Every Indian household owns this natural, all-purpose ingredient, called HONEY. From children to a 90 years old grannie, honey is used by all. It’s not just a treat to satisfy a sweet tooth, but a magical ingredient with multi-purpose medicinal claims and super long shelf life.

 In fact, when it comes to the longevity of honey, some research studies have claimed that it is one of those rare food products that lasts forever and doesn’t spoil. While others say it depends on how it’s being stored. 

 Whatsoever it be, one thing is for sure honey has some exceptional properties that make it amazingly resilient in terms of its quality and shelf-life.

 Through this piece of writing, let’s try and explore what makes honey so incredibly buoyant and what’s the right way to store it, so that we can reap the most out of its health benefits.

Factors contributing to its eternal shelf life

Honey’s stable nature is due to a variety of factors and characteristics, but most importantly the credit goes to the unique chemical composition that makes it one of the most resilient foods out there. Let’s explore one after other:

1.) Being hygroscopic:

Honey is hygroscopic in nature i.e. it can absorb water/moisture, even from air. This is the foremost reason that there is no chance for honey deterioration as bacteria and other such microbes cannot thrive in a low-moisture environment.

2.) Made up of sugar:

Honey is made up of about 80% sugar, which creates a growth-inhibiting environment for many types of microbes, including fungi and bacteria, thus giving honey its long shelf life.

3.) Undergoes plasmolysis:

Due to the osmotic imbalance between bacterial cells and the high-concentrated surroundings, the bacterial cell loses all the water from the cytoplasm. This process — called plasmolysis — kills off all bacteria. This is honey’s another secret to not spoiling!

4.) Acidic in nature:

On a pH scale, honey stands somewhere between 3 to 4.5. This clearly means that honey is highly acidic in nature and anything that is acidic can not host bacterial or fungal growth. 

5.) Produces hydrogen peroxide:

When honey absorbs moisture, it naturally produces hydrogen peroxide, which is responsible for killing bacteria and preventing infections. In fact this is the core reason why honey is also applied on wounds as an antibacterial remedy. 

6.) Miscellaneous factors:

Aside from these 5 properties that work in perfect harmony to almost form something like a perfect shield against toxic and harmful microorganisms. There’s something more that promotes the shelf life of honey, and it is those tiny BEES that make honey.  

Yes! These bees play an essential role. They contribute to the low water content of honey. They flap their wings to dry out the nectar. When bees regurgitate the nectar they collected into the hive, the worker bees begin breaking down the sucrose into fructose and glucose. Keep in mind that nectar is high in water — about 60 percent. Flapping their wings does an excellent job of drying out the nectar. This helps keep the moisture level low and prevents harmful organisms from multiplying. 

On the other hand, an enzyme called glucose oxidase is secreted during this process. It comes from the stomachs of bees. Bees vomit nectar into honeycombs, so this enzyme is transferred with the nectar. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down glucose into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide.

Why is this important? How does it relate to honey having an eternal shelf life? Well, gluconic acid is the main reason for the acidic nature of honey. The presence of gluconic acid makes the environment lethal for bacteria and microbes. Whereas, hydrogen peroxide is the main compound responsible for the antibacterial properties of honey.

This clearly indicates that bees work towards preventing the microbial growth that would otherwise spoil honey.


Keep in mind that although honey is highly resilient to spoiling, it’s only if the water or moisture content gets high enough, that yeast can ferment the honey and create alcohol. This could be considered spoiled honey. However, it depends on the type of yeast. For example, good yeast can create mead! On the safer side, it’s always best to store this magic elixir in a well-protected and well-sealed container, and that way it can remain edible for thousands of years. 

Honey and Crystallization

Honey and Spoilage

You might notice that the appearance and texture of your honey might change with time. Instead of being golden and clear, you’ll notice that it may begin to look cloudy and somewhat grainy. If left long enough, honey will turn hard and white. When it begins to change in color and consistency, this means that the honey has started the crystallization process. This happens when some of the glucose content begins to crystallize.

Note that when honey crystallizes, this does not mean that it has gone stale. It’s still safe for consumption. It’s just a bit granulated. While it might not be the most pleasant texture, it is still edible. With time, honey can darken and lose some of its aroma.

Also, keep in mind that some commercial honey that you would find in your grocery store may never crystallize. This is because it’s been processed to prevent the natural crystal formations. However, if the honey is raw and natural, it will crystallize more frequently. This is due to the pollen and enzymes that were not filtered out due to the lack of pasteurization. 

Crystallization is a good sign. It means that your honey is natural and pure. It’s normal that it changes in texture and appearance with time and temperature change. However, processed honey doesn’t stand the test of time like raw and unfiltered honey.

Wrapping up

spoonful of honey pouring into an open glass jar

The truth is, that honey can go stale if stored improperly. However, under the right conditions, honey can last for decades and even centuries. It’s a magical natural sweetener, loaded with surplus nutrients and health perks. Make sure to store it in a cool, dry place in a sealed container to enjoy its wholesomeness!