Bees are amazing creatures. They produce a wide variety of substances, many of which have been found to have great health benefits for not only the bees, but humans as well. Bee keeping and Apitherapy has been done for thousands of years, dating back around 6000 years ago. Apitherapy is the use of bee products honey, propolis, bee pollen, and royal jelly for healing.
Many people are curious as to these health benefits reported by thousands of people and, most notably, by bee keepers themselves. With the variety of bee products out there it can be confusing to know what the difference is between them, what their health benefits are, and which product is best for certain health issues. Since this website is focused on fertility, I am only going to list general information on the differences between Royal Jelly, Bee Pollen, and Bee Propolis and their health benefits in relationship to fertility and fertility issues.
Royal Jelly is a substance that is secreted by nurse worker bees’ glands. The secretion is known as royal jelly and it is the main food source for the first 3 days of the larvae. One larva that is to be the Queen Bee is fed only royal jelly its entire life. This exclusive feeding triggers the full development of her ovaries, which is needed to lay the millions of eggs she will lay in her lifetime. The Queen matures in 5 days and weighs double that of a worker bee. A worker bee only lives to be 30-45 days old, but the Queen bee lives to be 5 to 6 years old. The queen also lays in one season around 250,000 eggs and in peak season she may lay up to 2000 eggs a day. This may have something to do with the extremely high nutritional content of the Royal Jelly, which is this Queen’s exclusive diet.
Royal Jelly is rich in amino acids (29 to be exact), lipids, sugars, some vitamins, fatty acids and, most importantly, proteins. It contains ample levels of iron and calcium. Royal Jelly also contains acetylcholine, which is needed to transmit nerve messages from cell to cell. Regular consumption of high-quality Royal Jelly has been shown to help balance hormones. This makes it beneficial to those individuals that suffer from a hormonal imbalance, as it helps to provide support to the endocrine system. It may also help with problems that are related to hormonal imbalance. A study done in Japan and published in 2007 shows that Royal Jelly has the propensity to mimic human estrogen, which may help those that suffer from low estrogen levels. Estrogen is essential for healthy bone formation and healthy gene expression, and is vital for a healthy menstrual cycle. This study also showed potential for increased size of uterine cells in the rats studied. While there may need to be more studies done to show the full potential of Royal Jelly consumption on uterine health, this shows exciting potential for women with weak uterine muscles or thin uterine lining due to long-term hormonal birth control use.
As worker bees leave the hive for the day, they go out and gather bee pollen and bring it back to the hive. They pack the pollen into granules with its own enzymes and some honey or nectar. Keep in mind that, for each pack of bee pollen sold, each one may be vastly different and this is because of the environment in which the bee was collecting the pollen. Different flowers contain different chemical constituents unique to that flower. Some bees are kept near farming areas that only contain one kind of flower rather than a diversity of them. So to obtain a wide variety of benefits from the bee pollen, you will want to choose one that is from either a local organic source of wildflowers or an organic farm. Choose only high-quality bee pollen. If you choose one that you are not sure of, call the company and ask them what kind of flowers the bees are visiting each day. Is the source organic or wild? If not, if they are near an industrial farm, your pollen has the potential to contain harmful chemicals like pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. All of these are known to contain endocrine disruptors, which are linked to fertility problems.
Because bee pollen varies from source to source depending on time of year, location, etc., it is hard to pinpoint exact nutritional benefits as they may be different with each batch. Bee pollen does contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, and amino acids. It is said that bee pollen contains antihistamine properties, which may reduce allergies.
Bee pollen has been reported to have great results in boosting immunity and fertility for both men and women, reducing allergies and boosting overall nutrition, as well as having healing benefits for a variety of other health conditions.
Bee Propolis is a resinous mixture of tree sap, tree buds, tree leaves, and other botanical sources that the bees make to seal small openings in their hives. Larger openings are sealed with beeswax. Once again the chemical constituents of bee propolis vary by region because different plants live in different climates.
Studies on “typical” northern temperate propolis showed it to contain 50% vegetable balsams, 30% waxes, 10% essential oils, and 5% pollen. This northern region propolis is mainly derived from conifers and poplars.
A study published in Fertility and Sterility (2003;80:S32) showed that 60% of women with endometriosis-related infertility who took 500mg of bee propolis twice a day for 9 months became pregnant as opposed to 20% in the placebo group. Endometriosis pain, scar tissue, and adhesion formation are thought to be triggered by an inflammatory response. Bee propolis has been shown to be extremely anti-inflammatory which may reduce endometriosis.
It appears more research on the benefits of bee propolis are in order. Because preliminary studies suggest its highly anti-inflammatory properties, it may be greatly beneficial for fertility issues that may trigger inflammation responses such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, blocked fallopian tubes, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), and reproductive trauma or surgeries.
Bee propolis may also contain immunomodulating properties. This may be beneficial for autoimmune related fertility issues, such as recurrent miscarriage due to an immunological response (mothers body attacks and rejects the fetus), autoimmune-related Premature Ovarian Failure and antisperm antibodies. Antisperm antibodies can be present in women as an allergic reaction to sperm, thus triggering an immune response to attack the sperm. These antisperm antibodies can also be present in men as well, where their bodies attack their own sperm. This is commonly seen in up to 70% of men who get a vasectomy.
Making Informed Decisions When Choosing Bee Products
Be sure that you are choosing high-quality products from a reputable source. This is very important not only to you, but to the health of the bees. As you may well know bees are rapidly declining and much of this is thought to be linked to environmental pollution. Choose to support organic, free-range, biodynamic farming and bee-keeping practices when possible. Your choices make a difference!
Take the time to learn more about bees and how they sustain our food chain; without them we might perish. There are some great documentaries out there on Colony Collapse Disorder, the lives of bees and how they are on the brink of total collapse. Please keep in mind their vital role in our daily lives!
I suggest freeze-dried Royal Jelly which is pure Royal Jelly, freeze-dried to maintain quality. We also carry Active Bee Power which contains a wonderful blend of these 3 bee products as well as some immune boosting herbs. This company has been certified organic since 1995.
It is extremely important to note that if you are allergic to bees or honey, you should avoid all bee products. Side effects and reactions can include minor to severe skin irritations, difficulty breathing or even anaphylactic shock. If you begin to develop a reaction to any of these products, discontinue use immediately. Do not feed to infants under 1 year of age. Do not use bee products during pregnancy if either side of your family or the father’s family has a history of bee allergy as this may affect the baby.
- Townsend, G. F., Lucas, C.C. (1940). The chemical nature of royal jelly. Biochem J. Sep; 34(8-9): 1155–1162. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1265395/?page=1
- Hellner, M., Winter, D., von Georgi, R., and Mu ̈nstedt, K. (2008). Apitherapy: Usage And Experience In German Beekeepers. eCAM; 5(4)475–479. doi:10.1093/ecam/nem052. Retrieved from: downloads.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2008/827582.pdf
- Suzuki, Kazu-Michi, et al. (2008). Estrogenic Activities of Fatty Acids and a Sterol Isolated from Royal Jelly. eCAM;5(3)295–302 doi:10.1093/ecam/nem036. Retrieved from: http://downloads.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2008/938757.pdf
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (n.d.) Royal Jelly. Chapter 6. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/w0076e/w0076e16.htm
- Lewis, Randine, Ph.D. (2005). The Infertility Cure: The Ancient Chinese Wellness Program for Getting Pregnant and Having Healthy Babies. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
- Thomas, M. (1/18/2008). Royal Jelly and Bee Pollen – How The Benefit Your Health. Retrieved from: http://ezinearticles.com/?id=936373&Royal-Jelly-and-Bee-Pollen—How-They-Benefit-Your-Health=
- Royal Jelly: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-503/royal-jelly
- Bee Pollen: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-78/bee-pollen
- Propolis: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-390/propolis
- Immunological Factor and Infertility. Retrieved from: http://www.sharedjourney.com/articles/asperm.html