Is Cooked Honey Harmful?

I’ve heard about the toxic nature of heated honey, according to Ayurveda, as I’m sure you have too. I thought I’d dig a little deeper into the subject for this blog post.

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First, let’s see what Ayurveda says about cooked honey. As per this article on Speaking Tree, “Honey becomes toxic when cooked. Cooked or heated honey takes long to digest and its molecules become glued to stick to mucous membrane and lock fine channels, producing poison.” Most other sources have similar statements. Unfortunately, I don’t have any authoritative links for Ayurveda. If you have any online repositories, please do let me know.

To verify this, I looked up this paper that specifically sought to clarify Ayurvedic claims of the toxic properties of cooked honey. As per the paper’s abstract, “Honey and ghee are the two food substances used widely in our diet. In Ayurveda, it is quoted that heated honey and honey mixed with equal amount of ghee produce deleterious effects. Hence, it was of our interest to study the physicochemical characteristics and chemical constituents of heated honey and honey mixed with ghee, and their effect on daily food intake and organ weights of rats.”

The conclusion of this piece of research was, as per the same abstract, “The feeding of heated honey and honey mixed with ghee for 6 weeks showed no significant change in the food intake, weight gain and relative organ weights. The study revealed that the heated honey mixed with ghee produces HMF which may cause deleterious effects.”

So, while there were no real issues found, a compound called HMF or hydroxymethyl furfuraldehyde was found, which is the subject of various studies to determine its toxicity and effects on human health. 

To verify the effects of HMF on human health, I looked up the National Toxicity Program, which contains information on a number of chemical compounds. 

After a long, detailed read, it appears that while HMF does indeed cause some degree of damage in humans, the document goes on to say, “These results suggest that HMF does not pose a serious health risk, even though the highest concentrations in specific foods approach the biologically effective concentration range in cell systems.” There’s more in the form of an abstract here, if you’re interested.

Recap: Honey, as per Ayurveda, is said to be toxic when heated. The heating of honey among other sugar compounds causes the formation of HMF (hydroxymethyl furfuraldehyde). HMF is said to be toxic for humans. Further reading found that while HMF does cause damage to human health, it is not significant.

Conclusion: The consumption of heated honey doesn’t significantly affect human health.

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