Is there a Magical Potion?
Have you ever wondered if there is a medicine that helps your body but tastes amazing at the same time? Have you ever wondered if there is a special liquid gel that kills bacteria and heals a wound quickly? Have you ever wondered if there is something that slows the break down of your skin but speeds up the rebuilding process? Have you ever wondered about a snack that tastes great but is good for your body as well? There's no magic involved; the answer to these questions is quite simple: Honey. Honey is created from fructose, glucose, and many other complex sugars such as sucrose. Water and special enzymes created by bees are also included in the mixture. The main difference between honey from other sweeteners are the enzymes contained within. Honey has many enzymes, and invertase, diastase, and the Glucose oxidase, are the most important. “The enzyme Glucose oxidase, for example, produces gluconic acid and mild hydrogen peroxide” (White and Doner). This enzyme is utilized as a preserving effect, which can help slow the decomposition process of an organic material.
How does osmosis in honey stop the decomposition process?
Organic matter can decompose two ways:
AEROBIC with oxygen present.
ANAEROBIC without oxygen present.
Decomposition happens much faster with oxygen present; but an organic material without oxygen present will decompose much more slowly. Organic acids and ammonia are created by
microorganisms to decompose an organic material with or without oxygen present. Oxygen accelerates the decomposition process; the more oxygen present, the faster an organic material will decompose. Moisture is needed for microbe activity to eat away at the organic material. Fungi are also present in the decomposition process, such as mold, eating away at the organic material, growing and colonizing. “Microorganisms are needed to decompose any organic material” (Aggie Horticulture). An organic material covered in honey cannot decompose normally due to the fact that the honey will leave little moisture, not allow microorganisms in the honey to start decomposing (because it dehydrates the microorganisms as they enter), and will not allow any oxygen present which in turn will slow the decomposition process.
Why is honey considered a good natural preservative? “Honey is made of sugars, mainly fructose and glucose, with very little liquid content” (White and Doner). Honey is “hygroscopic” meaning it can absorb liquid moisture from its environment. With its low water content, microorganisms will be sucked dry because of osmosis killing any intruders that enter; and any bacteria for that matter. “The preserving effect honey has is caused by its low water content and hydrogen peroxide which prevents bacteria from getting in and spoiling” (White and Doner). Being ahead of their time, the 1st century Romans used honey by putting it on meat to prevent it from spoiling quickly, making good use of its preserving qualities. The only way honey can spoil is if light and heat touch it, “...but almost all honey can withstand heat and light and will not lose the preserving effect it has” (Airborne Honey). Bacteria are single celled organisms that play the main part of decomposing an organic matter. Seeming to never stop, the bacteria will eat nearly anything living or dead because of the enzymes they contain. Bacteria grow by a process called “binary fission”. This type of reproduction is the splitting of a single-celled bacterium into two. Bacteria can reach almost any organic material by wind or water. “The fact that bacteria need to eat organic matter means that when entering honey, which prevents bacteria from moving, the bacteria cannot eat and will simply die due to the osmosis process” (Aggie Horticulture). This is why honey is incredibly difficult to spoil.
Why are the enzymes in honey so important? Honey, with its sweet taste, comes with a gift produced from the bees, which are enzymes. Enzymes are the only and most important factor in honey, making it different than other sweeteners. The enzymes that bees put in honey are very complex proteins that under certain conditions bring a chemical change. “Being very difficult to produce, enzymes are so complex that it is hard to produce them in a laboratory without the help from bees” (White and Doner). There are many different enzymes in honey but the most important are these listed: diastase, invertase, and glucose oxidase. Converting starch and sugar makes diastase one of the most important enzymes. Invertase is the primary enzyme that converts sucrose from nectar into glucose and fructose. Glucose oxidase is by far the most important enzyme in honey. Glucose oxidase chemically converts the sugar glucose into gluconic acid and into hydrogen peroxide.
“Gluconic acid is the acid that is found most in honey” (Airborne Honey). Hydrogen peroxide is important to the honey because it keeps bacteria away, preventing decomposition. Another complex enzyme, hydrogen peroxide, also cannot be tested in a laboratory. Gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide are slowly created by the enzyme glucose oxidase keeping the anti-bacteria effect in place and making the honey slow to decompose. As well as preventing decomposition of an organic material, material covered in honey will not spoil for a long time. The organic material can get helpful enzymes from the honey as well.
The osmosis, preserving effect, and enzymes that honey has makes it not only a healthy snack or treat but also an anti-bacterial, cell repairing, glucose filled sweetener. The osmosis draws the liquid out of any microorganisms that enter; the preserving effect makes honey able to be stored for extended periods; and the enzymes in honey not only prevents bacteria from forming, but also will repair or give a boost to cells. The amazing osmosis, preserving effect, and enzymes in honey will make an organic matter of any sort decompose much slower keeping moisture, bacteria, oxygen, and microorganisms vital to decomposition out of the material. Bees have created a “magical potion” that can be ingested or put on an organic living surface, such as skin, to repair and strengthen the cells. An amazingly wonderful natural substance, honey will last nearly forever, stop decomposition, and the enzymes are so complex that laboratories are having a hard time replicating them. And it all starts with the simple bee.
Anjela. “Preserving food.... The Sticky Way!” October 1, 2009. sweetascanbeehoneyfarm. January 11, 2010 <http://sweetascanbeehoneyfarm.com/2009/10/preserving-food-the-sticky-way/>.
Aiborne Honey. “Honey Enzymes”August 21, 2009. Airborne Honey. January 1, 2010. <http://www.airborne.co.nz/Enzymes.html>.
J. W. White, JR. and Landis W. Doner. “Honey Composition and Properties”. October 1980. Bee Source. 2010 January 10. <http://www.beesource.com/resources/usda/honey-composition-and-properties/>.
Terry Watkins. “Decomposition”. Science of encyclopedia. January 10, 2010. <http://science.jrank.org/pages/1967/Decomposition.html>.
Texas AgriLife Extension Service. “Chapter 1 The Decomposition Process”. February 2009.Aggie-Horticulture. January 10, 2010. <http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/compost/chapter1.html>.
Rachel Tsoumbakos. “Why is Honey Considered a Preservative”. September 7, 2009.Suite101.com. January 10,2010. <http://natural-products.suite101.com/article.cfm/honey_as_a_natural_preservative>.
*Carla*. “There are a few reason why Honey is good for your skin”. March 30, 2009. Askwille by Amazon. January 11, 2010. <http://askville.amazon.com/honey-skin/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=42731755>.
Honey picture made by “Independent Nature” http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/the-great-honey-drought-924510.html
Enzyme picture made by “Innovations Report” <http://www.innovations-report.de/html/berichte/biowissenschaften_chemie/bericht-17279.html>