Healing Secrets of Bees

To whip up just one pound of honey, bees travel thousands of miles and borrow nectar from millions of dandelions, goldenrods, white clovers, and other flowers. In all that buzzing around, the winged workers create a number of health-giving products that have made bee medicine, known as apitherapy, an alternative health practice since ancient Greece. Here's how to tap the hive for more energy, faster healing, and stronger immune defense.

1. Bee Pollen Boost
Studies have yet to confirm the supposed antiaging and allergy-relieving benefits often touted by bee-pollen proponents. But stirring a couple heaping teaspoons into your smoothie or yogurt can deliver an energy-lifting dose of vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes -- even omega-3s. "Yogurt is best for extracting the fat-soluble nutrients found in bee pollen," says Germany Apitherapy Society president Dr. Stefan Stangaciu. Experts recommend limiting your first dose of bee pollen to a few pellets to test for a possible allergic reaction.

2. The Power of Propolis
Bees coat their hives with sticky, tree-resin-derived propolis to keep their homes germ-free. Full of antimicrobial compounds, propolis may strengthen our own defenses against viruses and bacteria when taken in tincture form regularly, according to Stangaciu. With anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, propolis is also an ideal sore-throat soother; try remedies like Herb Pharm's Propolis Echinacea Throat Spray (available at herb-pharm.com) or Honey Gardens' Propolis Spray (available at honeygardens.com). An animal study suggested that the rich antioxidant source might even offer anticancer benefits.

3. Healing with Honey
More than a way to make tea more toothsome, raw honey is loaded with health-promoting enzymes, minerals, and antioxidants. A tablespoon or two daily of the unfiltered, unheated variety can increase your energy. (To find locally harvested, freshly collected honey, visit localharvest.org.) What's more, a lab study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that darker-colored honeys may help protect you against the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol. The gooey stuff can also speed up wound healing, according to more than a dozen studies published over the past 15 years. To harness honey's antibacterial properties, Stangaciu recommends covering the wound and surrounding skin with fresh, raw honey. Clean the wound at least two times a day, and reapply honey until the area is completely healed.

Check out this recipe for Fresh Figs with Marscapone and Warm Spiced Honey

Text by Elizabeth Barker; photograph by Yunhee Kim 

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