This weeks blog posts have been all about raw honey, and for good reason! We’re in the glorious throes of flu season, with winter colds still making the rounds. It’s that special time of year where every sniffle and cleared throat from a stranger in a public setting makes you want to go all medieval peasant on their potentially contagious ass and shriek, “Unclean! Unclean!” (Or is that just me?)
Now, I’ve mentioned before that I am not really an expert in.. well, anything. I’m just a bookworm with a blogging addiction, and when I get obsessed with random bits of useful knowledge, I like to spam it to my readers with an air of “I kind of know what I’m talking about, but not really.” Kind of like Owl from Winnie the Pooh. You know, if he had a computer and was a budding hippie.
So here’s how this blog post was born:
*Gingi blogging about raw honey.* “If you’re going to use honey, it HAS TO be raw honey. Heating honey through pasteurization destroys all of the pollen, enzymes, propolis, vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants, minerals, and aromatics.”
*Gingi’s internal monologue* “Wow, that’s so cool! Minerals! And antioxidants! And enzymes! And.. and.. wait, what the fudge is propolis?!”
I immediately had mental images of, I dunno, bee legs or something. Which is cool I guess. Honey is sticky, I mean.. a bee’s gotta lose a leg every now and then, right? (Seriously, one of these days I’ll find out what’s wrong with my head.)
Anyway, I went on a mission to be a Google expert on propolis, and lo! I have information for you, dear friends! I hope you find it as fascinating and informative as I do!
What Is Propolis Anyway?
The word “propolis” is said to have been coined by Aristotle, from the Greek words pro (before) and polis (city), meaning, “Before The City”, or “Defender Of The City”. In his writings, Aristotle showed a remarkably accurate and detailed knowledge of propolis, because the name, Defender Of The City, is a very appropriate term to describe the role of propolis in the beehive.
When you think of bee hives, you automatically think of beeswax, right? Well, propolis, simply put, is the super sterile – I mean, freakishly sterile – junk that bees use to build their hives that isn’t beeswax. It’s quite literally bee glue, used to hold everything together, seal every crack, and caulk virtually every floor, wall and surface of the hive to make it one of the cleanest, most sterile environments in nature.
So hardcore are bees about preventing infections in the hive, that they line all entries to the hive with this substance, so that they literally have to crawl through a tight tunnel of propolis to enter and leave. It’s like a decontamination chamber, where bees are cleansed of microbes as they enter the hive, and the sterility of the beehive is maintained.
In very real terms, propolis functions as the natural defense and immune system of the beehive.
Bees collect tree resin for propolis, just as they collect pollen and honey for food. The chemical structure of resin is then altered by the bees secretions during the collection process. Bees work the resin with their front legs, while adding saliva and beeswax to the mixture. The saliva and other secretions are catalysts for biochemical changes within the propolis. The resin is passed to their back legs for storage in their pollen sacs. Bees then transport the resin back to the hive, where it is stored or used.
Bees show definite preferences for certain species of tree resins in their collection of propolis. It appears that bees have unerringly identified the highest quality, and most appropriate raw material to use for propolis.
It’s important to note that even before the enhancing chemical changes the bees work on resin, resin is already a substance in nature with a very high antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties. The biological role of resin in trees is to seal wounds and defend against bacteria, fungi and insects, so even without the bees going all miracle saliva on it, resin is already a potent substance.
Once the bees do their thang, the resin (now called propolis) has approximately 50 constituents, primarily resins and vegetable balsams (55%), waxes (30%), essential oils (10%), and pollen (5%).
What Propolis Does For You
Propolis has been used for medicinal purposes dating as far back as 350 B.C., the time of Aristotle. Historic documents and archeological finds reveal that the Greeks, the Assyrians and the Egyptians have all extensively used propolis for healing and sanitizing.
Whenever the health benefits of raw honey are lauded, it’s largely due to this one little-known mystery ingredient.
Based on scientific evidence, the National Institutes of Health rates propolis as an effective holistic remedy for treating ailments ranging from colds, to wounds and burns, to immune response, to stomach disorders to genital herpes.
Propolis can be found in raw honey form, isolated powdered form, extract form, or capsule form. Here are just a few of the most common ways to use propolis:
For Burns and Small Wounds
Propolis has powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal activity, with active constituents including flavonoids like galangin and hydroxycinnamic acids like caffeic acid. As such, it sterilizes and speeds healing time. Try adding propolis extract to aloe vera gel to apply to burns, or packing propolis powder into a poultice for small wounds.
As An Immunity Booster
Propolis has been reported to exhibit immunostimulant effects. When cold or flu season rolls around, to build up your immunity, you can ingest propolis in raw honey form to ward off the flu bug. Or if you come down with a cold, in addition to raw honey, you can pop up to 2,000mg of propolis capsules a day to rev your immunity and kick the cold. Using propolis as a gargle or drinking it in extract form also effectively heals sore throats!
As An Oral Hygiene Product
Propolis has been the subject of recent dentistry research, and there is clinical evidence that propolis protects against dental cavities, gingivitis, plaque buildup, mouth sores and irritations and other forms of oral disease due to its antimicrobial properties. Some dentists even use propolis as a tooth sealant and enamel hardener! Adding propolis powder to a mouth wash or gargle, or adding propolis powder to homemade toothpaste works as an efficient method to make your mouth beehive clean! (I’ll be blogging about making propolis toothpaste soon!)
As A General Health Supplement
Eating raw honey, or taking a propolis supplement, gives your body a mega-dose of antioxidants. In scientific studies, propolis was shown to induce cell cycle arrest, which effectively reduces your risk of cancer, tumors, and other major illnesses. Notably, caffeic acid phenethyl ester down-regulates the mdr-1 gene, considered responsible for the resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents. For general wellness, try to incorporate a little more raw honey into your diet!
Interested in making propolis part of your health and wellness routine? If so, how? Share with meeeee!!! ^_^
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