Are there any health benefits to using natural bee products?

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Answered by: Adam, An Expert in the Diet and Health Category
Natural food and health products have recently been popularized due to the trend of returning back to nature. Use of bee products is very traditional; bees produce a variety of yields that can be harvested for various natural uses.

Bees harvest propolis - a wax-like substance - from plants to use as a building material in their hives. Its sticky properties are used as insulation in filling cracks. It is typically used in very small batches where beeswax could not be used (6 millimeters in diameter or less). The composition of each hive’s propolis will be different, as each region will have different sources, and therefore, the overall make-up of the substance will vary. Humans can collect the excess propolis from the hive walls and use is to naturally treat certain ailments. However, due to the unique recipe that each bee colony uses, the effectiveness of each type will vary slightly.

As a result of the recent popularity of its use, new research is being conducted on propolis and similar bee products to confirm the effectiveness, and discover new applications. Research to date has shown the following positive findings:

In vitro studies show that propolis preparations exhibited clear antimicrobial properties, especially in regards to Gram-positive bacteria.

Primary testing has shown that propolis has emollient properties; it will help with the inflammatory component of skin burns. Speculations have arisen that it may be a more effective treatment to partial thickness skin burns than the current accepted method.

Some recent research in dentistry has shown that propolis extract added to oral care products (toothpaste, mouthwash) provides protection against dental caries and other oral disease. Further investigations are being conducted to observe the effectiveness of propolis in treating canker sores as well as assisting in endodontic procedures.

Additionally, propolis has been used for centuries as a natural gloss. Most stringed instrument makers will use the resinous substance to enhance the appearance of the wood grain used in violins, violas, cellos, and basses.

Another critical component of natural products derived from bees is royal jelly. It is the food specifically for queen honeybee larva which is supersaturated with nutrients. It contains an excellent ratio of the macronutrients needed for growth, as well as mineral salts, vitamins and a large number of bioactive substances. Various studies have outlined the medicinal properties of some of the components. The jelly displayed immunomodulating properties, contained antibacterial proteins, essential fatty acids and peptides.

These two natural bee products display antioxidizing capabilities, contributing to the prevention of certain illnesses (including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.) Although the body has its own mechanisms to control the damage caused by free radicals and other oxidative agents, the reactions in foods has been taken into account due to the reduction of shelf life of foods. By minimizing the detrimental substances in the body, humans can regulate the damage of toxins, and promote the health of biomolecules.

The benefits of these natural bee products can be accredited to the presence of the phenolic compounds such as flavonoids. Since they possess so many wonderful properties, the products could be used to supplement the diet. However, specific applications are being currently developed.

Please note: It is not recommended to diagnose oneself and attempt to treat any of the above listed conditions without consulting a medical professional. Although additional uses of the above products is being investigated, further research is necessary before its applications as natural substitutes to artificial drugs will be instated. Additionally, bee-related allergies would cause a reaction if these products are used for any application.

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