This material was originally presented in a slightly different format in our Winter 2006-2007 catalog.
Honeybees are industrious little creatures and they produce highly nourishing food in abundance for themselves and for humans. Almost every compound they make is usable for building health; today let’s look at just three of their valuable offerings.
Honey begins as the nectar of herbs and flowers (wild or cultivated). The benefits of hundreds of herbs are carried in the stomach of the bee where the nectar is subtly altered by the bee’s digestive enzymes in ways that modern science has been unable to explain. New health-benefiting compounds are created by this process. Then the honey is regurgitated in the hive, concentrated by evaporation, and stored in the hexagonal cells of the honeycomb.
Because of its high natural sugar content, it’s very hard for bacteria to survive in honey. Many honeys contain large amounts of naturally-occurring hydrogen peroxide and in some traditions is used to disinfect cuts and scrapes. Most raw honeys also contain some propolis, a compound that can kill bacteria. In laboratory tests, honey put on seven types of bacteria killed all seven!
What is Raw Honey?
There is a difference between raw honey straight from the hive, and the processed honey that’s typically available in stores. Any honey is good for you, but raw honey is by far the best since it has not been through a heating process. Heat over 120 degrees melts the sugar and also kills wonderful enzymes and bacteria that are so rich in healing properties. Raw honey can often be purchased from local bee farmers in your area; check for nearby apiaries or ask at your farmers market for a good source. WARNING: Children under twelve months of age should not eat honey in any form as there is a risk of botulism.
Propolis, The Bee Glue
And you thought honey was sticky! Propolis is made from a sticky resinous material that western bees gather from tree buds or sap flows. The sap usually comes from coniferous trees and/or poplar trees. A worker bee will tear off tiny amounts of this resin and place the bits in her pollen baskets (the middle portion of each back leg) and then carry the resins back to the hive. House bees (young bees) unload the resins at the hive and mix them with pollen, wax, and their own enzyme-rich salivary secretions.
The finished propolis functions like cement or glue, and is used to build or repair the hive. Propolis covers virtually every centimeter of the hive, acting as an antibacterial sealant, and is a sanitary covering for all hive surfaces.
A Mummy Mouse in the Bee House!
From time to time, some unfortunate little critter (most commonly a mouse or a lizard) will get into a beehive. The bees will sting the invader to death, but they aren’t capable of removing the carcass from the hive. To keep the dead animal from rotting in the hive, the bees will coat it with propolis.
Amazingly, these propolis-mummified animals can remain undecayed for years. The powerful flavonoids in the resins, which the bees collect to make propolis, are a shield for the hive. Not only does propolis protect against viral infections, but against bacterial and fungal invasion of the hive. The same things propolis can do for a hive, it can do for you in the form of Bee Immune!
Propolis’ Healing Record
Propolis has been used topically for skin problems ranging from ordinary abrasion, to advanced herpes in the mouth, gum infections, eczema, acne, skin cancers, bruises, burns, and… well, pretty much anything that can go wrong with skin. The high percentage of flavonoids in propolis results in a remarkable immune boost when taken internally.
Because of this immune boost, my favorite way to take propolis is in capsule form along with vitamin C from rosehips. This combination can stop a developing cold in its tracks! If you wake up with a sore throat and swollen glands, try three Bee Immune propolis capsules, and 1000 mg of Rosehip C every other hour all day, and then get a good night’s rest.
Pollen is the dust-sized male plant seed, required for the fertilization of the plant, found on the stamen of all flower blossoms. Once a honeybee arrives at a flower, she nimbly scrapes off the powdery pollen from the stamen with her jaws and front legs, moistening it with a dab of the honey she brought with her from the hive.
The bee’s legs have a thick crowd of bristles called pollen combs. The bee uses these combs to brush the gold powder from her coat and legs in mid-flight, pushing the gathered pollen into her baskets. Her pollen baskets, surrounded by a fringe of long hairs, are simply concave areas located on the outside of her back legs. When the bee’s baskets are fully loaded, the pollen dust has been tamped down into a single golden granule.
This pollen-gathering bee now takes the pollen back to the hive where younger house bees unload the pollen. They secrete nectar and special enzymes into the flower pollen to create what we know as bee pollen [LINK] and young bees know as delicious food.
Bee pollen is approximately 40% protein. It is considered one of nature’s most completely nourishing foods, containing nearly all nutrients required by humans. About half of its protein is in the form of free amino acids that can be directly absorbed by the body.
Bee pollen is often used by athletes and body builders to increase stamina and speed. There are countless stories of impressive athletic improvement attributed to the regular intake of this superfood. Most believe this is due to the pantothenic acid in bee pollen which helps the body build resistance to stress, aiding the production of the adrenal-cortical hormones and creating a powerhouse of vitality and energy.
Bee Pollen and Weight Control
Bee pollen also stimulates the metabolic processes, speeding caloric burn by stoking the metabolic fires. Bee pollen is a low-calorie food, containing only ninety calories per ounce (about two heaping tablespoons). By volume, it offers 15% lecithin, a substance that helps dissolve and flush fat from the body. Bee pollen also satisfies many cravings by meeting the body’s vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Cinnamon Honey Toast
Now that you know more about honey, propolis, and pollen, give yourself a tasty treat, courtesy of your local beehive! Drizzle raw honey on a slice of fresh buttered bread, sprinkle with a bit of ground cinnamon, and toast on a cookie sheet under the broiler or in a toaster oven until golden. Mmmm… thank you, busy bees!