No, chemically speaking, honey is not a pure substance. Honey is composed of multiple substances, which prevents it from being considered a pure substance.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain what a pure substance is, what honey is, and more of why honey doesn’t make the cut.
Why Is Honey A Pure Substance? (Or Not?)
What Is A Pure Substance?
There is pure honey, and raw honey. But neither of these descriptions of honey has anything to do with what a “pure substance” is chemically.
A pure substance is a material that is composed of only one type of building block. Usually these building blocks are either elements (meaning a substance that cannot be broken down into simpler parts), or a compound (meaning more than one substance that is bonded to others).
A good example of a pure substance that is made up of just an element as its building block is silver, along with iron, aluminum, and gold.
A good example of a pure substance that is made up of one kind of compound is water. Water is made up of tiny molecules, which are in turn made of hydrogen and oxygen bonded to the other. There are no other elements or compounds in water required to make it water.
What is Honey?
What honey is, or what is in it, depends on where it is in production.
Raw honey is honey taken straight from the bees. When it is removed from the bees, it contains water, multiple kinds of sugars, enzymes, amino acids, citric acid, minerals, and many other substances including debris. (source)
When the honey is filtered (a process that heats and then cools the material), most of the debris is removed, as well as many of the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and acids.
Raw honey, whether it is filtered or unfiltered, is not a pure substance. Raw honey contains multiple substances that are distinguishable from each other.
Since a pure substance is a substance that has only one kind of building block (and raw honey has many), raw honey is not a pure substance. This is the case even if it is purported to be “pure” honey.
Filtered/processed honey is not a pure substance either. Though the filtering does remove some of the components of honey that were brought with it from its source, filtering does not remove enough to achieve the status of a “pure substance.”
There is no situation that we can envision where honey would be considered a pure substance.
Is Honey A Mixture?
Yes, honey is a mixture.
A mixture is a material that is made up of more than one substance, where the substances are physically together in the same space.
The substances do not chemically bond as a result of their physical closeness, and for the most part, they retain much of their original characteristics at the micro level, though they might lose their shape at the macro level (think of an egg).
Honey is a mixture because it is composed of many different kinds of substances (sugars, water, enzymes, etc) that can be separated from the honey without forcing a chemical reaction.
No, it is not as easy as some substances to separate out the individual substances, but it is possible.
Is Honey A Heterogeneous Mixture Or A Homogeneous Mixture?
We think the answer to this is that it depends.
We think honey in the hive or on the comb is a heterogeneous mixture, while processed honey is a homogeneous mixture.
A homogeneous mixture is one that is consistent throughout.
This means that if you take a sample of the honey from one place, that another sample will be the same.
A heterogeneous mixture is one that is not consistent, meaning that one sample will be different from another.
Honey in its natural environment or even straight out of the hive before processing is going to have debris in it, and the amount and type of sugars, as well as minerals and enzymes, are not going to be the same.
Bees aren’t machines; not every bit of nectar is processed exactly the same, especially when it comes from different kinds of flowers. Water contains impurities (which bees don’t control for).
Naturally, it is going to be different here and there. It’s a heterogeneous mixture.
But after honey has been processed, heated and cooled, strained and mixed, most of these differences will be lost.
It’s now a homogeneous mixture.
Is Honey A Compound?
No, honey is not a compound.
A compound is when two or more substances bond chemically.
In the case of honey, while there might be compounds in the honey (like the various kinds of sugar), those compounds exist separate and apart from the others.
They aren’t chemically bonded.
There are probably more than 100 substances in honey that exist separately.
Since the substances that make up honey are not bonded to each other, we cannot call honey a compound.
Is Honey A Solution?
This is a great question. We think the answer is yes, honey is a solution.
A solution is a liquid mixture where one substance is dissolved into another liquid.
In the case of honey, water is the liquid, and all of the components of honey are dissolved into it.
The reason it is so viscous is that it is “supersaturated” meaning that more sugar that water could usually handle is dissolved into it. Syrup is another example of a supersaturated liquid solution.
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