This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
The five popular honeybee products work in different ways to treat various ailments and conditions.
Bee venom is administered either by needle or by actual bee sting. Chemical studies show that venom contains a number of powerful anti-inflammatory substances, including adolapin and melittin. Said to be a hundred times more powerful than hydrocortisone, melittin stimulates the production of cortisol, a natural steroid that also acts as an anti-inflammatory. Not surprisingly, bee venom therapy (or BVT) is often used for conditions that involve inflammation, such as tendinitis, bursitis, and rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
Bee pollen is typically marketed as an energy-boosting nutritional supplement. This bee product contains vitamins, minerals, and protein, but no more so than many ordinary foods. Some advocates believe that bee pollen is a beneficial treatment for seasonal allergies, because ingesting small amounts builds up resistance to pollen. Claims that bee pollen helps athletes improve performance or that it slows the aging process are not backed up by any scientific evidence, however.
Raw honey is a quick source of energy (like sugar) and a natural storehouse of B vitamins and various minerals. It has mild antibacterial and antibiotic properties, and it can help soothe sore throats. Those who use it believe that raw honey, which has not been filtered, heat-treated, or processed in any way, is more healthful than processed honey. In some studies, raw honey has been used to suppress bacterial growth, particularly in open wounds.
Royal jelly is a milky white substance produced in the salivary glands of worker bees as a food source for the queen bee--and it may be what dramatically extends the queen's life and enhances her fertility. There have been numerous claims about royal jelly's beneficial effects on a variety of medical problems, including fatigue, infertility, asthma, and lack of appetite; these are mainly anecdotal and not substantiated in clinical testing. Interestingly, however, animal and human studies have shown that royal jelly contains ingredients capable of lowering cholesterol levels in the blood. Based on its effect on the queen bee, royal jelly occasionally appears as an ingredient in women's cosmetics, especially wrinkle creams. There is no evidence that royal jelly retards aging (or aging skin) in anyone except bees, however.
Propolis (sometimes called "bee glue") is a sticky resin that seeps from the buds of certain trees (the bees prefer poplar) and oozes from the bark of others (chiefly conifers). Worker bees collect it, add their salivary secretions to it, and use it to coat the inside of the hive. Propolis has been shown to contain antibacterial compounds and can be effective as a salve for cuts and bruises. It is also a source of flavonoids, potent antioxidants that can help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals.