Medicine Pantry

I post about honey.  It’s what I do.  But I usually write about eating honey – flavors, recipes, varietals.  But honey is an amazing substance for a lot of other reasons.  I’ve been researching this topic for a new educational display to take to events.  No title yet, but “The Wonders of the Hive” kind of thing.

Here is a short list of products we get from hives beyond honey, plus their properties and uses (there are more!):

  • Honey:  antibacterial, hygroscopic   –  Eating, baking, mead, skin/hair care, wound healing
  • Beeswax: repels water, hardening, purifying – fabric treatment, skin care, wood sealing/furniture, candles
  • Propolis: antiviral, antifungal  – skin tinctures, toothpaste
  • Pollen: vitamin rich – allergy remedies
  • Royal jelly: enzyme and protein rich – skin care
  • Bee venom: anti inflammatory – arthritis, facial treatments
  • Brood: protein rich – delicacy in international markets

Our humble collection of hive products from last year’s State Fair

There’s nothing in the hive we don’t have a use for!  (Except pesky wax moths – although even those larvae are adored by chicken owners.)  All of these gifts while they are busy pollinating food for us.  I’ll bet some of that list is new sounding, weird even.  I’m not having a bee brood meal any time soon but the range of uses for bee products is pretty amazing.

And it’s not just homestead, folksy remedies.  Modern medicine is using honey to heal in marvelous ways.   I came across this guy’s amazing story on Instagram.  A combat veteran and amputee who is using Medihoney to heal tissue before prostethic use.  [Medihoney is made from manuka honey (produced in Australia)].  In addition to Ryan’s  courageous personal story, the use of our humble bee products wowed me.  Totally underscores our human experience and interdependance on bees.  His commitment and sacrifice for our country’s calling has an interesting parallel to the dedication to task our bees demonstrate.  Thank you for your willingness to give.  (Be sure to check out Ryan’s skilled craftsmanship in handmade wooden flags at his company Old Glory 27 Flag Company.)

Reposted with permission.

Propolis is an underused and curious substance in the hive.  This glue that bees make weatherproofs and sanitizes their living space.  They love to cover things with it, particularly foreign objects in the hive like leaves and mice.
7614446_orig-1080x675 Propolis to glue shut hive lid. Photo by Mcfarline Apiaries

Imagine a combination of toffee and chewing gum that has been warmed into a herculean bonding agent.  It is being used experimentally in topical eczema treatments but has lots more potential.  (One challenge is its hyper-sticky or rock hard state.  Beekeepers curse the cold crack of a propolized hive top upon opening.  Bees frown on sudden loud noises.)

Recently I posted a shot of my first mead making attempt.  Honey is crazy stuff.  What other substance can you use on a biscuit, make wine, heal a cut, and wash your hands?  Totally putting olive oil and coconut oil to shame as superfoods.

I started this research project under the auspices of “the value of honey”.  But it has certainly become much more.  I do believe good research is designed to teach the researcher, not the audience.  I hope to have my new display done for fall events.  I’ll share interesting tidbits along the way.  And now when I cut or burn a finger, I head to the pantry instead of the medicine cabinet.  Ignore me if you see me sucking my thumb.


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