As much as an annoyance honeybees can be when buzzing around backyard barbecues, there’s no denying what they can bring to the lunch or dinner table. It’s not just the sweet honey, either, with its trace amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. There are other health-inducing products that bees produce, and it’s good to know what those are.
Apitherapy, a form of natural medicine involving the use of bee products, dates to ancient Greece, Egypt and China. Only in recent times has medicinal use started to gain momentum in America. One thing we in the western world have come to know is that a bee’s honey, in its raw and unprocessed form, and preferably produced locally, can be an effective deterrent to allergies, just like those that people are now suffering through in many parts of the country – with itchy, watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing the chief symptoms – as spring starts to bloom.
As described by healthysmoothiehq.com, bees make honey by, first, gathering nectar from flowers and then converting it into honey by regurgitating it, allowing it to evaporate to concentrate the sugars that comprise its main ingredients. Also, its health benefits come not only from consuming the honey, but it also can be used as a topical application in certain instances. Here is a rundown of the health benefits that honey – again, best used if raw and unprocessed – can provide:
- Allergy relief. Once allergy season has started, it’s probably too late to get much benefit from consuming honey. The trick is to build up immunity a month or so ahead of when allergy symptoms typically appear. Unfiltered honey produced in proximity to where you live is recommended, with such honey containing environmental allergens such as pollens, mold and dust.
- Suppress a cough. Add a dollop of honey to a cup of hot tea.
- Anti-inflammatory. Honey can reduce chronic inflammation in arteries and help regulate the ratio between good and bad cholesterol.
- Honey can also act as an antioxidant, as an antibacterial to aid with digestion and digestive health, heal minor skin wounds as a topical ointment and serve as a healthy substitute for sugars for those with type-2 diabetes.
As popular as honey is, though, it’s not the only healthy byproduct that bees are adept at whipping up. Here are some others:
- Bee pollen. To start with, health and wellness expert Dr. Joseph Mercola describes it as a super food. Bee pollen, which collects on the bodies of bees and is used in Chinese medicine as an energy and nutritive tonic. Considered one of nature’s most thoroughly nourishing foods, it is about 40 percent protein and contains nearly all the nutrients – to include amino acids and B-complex vitamins – that the human body needs to survive and thrive.
- Royal Jelly. This is the food that goes to the queen bee as well as the bee colony’s larvae and is responsible for turning an ordinary honeybee into the queen. Consisting of a variety of substances that includes water, protein, sugar, fat antioxidants, enzymes and trace minerals, royal jelly is a popular skin care agent, reportedly able to correct sun-damaged skin to include restoring collagen and helping to diminish the visibility of brown spots. Other benefits have been linked to cholesterol levels, reproductive health and digestive health.
- Bee venom. This could be described as the bee’s version of "hair from the dog that bit you". Don’t let the “venom” reference throw you. In bee venom therapy, the venom is used to strengthen the body’s immune system. Its usage might result in slight inflammation, but the welcome tradeoff is that it will cause the brain to trigger the release of hormones that regulate immune response. Once they compete taking care of the venom itself, other hormones can deal with other possible hormone problems. Studies have shown that it can help in regulating the thyroid function in women with hyperthyroidism and bolster the effectiveness of arthritis medication in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Propolis. This bee product is a little harder to get your hands on, as you won’t find it sold in many, if any, stores. What is propolis? It is the resinous material, per globalhealingcenter.com, that bees use to seal small cracks and gaps in their beehives – with beeswax used for bigger hive-repair jobs. Propolis is a bee’s concoction of resin collected from trees and other sources and mixed with a small amount of honey.
Yes, bees, or at least their natural products, can help us out a lot. Just remember that next time you are barbecuing with a spatula in one hand and a fly swatter in the other.