Along with being a wife, momma and nurse practitioner…I’m a beekeeper too. I started my beekeeping adventure a couple of years ago when a dear friend of mine invited me to go check her bees with her. It was amazing to me how the colony functioned as a whole and how the individual honey bees worked…I had found a new addiction. I want to share a few ways of how the honey bee impacts mankind and benefits our health.
Our Food Supply
When you sit down to enjoy a fresh salad topped with nuts and berries, add almond milk to a smoothie or take a bite of watermelon on a hot summer day, do you ever ponder all of the steps it took to get that food or drink in front of you? One of the many steps in getting those products in the consumers hand involves pollination, most likely done by bees. Honey bees are also responsible for one-third of the TOTAL human dietary supply (Khalifa et al., 2021). Without the honey bee, the human population would get to a point of starvation. This is perhaps the honey bee’s largest impact on mankind.
Products of the Hive
- I’m sure we are all aware of the benefits of honey in regards to coughing induced by upper respiratory infections. In fact, studies have shown 2.5 mL of honey ingested orally is superior to dextromethorphan for cough suppression. As the honey coats the inner lining of the throat, not only is it soothing, the antimicrobial properties of honey aid in fighting the infection (Pasupuleti et al., 2017).
- Research has also proven honey is beneficial in various cutaneous issues. The therapeutic effects that have been observed include wound cleansing, clearance of infection, tissue regeneration, decreased inflammation and minimal discomfort during wound dressing changes due to a lower extent of tissue adhesion (Pasupuleti et al., 2017).
- Honey also contains high amounts of prebiotics; studies have shown this hastens the growth of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria (our good gut microorganisms). The results of this are the gastrointestinal tract has a higher probiotic potency (Pasupuleti et al., 2017). Have bad breath? Honey can also help! A recent study found that due to the strong antibacterial activity in honey, specifically the methylglyoxal component, it eliminates the degrading microbes in the oral cavity that cause halitosis (Pasupuleti et al., 2017).
- First, what is propolis? Propolis is “bee glue,” the bees make this substance to seal any holes in the hive to prevent weathering, retain the hive’s internal temperature and keep predators out. Propolis has many properties such as being an antiseptic, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal.
- Pasupuleti et al. (2017) discusses a fascinating study where propolis was used in the treatment of the most common gastrointestinal parasitic infection in the world, Giardiasis. Propolis was shown to have a cure rate between 52%-60% versus 40% with the conventional drug. Propolis inhibited growth and adherence and promoted detachment of the parasite.
- Similar to honey, propolis is also well studied and effective in various dermatological disorders. A few of these disorders include acne vulgaris, diabetic foot ulcers and general wound bed healing and repair.
- Research has shown patients dealing with recurrent vaginitis have had an improvement in vaginal well-being with the application of a 5% aqueous propolis solution. Not only does the propolis provide antibiotic properties, it also provides early symptomatic relief due to its anesthetic properties (Pasupuleti et al., 2017).
- Royal jelly is a white, jelly like substance that is fed to the honey bee larvae upon hatching and what the queen bee solely consumes throughout her entire life. It is known as a “superfood” and why the queen bee lives longer than the worker bees. What makes royal jelly so special is that it contains royalactin, this ingredient allows the morphological change of a larva into a queen bee. Similar to honey and propolis, royal jelly is also antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.
- Royal jelly has even shown promising results in studies performed on animals regarding Alzheimer’s disease, protection against oxidative injuries, balancing of hormones and antiaging (Pasupuleti et al., 2017). It fascinates me that such small creatures can be responsible for so many miraculous things. Likewise, in many way, the honey bee impacts every single one of us. Not only are they the number one pollinator in the world, making it possible for our food supply to be abundant but the products of the hive have many benefits for mankind.
- Honey, propolis and royal jelly are all also safe and non-toxic to humans. Making the products very appealing as an alternative treatment in the various diseases and illnesses, in which they have been studied.
Khalifa, S., Elshafiey, E. H., Shetaia, A. A., El-Wahed, A., Algethami, A. F., Musharraf, S. G., AlAjmi, M. F., Zhao, C., Masry, S., Abdel-Daim, M. M., Halabi, M. F., Kai, G., Al Naggar, Y., Bishr, M., Diab, M., & El-Seedi, H. R. (2021). Overview of bee pollination and its economic value for crop production. Insects, 12(8), 688. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12080688
Pasupuleti, V. R., Sammugam, L., Ramesh, N., & Gan, S. H. (2017). Honey, propolis, and royal jelly: A comprehensive review of their biological actions and health benefits. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 1259510. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/1259510