Saturday, April 07, 2007

Loss of Bees Threatens a Fatal Sting for Us All

By Julie Deardorff, Chicago Tribune (USA), 4/7/2007

But bees do more than just put food on our plates. Beeswax is used to make pharmaceuticals. Honey, which has wound-healing and antioxidant properties, and other bee products have been a staple in folk medicine for thousands of years. And bee products, including bee pollen and propolis, are among the best medicinal foods we can eat, according to Jonny Bowden's new book, "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth" (Fair Winds Press, $24.99).

Here's a closer look at bee products.

_Honey: The health benefits depend on how it's processed and the quality of the plants the bees visit. Raw honey typically retains more of the healthful phytochemicals, and Berenbaum has shown that dark honey has more illness-fighting antioxidants than light honey. Honey also can remove bacteria from infected wounds and even improve oral health.

_Bee pollen: Often called "nature's most perfect food" because it contains all eight essential amino acids, bee pollen comes from the male germ cell of flowering plants. Bee pollen boasts more amino acids and vitamins than beef, eggs or cheese and also contains almost all known minerals, trace elements and enzymes. It also has flavonoids that have significant antioxidant properties.

_Propolis: An antimicrobial used in products such as toothpaste, propolis is created after bees collect a resinous sap from trees. The clever bees glue it on the hive to block out viruses and bacteria, and research shows that humans also can benefit from its antibacterial and antifungal effects. Propolis can help with the common cold, gastrointestinal infections, upper-respiratory-tract infections, and it can enhance the immune system, according to the "Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods" (Pocket Books, $7.99), which lists food prescriptions for common ailments.

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