Updated: Mar 13
I grew up with bees during summers in my childhood, meaning my grandparents had 30 or so beehives, so I was very well aware of where the honey came from and this was one of our childhood snacks- either fresh honey on freshly home-baked bread or sucking on a piece of honeycomb. Bees have always been the insects I have admired and adored- for how they look, what they do and what they produce. One of the nature's wonders in my opinion. I am trying to get them to come to our garden during summer by planting more and more lavender pushes- both because I love these plants and bees love them for their nectar.
Many of us know that bees produce honey, but did you know that bees also produce bee pollen, bee bread, propolis, royal jelly and all of them have their own purpose in the bee hive and also their own health benefits for us. I will briefly write about all them.
In the bee hive, honey is bees' food (their carbohydrate), their main source for energy.
For humans honey is a great source for antioxidants, which help to protect your body from cell damage due to free radicals. Raw honey can also kill unwanted bacteria and fungus. You can take a teaspoon of honey before bed (before brushing your teeth :)) or put honey in a chamomile tea to calm the body and wind down before bed. You can also use honey topically on your skin as it helps to protect the moisture barrier. Honey is highly enzymatic, so it's great for digestion and only food on the planet that does not really expire.
Manuka honey is a specific strain of honey. It comes from a Manuka plant (native to New Zealand), which is similar to Eucalyptus plant. Manuka honey is famous for its anti-viral capabilities, but so is all good quality raw honey. What makes Manuka honey different, is that it contains enzyme called methylglyoxal, which is unique to only Manuka honey and has because of that the honey has very high antibacterial properties, used for example to heal wounds.
Buckwheat honey is something that I personally have not tried yet, but which is said to be one of the highest in antioxidants and can be used instead of cough syrups.
People with seasonal allergies could try and consume local raw honey, since then they are ingesting local pollen which over time might help the person to become less sensitive to this particular pollen.
It is important to note, that though honey has many great benefits, it's still a form of sugar (a combination of fructose, glycose and sucrose). It should be used sparingly as it does effect your blood sugar levels and liver.
Always purchase a good quality raw honey, which means, it's minimally processed and not heated nor filtered. Pure honey is thick and creamy and not runny (should have less than 18% of water), plus contains pollen (therefore should not look clear).
Bee pollen is so called a raw material from which bees produce bee bread. Bees collect the pollen dust from the wide variety of flowers to make sure the pollen has all the necessary vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats in the right ratios for optimum honey bee health. It's a mixture of flower pollen, nectar, bee secretions, enzymes, honey and wax. When the bee pollen is not consumed by the bees, it gets fermented and turned into bee bread.
Bee pollen has a very nutrient-rich profile, containing vitamins B1, B3, B7, B9, vitamin E, carotenoid pigments, polyphenols and enzymes.
When consumed by humans, bee pollen:
helps to restore your liver function
increases appetite and physical capacity
lowers blood cholesterol
is an effective remedy for anemia
strengthens sexual function
reduces blood clotting
stimulates bile and urine secretion
reduces the risk of prostate enlargement
slows ageing process
I take 0.5tsp of bee pollen 15 minutes before my breakfast, but also add it now and again to my smoothie, smoothie bowls or pancakes.
Bee bread is an additional source of food for bees, what they produce from bee pollen. First bees collect the pollen from the plants, then they bring it to the hive and compress it into a thick lump in a honeycomb, which they then moisten with their digestive fluids fill with honey and finally cap with wax. As there is no oxygen reaching the bee bread, it starts a 2 week fermentation process, which results in an increase in acid and sugar content and also the production of vitamin K. During the ripening of the pod, the outer skin of the pollen grain gets damaged and as a result, the nutrients found in the pollen become better absorbed by the bees. Bees use the bee bread to feed larvae and young bees.
Bee bread contains around 55% carbohydrates, 35% proteins, 3% vitamins and minerals, 2% fatty acids and 5% of other substances. It has been for centuries in medicine and for healing for its antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory. Bee bread is considered as a concentrated form of pollen, so should be consumed less than pollen. As a guideline for consumption a day, 3-4 pieces for children over 1 year and 6-12 pieces for adults. Unlike pure pollen, bee bread rarely causes allergic reaction. However, if you are allergic to bee's venom, I would be cautious consuming both pollen and bee bread.
Propolis is a bee glue that bees produce by mixing beeswax and saliva. It's an immune system of the hive- bees medicine. The base ingredient of propolis is plant and tree sap, which bees collect and take back to the hive where they then put it through an enzymatic process. Bees use propolis to line the entire beehive to keep it germ free- all walls, including inside of the cell walls of new baby bees to keep the environment sterile. They also have a 'propolis mat' in front of the entrance of the beehive to protect the hive from germs and bacteria.
For people, propolis is a great immune supporter as it's anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and high in flavonoids. It's also used for cold sores, diabetes, sores inside the mouth, for burns, for certain cancers and for upper respiratory tract infections.
Propolis can be taken in different forms- through oral sprays, as capsules, in a liquid forms. You can also make your own propolis tincture by mixing two parts of propolis and nine parts of high quality vodka in a dark glass bottle. Mix it well and store in a dark place. Shake it once or twice a day. It should be ready for consumption after two weeks.
Royal jelly is a honey bee milky secretion used as a food for bee larvae and as only foods source for queen bees throughout their lives. It contains water, protein, sugar, fats and A, B, C and E-vitamins, 20 amino acids, folic acid, iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, copper, potassium, gelatine and several other great nutrients.
Royal jelly is known for its wide range of antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant benefits as well for its use in beauty.
Royal jelly is believed to help with:
manage the symptoms of menopause
improving red blood cell count
reducing PMS symptoms
energy and vitality