey is honey of commerce melted and strained, the specific gravity, if necessary, being adjusted to 1.36 by the addition of Distilled Water." Br.

Purified Honey; Mellite simple, Fr. Cod.; Miel despume, Fr.; Mel depuratum, P. G.; Gereinigter Honig, G.; Miele depurate, It.; Miel depurada, Sp.

"Honey, a convenient quantity, Distilled Water, Glycerin, each, a sufficient quantity. Weigh the honey in a tared dish, mix it intimately with two per cent. of paper pulp, which has been previously reduced to shreds, thoroughly washed and soaked in water, and then strongly expressed and again shredded. Then heat on a water bath at a temperature not exceeding 70° C. (158° F.), and carefully remove the scum which rises to the surface. Add enough distilled water to make up the loss incurred by evaporation, strain, and mix the strained liquid with five per cent. of its weight of glycerine" U. S.

The U. S. method of clarifying honey was new as far as the Pharmacopoeia was concerned in 1890. Paper-pulp is very effective as a clarifying agent, and the glycerin offers some protection to the honey against change. Honey may be made brilliant by hot nitration through paper. (See Remington's Practice of Pharmacy, "Hot Filtration."

Honey, by the heat of the water bath, becomes so fluid that the wax and other lighter impurities which it contains rise to the surface and may be skimmed off, while the heavier substances which may have been accidentally or fraudulently added, such as sand or other earth, sink to the bottom. It is officially required that "Clarified Honey, diluted with twice its weight of water, has a specific gravity of not less than 1.095 at 25° C. (77° F.); in other respects it conforms to the tests for purity under Mel." U. S.

A neat method of separating is described in N. R., Feb., 1880. It is as follows: "Pour the honey into a perfectly clean cylindrical vessel, with straight sides, rather narrow, and having a small lip at the open margin, and heat the vessel on a water-bath. When the water is hot, pour enough honey into the vessel to fill it to within about 1 inch of the edge, and allow it to remain at rest in the water-bath, at a moderate heat, for about one hour. During this tune, most of the impurities will rise to the top, while some others may sink to the bottom. Now remove the vessel very carefully from the water-bath, and pour on top of the hot honey, very gently, a sufficient amount of cold water to fill the vessel completely. This will cause all the impurities floating on the honey to rise at once to the top of the cold water, where they will often solidify to a tough skin or cake, which may be taken off without difficulty. Then pour off the water through the lip, remove the last remnants, if necessary, by means of blotting paper, and filter the honey through a piece of well-washed, wetted, and dense white flannel. The resulting product—if the honey be pure—will be very brilliant." The French Codex directs one part of honey to be diluted with one part of distilled water. The specific gravity of this solution should be not less than 1.300.

(For other processes of purifying honey, see 14th edition of this work, p. 1321, also 19th ed., p. 775, and A. J. P., 1877, p. 19; also 1879, pp. 193, 598; and 1880, p. 132.) Heugel's method is to mix two pounds each of honey and water with a half-ounce of magnesium carbonate, frequently agitate for two or three hours, filter through doubled white filtering paper, boil slowly, remove the scum carefully, and evaporate upon a steam bath to a syrupy consistence. Dieterich recommends the following process: Mix the honey with sufficient water (the amount depending on the consistence), heat for about seven hours on a water bath, and clarify it with 5 per cent. of its weight of powdered talc, neutralize, if necessary, with magnesium carbonate; allow to deposit, filter, add a few drops of acetic acid, and evaporate to the proper specific gravity. (Ph. Ztg., 93, 712.)

The British Pharm. describes it as "a syrupy, translucent, pale yellowish liquid. Aromatic odor; taste at first sweet, afterwards faintly acrid. Specific gravity 1.36. Optical rotation at 15.5° C. (60° F.) of a solution in water, containing 25 grammes in 100 millilitres, decolorised by filtration with animal charcoal, in a tube 200 millimetres long, between 0° and -5° C. (32° and 23° F.); 5 millilitres of the same solution when mixed with 15 millilitres of absolute alcohol do not become more than faintly opalescent (absence of starch sugar). When 2 grammes are dissolved in 20 millilitres of boiling water and cooled, the solution does not become blue on the addition of one drop of N/10 solution of iodine (absence of starch). Ash not more than 0.25 per cent.; solution of the ash in water is not alkaline to litmus, and when acidified with nitric acid yields not more than a very faint opalescence with solution of barium chloride, or with solution of silver nitrate (limit of sulphates and of chlorides) ." Br.

Honey clarified with calcium carbonate and animal charcoal, or as in the first process described, is as clear and colorless as syrup made with sugar, but still retains a peculiar flavor. It is less disposed to ferment than crude honey, and is said not to be so liable to produce griping pain when swallowed.

Dose, one to four fluidrachms (3.75-15 mils).

Off. Prep.—Confectio Piperis, Br.; Mel Boracis, Br.; Mel Rosae, U. S.; Oxymel, Br.; Confectio Rosae, N. F.; Mel Sodii Boratis, N. F.

The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.