The healing benefits of honey and bee products can be traced back thousands of years. When I first discovered this I was excited to find new ways to incorporate them into my diet, so I went to my local farmer’s market. I remember feeling delighted, but slightly overwhelmed by the wide array of products, and thinking “where do I start?”
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to Thomas Breitschwerd, the head bee keeper from Hudson River Apiaries, and to benefit from his extensive knowledge on the subject. I’ve compiled a quick breakdown of some of what I learned plus a few extra fun facts.
HONEY: Made from collected flower nectar that is then stored in the bees’ stomachs, mixed with proteins and enzymes, and deposited into honeycomb. It’s great for digestion and building immunity as well as fighting off colds and viruses. Try starting the day with a teaspoon or so mixed into warm water with lemon. An excellent detoxifier.
BEE POLLEN: Bee pollen consists of the male flower blossom mixed with the bees’ digestive enzymes. Though it may sound counter intuitive, bee pollen can actually help remedy seasonal allergies and has even been used to alleviate asthma. In addition to being a complete protein, it’s full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth! It’s also an excellent energy booster and can be used as a substitute for your morning cup of joe.
ROYAL JELLY: All baby bees are fed this superfood for the first few days of their lives, but only the lucky queen bee subsides on this delicacy throughout her life. Not surprisingly, her life span is estimated to be about ten times longer than that of an average worker bee. In fact, some claim it is the most powerful superfood on the planet for human longevity. It is extremely potent, so you only need (max) one teaspoon daily. It’s an excellent source of antioxidants and is loaded with amino acids and B vitamins.
PROPOLIS: This is made up of sticky resins naturally found on plants and trees. The bees collect the resins and use them for protection against various threats such as bacteria and harsh temperatures. It has a similar effect in the human body and has been proven to help kill viruses, bacteria and fungi. It’s also anti-inflammatory and an effective wound healer. Many use it in their skin care regimen and swear by its beauty enhancing properties.
BEES WAX: A natural secretion from the glands of bees, the wax is used for building the honeycomb structures where the bees reside. It’s found in a variety of household products such as candles and furniture polish and is also valued for its hydrating properties, making it a wonderful skin moisturizer.
An important distinction to look for is raw vs. pasteurized honey. Pasteurized honey is typically sold in grocery stores and has been heated to 145ºF to kill any yeast and prevent crystallization. Unfortunately, heating the honey kills some of the healthy enzymes and enhances the rate at which the product will deteriorate. Raw honey has an extremely long shelf life.
There are some amazing local honey vendors in the area. Here is a link to the 2014 Lower Hudson Valley summer farmer’s markets and here is a guide to an extended list of honey vendors in the region along with the markets they attend.