Apitherapy is a treatment method where bee-derived products are used as medicine. Humans have always searched for ways to cure diseases and concoct remedies long before the modern medicine as we know it. Even in modern medicine, humans look to nature for remedies and cures of all types of ailments. Bees may be best known for honey, but they produce and collect many, very helpful substances that can be used for practical and health purposes. These bee products include honey, propolis, beeswax, bee venom, royal jelly, and pollen. Below are some of the bee products and their medicinal value to us.
It’s always advisable to consult your doctor when considering adding any type of medicine – natural or otherwise – to your regimen.
Bee venom comes from the bee stingers and is the final defense mechanism from the bees. A bee sting causes a sharp, immediate pain. Human reactions to these stings vary greatly – from some mild swelling/itchiness to severe anaphylactic shock. Bee venom has been used to treat inflammatory diseases such as joint problems and rheumatoid arthritis. In more recent studies, there have been studies showing that bee venom can be used to help neurodegenerative diseases and autoimmune disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. It’s very exciting to see where these studies go. Here is a link to a much more complete (and scientific) article about Therapeutic Effects of Bee Venom on Immunological and Neurological Diseases. Obviously, before using bee venom, one must determine whether they are allergic to bee stings otherwise the results can be fatal. The venom is more effective if directly administered from the bees’ sting rather than collected, stored, and applied later. The downside to this method is that bees die directly after stinging humans (or any “tough skinned” animal) because their stinger gets caught and essentially pulls out their internal organs. (Gross I know)
Traditionalists used honey to treat most ailments. It contains small amounts of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that are great for our bodies.
Honey is often ingested to help with insomnia, anorexia, stomach and intestinal ulcers, constipation, osteoporosis, and even laryngitis. Manuka Honey (made in New Zealand) can help inhibit the growth of H. pylori which is a bacteria that can cause the development of ulcers. The chemical composition of honey makes it easier to digest than regular sugar which keeps our metabolisms from creating as much insulin and is often used as a healthy substitute for sugar and artificial sweeteners.
External and Topical application of honey is another way to use this powerful substance. Humans have used it to treat athlete’s foot, eczema, lip sores, and even wound treatments in cases of burns, surgical injuries, accidents, and bed sores. In a 1991 study, honey was compared with the common, accepted wound treatment and the results were that honey was the clear and practical choice. Honey can even be used to help scars heal more thoroughly because of its
Different plants have different types of pollen and have been proven to provide additional benefits to humans. Take the case of the chestnut pollen. It is known to regulate the blood streams and cure varicose vein. Another goods example of medicinal pollen is the acacia pollen. It cures problems associated with the urinary bladder and ureters inflammation. While bees get proteins, vitamins, fats and minerals from pollen, we can get natural medicine.
In addition, bee products can also be mixed with other substances to make cosmetic medicine. These types of medicine improve the smoothness of the face, hair luster, reduce and cure pimples. Lotion from bee products, heal dry skin patches. Those are some bee products that are used in apitherapy.
Bee pollen (or bee bread) can also help to inoculate our system with pollens we are generally allergic to and help build up an immunity to those pesky pollens that make season changes so miserable. For this reason, eating unfiltered and local honey is best practice as it exposes you to your local pollens as well as leaving the larger pollen particles in the honey for your ingestion.
According to the American Apitherapy Society: “Pollen has been reported to be useful in many other medical conditions including varicose veins, high cholesterol and triglycerides, fatigue, infertility, impotence, anorexia, obesity, constipation, diarrhea, hypertension, prostatitis, depression, scar formation, and recovery from illness and surgery. Pollen is compatible with other therapies, it can be used long term, has no toxicity even at high doses for those who are not sensitive or allergic and is safe to take as a supplement during pregnancy.”
Propolis has antiseptic, antimicrobial, and detoxifying properties that make it a very powerful tool for natural medicine. It is commonly known as “Russian Penicillin” or “Bee-Glue” and is commonly used by the bees to seal up their hives for winter. Bees collect and create this substance from plant resins and use it to help prevent bacteria, fungi, and disease that could otherwise harm the colony.
Propolis has been found to contain flavonoid compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In fact, propolis is believed to have strengthening and regenerative effects if taken regularly – a study of mice showed that mice lived longer when given propolis as a supplement.
Propolis is often taken from the hive and mixed as a tincture or antiseptic wash. Again, according to the American Apitherapy Society, Propolis can be used as “a mouthwash, propolis is able to prevent bad breath, gingivitis, tooth decay and gum disease and it is commonly taken as a remedy for sore throats. Propolis is capable of acting as an anti-inflammatory as well. It can help with symptoms of arthritis, boils, acne, asthma, dermatitis, ulcers, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Propolis has also been found to have antimutagenic effects, which may aid in the prevention of cancer. In conjunction with royal jelly, it can ameliorate the side effects of chemo and radiation therapies.”
Royal Jelly is a product made entirely by the bees. It is created by 5-15 day old bees at a time when their hypopharyngeal glands are engorged. They use this jelly to feed 1-3 day old bees as well as to feed the queen bee. In fact, the only difference between a worker bee and the queen bee is their diet – queen bees are fed only royal jelly which creates a longer living, larger, and fertile bee. It’s pretty amazing to think that diet can create such a physiological change in these bees.
Royal Jelly, probably due to its rarity, is the product of the hive that we know the least about. Recent studies have shown (as alluded to earlier in this article) that when used in conjunction with propolis, it can be used to combat the negative effects of chemo and radiation therapies although more studies need to be conducted before any real conclusions are drawn.
The American Apitherapy Society states that “The Chinese are the world’s largest producers and consumers of royal jelly. Royal jelly has played a key role in traditional Chinese medicine, and is still used today to prevent and ameliorate a wide variety of medical conditions. These include, but are not limited to: anxiety, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, bone fractures, asthma, depression, fatigue, lack of sexual desire, hair loss, impotence, insomnia, liver and kidney disease, stomach ulcers, menopausal symptoms, varicose veins, a weak immune system, high and low blood pressure, and a variety of skin conditions. Royal jelly, which is high in B vitamins, has a metabolic stimulating action, which aids in the processing of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids. It also increases oxygen consumption, improving endurance and decreasing fatigue. As a powerful antioxidant, royal jelly decreases levels of free radicals which are thought to cause aging. Royal jelly has a direct effect on the adrenal glands leading to an increased secretion of adrenaline which can be cardioprotective. With its protective effects on the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and immune systems, it is no wonder royal jelly is a prized commodity in many cultures.”