Image via Flynn&King
In honor of Bee Appreciation Day this upcoming weekend we have written about how to help bees by growing a pollinator's garden in your own backyard. In addition to planting bee-friendly flowers, it's a good idea to buy honeybee products like honey, beeswax, and propolis. This helps support those who try to bring the diminishing bee population back up to a healthy level and reduce a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, when the hive's worker bees disappear and leave the queen and bee babies behind, leaving hives unsustainable and unprotected. Just make sure you are purchasing from a sustainable source to support beekeepers who believe in a Bee-Centric Beekeeping Philosophy, also called Api-centric or Natural Beekeeping, putting needs of bees before the needs of humans and focuses on education and rescuing at-danger colonies. Larger non-sustainable bee farmers care more about their profit than the health and well-being of their bees and practice unethical methods like cutting off the wings of the Queen bee so she cannot leave, overworking the bees and taking an excess of honey from hives and replacing it with nutrient deficient fructose corn syrup or sugar water, which can create disease and in turn, population decline. This is why many vegans do not believe in using bee byproducts, but if harvested in a cruelty-free way, there are a lot of amazing benefits to us and our ecosystem!
Propolis image via The London Bee Company
Most of us are aware of honey and beeswax being healthful byproducts created by the honeybee, but there is another beneficial product called Propolis. It is a resinous mixture that honeybees produce by combining saliva and beeswax with tree buds, sap flowers or other botanical sources. It is mainly used as a glue & a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive. Beeswax and Honey have been used for many years, dating back as far as 1550 BC by the Ancient Egyptians, Persians, Romans and Chinese for use in mummification, creation of papyrus scrolls, painting and art protection and beauty enhancement, known to be used by Cleopatra. Propolis is a fairly new substance discovered to have similar antiseptic, anti-fungal and restorative health and beauty properties to honey and beeswax, but new research has even shown that due to it's capabilities of accelerating cell growth it may be used in helping prevent skin cancer! Some researchers believe that propolis can limit cancer cells from multiplying, reducing the likelihood that skin skills will become cancerous and even blocking pathways that keep cancers cells from signaling to each other, inhibiting growth of cancerous cells. The composition of the propolis varies by the location of the hive and the access to what flowers and trees they have access to, so it does make it difficult for researchers to definitively conclude the the medical benefits. However, they have identified over 300 anti-oxidizing compounds in the form of flavonoids, particularly Pinocembrin that acts as an anti-inflammatory and is helpful in wound healing. Propolis can be found in topical ointments, or it can be taken orally in capsule or liquid form. While these studies are inconclusive at this time, it is exciting to see what nature and our friends, the honeybee, may be able to offer in terms of healing, reducing the need for chemical treatments! Yet another reason we need to make sure these very important insects do not become extinct. Yaaasss Queen BEE!