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Bees- honey, pollen, venom oh my!

In this post you will find a TON of information on how honey bees can help with healing. But first, a word on how I came across this info:

Did you know that every year, holistic veterinarians get together to learn more about how to help your pets in a more natural way? I have attended this conference for the last 3 years and plan to attend this year as well. The first one I attended really shaped my life- it was in California and it was the first time I realized a veterinarian can practice just holistic medicine. I realized that just because I’m a DVM doesn’t mean there are any “musts” about which parts I decide to use and which I leave up to others. I had done this two other times in my career but it was out of duress. In 2006 right after I graduated, I refused to dock puppy tails and take dewclaws from puppies that were only a few days old. This was not a popular thing and being a slightly egotistical new grad, I do realize I could have refused this with more couth than I did at the time, but that’s how we learn, right? And learn I did. Around 2011, I performed a declaw surgery and had a slight panic attack afterward. My entire chest was red, almost like hives and I cried. I slept on it (see, I learned!) And ultimately decided that this was a surgery that had no place in my personal practice and I would no longer be doing declaws. Instead of refusing, I asked if I could make it known to the staff that these surgeries should be scheduled with another DVM from now on. This was deemed ok and that was the last time I ever declawed a cat. It was evident that the other general practitioners, though kind and supportive, were skeptical of my decision. I always felt like I was ‘different’ when I was in general practice.. 

A few years after that was my first AHVMA (holistic vet) convention. When I sat in a room full of holistic veterinarians, had conversations with DVM’s saying things like “oh, this is what I’ve found to be really helpful with my wood constitution patients” or “I’ve learned that dogs with iliopsoas strains really do well with acupuncture at GB 41, 27 BL 62 Kid 6 and the herb Qia Mai to balance the gait.” I almost felt like I had come home! So cheesy but I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to consult with like minded veterinarians! After all, none of these vets would be skeptical of a decision to no longer perform declaws or tail docking. This experience with like minded DVMs led me to shape my personal practice even more an inspired me to start a holistic veterinary practice. There is a list on the website where you can find out if there are holistic veterinarians in your area! 

The AHVMA has continued to be an important beacon for me and my personal practice. The following information is from the lecture I attended by Laurie Dohman, VMD, MS at the 2019 AHVMA (American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association) Convention  She was dropping knowledge bombs right and left about how honey bees can help with healing our patients. Most of the notes below are from the information she compiled so the credit belongs to her! I do feel it’s important to pass it along so grab a cup of tea, add some honey and read on! 

(More about Laurie Dohman http://purplemoonherbstudies.com/about.htm) She is seriously fabulous. You can even check out a podcast where she was interviewed on this website- it’s a really good one. 

***Note all nutraceutical uses (honey as medicine) listed below are based on RAW honey.***

 

More about Honey Bees

“My deep respect and my deep thanks for our God for giving us honey bees” 

Ali M. Studies

Honey is technically a liquid produced by best to provide the hive with food for the winter It is produced from the nectar of plants, so it varies with the plant sources the bees use. “the conversion of nectar to honey is an impressively complex process. Nectar is first collected from flowers and undergoes ripening by partial enzymatic digestion in the honey stomach of the honeybee. The ripened nectar is then matured by moisture evaporation through fanning by the bees. (3)

For humans and other species, honey is what is called a functional food. Nutraceuticals, or functional foods are “food that has the ability to promote better physiological or psychological health compared to traditional remediated and nutritional food. (2) Propolis and royal jelly are also considered functional foods. “propolis is generally know as the ‘bee glue’, which is a generic name that refers to the resinous substance accumulated by the bees from different types of plants. (2) Propolis  is priorly produced form the resins of tress and other plants. Propolis is used b the hive for construction, repair and as a protective barrier. I like to say propolis is the hive’s immune system. 

Royal Jelly “is a form of hypopharyngeal and mandibular gland secretion from 6 to 12 day old worker bees. It is a superfood that is solely consumed by the queen bee. Royal jelly is also fed to the honeybee larvae upon hatching and helps to nurture the brood” (2) For the first 2-3 days, royal jelly is the only foo given to al young larvae in their maturation process, while for the queen it is the specific food for her whole life period. This is the reason for the longer life of the queen bee over the other bees.” (6) Bee pollen is the plant pollen that the worker bees collect in pollen baskets and then the bees add some mysterious extra of their own. (7) 

The exact chemical composition of bee pollen has yet to be elucidated in a laboratory setting. “each bee pollen pellet contains over two million flower pollen grains” (&) The bees use pollen as food for the young. When collecting pollen, bees are not only gathering food for the young, but also pollinating other plants so they can grow. “the term bee bread refers to the pollen stored by the bees in the combs. The beebread has already been processed by the bees for storage with the addition of various enzymes and honey, which subsequently ferments. (8) 

Beeswax is produced in 8 wax glands that produce and secrete wax platelets. These platelets are chewed “into pliable pieces with the addition of saliva and a variety of enzymes. Once chewed, attached to the comb and re-chewed several times, they finally form… a comb” (9)

Bee venom is a secretion produced by the sting apparatus of bees. Its biological purpose is to protect the bees from their enemies (10). This is only produced by worker bees, as the stinger and Venom are evolved from egg-laying apparatus (1). 

Honey

“Honey is recognized worldwide due to its high nutritive components that tare beneficial for human wellbeing.” (2) Honey has been use worldwide throughout history. It was used as food and medicine in Ancient Egypt, Greece, China, Rome and more. It is pictured on a stone age painting from 8000 years ago, as well as on a Sumerian tablet from 6200 BCE. Honey is mentioned in most religious texts including the Holy Quran, the Bible, and the Hindi Veda. Honey is over 80% carbohydrate, and has water, protein, vitamins, minerals and other components in small quantities. The exact composition of each hive’s honey varies based on the plants whose nectar they bees consume. The main 2 saga carbohydrates are fructose and glucose. The active constituents of honey include flavonoids, polyphenols and organic acids. Honey has many actions:

Gastroprotective – helps the stomach 

Anti-inflammatory 

Vulnerary (wound healing) 

Cardio-protective (protects the heart, cells of the heart) 

Antioxidant (removes oxidizing agents from the body, protect against free radicals)

Anti-diabetic (stabilize/ control blood sugar w diabetics)

Antibacterial

Anti-fungal

Anti-cancer 

HOW DOES IT DO THIS? 

Flavonoids and polyphenols are the main antioxidant constituents. 

(A note above flavonoids: These are essentially the immune system of any plant – they are indicated in the reason essential oils are helpful as well as part of the activity of some CBD products- the more varied the flavonoid / terpene spectrum of the products, the more effective the product may be). NN

Honey is used internally and topically for a myriad of conditions including wounds gastrointestinal disease, oral and upper airway disorders, liver diseases, pancreatic disorders, metabolic disorders, ocular ailments, cardiovascular disease, neurologic disorders and cancer. (2, 11) As a food, honey is a quickly and easily digestible source of energy for the body. IT also functions as a prebiotic and a preservative of other foods. Honey does have some contraindications including toxicity from toxic plan sources or chemically treated plant sources. It can contain clostridium botulinum in sufficient amounts to kill the very young (under one year old in humans). Honey can cause allergic reactions in people with pollen allergies. (12, 13)

Propolis 

Propolis is another bee product that has been utilized throughout history. It was used by the Egyptians for embalming, and it was used by the Greeks and Romans. It was in the London pharmacopoeias in the 17th century and used by Stradivari as violin varnish. It was also used medicinally during WWII.  (5). Propolis is composed of resin, wax, essential oils, pollen, vitamins, minerals and other organic compounds. Its active constituents are phenols, esters, flavonoids, terpenes, sterols, aldehydes, and alcohols. Caffeic acid Ophenethyl ester (CAPE) is one of propolis’ main bioactive compounds. (14)

Bee Propolis Properties/ Actions/ Medicinal Uses: 

antiseptic (prevents growth of disease producing microorganisms) 

Antiviral

Antibacterial

Antifungal

Hepatoprotective (liver protective)

Neuroprotective (protects nerves, brain cells)

Cardioprotective (protects the hear, heart cells)

Anti diabetic (stabilizes blood sugar for diabetics) 

Anti-inflammatory

Antioxidant

Anticancer

Anti-ulcer

Anti protozoal (kill protozoans – single celled organisms that cause disease like giardia) 

Hypotensive (decreases blood pressure) 

Immunomodulatory (can help the immune system adjust properly) 

The antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of propolis are primarily due to the flavonoids. CAPE is both antioxidant and cytotoxic to tumor cells. (15) Propolis’ medicinal uses include gastrointestinal disorders, genealogical diseases, oral cancer, upper respiratory ailments, and skin diseases. (2, 5, 14, 16) It is used in healthy products, foods and cosmetics as a capsule, extract, mouthwash, throat lozenge, cream or powder and wax-less purified forms. Propolis is generally non toxic at human doses of approximately 1.4 mg/kg/day, and under a total of 15 g/ day. Above this dose range, allergic reactions and contact dermatitis has been reported (5, 15)

Royal Jelly

“Royal jelly is widely used as a dietary nutritional complex to help combat various chronic health conditions. It is used in pharmaceuticals, foods, cosmetics and manufacturing. RJ is extensively used a cosmetic or dietary supplement due to the belief that it exerts similar effects on human beings as it doe son honeybees. Royal jelly contains water, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, enzymes, hormones, vitamins and minerals. Royalactin is the most bioactive protein in the jelly , in the queen bee it triggers “an epidermal growth factor receptor- mediated signaling pathway, increasing body size and ovary development. (18). There are other bio-compounds, including 10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid (HAD), fatty acids, esters, adenosine, acetylcholine, polyphenols, and hormones. (2, 6). Biological activities of RJ are mainly attributed to the bioactive fatty acids, proteins and phenolic compounds. 

Royal Jelly Actions/ Medicinal Uses: 

Antibacterial

Anti-tumor,

Anti-allergy,

Anti-inflammatory

Antioxidant,

Anti aging

Neurotropic

Hypoglycemic

Hypocholesterolemic (lowers cholesterol in the blood)

Hepatoprotective (liver protective)

Hypotensive

Vasodilative (increases blood flow)

Immunomodulatory (helps the immune system) 

Its medical uses include the reproductive health, neurodegenerative disease, aging disorders, and wounds. Royal jelly controls tumor growth and metastasis. (2, 6, 17)

“Allergic reactions are the most frequent side effect of RJ.. Allergic reactions may vary from minor disorders (light gastrointestinal problem, atones) to severe reactions including asthma, anaphylactic shock, intestinal bleeding and even death..  the risk of developing an allergy to RJ is greater in individuals who already have other allergies.. or strong allergies to other be products. Individuals allergic to pollen, honey, venom should not orally ingest RJ. In patients with bronchial asthma, RJ should not be taken during an attack. Topical applications of RJ can cause skin rashes and eczemas.” (6)

Other concerns with RJ are quality and adulteration. Organoleptics is the best assessment of the product, short of chemical analysis. RJ should always be frozen and it should be whiteish yellow tie a pungent odor and a sweet and sour flavor. Adulteration is usually with honey, which increases the sugar content while decreasing the protein and lipid content. (17) 

Pollen

Bee pollen ‘is considered one of nature’s most completely nursing foods. It contains nearly all nutrients required by humans… Be pollen contains all the essential components of life’ (7)

Bee pollen is composed of proteins and free amino acids, enzymes, cellulose, fiber, vitamins, minerals, RNA, and DNA. (7,19) Bee pollen contains more protein per weight than any animal source. Bee pollen is used in Traditional Chinese medicine as a nutritive tonic. 

Bee Pollen Actions/ Medicinal Uses 

Physical and mental endurance

Vitality, longevity, recovery from illness

Blood building (TCVM action – treats ‘blood deficiencies’ in TCVM

Prevention of disease

Cardiovascular support

Protection from radiation and cancer. 

Inhibits the development of harmful bacteria

Normalizes cholesterol and triglyceride levels

Regulates intestinal function by the high amount of cellulose and fiber

Stimulates varian function,

Prevents prostate disorders

Treats allergic conditions via desensitization

Clears body of heavy metals / Detoxification

Other uses include:

gastrointestinal ulcers, headaches, upper respiratory disease and urinary tract disorders.

Bee pollen contains lecithin which aids in adipose (fat) reduction and phenylalanine which is an appetite suppressant. It enhances the immune system, corrects body chemistry therefore clearing the body of toxins (including heavy metals). This can in turn help prevent cragcins in people going through withdrawal from alcohol or drugs. Due to the DNA an RNA in bee pollen, used either internally or externally, it helps the skin look and remain healthy, and it can even suppress acne. (7, 20, 21) 

Dosage of pollen for humans should be build up slowly over 1-2 weeks to a maximum of 1 tsp / day for allergies- 1 tbsp / day (other indications). Bee pollen is most effective when taken with food, fruit or fruit juice (7, 20, 21) Starting a bee pollen regime, each individual should first try one pellet to make sure there is no anaphylactic reaction. 

Please remember, as a pet parent, this is not something you start on a Sunday evening when you are far from an open vet clinic and don’t have any Benadryl around. Just because something is natural, doesn’t make it entirely safe so be sure you have talked with a veterinary professional before starting this type of treatment. (NN) 

Venom

Honeybee venom has a long history of traditional medicinal use. It contains proteins, peptides, enzymes, phospholipids, amines, amino acids, sugars, minerals, ad mostly water. There are 5 bioactive enzymes including PLA2, which destroys cells by breaking down the cell membrane. Another enzyme, phospholipase B specifically breaks down blood cells. Hyaluronidase breaks down hyaluronic acid and acid phosphatase triggers basophilic histamine release. The fifth enzyme, alpha- glucosidase, is involved in honey production. (10)

On the flip side, ‘PLA 2 has protective effects against a wide range of diseases including arthritis, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, and drug-induced organ inflammation. (10) Melittin, a peptide, is the main anti-inflammatory constituent in bee venom. Melittin causes cortisol release, among other effects. Apamin, another peptide, increases cortisol recreation and is a mild neurotoxin. A third peptide, adolapin, blocks cycloocygenase, and therefore is anti-inflammatory and analgesic. (1) 

Bee venom actions/ medicinal uses:

Anti-inflammatory

Antibacterial

Radio-protective (protects against injurious effects of radiation) 

Anticancer

Anti nociceptive (decreases pain perception)

Hepatoprotective (liver protective) 

Immunostimulating actions (helps stimulate the immune system

Bee venom is used to treat many inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, joint disease, Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, and more. It can also be used to treat epilepsy, chronic pain conditions, coagulopathies (clotting problems), migraines, neuralgias, cancer, wounds, asthma, keratoconjunctivitis (inflammation in the eyes) and other conditions. (1) The best method of bee venom therapy is to use live bees to directly sting the patient However, bee venom is also collected and used as an ejection either locally or through acupuncture (the technique in which a liquid is injected into an acupuncture point). 

It is also used in homeopathic tablets, creams, liniments or ointments. (1) While erythema (redness), heat, swelling and itchiness are expected from. Bee venom, allergic reactions range from an overly large swelling to hives and throat swelling and even anaphylaxis/ death. Patients who sho signs of an allergic reaction should not receive bee venom therapy unless first undergoing desensitization. All patients should first be tested for signs of an allergic reaction before full treatments are performed. Lastly, the LD50 dose (lethal dose that kills 50% of subjects) is 2.8 mg  of venom/ kg which translates to roughly 650 stings (maximum of 0.3 mg venom/ sting). For a 150 lb person. 

 

Practical use of honey:

Dr. Neely North’s favorite uses of honey for pets:

  1. Sore throat / coughing – especially the type of cough that happens after a pet has been intubated for a surgery or dental procedure. There is also the type of sore throat when a pet has a managed but chronic disease such as bronchitis, heart failure or even lung cancer. You are not going to treat the underlying cause of this cough with honey, but it can be soothing to the throat nonetheless. (among the many other benefits listed above)
  2. Wound care – medical grade honey is even available at regular drug stores like CVS (cover with a bandage)
  3. Help the medicine go down! When my patients are reluctant to take their Chinese herbs, I often encourage clients to mix the herbs with honey and see if that helps
  4. Kong stuffing or Lick Mat topping – if your pet likes honey, it only takes a small amount in a Kong – this is a MUCH healthier treat than peanut butter or cheese – both are highly inflammatory, high fat foods that is not great for dogs especially in large quantities

References 

Thank you again to Laurie Dohman for helping condense this information into an easy to understand form and manageable length!)

  1. Ali M Studies on Bee Venom and it’s medicinal uses. International journal of advancements in research and technology. 2012; 1 (2): 69-83
  2. Pasupuletic V, Sammugam L, Ramesh N, et al. Honey, propolis, and royal jelly: a comprehensive review of their biological action and health Benefits. Ocid Med Cell Longev. 2017
  3. Rahman M, Gan S, Khalil M Neurological Effects of HOney: Current and FUTure Prospects. Evidence-based complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014
  4. The American Apitherapy Society Inc. Website. Propolis. Available at. www.apitherapy.org/about-apitherapy/products-ofpthe-hive-2/propolis/ Accessed, May 2008
  5. Wagh V. Propolis: A Wonder Beese Product and Its Pharmacological Potentials. Advances in Pharmacalogical Sciences, 2013
  6. Pavel C, Marghitas L, Bobis O, et al. Biological Actives of Royal Jelly – Review. Scientific Papers: Animal Science and Biotechnologies. 2011; 44 (2): 108-118. 
  7. Mercola website. Bee Pollen as a Superfood. Available at: www.mercola.com/article/diet/bee_pollen.htm Accessed 2014
  8. The American Apitherapy Society Inc. website.  Bee Bread. Available at: www.apitherapy.org/about-apitherapy/products-of-the-hive-2/bee-bread/ Accessed 1996
  9. The American Apitherapy Society Inc. website Beeswax, Available at: www.apitherapy.org/about-apitherapy/products-of-the-hive-2/beeswax/ Accessed 1996
  10. Hossen M, Shapla U, Gan S, et al. Impact of bEe Venom Enzymes on Dises and Immune Response. Molecules. 2016; 22 (1): 25-40 
  11. Samarghandian S, Farkhondeh T, Samini F. Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research. Pharmacognosy Res. 2017; 9 (2): 121-127
  12. Manyi- Loh C, Clarke A, Ndip R. (2011). An Overview one Honey: Therapeutic Properties and Contribution in Nutrition and Human Health, Afr J Microbiol Res. 2011; 5 (8): 844-852
  13. Ahmed S, Sulaiman S, Baig A. Et al. Honey as a Potential Natrual Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Its Molecular Mechanisms of Action. Oxid Med Cell Longev 2018
  14. Viuda-Martos M, Ruiz -Navajas Y, Fernandex – Lopez J, et al. Functional Properties of Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly. Journal of Foo Science. 2008; 73 (9): R117-R124. 
  15. Castalado S, Capasso F. (2002). Propolis, An Old Remedy used in Modern Medicine. Fitoterapai. 2002; 73 (Suppl. 1): S1-S6
  16. Lofty M Biological Activity of Bee Propolis in Health and Disease. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2006; 7: 22-31
  17. Ramadan M, Al-Ghamdi A. Bioactive Compounds and Health – promoting Properties of Royal Jelly: A Review. J Funct Foods. 2012; 4: 39-52
  18. Mortia H, Ikeda T, Kajita K, et al. Effects of Royal Jelly Ingestion for Six Months on Healthy Volunteers. Nutritional Journal. 2012; 11: (1): 77-83
  19. Livestrong websit. Bee Pollen Health Benefits. Available at https://envirobee.com/beepollen.htm Accessed 1999
  20. The Fresh Network website. 10 amazing health Benefits of Bee Pollen. Available at: https://www.foodmatters.com/article/1–amazing-health-benefits-of-bee-pollen Accessed 2013 
  21. NN- Neely North’s clinical observations 

 

***Use caution and do not use honey with human babies and horses – as both are sensitive to botulism***