Sunday, September 4, 2011

bee hive mortar and why it's awesome

propolis resin from a bee hive

Propolis sounds regal, colossal, active. Heard of it before?

If not, you are not the only one, as I've just learned about it this past week. Propolis is the resin that honey bees collect from tree sap, buds, and other botanical sources in order to seal unwanted openings in their hive. It's like bee hive mortar, and looks a lot like ear wax. I recently discovered it in a tiny tin of Golden Salve which featured propolis as a main ingredient.

In the past, it was commonly thought that propolis simply sealed bee hives and protected them from the elements. However, according to Wikipedia and a study done by ecologists at the University of Minnesota propolis is now believed to:
  1. reinforce the structural stability of the hive.
  2. reduce vibration.
  3. make the hive more defensible by sealing alternate entrances.
  4. prevent diseases and parasites from entering the hive, and to inhibit bacterial growth.
  5. prevent putrefaction within the hive. Bees usually carry waste out of and away from the hive. However if a small lizard or mouse, for example, finds its way into the hive and dies there, bees may be unable to carry it out through the hive entrance. In that case, they would attempt instead to seal the carcass in propolis, essentially mummifying it and making it odorless and harmless.
 busy bees and their hive

Yes, well, that's great for the bees, you say. But what does this wonderous bee mortar have to do with me?

Well, the most important feature of propolis is its disease prevention and anti-bacterial properties. It is said that beehives are one of the most sterile environments known due to propolis. This is why propolis is included as an anti-microbial agent in my Golden Salve, along with comfrey, root, calendula, goldenseal root, yellowdock root, and balm of Gilead bud. What propolis kills in a bee hive, it will also kill on a new cut or old infection.

This anti-bacterial and anti-fungal property also aids in strengthening the immune system. However, one should be aware that results can be affected by how local the propolis is. Because its production depends on local trees and plants, the more local your propolis is the better it is. Also, be especially careful if you have a severe allergy to pollen or bees. You'll want to avoid causing a serious allergic reaction.

But for those unaffected by these allergies, don't be afraid to try propolis in capsule, tincture, tablet, or powdered form as many people swear by its ability to keep colds and flus at bay. Unlike antibiotics which can destroy both bad and good bacteria, leaving your immune system weakened, propolis only goes after the bad guys, sparing your good bacteria so that it can do its job.

Propolis also has many potential uses in dental hygiene. For instance, studies have shown that mouth rinse containing propolis has helped to speed healing after some oral surgeries, and may protect against oral diseases and treat canker sores.

As I haven't had any personal experience using propolis in its pure form, I'm not going to include a recipe in this post. But I encourage you to keep your eye out for propolis in tinctures, salves, and other herbal products. If you didn't know what it was before, now it won't be a mystery.

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