Archive for Apitherapy

Products from the Hive – Part III: BEEBREAD

Beebread!  Who knew?  With a name like that it’s not hard to imagine all those little honey bees scurrying around the kitchen wearing their teeny-tiny aprons and their teeny-tiny Toqués.  Yes.  While that is easy to imagine, it is slightly more difficult to shake that image from one’s mind and come back to reality.

Of all the products of the hive, beebread is the least explored and possibly one of the most valuable nutritionally.  Also referred to as “Ambrosia,” which means the food of the gods, or “Perga” translated “tower.”  The terminology denotes the strengthening effect of beebread as it is utilized by the body.

The Roman army was known to have beekeepers accompany them into war.  The products of the hive were tantamount to the well-being of the soldiers.  Honey was used for packing wounds, beebread for strengthening, and other hive products were utilized for the benefit the troops.

Honeycomb & Beebread Pellets

So what exactly is beebread?  Beebread is lacto-fermented honey bee food made from honey or nectar and pollen mixed with enzymes and lactic acid bacteria which live in their honey stomach(2) and are applied through the bees “saliva.” These enzymes prevent the pollen from germinating.  The raw beebread is tightly packed into honeycomb cells and capped off by worker bees.  Then it is allowed to ferment.  This fermenting process is what takes a “superfood” like plain ol’ pollen granules and transforms it into a substance commonly known as Ambrosia thousands of years ago.

If you’ve ever wondered what it was that makes a tiny little insect have so much energy to perform what would seem like an insurmountable task, this is it.  Worker bees don’t generally consume pollen when it’s fresh.  Fresh pollen is used to feed larvae.  Worker bees eat this fermented beebread, especially during the time they overwinter in the hive.  They fill each honeycomb cell about two-thirds with pollen, then put a layer of honey over it and cap it off with beeswax to make it airtight.  This begins the process of fermentation.  The end result is a product with three times the bio-availability of bee pollen granules.  One might think of bee bread as the “yogurt” of bees.  Without it they cannot secrete two other bee products: royal jelly and wax.1  You might say that beebread is what keeps the hive “buzzin’!”

Interesting things happen as a result of the honey/pollen lacto-fermentation.  Fresh pollen, which has a limited shelf life before it goes rancid or molds, is transformed into a product that has an indefinite shelf life like that of honey.  The end product is rendered much more digestible and even though the protein content is lower than pollen, the bioavailability of the protein is dramatically increased to 63 percent.(3) The fermentation process predigests the proteins into amino acids which are then found to be higher than that of pollen.  The acidity of beebread is also high, which helps it to be easily absorbed.  Another thing that happens is now, voilà, Vitamin K is present where it did not exist previously in either the honey or pollen products.  Fermentation seems to “unlock” the minerals bound tightly within the cellulose covering of the pollen seeds in the granules.4 The end result is a food three times higher in its nutritional and antimicrobial content which is also a good source of unsaturated fatty acids.  “Beebread has a large variety of minerals and has high quantities of iron, cobalt, phosphorus, calcium. It is one of the richest natural foods containing selenium. Beebread is also an excellent source of potassium and B-group vitamins.”5 For those with allergies to bee pollen it would be good to note that allergies to fermented beebread are extremely rare.6

So how does one obtain beebread?  Well, beebread is often gathered by the beekeeper as whole comb, then harvested with a scraper and placed in a jar.  They are dried and look like little multi-colored pellets, the size of a cell of a honeycomb where it was packed by the bee.  With modern beekeeping methods it is difficult to harvest bee bread directly from the hive as much of the comb would be destroyed.  Pollen granule collectors which are placed outside the hive, make it easier for beekeepers as they do not need to enter the hive and disturb the bees.  Therefore, fresh pollen is more frequently available for purchase.

Fermented beebread is not difficult to make, so with that in mind here’s a recipe that will help us on our way!


Beebread Recipe

By Reyah Carlson, Apitherapist

  • 2-1/2 Parts Raw Honey
  • 1 Part Fresh Pollen Granules (always use fresh pollen or pollen immediately frozen at harvest)


Into a sterilized wide-mouthed canning jar, pour a layer of honey, then a layer of fresh pollen granules, then honey, pollen, and so forth.  Finish with a honey layer at least one to two inches from the top of the jar.  Place a double layer of waxed paper over the opening between the honey and the lid and set the lid on top and screw on the band.  Next, quickly take a picture because the layers disappear quickly and it does look pretty.

The layering helps the pollen dissolve into the honey quickly.  It doesn’t have to be perfect. (What a great opportunity for kids.) Then turn your jar over for the first time.  Put it is a spot where it gets flipped whenever you walk by, at least several times a day for two weeks or longer.  If the room is on the cooler side, the fermentation process will take longer.  Almost all of the pollen granules will be dissolved.

If you like, once the fermentation process is complete you can top off the jar with honey to thin the product a bit, replace the lid and continue to flip the jar for another day or two.  Then decant into smaller jars.  Please don’t use plastic when fermenting the beebread.  Chemicals will leach into your final product.

Do Not Refrigerate!  Keep beebread at room temperature!

Dose:  If you’re new to taking pollen granules or beebread, adults can start off with 1/4 teaspoon twice a day at breakfast and lunch.  Increase slowly until you’re at the desired amount.  Gradually increase the dose from ¼ to 1 or even 2 Tsp daily in the AM.  Do not give beebread to any child under one year of age.


Once accustomed to the flavor of bee products, most people find beebread delicious plain.  However, if you’re the adventurous type and would like to experiment with adding flavors, decant your beebread into several smaller jars.  (Take care to never, add herbs or spices to beebread before it has completely fermented.  They are powerful in action and can stop the fermentation process leaving you with an undesirable product.)

Try stirring in some ground cinnamon or a cinnamon and clove combination.  How about another jar with cayenne, or even cinnamon and cayenne for that ‘red hot cinnamon gummi bear’ flavor?  Maybe a citrusy jar with grated orange and lemon peel, or vanilla bean, or a star anise and vanilla combination (just mouthwatering.)  …And for a walk on the savory side how about rosemary or dill?  Then there’s spearmint, lavender, ginger, cacao (oh my!)…  The ideas are endless.

Bee-Healthy Salad Dressing

How about this. Mix a couple of tablespoons of plain or savory beebread with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar.  Stir in some garlic powder, Italian seasonings, and a pinch of sea salt for an easy, healthy, tasty, salad dressing.  Perhaps you will share your beebread culinary creations with us in the comments below!

Beebread is not only yummy and good to eat, it can be incorporated into a beauty routine as a nourishing facial mask.  Here is a recipe you can customize and have fun with.  It can help smooth wrinkles, tone, and moisturize.


Due to the large amount of selenium in beebread, it is a good natural food choice to assist those undergoing chemo and radiation.  Selenium boosts red blood cell (RBC) production while RBCs are destroyed by chemo and radiation.

It may also be beneficial for those with digestive and hepatic system illness as well as disorders of the urinary and prostate, male infertility, muscle weakness and wasting, congestive heart failure, cancer, asthma, IBS, and rheumatoid arthritis.  Beebread is known to lower cholesterol and benefit atherosclerosis.7


Bee-Kissed Facial Mask

  • 1-2 TSPS Honey
  • 1 TSP Beebread
  • 1 DROP Lavender Essential Oil
  • Add: Water, Green Tea, or other herbal decoction of your choice*

Directions:  In a small glass bowl mix the honey and beebread together.  Add your essential oil, then carefully, one drop at a time with an eyedropper or pip, add your herbal decoction until your mask is the desired consistency.  You want a thicker mixture that won’t drip off of your face.  *Remember, should you choose to increase the moisture content any leftover mask will only last a few days and must be refrigerated.

How to Apply:  On a freshly washed face and neck, apply the Bee-Kissed Facial Mask and allow to set for 20-30 minutes.  Rinse with warm water.


Bee-U-T-Full Hair Conditioner

  • 2 TBSPS Beebread
  • 4-6 DROPS Rosemary Essential Oil, or essential oil(s) of your choice
  • 4 CUPS Herbal Infusion. Use any one or combination of herbs (chamomile, peppermint, lavender, rosemary, etc.)

Directions:  In a plastic quart bottle add your infusion after it has cooled until about 2 inches from the top.   Add the Beebread and the essential oils, then shake well until the beebread is dissolved and the essential oils are disbursed.

How to Apply:  This homemade conditioner can be used each time you wash your hair.   Shake conditioner well, then massage through hair after washing.  Allow conditioner to set for 3-5 minutes, then rinse well with warm water.




1 The American Apitherapy Society Inc. (from material provided by Andrew Kochan, MD, 6-08)

2 The Lactic Acid Bacteria Involved in the Production of Bee Pollen and Bee Bread

3 Pollen Diversity of Bee Bread is Linked to Its Nutrient Content

4 Bee Bread & The Truth About Bee Pollen


6 (taken from Krell, R.,“Value-Added Products from Bee-Keeping,”  FAO Agricultural Services Bulletin #124, 1996)

7 Beebread


Products from the Hive – Part II: POLLEN

Pollen is the male seed of the plant located in the flower which is required for fertilization and subsequent seed development.  It consists of a minute particle of 50/1.000-millimeter corpuscles which form at the free end of the stamen.  Every flower has pollen and this pollen provides about 40% of the nutritional needs of young bees.

Honey bees practice ‘flower fidelity’ as they only visit one type of flower with each trip from the hive.  This is awesome for pollination!  She (all honey bee workers are sterile females) lands on a flower and begins to moisten the dry pollen with her mouth using nectar carried from the hive in one of her two stomachs.  Each pollen granule has between four and ten million grains of pollen.  Next, the moistened pollen is packed into the “pollen baskets”, the corbiculae (stiff hairs), of her hind legs.  Typically, dry pollen particles stick to the worker bee’s body and catch a ride to the next flower.  In this manner pollination occurs as the bee lands on flower after flower.

Upon her return to the hive, the worker bee locates a single cell in the honeycomb and scrapes off all of the pellets from her hind legs.  Then she grooms all the pollen from her body with her front legs.  Takes a sip of nectar from another bee whose job is to work in the hive and then leaves the hive in search of more pollen.  Following her departure, the hive worker bee will then add enzymes to the pollen whilst packing the pellets tightly into the cell. 1

Pollen is used to feed baby worker bees and is the only protein source for the honey bee colony. The pollen that is stored during the warm months are used during late winter/early spring to feed the first brood (baby bees) that are hatched out after a long winter.  Without enough pollen during this critical time, whole colonies of bees can die from starvation even if there are adequate stores of honey.

About 22.7% of pollen is protein.  It also contains all of the essential amino acids (10.4%) such as: methionine, lysine, threonine, histidine, leucine, isoleucine, valine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan which are highly bio-available to the body.  It is one of the main sources of dietary protein for bees in the form of beebread a substance which we will discuss in the next blog in this series entitled: “Products from the Hive Series – Part III:  Beebread.”

A veritable SUPERFOOD!!

As a popular energy-enhancing nutritional supplement, pollen is not only high in protein, a complete protein as it contains all the essential and even most non-essential amino acids.  Also, this protein has been predigested by the bees so it is very easy for the body to digest and assimilate.  There are also vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals, however, the quantity of bioavailable Vitamin B12 varies greatly by location and should not be assumed to be in high enough quantity for a human.

“According to researchers at the Institute of Apiculture, Taranov, Russia:

‘Honeybee pollen is the richest source of vitamins found in Nature in a single food. Even if bee pollen had none of its other vital ingredients, its content of rutin alone would justify taking at least a teaspoon daily, if for no other reason than strengthening the capillaries. Pollen is extremely rich in rutin and may have the highest content of any source, plus it provides a high content of the nucleics RNA [ribonucleic acid] and DNA [deoxyribonucleic acid].”2

Note:  Rutin is a powerfully antioxidant bioflavinoid that helps the body produce collagen and utilize Vitamin C.

“Pollen is a good source of enzymes and co-enzymes [over 5,000 different types of live enzymes have been identified] and also has the highest anti-oxidant activity, as measured by the ORAC index, of any fruit or vegetable.  Because of its nutrient density, one to two teaspoons of pollen is equivalent to a serving of vegetables.  Therefore, supplementing your diet with bee pollen is a great way to significantly improve your nutrient intake.”3  This being said, pollen does not contain the correct proportion of nutrients required by humans to use as a sole food source for an extended period of time.  Thus, while it is beneficial as a supplement, it remains only the “perfect food” for bees!

Medicinal Uses of Pollen

‘‘Honey and pollen cause warmth, clean sores and ulcers, soften hard ulcers of the lips, heal carbuncles and running sores.”

~ Hippocrates

The application of pollen ointment has also been found to prevent “infection of the newly formed tissue” in the healing of burn wounds.4 Another study found a combination of honey and pollen to be gastroprotective in its action toward gastric ulcers.5

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, pollen is considered a nutritive and energy tonic. It has been used for centuries to improve endurance and vitality, extend longevity, and to promote weight gain during convalescence.  “The amino acid phenylalanine is responsible for pollen’s weight regulatory effects. Whether a person is over- or under-weight, bee pollen helps normalize weight.”6 It also contains lecithin which assists in weight loss (reduces cravings and addictions), Alzheimer’s-related memory decline, gallbladder problems and arthritis.  The triterpene bonds may also have an effect of preventing the development of insulin resistance and normalizing the blood glucose of diabetics as well as strong antioxidant activity beneficial in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy, embryopathy, neuropathy or impaired wound healing.7

Pollen grains from different plants, 3D illustration. They are factors causing hay fever and allergic rhinitis.                                                                                               Copyright: drmicrobe / 123RF Stock Photo


Pollen is a wonderful “blood-builder” as it decreases the oxidation of both red and white blood cells and increases hemoglobin.

Not long ago, a client contacted me for a recommendation on a horse diagnosed with anemia.  After only two weeks on pollen the mare was feeling well enough to show again (with a double pollen dose the morning of the event for a little extra energy.)  She performed great for her owners.  When I followed up, the trainer exclaimed that the pollen worked great and that after the first couple of days the horse’s allergies went away too.  Pollen was the best choice.

It gives one cause to wonder if pollen’s ability to build healthy blood might actually be a greater contributor to the lessening of seasonal allergies and hay fever than the “immunizing” effect it is theorized to have.  Most people are allergic to wind-borne pollens such as grasses, while the pollens that honey bees collect are not of the wind-borne type, rather, they are from plants that require insect pollinators.“There is a rapidly increasing body of scientific evidence which shows that pollen has a variety of anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-arthritic properties.  Its anti-inflammatory and antiallergic properties, as well as its immune system normalizing phytochemicals, allows bee pollen to be used therapeutically to decrease symptoms in people who have hay fever and pollen sensitivities.  This is done through oral administration and is analogous to the way allergists treat people with desensitization injections. The therapy consists of giving a patient tiny amounts of a substance that a person is allergic to, and slowly increasing the amount over time.

Pollen has been reported to be useful in many other medical conditions including: varicose veins, high cholesterol and triglycerides, fatigue, infertility, impotence, anorexia, obesity, constipation, diarrhea, hypertension, prostatitis, depression, scar formation, and recovery from illness and surgery.  Pollen is compatible with other therapies, it can be used long term, has no toxicity even at high doses for those who are not sensitive or allergic, and is safe to take as a supplement during pregnancy.”3 In fact, one of the most important use of pollen is for its curative activity in prostate disorders.

“Pollen also has a multitude of other effects, including strengthening the body against viral infections, relieving fatigue, assisting in the treatment of asthma, improving concentration, and skin problems. It can also help women with painful menstrual cramps or menopausal women with hot flashes. It can relieve headaches and heart palpitations. As well, pollen can increase sexual potency, fertility, and especially benefits the prostate. Regulation of colon problems is another one of its uses, as is a diuretic action of the kidney and bladder. There is even anecdotal evidence of pollen’s effectiveness for children with attention deficit disorder (ADD).”8

“The United States Department of Agriculture conducted a research experiment which suggests that bee pollen even has anti-cancer properties. The conclusion of the project states that “the ingestion of pollenized food delayed the onset of mammary tumors.” William Robinson who headed the study found that the cancer cellular growth rate slowed to about half the original rate in mice, while an Austrian report also found bee pollen to be helpful in reducing symptoms of radiation sickness in patients treated by radiation for cervical cancer.”9

“Because bee pollen is concentrated flower pollen, there is some theoretical concern about its use by people who have pollen allergies, though in practice there seems to be a big difference between the effects of inhaled and ingested pollens.  …Theoretically as well, it would seem that pollens ingested might work to desensitize people who are environmentally allergic…”10

How to Take Bee Pollen Granules

If you’ve never taken bee pollen granules before, test your tolerance with a small amount and work up slowly to a full daily dose.

To begin, take one granule the first day and place it under your tongue to dissolve completely.  If you experience no reaction, double the amount of granules for your second dose on day two.  Continue increasing in this manner as long as you show no allergic symptoms.  (See chart below.)

Should you experience mild allergic symptoms such as runny nose, itchy throat, mild headache, sweating, tearing of the eyes, stomach or bowel distress, or respiratory issues, stop taking pollen for a few days, then start again at the lowest dose that does not cause symptoms.  Stay at that dose for an entire week this time, then build up slowly, increasing only one dose per week perhaps.  Do not rush this process.  Take as long as you need.

If you have a severe reaction, please contact a health professional before taking pollen again in this manner.  If you experience anaphylaxis immediately dial 911 and discontinue pollen use altogether.

Warning: Do not begin taking pollen during the time you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  Bee pollen can interact with warfarin and other blood thinners so anyone taking these medications is advised to consult with their physician before ingesting honey bee pollen.

Adult dose – up to two TBSPS daily ~ Child dose – up to two TSPs per day

Note:  Keep pollen granules refrigerated.  Freeze for long-term storage.  Bee pollen does not freeze so it can be eaten directly from freezer. Do not leave unrefrigerated for extended periods of time.

Pollen can be consumed by itself or with food.  It can be sprinkled on a salad or oatmeal that has cooled a bit, mixed right into salad dressing, yogurt, and smoothie, whatever you like.  I add pollen into a chia/gelatin/cinnamon/almond milk “pudding” that I make.  Just remember not to put it on foods that have not cooled to near 104 degrees.  Heat causes a rapid degradation of nutrients and enzymes.  Pollen is even delicious plain (just how the bees eat it) at around room temperature.

Does bee pollen need to be soaked because each pollen grain corpuscle is encased in a protective barrier to protect the male seed from UV rays and the elements?

Well, yes and no.  While there is a doctor who is claims to have studied this and found that absorption was increased dramatically (from 7-12% to +-90%)11 by soaking the pollen overnight for 12 hours.  This research is not presently available and there seems to be an unfortunate lack corroborating research.  In spite of this, you might consider soaking bee pollen if you are not getting the results you desire such as increased energy and vitality.

Anyone with known digestive disorders such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, IBS, bloating, etc., may want to consider soaking their pollen.  I enjoy putting my daily dose of pollen in a little glass of almond milk.  Within about 30 minutes most of the pollen has dissolved and I have a thicker, slightly sweet yellow/orange “pollen milk” that I enjoy.  Bee creative and comment about ways you like to eat pollen below!

There is another method of making pollen more bio-available…  Bee sure to ‘tune in’ for the buzz in part three of our series on honeybee products called: “Bee Bread!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~




3 (from material provided by Andrew Kochan, MD, 6-08)



6, 8, 9


10 Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson M. Hass, MD







Products from the Hive – Part I: HONEY

Author: Darlene Jorgens

Honey bees belong to the genus Apis mellifera Linnaeus.  They are distinguished by their ability to produce and store great quantities of honey and also make their nests from wax.  Their products are exclusively derived from the nectar, pollen, or resin from plants.  In fact, plants need bees as much as bees need plants, and mankind desperately needs both the bees and the plants for our survival.  Apis mellifera and its symbiotic relationship with both plants and people is an integral part of herbalism.

Honey is made when after having ingested plant nectar the bees store it in their honey stomach.  Yep.  They have two stomachs!  One for nectar and the other for food.  Once its nectar stomach is full, the bee flies back to the hive and passes the nectar off to other bees which then digest it with enzymes and filter out most of the pollen.  When they are done passing the nectar between each other and processing it it is stored in honeycomb cells, like little tiny jars all with their lids off.  Next, they use their wings to fan the honey until it evaporates to a 18 percent moisture content.  Finally, once it is completely transformed from nectar to honey, they cap each cell with wax.  Industrious creatures that they are, and unlike any other insect, they store up honey far beyond what they need, just as a billionaire socks away money in the bank.  This propensity to store up honey benefits both the plant and animal kingdoms.  A wise beekeeper will not extract too much honey from the hive.  It is important to leave enough “canned goods” for the bees to survive the winter and early spring.

In the past 100 years or so, along with the commercialization of the honey bee and their products, industry has deliberately enlarged the honey bee by increasing the size of the cell within the comb.  Greed is the motivation behind the thought that a larger honey bee will produce more honey.  This enlargement has weakened the honey bees’ resistance to disease as well as pests.  It is so common throughout the industry that it is not even mentioned in ‘beekeeper school.’  One just gets a list of chemicals to deal with the deleterious effects of the enlargement which include greater susceptibility to disease and pests like the Varroa mite.

As a result many beekeepers use antibiotics, pesticides, or fungicides to keep their colonies alive.  When chemicals are used in the hive they spread all throughout the hive and contaminate the wax, the honey, basically anything in the hive.  It is unfortunate that beekeepers are commonly trained in this manner.  Furthermore, consumers trying to determine the quality of the honey they are purchasing are taught to ask if the honey is local, raw, and unfiltered.  Truthfully, the most important honey questions we ought to ask are these:  “Is this honey raw, unfiltered, and chemical-free?”

“Is this honey raw, unfiltered, and chemical-free?”

In a quest for more natural beekeeping methods some beekeepers are turning to the use of essential oils in the hive to control disease, etc.  While essential oils are more acceptable from a consumer standpoint they are disruptive to the microbiome of the hive.  The answer for the problems caused by unnaturally large honey bee size is to allow nature to restore itself to the correct natural size.

To  accomplish this the beekeeper will use what are called ‘Natural Cell Size’ techniques.  This is the process to reduce the size of the bee by allowing them to draw their own comb and hatch out the next generation of smaller bees.  It takes about two generations of bees (bees generally live about 6-8 weeks) to complete the two life cycles it takes for bees to draw the comb twice (smaller each time.)  Basically, a smaller cell size produces a smaller bee.  It is amazing that the honey bee instinctively knows the size to draw its comb to “fit” properly.  How awesome for nature to have the capacity to correct itself.

If you are interested in learning about beekeeping and utilizing natural cell size and other natural beekeeping techniques, I would recommend reading:  The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally by Michael Bush.  The book is available in print and the chapters are posted free for your reading pleasure on his website:

What should someone look for when selecting a honey product?  This is an important question because we really do want all of the natural goodness of the honey!

Raw, Unfiltered, and Chemical Free!

RAW – “Raw honey is noteworthy for having considerable plant amylase.  The amylase does not come from the bee but is a true plant enzyme, concentrated from the pollen of flowers. . .”1  Amylase begins the process of digestion even before food hits the salivary glands.  Raw honey is full of enzymes, nutrients and antioxidants which are destroyed by high temperatures.  Most commercial honey sold in stores is pasteurized at high temperatures to keep the honey from crystallizing. To reverse the crystallization of unpasteurized raw honey, simply warm up the jar slowly in warm water.  Tip:  Don’t add honey to hot tea, rather, add it to warm tea 104 degrees or less to retain the honey’s nutritional value.

UNFILTERED – All honey is “filtered” in the sense that it passes through a large mesh screen.  After all, no one would want to eat it if they saw bee legs and wings floating around in it. The term “unfiltered” as it relates to the commercial processing of honey means that it has not been forcibly “pressed” through a tight filter which heats the honey and destroys nutrients, in addition to filtering out any beneficial pollen it may contain.  Honey should only be run through a large filter with no added pressure to remove debris.

LOCAL(?) – Well, that depends.  If the local beekeeper is attempting to raise their bees naturally, then by all means support them!  However, if you are ingesting “local” honey because of the popularly-held belief that the pollen content in “local” honey helps those suffering from allergies you may want to reconsider.  Actually, there is very little pollen in honey as the bees filter out all of the largest particles when they process honey.  There is pollen dust always floating throughout the hive and those particles will stick to the uncapped honey that is dehydrating.  Yet it is a very minute amount.  Therefore, it may be of greater importance to ingest a honey that is free of chemicals than it is to ensure a honey is sourced locally, unless it meets your high standards.  If someone is desiring seasonal allergy relief they should be directed to use the honey bee product that will produce the best result, either bee pollen or bee bread.  We will discuss these more in depth in Parts II and III of the Products from the Hive series.

For those who purchase commercial honey, please take time to read the label.  It is not uncommon to find pasteurized honey, filtered honey, and honey cut with corn syrup, among other ingredients.  The regulations of the country of origin determine whether honey may be cut with high fructose corn syrup, and/or made by bees who have primarily been feeding on high fructose corn syrup instead of nectar.  For instance, it is possible for honey to originate in one country, become contaminated with sugar and/or heavy metals, sold to another country for processing and cut with corn syrup, and then resold to the U.S. to be packaged and distributed.  Because the packing occurred in the U.S. there will not be any indication on the label of additives or processes that occurred in other countries.  Such “honey” will be lacking in any flavor other than sweetness, will not have the aromatic floral compounds derived from flower nectar, and have potential devastating toxicity.

Organic certifications are difficult to obtain in this polluted world and because of the difficulty are expensive for the consumer.  The remote areas are not very “local” for most people.  Honey bees are known to travel over three miles from their hive in search of pollen and nectar and are indiscriminant about the plants they draw from.  One’s best bet is to find a source free of chemicals, additives, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, artificial colors, flavors, and pollutants to ensure you are using a very high quality honey.

Herbalists Take Note:

Whenever we use herbs medicinally, they MUST be organic or wildcrafted.  We cannot expect the body to heal itself when we add more toxins to it.  Make sure your selection of honey is the highest quality for your remedies!

Nutritionally, honey is made up of 35 percent protein, may have some B-complex vitamins (mostly from the dusting of pollen it receives while dehydrating in the hive before it is capped.)  Other vitamins in honey are C, D, and E, along with traces of minerals.  It is not a high source of nutrients so it should not be relied upon for such.

As a sweetener preferable to sugar, “Honey is approximately 40% fructose, 31% glucose, 18% water, 9% other sugars, and 2% sucrose”2 which compared to white sugar has a more stabilizing effect on blood sugar.  Still it is very high in sugar content and should be used sparingly.  Keep in mind that honey is twice as sweet as sugar.  Typically, honey consumption will raise blood sugar for the diabetic for a period of two hours, instead of the six-or-more hour insulin spike caused by processed sugars.

A word of caution.  Do not feed or recommend honey to infants under one year old.  They do not have enough stomach acid to safely process spores such as Clostridium botulinum (Botulism.)  Honey is safe for children, adults, and babies after age one.

Beyond the familiar culinary use, honey has been used in beauty products from lotions and honey masks to creams.  As a medicinal, honey has antioxidant, anti-bacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and demulcent, and emollient properties.

“Honey and pollen cause warmth, clean sores and ulcers, soften hard ulcers of the lips, heal carbuncles and running sores.”                                                                                            ~ Hippocrates

The action of honey on bacterial growth, reducing wound infection by osmosis.

Science has not done justice exploring the medicinal use of honey.  Studies have proven it effective as a topical wound dressing that promotes rapid healing, pain relief, and decreased inflammatory response for those with wounds & burns. 3 Honey has the ability to sterilize infected wounds and minimize the formation of scars.4 It can be used to heal external ulcers and bed sores. 5 It is effective in combination with Nigella sativa (Black Seed) for the eradication of H. pylori infections. 6

Honey is one of a number of corrigents, meaning “corrective” as it can rectify a bad flavor and counteract a disagreeable effect.  Honey can be used alone as a corrigent because by itself it is altering or healing.

Honey mixed with vinegar is a known ‘carrier’ which is a delivery system for herbal remedies which boosts the assimilation of nutrients of the selected herbs as in the following two remedies:

Amish “Miracle Tea” – Make with the non-caffeinated herbal tea of your choice.  It consists of 2 teaspoons honey and 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar added to a cup of herbal tea.  The tea can be made in advance, refrigerated, and then used one cup at a time internally or even applied externally.  Just add the honey and vinegar to the tea at the time of use.

Sleepy-Time Tea – As a sleep aid try drinking a cup of chamomile tea with a teaspoon of honey mixed in half-an-hour before bed.  Both chamomile and honey have sleep-inducing qualities.  For a deeper, more restful sleep add valerian root.

Honey, mixed with a strong herbal decoction makes a sweet syrup which is more palatable for adults and children alike.  Honey is also helpful in that it thickens, preserves, and increases the shelf life of the product.  The end result is a soothing application benefiting conditions like sore throat, cough, dry irritated tissues, and digestive issues.  As a natural cough syrup, honey (even by itself) can reduce mucus secretion and coughs.  According to one study “honey was just as effective as diphenhydramine.” 7

When making syrups honey must be heated at very low temperatures to retain its healing properties.  If boiled the medicinal effects can be abated.  Here are just a few great herbs to try in syrups:

Astragalus Root (Astragalus membranaceous) Restorative to immune function for those having chemo and chronic illness.  Helpful in preventing common colds and respiratory infections.

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) Great support for colds, flus, and other viruses.  Mild laxative and decongestant.  Inhibits the spread of viral infections.

Elecampane (Inula helenium) Helps clear phlegm and mucous from the lungs, urinary system, and the digestive system.  Specific for chronic irritation and infection of the respiratory system.  Great included in cough syrups.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Enhances immune function, treats colds and flus, and viral gastroenteritis. Is antispasmodic, antiviral, and aids digestive, muscular, and menstrual associated pain.

Lemon (Citrus limon) Fights colds and flus.   A well-known Amish cough relief remedy is lemon juice and honey mixed 1:1.  This does not need to be heated or reduced and can be taken completely raw.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) Known to relieve congestion and hoarseness.  Helpful for colds and fever.

We would love to hear your comments and questions about honey.  What is your experience using honey as a sweetener or as a medicinal?  Maybe you’ll want to consider using this delightful honey bee healer in your herbal preparation project!



A Beekeeper in Mexico…

Snip20160811_1A Beekeeper in Mexico Named Gaudencio and  the Wonders of His Honey 

by Angela Blycker

May 4, 2016

My husband and I recently took time for an unusual date:  We visited local beekeeper, Señor Gaudencio, in a small town called Nealtican, about a 20 minute drive from our home here in San Pedro Cholula in Puebla, Mexico.

We wanted to learn some of the methods and secrets of Gaudencio’s trade, get personal insight into the benefits of all the properties of honey and of course, purchase some of the pure golden sweetness for ourselves.

Gaudencio greeted us just outside his property, located on the edge of town.  His 55-year old eyes twinkled as he shook our hands, obviously pleased that some gringos were sincerely interested in his life’s passion.  Delicate purple flowers of spanish jasmine, periwinkle hydrangeas, traditional magenta bougainvillea and a host of other randomly planted flowers and cacti lined his dirt driveway. His simply constructed concrete white house was on the left, his work yard and buildings to the right.  We walked to the right, past the small pond filled with floating plants and koi fish and under the makeshift clothesline where fresh laundry hung.  The sound of bees filled the air like soft and busy music.  I instinctively darted to avoid them, but Gaudencio walked to his shop nonchalantly as if they were his friends and belonged all around him. PDF – A Beekeeper in Mexico…