What are bee products?
A venture into the typical beehive will reveal a host of different substances, 4 of which are the subject of this review on bee products. Royal Jelly, bee pollen, propolis, and honey are all substances found in the beehive, all extracted by man and all used in various forms of nutritional products and supplements.
Honey is the most recognized bee product, found in abundance in the hive and easily extracted. Once removed from the confines of the hive, honey’s natural preservative properties allow it to be handled and processed quite easily without too much risk of it spoiling. Bee pollen is similar in that it is found abundantly in the hive and is fairly easy to process.
The pollen needs to be sifted to remove debris and often it is dehydrated slightly to remove some of the water content to increase longevity. Royal jelly is taken more and more widely as a dietary supplement, with various health benefits associated with its nutritional components. But it is found inside the hive in very small quantities and is difficult to remove without contaminating it.
A creamy white substance, royal jelly needs to be processed with 2-4 hours of it being removed from the antiseptic environment of the hive. This processing can occur in various ways. It can be processed simply by filtering and freezing, where it is then sold directly to the consumer in small jars. A popular method is to freeze-dry the product to remove water.
This freeze-drying process meets with some skepticism, but any concerns are completely unfounded. Royal Jelly contains 67% water and the freeze-drying process removes the water and thus increases the longevity of the product. The resulting powder from the process can be capsulated without preservative and usually has a long shelf life of several years.
It is nutritionally intact after freeze-drying and is just as potent as its liquid counterpart. Many people use the substance as a replacement for B-complex vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). As covered in other information on this website, the overall composition of royal jelly is 67% water, 12.5% protein, including many different amino acids, 11% simple sugars, and 5% fatty acids.
Propolis is also difficult to process. A sticky glue-like resinous substance, it is comprised of bark and leaves that have been ingested and secreted by the bees to create a glue for repairing the hive walls. Commonly the propolis, or ‘bee glue’ is dehydrated in a similar process to that used with royal jelly. Its natural antibiotic properties mean that the window of opportunity for processing propolis without it spoiling is larger than with royal jelly. Once extracted it is common to dilute the propolis in a food-based alcohol, which breaks the stickiness of the substance and helps with its delivery into bottles, jars etc.
Though often the dehydration process is run until the propolis is converted into a light brown powder, where it can be capsulated and bottled. Propolis too may have many potential health benefits* People discuss propolis as being a potential natural cancer drug though we do not support any such claims. While preliminary studies in this field are positive, much more research is needed. A report published in the Cancer Research (Sep 15,93;53 1482-88) stated that propolis, with its concentration of caffeic acids, might help prevent colon cancer.
The article described how caffeic acids were able to prevent the formation of precancerous tissues in rats when exposed to cancer-causing chemicals.
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