Honey bees are wondrous little insects. Not only are they responsible for the pollination of more than 75% of the fruits and vegetables that we eat every day, they are the producers of some of nature's most perfect and therapeutic foods for the human body. In today's issue of the Blissful Blog, we're going to explore all of the un-bee-lievable gifts that our bee buddies so generously provide that help keep us healthy and full of vibrant energy.
Liquid gold. That's what I like to call honey. But not the grocery store varieties in those little squeezable bottles shaped like Winnie-the-Pooh and the like. I'm talking raw, unpasteurized honey like the kind you buy at your local farmer's market, at the health food store or, even better, directly from a local apiary. REAL honey is what I'm talking about here.
Honey can be found in its typical amber state but can also come in shades of red, brown and even almost black. Honey is designed for the nourishment of the bees from the nectar of the local flowers that the bees visit. Enzymes in the saliva of the bee then create a chemical reaction that turns the nectar into honey which is then deposited into the walls of the hive. The super-sonic speed at which the bees move their wings aerates the the honey, decreasing its water content and leaving it ready to eat. Textures and flavours of honey vary depending on the variety of the flowers that the bees visit.
Honey in its raw form (i.e. honey that has not been heated or altered in any way, shape or form) is an excellent source of immune boosting antioxidants as well as:
If you want to kick it up a few notches from raw honey, you can treat yourself to some Manuka Honey which comes from New Zealand. Manuka honey is what I like to call "honey on steroids" because the antioxidant and nutrient content is so much higher. Manuka honey is incredibly nutrient dense and a powerful immune system defender.
So what do all these nutrient in honey do for us?
When selecting your honey, steer clear from the brands that you find on your local grocery store shelves because the majority of those brands have been pasteurized (heated for a very short period of time at a very high heat) which wipes out all of the amazing health benefits and leaving the honey as nothing more than an alternate sweetener to sugar. In addition, mainstream honey comes from producers who only view the bottom line...money. This results in bees that are not properly cared for, insufficiently fed (they are mostly fed sugar water rather than being able to naturally go out and collect pollen) and end up living shorter life spans than bees who are cared for by dedicated beekeepers who respect their hives. Visit your local reputable health food store who will likely source their products from small local apiaries or companies who respect and care for their bees and supply high quality honey. Or, better still, visit your local farmer's market or find a local apiary that will allow you to visit and see where your honey is coming from so you can truly feel good about your purchase. It is worth it to go the extra distance for a product that is ethically produced and actually works to support your health. Especially since the bees go the extra distance to provide it for us.
Oh, how I love bee pollen! So much so that I put it into my smoothie every single morning. Bee pollen has been dubbed "nature's most perfect food" and for good reason. It is a complete protein (typically containing 10% to 35% total protein) and, like honey, it provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes. But it goes further in it's nutritional punch by also providing beneficial fatty acids and bioflavonoids which bring with them anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial properties, as well as cholesterol lowering abilities and nutrients to help strengthen, support and rejuvenate the body. Top level athletes have been using bee pollen for decades because bee pollen delivers the nutrition that provides the strength and stamina that athletes need to be at their best without worrying about doping scandals or the serious side effects of all of those other "sketchy" supplements that are out there.
Bee pollen has been shown to also be beneficial for:
Again, when sourcing your bee pollen, find a local health food store that sells a quality product. Bee pollen should be kept in a refrigerator or freezer to keep it fresh so if your store sells bee pollen at room temperature, take a walk and find another source. As with raw honey, go the extra distance and find a local apiary that sells its bee pollen on site. That way you know that you are getting the freshest and most high quality pollen available.
Bee propolis has been used for thousands of years in Europe and South American countries for its many powerful health benefits. However, in North America, propolis is a less commonly sought after bee product. Propolis is a resinous substance that the bees make out of the pollen they collect to protect the hive and the bees living in it from pathogens and unwanted house guests. For example, say a pesky little rodent finds his way into the hive. The bees can certainly make short order of killing the rodent, but they wouldn't be able to carry it away so it would be left to rot in the hive. The bees would simply coat the dead rodent in propolis to keep the bacteria from the decomposing body from making the bees and the hive sick. Amazing stuff!
Propolis has very powerful antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal properties making it an valuable remedy for:
I am a huge fan of bee propolis and I use it regularly to help prevent colds and flu. If ever I feel a tickle in my throat or like I'm on the verge of "getting something", I up my dose and successfully ward off the cooties. Propolis can be tricky to find, but fortunately there is a wonderful Canadian company called Beekeeper's Naturals that produces one of the best propolis products on the market (it's the only brand I will use). You can find it in most reputable health foods stores in Canada and it is also available in the U.S.. Their propolis comes in a convenient little spray bottle that you can carry with you where ever you go. I highly recommend this product and believe that everyone should keep a supply of propolis on hand all year long as it has such a wide variety of uses and health benefits
Perhaps one of the most valuable gifts that the bees have ever given to us mere humans is Royal Jelly. It is produced by the worker bees to nourish and sustain the queen bee. The worker bees also survive off of royal jelly for the first couple days of their life until they are ready to head out and get to work. Royal Jelly contains some incredibly potent nutrients which are responsible for queen bee's remarkable vitality. However, those nutrients also provide remarkable health and vitality to us! There is a mountain of research which shows that Royal Jelly:
One word of caution when it comes to using royal jelly. Some people can experience severe allergic reactions to it. If you have an allergy to bee stings or other bee products, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, do not use royal jelly without first speaking with your health practitioner.
Well my friends, there you have it! Our little bee buddies deserve a HUGE amount of love and respect from us. Without them there would be no pollination and almost all of the beautiful fruits and vegetables we need for our health and vitality would disappear. Pollination is their biggest and most important role so it is of the utmost importance that we help keep their populations strong. How do we do this? We do this by buying organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible because by supporting organic farmers, we support farming methods that are GOOD for the bees and do not cause them to ingest toxic pesticides, herbicides and GMO plant material. We can also help support our bee friends by purchasing quality and ethically produced bee products from our local beekeepers who truly care for their bees and make it a priority to continually grow the bee population. And finally, a great way to help support the bees so they can continue to produce these wonderful healing foods for themselves and for us is to plant bee-friendly flowers in your gardens. There are SO many! If you are unsure of which ones are best suited to your area, just check with your local gardening store and they'll point you in the right direction.
Here's to the bees! And here's to all of the amazing and healing foods they bring to us, both in the form of fruits and vegetables, and in the form of the powerfully healing foods they make in the hive!
Jill Taylor is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of two pretty awesome teenagers, s very dramatic dog, a hedgehog and a snake (yikes!). Jill assists her clients in achieving true wellness through thoughtful and compassionate dietary and lifestyle coaching. Feel free to visit the "Contact" page to get in touch. Jill would love to hear from you!