The Miraculous Healing Powers from the Bee: Looking Beyond HoneyFayyaz Alam
The humble honeybee plays a vital role in the health and ecosystem of our planet. Without bees, crops won’t be pollenated, wildflowers won’t bloom, and even new trees won’t grow. Bees are essential little insects in the food chain of both humans and animals. Without them we will struggle to put food on the table.2,4
Bees carry pollen granules from one plant to the next, pollenating the plants which enables them to reproduce and keep the ecosystem alive. Bees visit thousands of flowers to gather nectar, which they carry back to their hive. Wonderful, nutritious raw honey is just one of the products bees produce after a visit to a flower field.5
Honey has been used since ancient times by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Chinese for its medicinal benefits and wound healing effects.1 Modern science has backed the healing effects of honey which include antimicrobial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, to name a few.3
Honey is not the only super product bees make. In fact, there are five other bee products that you can use every day for their amazing health benefits.
First let’s see how the bees use these products themselves:
- Honey – a bee larvae’s number one food source (carbohydrate)
- Bee pollen – a bee’s source of protein
- Propolis – protects the hive, acts as a natural immune system and glue
- Royal jelly – bee superfood used to create a queen for the hive
- Beeswax – a bee’s building material used to build the hive
- Bee venom – a bee’s weapon to protect itself and the hive from predators
All these bee products have benefits for health and beauty and can easily be added to your daily routine. When bee products are used as alternative medicine, they fall under the category called Apitherapy.
1. The benefits of raw unpasteurized honey
Raw unpasteurized honey is honey that has been bottled straight from the honeycombs of the beehive. The honey may have gone through a simple filtration process using a mesh cloth to remove any solids.3,7 Commercially bottled honey goes through harsher filtration processes and pasteurization. These processes can actually cause the honey to lose most of their beneficial health properties by removing pollen, enzymes and antioxidants.7If you want to get all the benefits of honey, be sure to buy the raw and organic kind.
Here are some of the main health benefits of raw honey:
- Raw honey contains a variety of different plant chemicals that act as antioxidants.5 Antioxidants fight free radicals that can cause cellular damage. These free radicals can also have an impact on your skin, damaging tissue and accelerating aging.
- Studies have shown that honey can impair the growth of microorganisms, thus proving that it has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. The strength of these properties depends on the type of honey (i.e. Manuka). Honey also contains a natural antiseptic called hydrogen peroxide. This is why honey has been used for wound healing since the times of ancient folk medicine.3,5
- Raw honey is packed with phytonutrients that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and even anticancer properties. Phytonutrients from the flavonoid group found in Italian multifloral honey were found to reduce the occurrence of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.5
- Honey can help with digestive issues such as diarrhea and indigestion and has possible prebiotic effects that help keep your gut flora healthy.1,3
- Helps with coughs and a sore throat. Honey coats the lining of the throat and eradicates bacteria while smoothing out that irritating, scratchy feeling that causes you to cough.1
Honey is high in sugar but luckily, you only need a small amount to gain some of its amazing health benefits.
Remedies to try at home:
- Honey cough mixture: Mix two spoons of honey with an equal amount of ginger juice and use twice a day.
- Honey face mask: mix raw honey with raw oats (blend finer if you want) or almond meal and apply to your face as an exfoliating face mask.
2. The benefits of bee pollen
Bee pollen is the product a bee produces when it mixes the pollen from plants with nectar or a secretion from their salivatory glands. Bee pollen is packed with minerals, amino acids and vitamins. It is an excellent source of eighteen amino acids including all Essential Amino Acids EAAs and all three “Branched-Chain Amino Acids” BCAAs. In addition, Bee pollen is high in vitamin C and contains the entire vitamin B complex . 6
Like honey, bee pollen contains phytonutrients with potent antioxidant activity. They help reduce oxidative stress and can reduce chronic inflammation. Bee pollen also has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, liver-protective and anticancer effects.6
Bee pollen can be taken raw or as a capsule or can be applied topically to a wound or irritated area on the skin.
Just like introducing any new food product to your diet, beware of possible allergic reactions when consuming bee pollen. However, controlled micro-dosing during times of seasonal high pollen count may reduce and heal seasonal allergies. The key is starting slow and low.
Other possible benefits:
3. The benefits of propolis
Propolis is a resinous substance that is formed from the materials that bees forage from different plants. The composition of propolis is dependent on the different plants the bee foraged from and can have up to 300 different types of chemical compounds.5 Propolis was used in ancient folk medicine as a one-stop remedy and is sometimes called the original antibiotic. Today its available in supplements, syrups, throat lozenges, cosmetics and salves.
Modern alternative medicine has various topical and systemic uses for propolis. This is based on the antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anticancer properties of the waxy substance.4
Here are some of the main health benefits and uses of propolis:1,4
- Can help relieve the symptoms of colds and flu and boosts the immune system
- Can help treat acne
- Can protect the skin and heal burn wounds
- Can promote dental and oral health and treat and prevent gingivitis
- Can be used to treat mouth sores
- Can be used to treat genital herpes
- Can heal diabetic ulcers
- Can help reduce chronic inflammation
You can take propolis as a supplement or keep a soothing propolis throat spray to-go when the first signs of sore throat strikes. Keeping a salve made from propolis in your emergency kit at home will come in handy for those accidental burn wounds in the kitchen or irritating skin rashes.
4. The benefits of royal jelly
Royal jelly, the only thing fit for a bee queen. The worker bees make this jelly-like milky substance and feed them to the bee larvae during their first three days of existence. Thereafter, the bee selected to become queen will be the only one continuing to feed on the royal jelly.2
Royal jelly is actually classified as a functional food. Functional foods are foods that have positive effects on health beyond basic nutrition. The major components of royal jelly are water, sugars, essential amino acids, fats and proteins. The minor components include phytonutrients, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Royal jelly is a rich source of B vitamins.5 The composition of royal jelly includes glycoprotein compounds that are known as Major Royal Jelly Proteins (MRJP) and have specific antimicrobial and antifungal properties. 5
One aspect that makes royal jelly different from other honey products, is the fact that it has nootropic and antiaging properties. A nootropic substance is one that has a specific effect on cognitive function and can be used to enhance mental performance.2 Studies has shown that royal jelly can promote longevity, stimulate mental function and protect against Alzheimer’s disease.1
Other benefits of royal jelly:1
- Reduce inflammation through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
- Royal jelly may have an effect on cholesterol levels and can reduce the risk of developing heart disease
- Can reduce the symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
- Promotes wound healing and skin repair
- Helps to fight infections through its antibacterial properties
5. The benefits of beeswax
Beeswax may seem a bit dull against all the other bee products, but actually, it’s not. Beeswax has many beneficial properties and one of them is that it is an amazing moisturizer for skin. It is widely used in cosmetic products today, especially in natural cosmetics. In a topical formulation beeswax acts as an emollient, helping to lock moisture in the skin. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties which are beneficial in the treatment of eczema and acne. It can even boost collagen production through its vitamin A content, and help repair stretch marks.
Other possible benefits:
- Treating psoriasis and dermatitis
- Treating ulcer and GI mucosa
- Help with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Here’s some easy beeswax recipes you can try at home using a double boiler or instead a glass bowl over pot of water:
- Beeswax lip balm for dry and cracked lips: melt two parts beeswax and one-part shea butter in a double boiler. Pour into lip balm tins and leave to harden. You can replace the shea butter with a carrier oil like almond oil or coconut oil. Add a drop of essential oil as desired for natural fragrance and other benefits.
- Beeswax lotion bars to rub on dry skin: melt one-part beeswax, one-part cocoa butter, one-part shea butter or coconut oil in a double boiler. You can add a few drops of lavender essential oil if you want. Pour the warm liquid in silicone muffin molds and leave to harden. Demold and store them in an airtight container and wrapped in wax paper. Rub over your body after a hot shower or bath.
- Beeswax candles: melt two-parts beeswax and one-part cocoa butter and one-part coconut oil. Melt and mix. Place a centered cotton wick in glass jars. Add a drop lavender essential oil to the mixture and pour into the glass jars. The mixture will harden quickly, so act fast. And, enjoy the non-toxic aromatherapy with a natural reading light!
6. The therapeutic use of bee venom
You’ve probably had a bee sting you once or twice. After it injects its venom the affected area will soon start to swell, burn and itch. Some people can even be fatally allergic to bee venom.
Believe it or not, bee venom has some therapeutic uses in modern alternative medicine. Bee venom contains a substance called melittin that has shown to have anti-viral, antibacterial and anticancer properties. It also contains peptides that may have pain-relieving properties.5 Bee venom can be used as supplements or in topical applications.
Other possible benefits (diluted micro-dose application):
- Helps with hair loss
- Helps with Arthritis
- Parkinson’s disease
Possible contraindications for using bee products
Bee products are mostly safe to use but is not recommended for persons who have had any previous allergic reactions to pollen, bee stings or other bee products. It’s a good idea to consult with your healthcare practitioner first.
In the era of food sensitivities and allergies, introducing bee products slowly through micro-dosing while monitoring and “listening” to one’s body can go a long way.
You also need to take care if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as the safety of bee products during these states have not been established.
Certain conditions like asthma and bleeding problems can be worsened by propolis and is best avoided.
- Pasupuleti, V., Sammugam, L., Ramesh, N. and Gan, S. (2017). Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly: A Comprehensive Review of Their Biological Actions and Health Benefits. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017, pp.1-21. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549483/ [Accessed 5 Nov. 2019].
- Mercola, Dr. (2019). Striking Health Benefits of Bee Propolis and Royal Jelly – Prohealth. [online] Prohealth. Available at: https://www.prohealth.com/library/striking-health-benefits-bee-propolis-royal-jelly-89595 [Accessed 5 Nov. 2019].
- Ediriweera, E. and Premarathna, N. (2012). Medicinal and cosmetic uses of Bee′s Honey – A review. AYU (An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda), [online] 33(2), p.178. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3611628/ [Accessed 5 Nov. 2019].
- Wagh, V. (2013). Propolis: A Wonder Bees Product and Its Pharmacological Potentials. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences, 2013, pp.1-11. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872021/ [Accessed 5 Nov. 2019].
- Cornara, L., Biagi, M., Xiao, J. and Burlando, B. (2017). Therapeutic Properties of Bioactive Compounds from Different Honeybee Products. Frontiers in Pharmacology, [online] 8. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5487425/ [Accessed 5 Nov. 2019].
- Komosinska-Vassev, K., Olczyk, P., Kaźmierczak, J., Mencner, L. and Olczyk, K. (2015). Bee Pollen: Chemical Composition and Therapeutic Application. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, pp.1-6. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377380/ [Accessed 5 Nov. 2019].
- Subramanian, R., Umesh Hebbar, H. and Rastogi, N. (2007). Processing of Honey: A Review. International Journal of Food Properties, 10(1), pp.127-143. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10942910600981708 [Accessed 5 Nov. 2019].
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