Bee Life: The Medicine of the Hive
Feb 27, 2015 11:42PM
● By Juliette Jones
Third in a series by Juliette Jones; Parts 1 and 2 appeared in the January and February 2015 editions of Natural Awakenings. The fourth and final part will appear next month.
There are as many roads to becoming a beekeeper as there are people who want to keep bees. Many are attracted to the idea of producing honey out of their own backyard and/or improving pollination in the garden. Some take up beekeeping as a commercial venture. Still others have or develop a strong affinity for honey bees and just want to support the declining honey bee population. These are the roads most traveled.
My road to beekeeping was esoteric and understandably less traveled by others, and it is a joy to be able to say that it provided a powerful answer to a profound inner cry for healing. Chronic Lyme disease – for many reasons, both psycho-physical and social – is an unimaginable, torturous malady. It is often deemed a mystery illness, which tears apart lives and which many have come to believe, in the face of conventionally accepted treatments, will never go away. My attraction to beekeeping was originally for the sole purpose of obtaining honey bees for their stings so that I might practice bee venom therapy upon myself.
Charles Mraz, Beekeeper and Dean of Bee Venom Therapy in America wrote in his Apitherapy classic, Health and the Honeybee, “…A controversial therapy like bee venom therapy for the treatment of various auto-immune diseases in the face of constant opposition and ridicule can be most discouraging. Many times I wanted to give up the struggle, but because of my own dramatic experience and those of others, I persisted.” Mraz was a beekeeper whose success in treating his own painful, crippling rheumatoid arthritis was chronicled in his seminal biography.
Like Mraz, the message conveyed in this article is not intended for personal medical guidance, nor is it meant to substitute in any way medical care from a licensed, well informed doctor or health care provider who is knowledgeable on the topic of bee venom therapy. The information presented here is intended to be strictly educational and simply conveys elements of my own personal research and experience over the past five years.
Every person is unique. Some people are allergic to bee products. Honey bee venom can be lethal to a small percentage of people who are truly allergic. Other people, for a variety of reasons other than allergic reaction, cannot tolerate bee products or bee stings.
Not all bee products are created equal. For example, there are vast differences between the honey one usually purchases from a supermarket and real raw honey out of a beekeeper’s hive. The same is true for pollen and propolis when it comes to grades, freshness and suitability for consumption. Bee Venom Therapy (BVT) is not a simple matter. Therefore, the use of bee stings and bee products as a healing modality should be approached in an informed, cautionary way. Additionally, bee venom is not a panacea. My personal approach to this subject involved and continues to involve a great deal of research, study and travel.
BVT, though little understood by most people, is powerful and constitutes only one element of the “medicine of the hive,” which also includes the use of honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, bee bread and wax as healing modalities. The system of knowledge which effectuates the use of honey bee products for medicinal purposes is known as Apitherapy (apis is the Latin word for bee).
The Long History of Apitherapy
Before the modern era, products of the hive had accepted medical uses. The ancient Egyptians used honey for over 147 external applications in the Ebets papyrus and 102 internal uses. Among other things, raw honey was taken as a curative for respiratory maladies, gynological complaints, and in treating wounds and sores. Propolis is a resinous substance collected by honey bees from tree buds. The antibacterial and antifungal properties of propolis have long been known. The Greek physician Hippocrates, renowned as the “father of medicine,” prescribed propolis for the treatment of sores and ulcers, both internally and externally. Hippocrates is also known to have used bee venom to treat joint pain and arthritis. The medical use of pollen was reported in the early Middle Ages by both Arabs and Jews in Islamic Spain. It has been demonstrated to be beneficial in the treatment of many pathologies. According to Dr. Bernard Jensen, bee pollen is one of the most perfect nutritional substances.
Contemporary Honey Bee Healers
In the past few decades, we have seen growth in alternative and natural healing modalities. Even prior to this resurgence, BVT and other forms of Apitherapy were being researched and practiced in the United States by great healers such as Bodog Beck, M.D., as discussed in his book, The Bible of Bee Venom Therapy. Mraz and Brian Weeks, M.D., were instrumental in founding The American Apitherapy Society (AAS) in 1989. Dr. Weeks remains active with the AAS, an excellent resource organization for those who seek further information and education on the study and practice of Apitherapy.
Today, Apitherapy is not recognized in the United States as a medical discipline, although this is not true in many other countries. Plenty of research and clinical evidence is available through the American Apitherapy Society and elsewhere through studies conducted on a world-wide basis.
Research and Self Empowerment
Restoring and sustaining my health has been chiefly due to my ability to do research and claim my self-empowerment. Recently, a friend sent me an email taken from Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website entitled Bee Venom Treatment for Lyme Disease which was written back in 2000. This article cites clinical evidence that melittin, a 26-amino acid peptide contained in honey bee venom, has the ability to cause profound alteration and loss of motility in the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease. I wish I had run across that article years ago when I suffered from the illusion that I probably would never be able to restore my health.
Mission Impossible, Made Possible through a Miracle
Bees are longstanding symbols for the accomplishment of impossible quests. Until only recently, science was unable to determine how bees were able to fly, as aerodynamically their bodies are too large for the wingspan. Apparently, they move their wings at such a high rate of speed that they break free of this seemingly impossible limitation.
This flying “miracle” is a terrific symbol for the “miracle” working power of the medicine of the hive.” There seem to be too many quotation marks. As honeybees have been able to accomplish the impossible over and over again, so may we discover a hidden ability within ourselves to accomplish what others have labeled “impossible.”
These are words from Paracelsus that I’ve taken fully to heart: “Learn and learn, ask and do not be ashamed to sit with the illiterate folk healers whose empirical cures exceed those of the university professors.”
Juliette Jones, PhD, is a writer, public speaker, and clinically certified spiritual counselor with hospice. She sees backyard beekeeping and Apitherapy as a fascinating way to learn and share. Connect with her at [email protected]. For more information about the studies cited in this article, visit Apitherapy.org.