Feel the Buzz: How Bees Help Our Health
The busy bee provides power-packed products for the modern medicine cabinet.
By Annabel Saladino, allaboutyou.com, 6/14/2009
…as well as the rich variety of healthy foods they help create for us, bees appear to be bountiful from a medicinal point of view, too. For thousands of years, bee products have been used to treat a range of ills, and there's a growing hive of evidence as to why this apitherapy or ‘bee medicine' is still being used today.
…The big excitement stems from its apparent ability to take on the hospital superbugs. "A number of medical papers have shown it can be used to eradicate MRSA from colonised wounds," says Dr Rose Cooper, professor of microbiology at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff…
Honey is also thought to be useful in helping to ease digestive problems. A study of children admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis, published in the British Medical Journal, found that those treated with honey rather than glucose had a significant reduction in the duration of their diarrhoea. More dramatically, Professor Molan says that manuka honey has the power to kill off Helicobacter pylori - the bug that causes stomach ulcers.
Also known as ‘Russian penicillin' or ‘bee glue', propolis* is a resin-like substance that bees collect from trees and chew into a resinous substance to seal cracks in their hives. "It's strongly antiseptic, because its purpose is to stop disease getting into trees," Chris Deaves explains. Soluble in alcohol, propolis is used as a treatment for sore throats but it is also useful in dentistry. Dr Philip Wander (www.wanderdental.co.uk), chairman of the British Homeopathic Dental Association, is passionate about it. "Propolis is an anti-infective and anti-inflammatory," he says. "It was widely used in Eastern Europe when they didn't have access to antibiotics. As a dentist, I mainly use propolis for mouth ulcers and to accelerate healing after a tooth extraction."
…Rich in vitamins and minerals, royal jelly is used in traditional Chinese medicines to treat a range of ills, including fatigue, depression, insomnia and a weak immune system. Research published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture showed that royal jelly also appeared to reduce the spread of cancer cells in mice. But others are sceptical as to the extent of its powers. "It's possible you might get a similar benefit from it as from taking a vitamin and mineral supplement," Chris Deaves says, "but it's not particularly concentrated for humans."
Hippocrates was said to use bee stings to soothe arthritic pain, and bee venom is still used by apitherapists to treat rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS). According to Dr Cherbuliez, some components of bee venom are "extremely anti-inflammatory, one hundred times more powerful than cortisone". The medical use of bee stings is contentious, however, because of the risk of severe reactions, such as anaphylactic shock, and the lack of large-scale clinical trials.
Researchers at Georgetown University in Washington reported that three out of five patients with MS who were treated with bee venom showed signs of improvement. The results were described as "encouraging", but the therapy can't be recommended until further research has been carried out…