Honey deserves its claim to fame. One pound of honey requires 60,000 or so bees to collectively travel as much as 55,000 miles. The bees visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar to yield that much honey. And the taste is soothing, delicious, full of antioxidants, and antimicrobial to boot. There are many different forms of honey, from comb honey to crèmed honey, as well as all kinds of flavors. More than 300 unique types of honey are available in the United States alone, each originating from a different floral source.
But enough about honey—you can peruse the honey section of your natural grocery store or scan the web to learn more about the varietals and their particular attributes. It’s time to turn to honey’s lesser-known relatives—bee pollen, royal jelly, and propolis—and let them enjoy their moment in the sun.
Don’t confuse bee pollen with the allergy-causing pollen that ramps up seasonally. (Bee pollen rarely causes allergy symptoms.) Bee pollen is the pollen gathered from plants by honeybees and brought back to their hive. Bee pollen is a complete food rich in amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and it’s almost half protein. It contains the complete B-complex, especially pantothenic acid (B5) and niacin. Traditionally, bee pollen has been used as an anti-aging food, but its also counted on as an energy food par excellence, touted for its ability to rejuvenate the body, enhance vitality and promote healthy recovery for athletes.*
Royal jelly is the queen bee’s extraordinary source of food—a blend of secretions from the salivary glands of the worker bee. Royal jelly causes the queen to grow almost double the size of the workers, become extremely fertile and lay close to two thousand eggs each day. And her life expectancy is ten times that of the other bees. The only difference between queen and worker bees is royal jelly consumption. Royal jelly contains proteins, sugars, fats and vitamins, with a particularly high concentration of vitamins B5 and B6. It’s widely considered to be an antioxidant, and many experts describe royal jelly as a tonic that promotes overall health, supporting everything from sexual health to energy levels.*
Propolis, a resinous substance collected from tress and conifers by bees, is used to construct and repair their beehive. For this reason, propolis is often referred to as bee glue—a mixture of resin, essential oils and waxes, as well as amino acids, minerals, ethanol, vitamin A, B complex, E and flavonoids.
Believed to have antibacterial and antioxidant effects, propolis has been researched in a number of studies for its potential benefits for skin care, dental care and promoting a healthy inflammatory response in the body.* More conclusive research is needed to confirm the benefits, but bee proplis is available as a nutritional supplement.
When it comes to bee-derived super foods, honey is only the tip of the beehive. Explore some of the less mainstream offshoots, and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by how bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis can help you cultivate your health sweet spot.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.