You may have seen products like raw honey or royal jelly in the store and have wondered, “What the?!” What makes honey “raw”? Who would even want to eat something called “royal jelly”? (And no, it’s not affiliated with Kate Middleton’s breakfast preferences) You’re not alone if you’re a little confused about the buzz around these bee products that have actually been used for centuries as natural healers and health builders. I have been using bee products for years and love them. *A NOTE OF CAUTION – Children under the age of 1 should not eat honey due to the risk of honey potentially being contaminated with botulism (although this is rare in cases of raw honey that has been harvested from a reliable and responsible bee farmer).
There is a great quote that superfoodie David Wolfe quoted about the work ethic of bees: “No bees, no honey; no work, no money.” These amazing creatures work endlessly to not only provide food for their colony, but to help pollinate the flowers, fruits, and vegetables across the world. There’s concern over the recent unfortunate condition bees are facing of possibly being eradicated by use of pesticides and the world of GMO agriculture (this is a whole separate issue I can go into another time). What’s important to know is that if these revered insects become endangered, no or less extinct, our entire food supply could follow destruction, for without bees, there is little to no pollination. The products bees provide us are so rich in nutrients that they are considered superfoods across the globe. Things such as honey, bee pollen, bee propolis, and royal jelly are sacred in many homes. The only food that comes close to bee products in overall richness of history and legend is chocolate (cacao). Bee products are considered one of the greatest sources for concentrated nutrition, as they are rich in micronutrients, trace elements, minerals, and antioxidants, to name a few benefits.
I also make sure to buy organic bee products from non-large commercial honey companies, as they mistreat bees (yes, this is possible!). Bees are often mistreated by corporate honeymakers, which includes feeding the bees high fructose corn syrup (rather than leaving a portion of their own honey to consume), smoking out the hives, and spraying toxic nicotine-based pesticides on the plants/trees from which the bees gather pollen.
Health Benefits of Bee Products (SOURCE: “Superfoods” by David Wolfe):
HONEY – (it’s recommended to buy packaged in glass in its organic, raw, unfiltered state [this means it’s not processed and heated, like most commercial honeys on the store shelves…and why buying fresh, RAW honey is better – cooked honey has no enzymes.)
- Is made from the nectar that bees sip from flower blossoms.
- Considered to be a universal medicine, sweetener, and nutrient source.
- Some natural, unrefined honeys have been shown to have antifungal, antibiotic, and antiviral effects.
- Rich in minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, and enzymes.
- Has wonderful moisture-retaining properties.
- Honey can be taken with other mineral-rich foods to increase mineral absorption.
- Provides the body with a very digestible and soothing form of sugar (energy).
- It’s considered one of the greatest healing foods. Here are some things honey has been known to help treat and even cure:
- Diarrhea, ulcers, infections, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastrointestinal problems, and staph infections.
- Due to its antibiotic effects, honey also helps treat these infections diseases: anthrax, diphtheria, urinary tract infections, ear infections, meningitis, respiratory infections, sinusitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, infected animal bites, typhoid, dysentery, abscesses, boils, impetigo, tooth decay (ironic!), scarlet fever, sore throat, and cholera.
- Honey can also heal topical wounds from scrapes to skin ulcers and surgical wounds!
- Special note: aside from children under the age of 1 (with honey), individuals with blood sugar disorders, cancer, and Candida should stay away from honey, agave, sucanat, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, or any sweeteners of any kind because these can adversely affect the health condition.
BEE POLLEN – (this can be found in the refrigerated section of health food stores, normally near the probiotics; bee pollen should be kept refrigerated to preserve freshness). Bee pollen is safe to give to children (unless they have a severe allergy to bees, in which you want to clear with a doctor first to be sure, as sometimes it may illicit an allergic response in some cases).
- Is a source of 18 vitamins (including nearly all B vitamins, except B12), as well as C, D, and E; carotenes (including xanthophyll and beta-carotene), lecithin/choline, all 22 essential amino acids, 14 fatty acids (including essential fatty acids), 11 carbohydrates (ranging from polysaccharides to simple sugars), and nucleic acids such as RNA & DNA.
- Is an alkaline food, so it balances out levels of acid in the body (too acidic levels have been found to lead to cancer and other degenerative diseases of the body).
- Has high levels of antioxidants.
- Is the most complete superfood in nature. This means it contains all 22 essential amino acids and is loaded with vitamin B-9.
- Bee pollen reduces the production of histamine, which in turn helps neutralize many allergies.
- Bee pollen increases strength, endurance, energy, and speed. It provides a quicker recovery from exercise and helps to return the heart rate to normal. It also helps to improve endurance for repeat exertion, which is why so many athletes rely on bee pollen as part of their nutrition.
- Bee pollen helps increase muscle growth and definition (The British Sports Council studied increases in strength by as high as 40-50% in those taking bee pollen regularly.)
- Is a delicious (I can attest to this… I take bee pollen everyday), energy-rich source of complete protein. It is approximately 25% protein and one of the richest sources of bioavailable protein in nature. Gram for gram, pollen contains an estimated 5-7 times MORE protein than meat, eggs, or cheese (and it’s in a predigested form, so the body can readily utilize it).
- There is an impressive amount of B vitamins in bee pollen, which in turn helps build-up our defense against stressors to the body. It even helps reverse aging and wrinkling. Many people use it to help clear acne (since I have been taking bee pollen, my adult acne disappeared).
- Minerals and elements such as calcium, copper gold, iodine, iron, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, sulfur, sodium, and zinc are all present in pollen.
- Bee pollen can be mixed with honey or royal jelly, or consumed by itself as a snack. You can also blend bee pollen into smoothies or recipes that do not require heating.
BEE PROPOLIS – (this is the substance full of bioflavonoids that seals the hive and serves as the protector of the hive; it’s a waxy substance that is normally made and sold into extracts mixed with alcohol or glycerine)
- Is highly medicinal and supports the immune system.
- Is an antibacterial substance that is collected and used by bees.
- The bioflavonoids present in propolis help heal, repair damage, and prevent disease. They also lend powerful antibiotic, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
- Propolis is a rich source of minerals, amino acids, fats, vitamins C and E, pro-vitamin A, and vitamin B-complex.
- Is rich in bioflavonoids and amino acids, which help mend and strengthen blood vessels and capillaries.
ROYAL JELLY – is a thick, milky substance that determines a queen bee from otherwise ordinary larvae; it’s a combination of pollen and honey.
- It’s known to be rejuvenating to the body and helps regenerate cells, thus aiding in inhibiting the aging process due to its B5 and B-vitamin content. Amino acids, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, and manganese are also present in royal jelly.
- Is the second-richest natural source of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).
- Contains as much as 50% protein, 20% carbohydrates, and 14% fat.
- It helps maintain skin tone and vitality.
- Royal jelly is a powerful energy supplement, with its stimulating effect compared to caffeine, but without the negative side effects.
- Is known to help alleviate arthritis pain.
- Has been used to effectively treat depression.
- Royal jelly is the richest source of acetylcholine (an important fluid in the regulation of nerve impulses between nerve fibers, which enhances our ability to think clearly) and so effective in this area that it’s known to help those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Did you know that Ancient Egypt is where our present-day beekeeping sciences began? The Egyptians were among the first peoples on Earth to keep bees (as documented throughout the country in ancient cultural artifacts) and offered honey and bee pollen to the gods. Interestingly enough, honey products have also been broadly used in Greco-Roman civilization, as found repeatedly noted in the Iliad and Odyssey, in addition to being staples at the ancient Olympic games of Greece, where they were used as food, beverage, body, and skincare. As if that isn’t cool enough, check out these facts about bee products (excerpt SOURCE: “Superfoods” by David Wolfe):
- Honeybees are the only insects that produce food for humans.
- Bees produce the only food that will never spoil. Edible honey has been found in Egyptian tombs.
- Honeybees visit about two million flowers to make one pound jar of honey.
- The brain of a worker honeybee is about a cubic millimeter but has the densest neurological tissue of any animal.
- Bees have a magnetic band around their brains to help them navigate.
- A bee travels an average of 1,600 round trips in order to produce one ounce of honey; up to 6 miles per trip. To produce 2 pounds of honey, bees travel a distance equal to 4 times around the Earth.
- Bees are the chief engineers of cross-pollination.
- A hive of bees flies 55,000 miles to make one jar of honey.
- An average worker bee makes 1/12 tablespoon of honey in her life.
- All worker bees are female. (eh hem)
- Bees communicate to one another by dancing, which they can understand even in complete darkness.
- A queen bee can lay up to 3,000 eggs in one day – at a rate of 5 or 6 a minute. That is equal to 175-200 thousand eggs annually.
- One hive may hold up to 80,000 bees – one queen, a few hundred drones (males), and the rest are female workers.
- One gallon of honey equals the combined bee flight distance of going to the moon and back.
- Bees fly an average of 13-15 MPH.
- Bees from the same hive visit about 225,000 flowers per day. One single bee typically visits between 50 and 1,000 flowers a day, but can visit up to several thousand.
- A bee’s life span ranges from 3-6 weeks.
Here’s a recipe for snack balls utilizing bee products. Beeware…they are delicious (har har har)
In a food processor, lightly blend and then place mixture in a bowl:
¼-1/2 cup dried berries of your choice (i.e. mulberries)
1 cup hempseed or chia seeds (preferably hempseeds)
Add to bowl:
8 oz. raw coconut butter (not oil)
½ cup shredded dried coconut flakes
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
¼-1/2 tsp. sea salt
½ cup cacao nibs or cacao powder
3-4 tablespoons bee pollen
1 tablespoon royal jelly
¼ cup coconut oil
(depending on sweetness desired, between 1-3 TBS raw honey)
Scrapings of 2-3 raw vanilla beans (if not available, 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract will work)
Mix all ingredients together by hand until it reaches the consistency of cookie dough. You can always add a splash of filtered water or more coconut oil to help everything stick together better.
Then roll dough into golf-ball size balls and they can be dipped in the following toppings:
I was astonished to learn how beneficial bee products can be to one’s health, which is why I started using them regularly in my home. I can honestly say, I am a firm believer in the healthy properties bee products promote and hope that you are able to find a resourceful use for them, too (even if it’s switching to organic raw honey versus commercialized processed honey).
Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Health & Nutrition Coaching of Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us