From the HBD Archive
From: hisata!
Subject: Hops, honey, and septic tanks
Date: 1990-03-31 00:37:57 GMT

Several postings of mine have been lost in the electronic netherworld.
So I'm reposting an abbreviated version. Apologies if some of this has
been seen before and I missed it.

Regarding the recent debate as to whether honey is a preservative,
according to "The Hive and the Honeybee" (Dadant and Sons, 1975 edition),
it does indeed have antibacterial qualities. "One property, a definite
anti-bacterial effect was reported in 1937...and called "inhibine." It is
measured by the effect of a sample of diluted honey on the growth of bacteria
inoculated on a plate, and was found to be heat sensitive." In 1963,
it was found that "the inhibine effect was due to hydrogen peroxide produced
and accumulated in diluted honey by the enzyme glucose oxidase, during its
action on honey glucose to form gluconolactone (which equilibrates with
gluconic acid). It is heat sensitive; the amounts vary with floral type and
previous processing history of the honey....Because of the high density
and acidity of honey the non-sporeforming organisms that cause human
diseases cannot live in it. It was shown some years ago...that various
pathogenic bacteria were killed when introduced into honey." (p. 503)

Note: "non-sporeforming organisms." The only spoilage I know of that can
occur with honey, other than granulation which isn't really spoilage,
is fermentation. Most dark, thick honey doesn't contain enough moisture
to permit this to happen. But honey is very hygroscopic, so unless it's
kept sealed, it will quickly gather enough water to permit fermentation.
However, I have honey, sealed in jars, that is several years old, and
it tastes fine. And, when I've been a bad apiarist, I've left honey stores
on the hive over the winter, without enough ventilation in the hive. Bees can
produce a prodigious amount of moisture, such that there are drops of water
on the inner cover of the hive. In the Spring, when I finally remove the
honey to extract it, I found a thin layer of mold growing on the caps
of the comb, and a smell of fermentation in progress. (The honey
still tastes good, though.)

So the answer is, yes, honey is a preservative. However, since this
quality is heat-sensitive, it's probably lost in boiling honey in making
mead. So in this application, honey probably isn't a preservative!

Now, on to hops and their medicinal qualities. In "A Modern Herbal"
by Mrs. M. Grieve (1931), we find that hops "have tonic, nervine, diuretic
and anodyne properties. Their volatile oil produces sedative and
[Pete] Soporific effects, and the Lupamaric acid or bitter principle
is stomachic and tonic. For this reason Hops improve the appetite and
promote sleep." John Lust, in his "The Herb Book" (1971), says hops are
"anodyne, diuretic, febrifuge, hypnotic, sedative, tonic. Hops are most
commonly used for their calming effect on the nervous system. Hop tea is
recommended for nervous diarrhea, insomnia, and restlessness. It will also
help to stimulate appetite, dispel flatulence (!), and relieve intestinal

And lastly, the septic tank. I've been having problems with mine, the
details of which I will spare you. However, in researching causes and
cures, I found, among the recommended items NOT to add to the tank, is bleach.
Of course, bleach is a powerful disinfectant. Let's see, how much bleach
has gone down the drain since I started brewing...? Needless to say,
all my sanitizing solution will henceforward be dumped onto the driveway!
Those of you with "country plumbing" heed this warning. Also, another
no-no into the septic tank is colored toilet paper. Fortunately, I
don't use any of that in my brewing!


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