The healing properties of honey were demonstrated in a study comparing honey treatment to that of silver sulfadiazine, the standard treatment, for burn victims. The results show that honey treatments result in a much greater sterility of the wounds, a faster rate of healing, and a faster onset of healing. These experiments not only showed that honey is superior to standard treatments, but also better than artificial honey made from the sugars, but omitting the glucose oxidase, hydrogen peroxide, flavonoids, and other minor components of honey.
Unsurprisingly, these comprise the major portion of honey - about 82%. The carbohydrates present are the
monosaccharides fructose (38.2%) and glucose (31%); and
disaccharides (~9%) sucrose, maltose, isomaltose, maltulose, turanose and kojibiose. There are also some
oligosaccharides present (4.2%), including erlose, theanderose and panose, formed from incomplete breakdown of the higher saccharides present in nectar and honeydew.
Proteins and Amino Acids
Honey contains a number of enzymes, including invertase, which converts sucrose to glucose and fructose; amylase, which breaks starch down into smaller units; glucose oxidase, which converts glucose to gluconolactone, which in turn yields gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide; catalase, which breaks down the peroxide formed by glucose oxidase to water and oxygen; and acid phosphorylase, which removes inorganic phosphate from organic phosphates.
Honey also contains eighteen free amino acids, of which the most abundant is
Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants
Honey contains trace amounts of the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. It also contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and the minerals calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, selenium, chromium and manganese.
The main group of antioxidants in honey are the
flavonoids, of which one, pinocembrin, is unique to honey and bee propolis. Ascorbic acid, catalase and selenium are also antioxidants. Generally speaking, the darker the honey, the greater its antioxidising properties.
Honey also contains organic acids such as acetic, butanoic, formic, citric, succinic, lactic, malic, pyroglutamic and gluconic acids, and a number of aromatic acids. The main acid present is gluconic acid, formed in the breakdown of glucose by glucose oxidase. Honey also contains
hydroxymethylfurfural, a natural product of the breakdown of simple sugars below pH 5.