Fermented foods have made a big splash for their benefits to health and digestion. With the popularity of organic foods such as honey already at an all-time high, you may be wondering whether fermented honey is safe to eat and whether it has any benefits.
Fermented honey is safe to eat unless you already have allergies to honey or need to watch your sugar intake due to diabetes. Too much honey can be bad for your blood sugar levels and teeth, but in moderation, fermented honey is good for your health and digestion.
Fermenting is a process that extends the shelf-life of some foods, but it also distinctly changes the taste of the product. So, why would you want to ferment honey, and in what way can it be used beneficially?
Is Fermented Honey Safe To Eat?
Honey has been consumed for millenniums, with many historical artifacts suggesting that humans have sought out and gathered honey to eat it as far back as 8,000 years ago. And we know from unearthing jars of the stuff at archeological digs in Egypt that it remains edible when stored adequately for ages.
But what is fermented honey, and why would you want to let honey go bad intentionally?
Firstly, sometimes honey with a high moisture content ferments on its own, especially when conditions are suitable for this – meaning it is warm enough to encourage the process to occur.
Humans have recently discovered that the benefits of fermented foods such as kimchis and sauerkrauts extend to health and digestive benefits, not just the joys of fermented grains responsible for beers and ales. So, does fermented honey offer similar benefits, and is it safe for anyone to eat it?
What Is Fermented Honey, And Is It Edible?
Fermenting honey happens when raw honey is exposed to warmth and moisture, allowing the fermentation process to begin. This occurs through a process called fermentation, which has long been a way of preserving food. Beer, wine, sauerkraut, and kimchi are good examples of intentionally fermented products. So too can honey be fermented.
What Is Fermentation?
It’s important to know what this process is as fermented products’ potential health benefits stem from how they are made. In fermentation, yeasts, bacteria, mold, or even fungi are used to break down starches and sugars into acids or alcohol. The product’s structure is changed in the process – grain becomes beer, for example.
Not only does this result in a food or drink with a different flavor, aroma, or texture, but it also helps it to remain edible for longer. It contains desirable enzymes and vitamins that can benefit you. The exact process can be applied to honey, a natural product rich in sugars and carbohydrates.
How Is Fermented Honey Made?
Fermented honey is also known as baker’s honey. It is made when moisture is added to it, which allows the enzymes and naturally-occurring yeasts to start fermenting the honey. This is spurred on by warmth, which encourages the fermentation process.
The only time honey won’t ferment like this is if it has been pasteurized. Pasteurization is a process by which honey is exposed to high heat that destroys the yeasts inherent to the sweet nectar – this actively prevents fermentation.
Sometimes the fermentation process can be unintentional – a half-eaten jar of honey left in warm and humid environments can start to ferment on its own. For those who want to ferment honey themselves, it’s an easy process.
Start with raw, unpasteurized honey. The idea is to use honey that has been minimally processed with the highest quantity of sugars and yeasts still present. Add approximately one part water to eight parts honey, and stir. Leave this in a warm part of your kitchen without screwing the lid back on. Make sure to stir it at least once a day.
You will soon notice the honey starts to bubble up and have a yeast-like, almost sour smell – if you taste it, it will be sweet and tangy and have a spongy texture. This is fermented honey and can be used in a variety of ways.
Is Fermented Honey Safe To Eat?
The process of fermentation doesn’t make honey unsafe to consume. Eating it has no negative side effects unless you are already allergic to honey itself or should be avoiding honey entirely. It’s pretty rare for people to have an allergy to honey and honey products, but some people are. Here are some concerns about consuming honey that applies to fermented honey, too:
- Honey allergies: Those who have an actual allergy to honey and honey products can display side effects that can be serious. These include anaphylaxis, rashes, facial swelling, nausea, vomiting, and even shock.
- Botulism: This is a condition that infants are vulnerable to when they consume a bacterial spore which can sometimes be found in honey. For this reason, honey – and fermented honey by extensions – are not safe to feed to children under one year of age.
- Diabetes: Elevated blood sugar levels are a natural consequence of consuming honey, honey products, and fermented honey. People with diabetes should consume honey with caution – while small amounts may be safe, they should be carefully monitored at all times.
Always consult a medical professional first. Similarly, large quantities of honey consumed over time may actually lead to a higher risk of developing diabetes thanks to an increase in the levels of hemoglobin A1C.
- Diarrhea and food poisoning: In some cases, too much honey can also trigger a runny tummy, thanks to incomplete fructose absorption. A rare concern is that honey may cause food poisoning due to other contaminants in humans’ handling process.
- Teeth: If you consume honey frequently, the high sugar content can be bad for your teeth, eating through the enamel and causing cavities.
- Bleeding disorders: A more severe issue from honey itself is that in some cases, people with bleeding disorders found that honey inhibited blood coagulation. There isn’t anything concrete to suggest honey is responsible, but it is safer to check with a professional if you have this risk.
Are There Any Benefits To Fermented Honey?
On the positive side, honey has been used for ages for its beneficial properties, extending the benefits of fermented honey. The following are advantages to eating honey and fermented honey products:
- Honey is a good source of antioxidants and has a high nutritional content. Raw honey contains elements such as zinc, potassium, niacin manganese, magnesiuim, and calcium. This should provide a boost to your immune system. Remember, antioxidants work to prevent heart disease, too.
- Honey is a known antibacterial and has antifungal properties, which can be used when eaten or as a dressing or salve on wounds. The latter is particularly effective since it also has antimicrobial properties that promote wound healing. While fermented honey would clearly offer the same benefits, you wouldn’t need to ferment the honey for this specifically.
- Honey, especially when fermented, has been known to be a valuable digestive aid as it contains prebiotics that feeds the good bacteria lining the intestines.
- Research has also shown that honey soothes a sore throat, eases coughing, and has been used to treat upper respiratory tract infections over the years. Many medications include honey for its anti-inflammatory properties when healing a sore throat. A teaspoon of honey does wonders for a rough, burning throat!
- Due to being high in natural sugars, honey also acts as a natural energy booster to prevent fatigue. Because glucose in honey is quickly absorbed while fructose provides longer-lasting energy, honey also helps regulate blood sugar levels.
- Some experts also believe that serotonin is released when honey is consumed, which is converted into melatonin by the body, which helps to regulate sleep. Adding some honey to your tea can help improve the quality and duration of sleep.
- Weight loss benefits of honey have also been widely studied, as it helps to encourage metabolism and deal with cellulite. Honey is also known to regulate the appetite, allowing you to binge less. Adding some honey to your meals will also help curb a sweet tooth, and replacing all refined sugars with honey will be beneficial in the long run.
- There is more to honey than its medicinal benefits, though; honey also acts as a fantastic moisturizer. Using honey to wash your hair has also been known to reduce dandruff and promote smooth, silky hair without drying out your locks. Fermentation wouldn’t have any effect on this, though you could safely use it as is.
What Can You Do With Fermented Honey?
Honey, in general, is wonderfully multifaceted. While uses of honey stretch from topical applications for wounds and burns to spreading it on your skin as part of your beaty regimen, fermented honey is mainly consumed.
There is no need to ferment honey if you’re not going to eat or drink it, so let’s look at some of the best ways to use it specifically.
Best Ways To Use Fermented Honey
Some of the best ways to use honey that has fermented include:
- Food additive: Fermented honey, despite its more sour taste, still goes very well with smoothies, over fruit, yogurt, cereal, or even oatmeal. It can be added to marinades, sauces, dressings, or drizzled over desserts.
- Combination fermentation: Combining honey with vegetables, fruits, or herbs will double down on the benefits inherent in those items during the fermentation process. Think ginger, garlic, rosemary, and the like.
- Drinks: Fermented honey is an excellent addition to cocktails, punches, or even mead. It adds depth and flavor, as well as the benefits mentioned above.
Fermented Honey Recipe Ideas
Here are some easy and quick recipes to use with fermented honey.
- Combination of fermented honey and garlic: Add a few peeled garlic cloves to the jar before fermenting the honey. Add the required moisture and let it sit. Once it has fermented, it creates a unique and memorable taste that will flavor various dishes. Drizzle over meat dishes, vegetables, or salads.
- Fermented honey marinade: Use fermented honey, garlic, and a selection of herbs together with soy sauce and chopped chili to marinate the meat before stir-frying it for a delicious, savory flavor.
- Mead or punch: Once the honey has fermented sufficiently, add ice blocks, lemonade, or soda water for a light delicious drink. You can even spruce it up with pieces of fruit, lilac or rose petals, or a combination of herbs.
Fermented honey, like any product that contains sugars and carbohydrates, is safe to eat in moderate quantities. Excessive consumption of any honey product is not recommended as it may increase your blood sugar levels, affect your weight, and negatively impact the health of your teeth.
But when added to food or drink in moderation, you can benefit from the digestive, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties inherent to honey.