Health Benefits of Bees

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“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” ― A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

A growing number of South Carolinians share a reverence and passion for honey that rivals Winnie The Pooh’s thrill. They appreciate honey’s sweet taste, its soothing texture, even the soothing hum of the hive, but what they love best are the elements of honey that heal.

They turn to the healing power of honey for skin wounds, cold sores and weak immunity. They seek the hum, the smell and warmth of beehives for meditative purposes. Apitherapy is the term used to define this type of alternative, bee-based therapy.

“When people come to me for honey, most want help with allergies,” said Charleston resident Dana Blalock, DDS, whose passion for bees, their hives and their healing power often makes her a go-to person for honey and advice. “Natural, local, nonprocessed honey introduced in small doses helps ease allergy symptoms.”

“Honey is also great for soothing burns and sore throats,” Dr. Blalock added. “When the bees have their hives, they seal it off with propolis. Beekeepers often collect it to use in tinctures or in a spray for sore throats. To me, it is a sticky mess, and I won’t take it because bees put it there for a reason.”

Today, growing scientific evidence suggests that various bee products promote healing by improving circulation, decreasing inflammation and stimulating a healthy immune response.

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The healing power of honey has been recognized for thousands of years.

“Hippocrates, the Greek physician known as the ‘Father of Medicine,’ recognized the healing virtues of bee venom for treating arthritis and other joint problems,” according to Apitherapy.com, a worldwide community of physicians and other professionals who are passionate about using bees and the other products of the beehive to prevent and treat illnesses of human beings, animals and even plants.

“My children and I always use honey for coughs, burns and scrapes,” said Charleston resident Tami Enright, the executive director and co-founder of the nonprofit The Bee Cause Project.

“When folks come to visit, they know honey is the sweetener here, not sugar,” she added. “We appreciate the living enzymes in honey. There are literally bits of nutrition it, and it is easier on your body.”

Squeezing the liquid elixir from a Mr. Honey bear container will not yield honey’s medicinal qualities.

The primary healing sources come from three of six natural products that bees produce: royal jelly, the first meal of a newly hatched bee that is secreted from the head glands of “nurse” bees; propolis, a waxy substance that bees create by mixing beeswax with tree resin; and pollen; according to Ted Dennard, the owner of Savannah Bee Company and, with Enright, the co-founder of The Bee Cause Project and a board member.

“Propolis is the bees own protective medicine,” Dennard explained. “It keeps intruders out of the hive and defends against pathogens. Research shows it can do the same for the human body.”

A self-professed “honey snob,” Dennard incorporates honey and bee life into his daily routines.

“Every single day I eat it; it’s a ritual with my tea,” Dennard noted. “It is something that makes me feel like life is good, that life can be better than you think.”

Dennard’s company offers a spa day with the bees at its Wilmington Island location in Savannah, Georgia. The Bee Garden there features a Bee Therapy Hut, one of the first in North America, that lets guests become one with the bees.

“In a hive there is a sense of losing yourself,” Dennard explained. “The bees’ movement, the sounds, are deliberate, and soon you enjoy your own slow and controlling breaths while you savor the smells and the warmth that is generated by the bees’ wing movement. It’s like walking through the a redwood forest; it changes your energy.”

Entrepreneurs John Berdux and Liam Becker founded the James Island-based company Apis Mercantile because of their passion and fascination with honey and its healing properties. Its popular products range from raw honey and hemp infused honey to hemp tinctures, as well as body care, pet care and health supplements.

Charleston resident and Montessori-trained educator Emilee Elingburg also knows all about honey’s healing power.

“As a classroom teacher who took 175 kids to camp at Barrier Island, I’m a believer,” Elingburg said. “A big old tablespoon of honey got us through nights of constant coughing and days of sore throats. I used it for cuts and the alleviate the pains of a sting.”

“Go on up to see Miss Emilee at the nurse’s cabin for a spoonful of honey’ was a constant request,” Elingburg added. “No child, or even an adult, is going to say, ‘Eeeew, a spoonful of honey.’”

Neither would Winnie the Pooh.

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By Lisa Moody Breslin

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