Buzzing About the Health Benefits of Bee Products
Surprisingly, bee venom, which comes from its sting, can be used to treat arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
What is useful for bees can be good for humans too.
Apitherapy - a word with Greek origins - is the use of products produced by honeybees, such as honey, royal jelly, pollen, propolis and even bee venom, for therapeutic and pharmacological purposes.
Dr Andreas Daugsch, 33, a German with a PhD in food chemistry, calls himself an apitherapist. He has studied propolis in Brazil for 11 years. This is a resinous substance which bees collect from the buds and sap of certain trees to use as a kind of cement in the construction of their hives.
He was in Singapore earlier this month to promote the use of apitherapy as a form of natural healing in a talk at Pharmaplus at Camden Medical Centre.
He said that bees line their hives with propolis to keep out disease causing organisms such as the botulinum toxin (produced by a bacteria) which causes botulism in humans. Botulism causes paralysis.
Brazilian green propolis, which is harvested from the leaves of the alecrim plant, is superior to other types of propolis as it is abundant in the active ingredient Artepillin-C, an antioxidant which has been found to have potent anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal activity.
Recent research has also shown that propolis is effective against the influenza virus.
"Propolis is a good antioxidant and can also cause the cell death of cancer cells," he said.
Talking about other bee products, he said that honey has a wealth of anti-bacterial properties too. Most micro-organisms do not grow in honey because of its low water content and studies have shown that wounds treated with honey heal more quickly.
Dr Daugsch added: "Honey is also much healthier than refined sugar as it contains the vitamins that our body needs to metabolise the carbohydrates in honey."
Another popular by-product from bees is royal jelly, which is the food of the queen bee. It contains amino acids that are needed to boost our immune systems.
Dr Daugsch said that royal jelly could also be helpful for people who have trouble falling asleep as it contains the chemical acetylcholine, which can help promote REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Bee pollen, like royal jelly, is used by bees for nourishment because of its high protein content. There has not been much research into bee pollen although there are claims that it is effective in lowering cholesterol levels.
Perhaps the most surprising of all uses of bee products is bee venom which comes from its sting. Bee venom can be used to treat arthritis and multiple sclerosis…