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The Birds and the Bees - Part 2: 'Bees'

Primary Care Blues

Cornelius Rubeus

Monday, 30 March 2009

bees.jpg"Apitherapy", despite what the name might suggest is not a new treatment for depression – although proponents of its use might say otherwise. It is the use of natural bee products to help cure various ailments and enhance health.

"If honeybees died off, then human beings would only have four years to live". This prediction is thought to have been made by Albert Einstein. Admittedly he was probably referring to bees’ role in pollination, but I was interested enough to find out a bit more…

The history of apitherapy dates back to the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Chinese - Hippocrates mentioned the use of bee venom for treating arthritis and other joint problems. Honey, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom are some of the bee products used in apitherapy for their medicinal properties. Honey is purported to be good for the digestive system - having a warming effect on the body, relieving constipation. Honey may also have anti-bacterial properties and can be used for dressing wounds and burns to help keep them sterile and promote healing. It doesn’t stop there – being said to promote "brisk mental efficiency", heal fractured bones, anaemia and even cure the common cold! We then move on to "royal jelly", which is produced in the salivary glands of worker bees. The queen bees are fed royal jelly throughout their larval period and worker bees are fed it for the first three days of the larval period. Royal jelly is also sold as having anti bacterial properties. It is supposed to be highly beneficial in lowering cholesterol, curing infertility, asthma, lack of appetite and continuous fatigue. It is also used as a product in anti-wrinkle and age-defying cosmetics.

"Propolis" is also known as bee glue. Worker bees collect propolis – a sticky tree resin, add their saliva and enzymes to it and then use it to coat the inside of the hive. It acts as an antiseptic layer of the honeycomb cells. It is often used as a part of tinctures, creams, cosmetics and tablets for its antiseptic and anaesthetic properties. It is also said to have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Beeswax is secreted by the worker bees from glands on the underside of the body. It is a highly priced ingredient in cosmetics, hand and face creams, ointments, lipsticks and lip salves. Finally, bee venom is the factor that causes the stinging sensation when a bee stings. Bee venom therapy is administered by injection or an actual bee sting. The venom contains powerful anti-inflammatory substances and can be used for conditions like bursitis, rheumatoid, multiple sclerosis and osteoarthritis. Now the sting in this tale…

image 2.jpgThe UK bee population has crashed by up to 80% over the last few years, due to change in agricultural practices, the effect of bee parasites and of course the appalling weather we have experienced! Of the twenty-seven species of native bumblebee and the six species of cuckoo bumblebees, three have already become extinct, seven are in serious decline and only six remain widespread. So, if you want to avoid Einstein’s apocalyptic prediction, wrinkly skin and above all to make the humble bumblebee ‘appy follow this link: The Bumblebee Conservation Trust

PS "Respect" bonus marks for anyone who can recognise the man in the second photo and the tenuous link between him and this blog…

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Cornelius Rubeus

Dr Rubeus is a hardworking, jobbing GP who trained in the North of England and now works in an inner city setting. He feels passionate about the changes affecting primary care and is not afraid to voice his views. He has his patient’s best interests at heart and wants General Practice to remain as the bedrock of the NHS for years to come.
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