Did you know that one of the oldest folk remedies is something that is probably in your pantry at this very moment? Naturally sweet honey has been used for centuries to soothe upset stomachs and treat wounds. I personally use honey not only in many of my dinner recipes but also when I’m feeling “under the weather”.
As scientists study our environment, new natural remedies are emerging all the time. It should be of interest to you that that honey is not the only beneficial by-product of bees.
The Hardest Working Insects Around
They call them “worker bees” for a reason. Throughout their lives, bees never stop working, as if they have an energizer battery instead of a stinger attached to their bodies. Aside from caring for the queen, a bee’s main function in life is to maintain the hive. In order to build a sturdy, safe home the bees make a substance called “propolis.” The thick, resinous quality of propolis lets the bees use it to literally hold the hive together and patch up any gaps, like a sort of caulking. It is only recently that we have learned the uses for propolis in the medical field.
It’s important to understand how bees work in order to make a well-informed decision about using propolis. Bees are scavengers. They use what is available to them in nature and convert it into things like honey and propolis. You may have noticed the different varieties of honey in your local market. Clover, orange blossom and lavender honey are just a few of the types available. The plants surrounding a bee’s habitat will determine the type of honey it produces.
The same goes for propolis, which is generally made from tree buds. Propolis can be found in different colors like brown, red and green, depending on the type of tree it came from and what time of year it was made. To complicate things further, propolis will vary depending on the species of bee and geographic location.
Now, here’s the catch: the medical effectiveness of propolis most likely depends on its antioxidant levels. Specifically, propolis strains rich in antioxidant flavonoids are thought to be most beneficial. When you purchase products made with propolis, you should make sure the manufacturer has tested the antioxidant levels and antibacterial and antifungal properties.
What’s the Buzz?
Now that you know all about where propolis comes from, you’re probably wondering what exactly it can do for you. Based on my research, here are some of the benefits that various studies have associated with propolis:
1) Relieves inflammation
2) Soothes mild burns
3) Prevents formation of cataracts
4) Eases sore throat pain
5) May counteract allergies (unless you are allergic to bees)
6) Treats canker sores and oral disease
7) Prevents cavities
8 ) Kills bacteria in wounds
The most important functions of propolis are its natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Tests have shown that it helps heal surgical wounds more quickly than modern methods. A Japanese study showed it may actually prevent strep throat. The reason for all these incredible health benefits goes back to the needs of bees to protect their hives which are sensitive to viral infection. Propolis not only seals up the hive, but keep disease out.
You’ll see propolis available in powder and extract form, as well as in raw chunks and as an ingredient in topical creams and salves. Research a particular product to make sure it fits your individual needs. Remember, bees aren’t just out to sting you – they’re busy working so you can reap the health benefits!
Photo Credit: graur razvan ionut