Bees: The tiny little creatures that buzz from flower to flower, drinking nectar and making their long trip home to make their hives and their honey, have made some incredible contributions to human health.
To some, bees are annoying, or even scary, but they make two substances that have amazing properties for supporting health and wellbeing.
The first is one you surely know about; honey. The sweet, sticky substance that sweetens your tea, which bees make for their food, has wonderful properties that can alleviate soreness and infection. More specifically, Manuka Honey, produced in Australia by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush has received special attention because of its health properties above and beyond conventional honey.
The second, called propolis, might be something you have never heard about before. It is the waxy or resin-like substance, also known as bee glue - which is used to make the beehive. Its use for medicinal purposes has dated back to as early as 350 B.C
Both honey and propolis, together, make a natural form of medicine, possible unparalleled by medicines made in the lab.
Here we explore the benefits and natural properties of both honey and propolis as described by its traditional use by scientific research.
Traditional Use of Propolis
Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians had use propolis for its strong healing and preservation properties (it was even used for mummification!). While its use increased and decreased over time, it has maintained use in traditional folk medicine.
Some of the common uses are:
- Treatment of canker sores and infections caused by bacteria
- Treatment of fungal infections
- Treatment of infection caused by single-celled organisms called protozoans
- For boosting the immune system
- Propolis is also used as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent
- Applied directly to the skin for wound cleansing, genital herpes and cold sores
- Used as a mouth rinse for speeding healing following oral surgery
- Treatment of minor burns
Scientifically Backed Properties of Propolis
Propolis seems to have activity against bacteria, viruses, and fungi - as well as anti-inflammatory effects that relieve pain and speed up the healing process.
Evidence shows that propolis use is likely effective for the treatment of:
- Cold sores
- Genital Herpes
- Mouth Surgery
- Canker Sores
- Wound Healing
Additionally, it may also be effective for other dermatological, laryngological, gynaecological, neurodegenerative illnesses and diseases, as well as in wound healing, and in the treatment of burns and ulcers. Research is currently being carried out to determine and describe the effects of propolis on these ailments.
Traditional Uses of Honey
Honey has been used by humans as far back as 8000 years ago, and evidence of this has been found in stone-age paintings.
As the scientists Manisha Deb Mandal and Shyamapada Mandal describe in their review article on the medicinal properties of honey, "Indeed, medicinal importance of honey has been documented in the world's oldest medical literatures, and since the ancient times, it has been known to possess antimicrobial property as well as wound-healing activity."
Interestingly enough, the scientific research reflects these same properties, shedding light on the veracity of traditional and natural medicinal knowledge.