They’re smaller than your thumb, they’re hairy, and sometimes, when threatened, some of them may sting you. Despite their weird appearance (and occasional violent reaction to threats), bees are responsible for nearly two-thirds of agricultural production in Australia. Most of the crops that feed humans and livestock are pollinated by bees. Simply put, our ecosystem largely depends on these hardworking insects. Consider life without bees: no crops, no food, and over 200,000 jobless people in the agricultural sector alone. Life without these little creatures would be devastating.
We rely on bees not just for their pollination, but also for the liquid gold they produce: honey. Did you know that in Australia, native bees don’t make honey? They only pollinate native plants, which is an equally important job, anyway. It’s the European bees, introduced to Australia 200 years ago, that make our honey. The honey industry has approximately 20,000 registered beekeepers across Australia, producing 25,000 – 30,000 tonnes of honey annually. That’s a lot of honey, and a lot of jobs.
Raw honey has lots of health benefits:
- Raw honey contains a good amount of antioxidants. These have anti-inflammatory effects that help fight muscle pain, slow down tissue damage, ease menstrual cramps, lessen headaches, and lower the risk of heart disease.
- Some types of honey have almost as many nutrients as fruits and vegetables. At the most basic level, raw honey, which is fat-free, contains protein, B vitamins, calcium, iron, and zinc.
- Raw honey can help heal wounds. Because of its antimicrobial properties, honey can stanch the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. (Keep in mind, though, that the honey used in this study was medical-grade. If you’re planning to use honey to heal any open wound, consult your doctor first.)
- These microbial properties act hand-in-hand with the probiotics in honey to promote the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which keep harmful bacteria from propagating in our intestines and promote a healthy gut. They also help break down food faster and quicken the absorption of nutrients.
- A teaspoon of honey and a squeeze of lemon in a hot cup of tea help ease sore throat and cough.
- Some studies have found encouraging data that show honey could have certain properties that ease depression and anxiety.
The Propolis: organic “glue”
It isn’t surprising that bees—who have the ability to make hexagonal-shaped homes with zero engineering background—can also produce propolis, the sticky substance that coats beehives to keep them together.
Aside from acting as organic “cement,” propolis also provides its own set of health benefits. Produced by bees by mixing sap, beeswax, and bees’ own discharges, propolis contains antioxidant properties.
Like honey, propolis has healing compounds, particularly for skin burns, inflammation, and oral infections. It has also been found to help heal stomach ulcers, rheumatic diseases, and sores from herpes.
Both honey and propolis can be taken orally or topically on wounds. Alternatively, you can also dilute propolis in water and use it as a mouthwash for mouth sores.
The Royal Jelly
Another substance that comes from bees’ hard work is royal jelly. Honey bees make this gelatinous element to feed their queen and their young. But studies have found that royal jelly is good for humans, too.
Like propolis and honey, royal jelly is packed with antioxidants, giving it anti-inflammatory properties.
An animal study has also found that royal jelly, combined with other bee-produced substances, can help lower blood pressure. It can regulate blood sugar, as well.
Although more research is needed, current studies do say that using royal jelly to treat chronic dry eyes is safe. Apart from this, royal jelly has become one of the favourite organic ingredients for topical skin care products. It’s been found to significantly slow the aging process and give you younger-looking skin.
Who knew that humans actually depend on, and benefit so much from these tiny furry insects. We hope next time you see a bee, rather than shoo it away, take a moment to give it some appreciation for everything it does.
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