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The Bee Products:

The Wonders
of the Bee Hexagon
Stefan Bogdanov
Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

A bee comb has six sides,


on each a magic thing it hides:
Take wax, pollen and a spoon of honey
and you will be healthy and sunny
Try propolis, royal jelly, venom
and you'll enjoy bee's poem.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

The bees have chosen the hexagon as a building cell for their combs. One reason is that it is
especially economic in regard to expenditure of energy and material and has a maximal strength,
able to store heavy honey in it: a comb of 100 g weight can hold in it up to 4 kg of honey!
And may be also, because the bees want to show us, that they offer us six wonderful products:
honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis, beeswax and bee venom.
I worked for 26 years at the Swiss Bee Research on different aspects of the six bee products, mainly
on honey. You can find and download my different works on bee products on the website of the
research centre, www.apis.admin.ch.
After my retirement in 2006 I remained active in the field, studying further the different fields of
Bee Product Science, because my passion for the wonderful bee hexagon did not ceased to bee. This
Bee Product Book is the product of the review work I made after my retirement.
I would like to offer here some fascinating and useful facts on the six magic things.
I would like to thank my wife Barbara for the patience and the love she gave me while I did this
work.
I would appreciate your feedback at info@bee-hexagon.net
Be aware that this e-book is only for private personal use and should be released in public
domains (Internet). The information offered here is also online on my homepage www.beehexagon.net

Muehlethurnen, June 2011


Stefan Bogdanov

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

Chapter 1: Honey
1. A Short History of Honey

2. Elaboration and Harvest of Honey

11

3. Honey Technology

18

4. Physical Properties

22

5. Honey Composition

30

6. Honeys Types

40

7. Control and Trade

45

8. Nutrient and Functional Food

57

9. Medicine

89

Chapter 2: Pollen
1. Collection, Harvest, Composition, Quality

109

2. Nutrition, Functional Properties, Health

122

Chapter 3: Royal Jelly


1. Harvest, Composition, Quality

150

2. Composition, Nutrition, Health

163

Chapter 4: Propolis
1. Origin, Production, Compostion

194

2. Biological Properties and Medical Applications

209

Chapter 5: Beeswax
1. History, Uses and Trade

239

2. Production, Composition, Quality and Control

254

Chapter 6: Bee Venom


1. Production, Composition, Quality

270

2. Biological and Therapeutic Properties

277

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

Chapter One: Honey

Prehistoric man gathering honey, a rock painting made 6000 BC, Cueva de la
Arana, near Valencia, Spain

Hi
high,
higher
to bee or
not to bee
my sweet honey
sweetest blessing
in spite of all the
horrible painful stings

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

A Short History of Honey


Prehistoric Times
Honey bees are one of the oldest forms of animal life, still in existence since the Neolithic Age, thus
preceding humans on earth by 10 to 20 million years. In the course of human history honey has
been used mainly as sweetener, but also in medicine.
Primeval humans gathered and ate the honey and
honeycombs of wild bees, the only available
sweet, as far back as 7000 BC
As the only sweetener, honey was an important
food for man since the very beginning of man.
The story of honey and Homo sapiens started
during the stone age. In order to reach the honey
sweet man climb up, may be risking his life.
Prehistoric man gathering honey
A rock painting made 6000 BC, Cueva de la
Arana, near Valencia, Spain

Ancient India
Around the same time, i.e. 2-3,000 BC., honey
was mentioned several times in the holy books of
ancient India, the Vedas:
Let every wind that blows drop honey
Let the rivers and streams recreate honey
Let all our medicines turn into honey
Let the dawn and evening be full of honey
Let the darkness be converted to honey
Let our nourisher, the sky above, be full of honey
Let our trees be honey
Let the Sun be honey
Let our cows make honey
Rig Veda 1:90:6-8

The Vedas

Ancient China
In ancient China honey has been mentioned in the
book of songs Shi Jing, written in the 6th century
BC; a honey medicine was mentioned in the 52
prescription book, 3th century BC. According to
Chinese medicine honey acts according to the
principles of the Earth element, acting mainly on
the stomach and on the spleen and has Yang
character, acting on the Tripple Heater Meridian
(Shaoyang).
The five elements

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

Ancient Egypt
In old Egypt honey was an important sweetener and
was depicted in many wall drawings. According to the
Ebers papyrus (1550 BC) it is included in 147
prescriptions in external applications. Also according
to the Smith papyrus (1700 BC) it was used in wound
healing: Thou shouldst bind [the wound] with fresh
meat the first day [and] treat afterwards with grease,
honey [and] lint every day until he recovers.
Pabasa tombs, 26 e Dynasty,
760-656 BC,
image courtesy www.virtualinsectary.com/egypt.html

Ancient Greece
In old Greece the honey bee, a sacred symbol of
Artemis, was an important design on Ephesian coins
for almost 6 centuries.
Aristoteles described for the first time the production
of honey. Hippocrates speaks about the healing
virtues of honey: cleans sores and ulcers, softens
hard ulcers of the lips, heals cabuncles and running
sores.
After his death in 323 B.C., Alexander the Great was
embalmed in a coffin filled with honey.
The bee goddess Artemis

Ancient Rome

Honey was mentioned many times by the writers


Vergil, Varro and Plinius. Especially Virgils
Georgics is a classic where he describes in detail
how honey is made.
During the time of Julius Caesar honey was used as
a substitute for gold to pay taxes.
In the first century A.D., Apicus, a wealthy Roman
gourmet, wrote a series of books in which more than
half the recipes included honey.
From Virgils Georgics

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

The Bible
In Israel, the land where honey and milk flow, honey
was very important and has been mentioned 54 times
in the Old Testament. The most famous is the saying
of the wise King SolomonEat thou honey because
it is good.
In the New Testament it plays a role in the
resurrection of Christ. The first food he was given
was fish and honeycomb.

Old Hebrew bible text

The Koran
The Koran recommended honey as a wholesome
food and excellent medicine. In the XVIth Chapter
of the Koran, entitled The Bee, we find: "There
proceedeth from their bellies a liquor of various
colour, wherein is medicine for men." Mohammed
pronounced: "Honey is a remedy for all diseases."

Old Koran script

Medieval High Cultures


In medieval high cultures of the Arabs, the
Byzantines and Medieval Europe honey was
important too and in these cultures most sweet meals
contained honey. In Byzantium honey was used as an
ingredient of many dishes.
During the Christian Middle ages honey was highly
estimated and the great figures like the saints
Ambrosius, Chrystosomus und Bernhard of
Clairvaux were represented with woven hives.
The old Celtic, Germanic and Slav people traditions
celebrate honey mead as an immortal beverage.

St. Ambrosius

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

The East Orthodox Tradition


Beekeeping and honey has also a long tradition in the
Eastern Orthodox tradition. The saint Haralambos
was a Greek Christian saint from the 2nd century AC.
Haralambos was a Greek Christian preaching
Christianity, persecuted very severely by the Roman
emperor of that time, he helped many persecuted
brothers by healing them with the use of honey,
propolis and herbs. He lived until he was executed at
the age of 112 years.
St. Haralampios

Central and South America


In Central and South America honey from stingless bees
was used for ages, long before Columbus. Honey of the
native stingless bees was used regarded as a gift of the
Gods, it was also a sign of fertility and was given as an
offering to the gods.
Mayan Bee God

Africa
Africa has also a long tradition of a bee use for honey,
both in the high cultures of Mediterranean Africa, and in
the more primitive cultures in regions to the south.
It was recently found that the honey bee Apis Melifera
originates in Africa.
African beekeeper

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

Nowadays
For a long time in human history it was an important
carbohydrate source and the only largely available
sweetener until industrial sugar production began to
replace it after 1800. At present the annual world honey
production is about 1.2 million tons, which is less than 1%
of the total sugar production.
Now science has proven the healing virtues of honey,
described by ancient writers, poets and scientists.

Further reading
CRANE, E (1975) History of honey, In Crane, E (ed.) Honey, a comprehensive survey, William
Heinemann; London; pp 439-488.
CRANE, E (1999) The world history of beekeeping and honey hunting. Gerald Duckworth & Co
Ltd London
JONES R. (2001) Honey and healing through the ages, in Munn, P., Jones, R. (Eds.) Honey and
healing, IBRA, Cardiff, UK, pp. 1-4.
RANSOME, H.M., (1937) The sacred bee in ancient times and folklore, George Allen and Unwin,
London

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

10

Elaboration and Harvest of Honey

HONEY FORAGING
Honey bees gather their honey from two sources: nectar and honeydew. There are no official statistics as to
the relative importance of these two honey sources. In some European countries like Greece, Switzerland,
Turkey, Slovenia and Austria honeydew seems to be at least as important as nectar.

Nectar
The nectar is secreted in the flower nectary. It is a sugar
solution of varying concentration, from 5 to 80 %. About 95
% of the dry substance are sugars, the rest are amino acids
(ca. 0.05 %), minerals (0.02-0.45 %) and small amounts of
organic acids, vitamins and aroma compounds. The value of a
certain plant for bees is determined by its sugar value,
measured by the sugar amount secreted by certain plants. The
sugar value ranges widely, from 0.0005 to 8 mg 11. The sugar
composition is also typical for each plant species, the
principal sugars being fructose, glucose and sucrose. Most
plants have nectars consisting predominantly of fructose and glucose (rape, dandelion). Fabiaceae and
Labiateae plants (acacia, clover, sage, lavendel) contain nectar containing mainly sucrose. The sugar
concentration depends on different climatic factors as temperature, soil, humidity and season. When
humidity is higher the nectar quantity is greater, but the sugar concentration is smaller. Temperature plays
also a very important role. Optimum temperatures are 10 to 30 oC. Strong winds diminish nectar secretion.
The nectar secretion depends also on the day time. Maximum secretion is at noon and in the early afternoon.
Bees prefer nectar with higher sugar content, e.g. around 50 % and will not forage if it is below 5 %. Bees
gather nectar for their energy needs. The greater the sugar value of a plant, the more it is visited by bees for
foraging. Because of the different secretion factors it is not possible to foresee nectar production.
The botanical origin of nectar, used by bees to make honey can be determined by pollen analysis

Honeydew
Honeydew is the secretion product of plant-sucking insects (Hemiptera, mostly aphids). These insects pierce
the foliage or other covering parts of the plant and feed on the sap. The ingested sap is passed through the
insects gut, and the surplus is excreted as droplets of honeydew, which are gathered by the bees. There are
different sorts of honeydew producing insects. Most plants are trees, the coniferous trees yielding worldwide
the highest amounts of honeydew. However, other plants, e.g. cotton, lucerne and sunflower can also
provide honeydew.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

11

Periphillus on Acer leaves

Cinara piceae on spruce

Honeydew is a solution with varying sugar concentration (5-60 %), containing mainly sucrose, besides
higher sugars (oligosacharides). There are also smaller amounts of amino acids, proteins, minerals, acids and
vitamins. In addition, honeydew contains cells of algae and fungi. Some insects produce high amounts of the
trisaccharide melezitose which is only very slightly soluble in water, thus yielding honey which can
crystallise in the combs.
Honeydew production is even less predictable than the nectar flow, as it depends on the build-up of plant
sucking insects. By evaluating the populations of the plant-sucking insects before the honeydew flow, the
potential for a possible honey flow can be estimated. However, the honeydew flow depends also on
favourable weather conditions during the honey flow period. In countries like Germany, Switzerland, Austria
and Slovenia, where honeydew honey is beloved by consumers, beekeepers optimise their honeydew honey
crops by estimating the honeydew flow potential. This is done by counting the honeydew drops, falling on
sheets, laid below the trees 8.

Honey yield
The honey yield of a bee colony depends on different factors: weather conditions, nectar- and honeydew
flow and colony strength. Assuming that a bee fills its stomach with 50 mg, 100000 flights would be
necessary to harvest 5 kg nectar or honeydew, or about 1-3 kg of honey. For this purpose each forager of an
average bee colony of about 10'000 workers makes about 10 forage flights. The greater part of the harvested
honey is used to cover the energy needs of the bee colony, the smaller part only remaining for the beekeeper
to be harvested.

HONEY HARVEST
A. melifera bee foragers collect nectar and honeydew from plants and carry it by means of their honey sac
and bring it to their colony. On their way they already add enzymes from their hypopharengeal glands and
transfer it to the colony bees. These nurse bees pass it over to each other and finally fill the honey into the
combs. During this process the bees fan with their wings, thus lowering honeys humidity, when the water
contents reaches 30-40 % the honey is filled into the combs. During that time the bees add additional
enzymes to the honey. The invertase transforms sucrose into fructose and glucose, while glucose oxidase
oxidates glucose to gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide, the latter acting as an agent against bacterial
spoilage. The warm colony temperature (35o C) and more fanning lower further the honey humidity. Bees
also suck out the honey and deposit it back into the combs, and by this process further lower the water
content of the honey. This transformation process takes place in 1 to 3 days. Generally, when honey is ripe,
with a humidity of less than 20 %, the bees cap the combs, preventing absorption of moisture by honey. Only
rarely, under very humid or tropical conditions can honey with more than 20 % be capped by bees. The aim
of the beekeeper is to harvest honey with less than 18 % humidity.
The water content is of utmost importance for the quality and storage capacity of honey. It depends on many
different factors such as humidity, temperature, colony strength, hive type and intensity of honey flow. Some
unifloral honeys, like sunflower, heather 13 and strawberry tree 5 tend to have a higher water content than
others. The beekeeper can estimate honey ripeness by a simple test: a honey comb with open brood is

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

12

punched by fist if the honey does not splash out, the honey is ready for harvest. A more exact method is to
measure the honey content with a hand refractometer.

Measuring of honey humidity by a hand refractometer


The hand refractometer is a simple and cheap instrument for the estimation
of honey humidity. The hand refractometer should be calibrated (a
calibrations liquid is generally provided by the manufacturer). A completely
liquefied honey should only be used, as honey crystals can scratch the
refractometer prism. The refractometer should be well cleaned after use.
Honey humidity can be lowered by passing warm air over the combs, mostly
by placing them in special warm rooms, where the humidity of the rooms
should be kept low with a dehumidifier. 4, 9, 12, preferably below 18 % 12. This technique is close to what the
bees are doing when dehumidifying their honey in the hive. Indeed, dehumidification leading to a loss of
honey components is not allowed according to the Codex Alimentarius and other honey standards, it states
than no honey constituents may be removed from honey except where it is unavoidable in the removal of
foreign inorganic or organic matter. Industrial removal of water from honey will lead to a loss of honey
aroma.
Good apicultural praxis for harvesting honey with optimal quality
Use of only prescribed bee drugs
No use of antibiotics, chemical drugs for the control of the wax moth or chemical repellants
No feeding of sugar until at least 1 month before the honey flow
No use of excessive smoke
No harvesting of brood combs or honey combs containing brood
Harvest when most of the combs are capped
Honey water content is as low as possible: lower than 20 %, if possible, lower than 18 %
Place for honey centrifugation is clean
Fresh and clean water is present
All instruments, which are in contact with the honey are clean
Mesh size of honey sieves not greater than 0.2 mm
Honey is stored in tanks for several days for an optimal separation of wax, foreign particles and foam
before filling it into containers or jars
Storage of honey in the dark in air-tight containers and jars, safe from humidity and foreign odours at
temperatures below 20 o C

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

13

Uncapping and centrifugation


When most of the honey combs are capped, they can be taken out for harvesting.
Use a water sprayer for keeping out bees instead of smoke for best honey quality.

The combs should have a temperature of about 300 before extraction. Today honey is harvested mostly by
centrifugation, except in most countries of Africa, where most of the honey is pressed out of the combs. The
honey is cleaned by passing it through filters, generally with a mesh size not greater than 0.2 mm, in order
that pollen are not filtered. In some countries filters with a small mesh size is used to filter off honey, the
honey containing no more pollen. According to the Codex Alimentarius and the EU honey standards such
honey should be labelled filtered and cannot be labelled for a specific geographic and botanical origin.

Decapping and centrifugation of the combs, followed by a first filtration

Filling and storage

The filtered honey is poured in a tank, equipped with a filter. The tank is ideally kept at temperature of about
300 C and conditioned for several days, allowing the foam and small wax particles to diffuse up to the
surface. The clear honey is best filled into jars for final consummation. In other cases honey will be filled in
larger storage containers.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

14

Honey bulk recipients

Storage
containers should be made out
of aluminium, stainless steel or plastic material. Corrosive metal containers should be coated with
appropriate coatings, resistant to acidity.
Honey is offered in a great variety of jars. Glass is used mostly, but other materials, e.g. plastic, earthenware
can be also used, provided that they are resistant to the action of honey. Containers and jars should be closed
hermetically to exclude spoilage by humidity and foreign odours. Optimum storage temperature is 10-16 C,
the relative humidity of the storage rooms should be less than 65 %. Honey quality decreases with
increasing temperature: the hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) content increases, while the enzyme activity
decreases (see below). Prolonged storage at 50C results in a decrease of aroma compounds 19. Upon
prolonged storage the colour of honey becomes darker due to building of Maillard products6, 17.

Effects of storage temperature on honey HMF, diastase and invertase 18


Storage
temperature oC
10
20
30
40
50
60
70

Storage time to build


40 mg HMF /kg
10-20 y
2-4y
0,5 - 1 y
1-2m
5 - 10 d
1-2d
6 - 20 h

Half-life*
diastase
35 y
4y
200 d
31 d
5,4 d
1d
5,3 h

Half-life
invertase
26 y
2y
83 d
9,6 d
1,3 d
4,7 h
47 min

half-life: time, necessary for a 50 % decrease of the enzyme activity

Storage in honey jars and pots


Honey quality is preserved best if it is directly filled in jars. Glass is the best material, due to its
neutrality. Transparent glass has the advantage that the honey can be visualized. On the other hand,
colour and the antibacterial activity can diminish upon storage. Amber glass jars are thus optimal.
Jars and pots should be closed hermetically to exclude spoilage by humidity and foreign odours.
Food quality plastic material and jar pots are also possible, if they fulfil the quality criteria.
Especially no foreign material should diffuse into the honey.
The longer the storage and the higher the temperature, the
more rapid is the darkening of honey.
The same rape honey was stored under different conditions:
Left: at ambient temperature in the light. middle: in the dark at
ambient temperature (20-25); right: in the dark at 15 C.

Further reading: 1, 1-3, 7, 8, 10, 10, 11, 14-16

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

15

Different honey pots (photos courtesy Gilles Ratia, except Nr. 3, 7, 8, 9: courtesy E.M. Spolders)

Bulgaria

Greece

Hungary

Israel

Italy

Japan

Poland

Romania

Spain

Uganda

Russia

USA

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

16

References
1. CRANE, E (1990) Bees and beekeeping: Science, practice and world resources. Cornell University Press
Ithaca, New York
2. CRANE, E; WALKER, P (1985) Important honeydew sources and their honeys. Bee World 66 (3): 105-112.
3. CRANE, E; WALKER, P; DAY, R (1984) Directory of important world honey sources. International Bee
Research Association London; 384 pp
4. DZIADYK, A (2004) Drying honey in the "hot room" - Several approaches. American Bee Journal 144 (5):
385-387.
5. FLORIS, I; SATTA, A; RUIU, L (2007) Honeys of Sardinia (Italy). Journal of Apicultural Research 46 (3):
198-209.
6. GONZALES, A P; BURIN, L; BUERA, M D (1999) Color changes during storage of honeys in relation to
their composition and initial color. Food Research International 32 (3): 185-191.
7. KLOFT, W; KUNKEL, H (1985) Waldtracht und Waldhonig in der Imkerei. Ehrenwirth Verlag Mnchen
8. LIEBIG, G (1999) Die Waldtracht. Entstehung - Beobachtung - Prognose. G. Liebig Stuttgart
9. MARLETTO, F; PITON, P (1976) Equipment for evaporating water from honey by a forced draught.
Preliminary note. Apicoltore Moderno 67 (3): 81-84.
10. MAURIZIO, A (1975) How bees make honey, In Crane, E (ed.) Honey. A Comprehensive survey, Heinemann
Edition; London; pp 77-105.
11. MAURIZIO, A; SCHAPER, F (1994) Das Trachtpflanzenbuch. Nektar und Pollen - die wichtigsten
Nahrungsquellen der Honigbiene. Ehrenwirth Mnchen; 334 pp
12. MURRELL, D; HENLEY, B (1988) Drying honey in a hot room. Amer.Bee J. 128 (5): 347-351.
13. PERSANO ODDO, L; PIRO, R (2004) Main European unifloral honeys: descriptive sheets. Apidologie 35
(special issue): S38-S81.
14. SHUEL, R W (1992) The production of nectar and pollen. In: The Hive and the Honeybee, Hrsg. J.M.
Graham. Dadant: Hamilton. unknown 3: 401-436.
15. TEW, J T (1992) Honey and wax a consideration of production, processing and packaging techniques, In
Graham, J (ed.) The Hive and the Honey Bee, Dadant & Sons; Hamilton, IL; pp 657-704.
16. TOWNSEND, G F (1975) Processing and storing liquid honey, In Crane, E (ed.), Heinemann, London: pp
269-292.
17. TURKMEN, N; SARI, F; POYRAZOGLU, E S; VELIOGLU, Y S (2006) Effects of prolonged heating on
antioxidant activity and colour of honey. Food Chemistry 95 (4): 653-657.
18. WHITE, J W (1975) Composition of honey., In Crane, E (ed.) Honey, a comprehensive survey, Heinemann
Edition; London; pp 157-206.
19. WOOTTON, M; EDWARDS, R A; FARAJI-HAREMI, R; WILLIAMS, P J (1978) Effect of accelerated
storage conditions on the chemical composition and properties of Australian honeys - 3. Changes in
volatile components. Journal of Apicultural Research 17 (3): 167-172.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

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Honey Technology

CRISTALLISATION
Natural crystallisation
The honey crystallization is a natural process, depending on the sugar content, the temperature, the
water content and the storage time.
Sugar content
The higher the glucose content, the faster the crystallization. Honeys with more than 28% glucose
crystallize fast, while those with less than 28 % remain generally liquid19. Honeydew honeys with
more than 10% melezitose crystallize to so-called cement honey8
Temperature
The optimal temperature for honey crystallization lies between 10 and 18o C constant temperature
of 14o C is regarded as optimal. At low temperatures crystallization is slowed down. In the deepfreezer honey remains liquid for longer time. Very fast crystallizing honeys like rape honey
crystallize in a fine-crystalline texture. At higher temperatures (more than 25o C) the crystallization
is slowed down. At these temperatures the honey crystallizes with a rough crystalline texture.
Water content
Honeys with a water content between 15 and 18 % crystallize optimally. Honeys with more and less
and water crystallize more slowly. Best spreadability have crystalized honeys with water content
between 17 and 18%. Honeys with lower water content have harder crystallization texture, those
with more than 18% to remain softer.

Guided crystallization
The guided crystallization is applied with fast crystallizing blossom
honeys in order to avoid the building of frost and coarse crystallisation.
There are two procedures: mechanical cutting of the crystals up by
agitating the honey Inoculate the honey with 5 to 10% finely crystalline
starter honey and following agitating. Agitating can pass agitating devices
with motor drive, e.g. stronger hand drills by hand with a triangular staff,
with larger quantities is better suitable (with more than 800 W) with
special agitating staffs: (Illustration)

Crystallization defects
Formation of frosting
In some honeys with low humidity frosting arises on the surface of the honeys.
These are cavities, which are formed by air during crystallization. Frosting is a
natural process, which does not impair the honey quality. It can be prevented by
applying vacuum to the honey before filling or following the guided
crystallization. With guided granulation and storage at constant temperature
around 14 C frosting can be avoided.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

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Rough granulation
This occurs particularly in slowly crystallizing honeys and also after the
liquefaction of honey, which decreases honey granulations speed. This can
be prevented with guided crystallization.

Building of two phases


This defect arises when honeys with high water content granulate (with more than 18
% water. Often yeast will develop in the liquid phase to cause fermentation.

LIQUEFACTION AND SOFTENING OF GRANULATED HONEY


Heating is the most widely used method. According to the Codex Alimentarius and other honey
regulations it is forbidden to heat honey as to impair significantly its quality. Therefore, honey
should be liquefied in such a way as to avoid heat damages. The liquefaction time depends on the
glucose concentration and on the crystal form: the higher the glucose content and the larger the
crystals, the longer the liquefaction time. Heating at higher temperatures of for a longer period of
time will cause honey damage, decrease of aroma and in extreme cases building of a caramel like
taste. Overheating is determined most easily by the measurement of hydroxymethyl furfural (HMF)
and honey enzyme activity (see table below). Honey should be heated with care to prevent
overheating.

Heating at lower temperatures


It is often prescribed not to heat honey at temperatures higher than 40o C in order to prevent
overheating. However, higher temperatures are needed for a complete dissolution of all crystals.
Granulated honey is a very poor heat conductor and thus should be stirred to decrease granulation
time. Heating for 1-2 days at 40-50o will not damage honey. There are different means of honey
heating.
Heating by water bath

From point of view of optimal heat transfer this type of heating is the best one. A 25 kg honey
recepient is heated in a water bath up to 40o for 43 hours, while 72 hours are necessary for heating
by air 3, 4 Due to practical reasons, heating in water baths is used in recipients of up to 25 kg size.
There are only few commercially available heating water bath systems.
Heating by air

Heating by air is widely used. Compared to a water bath, air heating needs a longer period of time.
When heating greater amounts of honey, air circulation should be used to prevent overheating. For
liquefaction of a granulated blossom honey with 17.5 % water, following relation between vessel
size, temperature and liquefaction time was found 10:
Recipient capacity
20 kg
50 kg
80 kg
300 kg

40 o C
24 hours
48 hours
108 hours
-

45o C
18 hours
36 hours
72 hours
108 hours

50o C
16 hours
24 hours
60 hours
72 hours

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

19

Other methods of heating

Honey can be liquefied by placing the vessels on electric plates. This type of heating is widely used
by small beekeepers and it is practical for up to 25 kg recipients. However, in order to prevent
overheating, there should be an air layer of 5-6 cm between the plate and the vessel. According to
the producers, heating to 45 o of a 25 kg vessel will liquify the honey within 24 to 48 hours.
Immersion heaters can be placed on the granulated honey, which progressively sink upon honey
melting.
Melitherm heaters, developed by Sprgin 14 are used for honey liquefying in some European
countries. This liquefaction method is particularly gentle and does not cause any honey damage 2,
but the honey crystals are not completely liquefied.

Heating at higher temperatures: pasteurisation


In some countries, honey is heated to destroy honey crystals and yeasts through pasteurisation.
Commercial pasteurisation practice is flash-heating for a few seconds at 70-78 0 C and then rapidly
cooling for minimisation of heat damage. The commercial practice is described in detail 17. After
pasteurisation, diastase activity and HMF content remain almost unchanged, while invertase is
damaged 6, 16.
Pressure filtering, for a clarification of honey, is carried out mostly in North America, after honey
pasteurisation. The resulting honey is very clear and remains liquid for a longer period of time.
Liquefied, pasteurised honey will crystallise slowly to build coarse crystals. The drawback of this
procedure is that it filters off pollen, making it impossible to control claims of specific declaration
of botanical and geographical origin.
Wave application

There are different kind of waves, which can be used for honey liquefaction:
Ultrasonic waves 9, 11, 12
Microwave oven 1, 5, 7, 13, 15, 18
Infrared oven 7, 15
Microwave and infrared ovens are well distributed commercially and are suitable for use. Honey
can be liquefied very quickly, due to its specific composition13. Microwaves with frequency
between 915 MHz and 2450 MHz are widely used in for food heating and can be used for honey
liquefaction. However, the research results cited above show than both types of ovens cause HMF
increase and enzyme activity decrease, the effects depending on the time and the energy amount
applied, and also on the type of honey 1. Thus, special microwave ovens for liquefaction of honey,
taking into account the above mentioned factors should be constructed in order to avoid honey
damage.

DEHUMIDIFICATION
Honey with too high water content should be dehumidified before harvest, i.e. in the combs, by
placing the hives in warm rooms and using dehumidifiers. This can be done easily by beekeepers
and the procedure should not influence significantly honey quality.
However, if too humid honey is already harvested it can be dehumidified also in the honey plant.
This, however, leads to loss of honey volatiles and aroma. Thus, such dehumidification is also not
allowed according to the international honey standards, which state than no honey constituents
may be removed from honey except where it is unavoidable in the removal of foreign inorganic or
organic matter.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

20

References
1. BATH, P K; SINGH, N (2001) Effect of microwave heating on hydroxymethylfurfural formation and
browning in Helianthus annuus and Eucalyptus lanceolatus honey. Journal of Food Science and
Technology Mysore 38 (4): 366-368.
2. BOGDANOV, S (1994) Verflssigung von Honig mit dem Melitherm-Gert und dem
Abdeckelungswachsgert. Schweizerische Bienen-Zeitung 117 (8): 458-460.
3. BDEL, A; GRZIWA, J (1959) Die Erwrmung des Honigs im Heizschrank. Deutsche Bienenwirtschaft 10
(2): 30-35.
4. BDEL, A; GRZIWA, J (1959) Die Rolle des Wrmebergangs bei Erwrmung des Honigs. Sonderdruck
Z.Bienenforsch. 4 (7): 149-150.
5. DEVROYE, H (1990) Comparative study of the degradation of honey during liquefaction by treatment in a hot
room and by microwaves. Abeille de France (753): 418-420.
6. GONNET, M (1975) La pasteurisation du miel. Bulletin Tchnique Apicole 3: 27-32.
7. HEBBAR, H U; NANDINI, K E; LAKSHMI, M C; SUBRAMANIAN, R (2003) Microwave and infrared heat
processing of honey and its quality. Food Science and Technology Research 9 (1): 49-53.
8. IMDORF, A; BOGDANOV, S; KILCHENMANN, V (1985) 'Zementhonig' im Honig- und Brutraum - was
dann? 1. Teil: Wie berwintern Bienenvlker auf Zementhonig? Schweizerische Bienen-Zeitung 108
(10): 534-544.
9. IVANOV, T; IVANOVA, T (1995) Effect of ultrasonic, microwave and x-ray treatments of honey on its
quality, Apimondia congress No 34, Lausanne: pp 385-388.
10. JANNE, F (1985) La refonte du miel. Bulletin Tchnique Apicole 12 (1): 33-40.
11. KALOYEREAS, S A; OERTEL, E (1958) Crystallization of honey as affected by ultrasonic waves, freezing,
and inhibitors. American Bee Journal 98 (11): 442-443.
12. LIEBL, D E (1978) Ultrasound and granulation in honey. American Bee Journal 118 (2): 107.
13. NATIONAL, H B (1998) Honey and microwaveable foods. Honey: A natural microwave reactive ingredient
for baked goods formulation. Honey Information Kit for the Food and Beverage Industries
14. SPRGIN, K N (1978) Method for processing honey and apparatus for carrying out the method. Verfahren
zum Behandeln von Bienenhonig und Gert zur Durchfhrung dieses Verfahrens, 13pp. German
Federal Republic Offenlegungsschrift (Patent Application) (27 02 132)
15. SUBRAMANIAN, R; HEBBAR, H U; RASTOGI, N K (2007) Processing of honey: A review.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF FOOD PROPERTIES 10 (1): 127-143.
16. TABOURET, T; MATHLOUTHI, M (1972) Essai de pasteurisation de miel. Rev.franc.Apic. 299: 258-261.
17. TOWNSEND, G F (1975) Processing and storing liquid honey, In Crane, E (ed.), Heinemann, London: pp
269-292.
18. VALBUENA, A O; SILVA, M C (1995) Liquefazione del miele con microonde. Rivista di Apicoltura (No. 3):
24-26.
19. WHITE, J W; RIETHOF M.L.; SUBERS M.H.; KUSHNIR, I (1962) Composition of American honeys.
Bull.Tech.U.S.Dep.Agric. (1261): 1-65.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

21

Physical Properties of Honey

Knowledge of the physical characteristics of honey are important for the different aspects of honey
technology: harvest, processing, storage, granulation and liquefaction 8, 47, see chapter 3.

WATER CONTENT AND WATER ACTIVITY


Water
Content,

Refractive
Index

Water
Content

Refractive
Index

Water
Content

Refractive
Index

g/100 g

20C

g/100 g

20C

g/100 g

20C

13.0

1.5044

17.0

1.4940

21.0

1.4840

13.2

1.5038

17.2

1.4935

21.2

1.4835

13.4

1.5033

17.4

1.4930

21.4

1.4830

13.6

1.5028

17.6

1.4925

21.6

1.4825

13.8

1.5023

17.8

1.4920

21.8

1.4820

14.0

1.5018

18.0

1.4915

22.0

1.4815

14.2

1.5012

18.2

1.4910

22.2

1.4810

14.4

1.5007

18.4

1.4905

22.4

1.4805

14.6

1.5002

18.6

1.4900

22.6

1.4800

14.8

1.4997

18.8

1.4895

22.8

1.4795

15.0

1.4992

19.0

1.4890

23.0

1.4790

15.2

1.4987

19.2

1.4885

23.2

1.4785

15.4

1.4982

19.4

1.4880

23.4

1.4780

15.6

1.4976

19.6

1.4875

23.6

1.4775

15.8

1.4971

19.8

1.4870

23.8

1.4770

16.0

1.4966

20.0

1.4865

24.0

1.4765

16.2

1.4961

20.2

1.4860

24.2

1.4760

16.4

1.4956

20.4

1.4855

24.4

1.4755

16.6

1.4951

20.6

1.4850

24.6

1.4750

16.8

1.4946

20.8

1.4845

24.8

1.4745

25.0

1.4740
after Chataway 10

Relationship between water content of honey to refractive index.


Temperatures above 20o C: add 0.00023 per oC.
Temperatures below 20o C: substract 0.00023 per oC.
The table is derived from a formula developed by Wedmore46 from the data of Chataway 10
Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

22

W=

1.73190 - log(R.I.-1)
0.002243

W is the water content in g per 100 g honey and R.I. is the refractive index
The water content is a quality parameter, important above all for honey shelf life. Higher honey humidity
will often cause fermentation. There is a relation between honey water content and the yeast count (see
chapter on honey microbiology). At 17 % humidity. there is a very minimal fermentation danger due to the
very low yeast content.

Abbe Refractometer

Digital Refractometer

The capacity of honey to break the light is used for the refractometric determination of humidity. Both Abbe
and digital refractometers can be used. However, this measurement does not reflect the true water content.
Indeed, measurements of water content by the Karl Fischer method showed, that the refractometric
measurements overestimates the true water content by about 1 Brix unit 21, 51. As the refractometric moisture
determination has proved useful in routine control, there is no reason to replace this simple measurement by
the more complicated and expensive Karl Fischer technique.
The water activity (aw) is proportional to the free water content in food. In honey a part of the water is bound
to sugars and is thus unavailable for microorganisms, thus the aw value and not the overall water content is
the criteria determining bacterial spoilage. The aw values of honey vary between 0.55 und 0.75, honeys with
an aw value < 0,60 are microbiologically stable 7, 33, 35. Actually, it is the better quality criteria for honey than
the water content, because it will indicate the free water content, which is microbiologically active to
eventually cause fermentation. However, the simple and fast measurement of the water content has proven
sufficient for assaying the fermentation risk of honey.
Further Reading: 9, 11, 12, 16, 22, 25, 38, 40, 50

FLUIDITY AND VISCOSITY


Honey is a viscous liquid. Honey viscosity depends on the water content and on temperature (table below).
Honey with higher water content flows faster than that with lower one. Temperature influences also greatly
honey viscosity. At room temperature (20o C) the viscosity of most honeys is not high enough to allow a
good fluidity and an easy harvesting. At 30o .C, where the viscosity values are mostly lower than 100 poise,
the fluidity of most honeys is high enough for efficient handling. Honey granulation results in a dramatic
increase of viscosity of a factor of 10, while the dependence of viscosity of granulated honey on the water

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23

content and on temperature is similar to that of liquid honey 19. Higher temperatures are necessary to allow
easy handling of granulated honey, at which liquefaction can take place. The composition of honey generally
has a little effect on honey viscosity. However, there are honeys, which show different characteristics in
regard to viscosity, e.g. heather (Calluna vulgaris) and manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honeys are
described as thyxotrophic which means they are gel-like (extremely viscous) when standing still, while they
turn liquid when agitated or stirred. The viscosity of heather honey is so high, that centrifugation of honey
from the combs is very difficult.
Dependence of the viscosity (in poise) on the water content and temperature of liquid honey after 28
% humidity

15o C

20 o C

25 o C

30 o C

35 o C

14.2

> 800

540

250

120

80

15.5

650

250

130

80

30

17.1

293

115

75

30

20

18.

200

85

50

20

18

Dependence of the viscosity (in poise, p.) on temperature on the water content of liquid honey, after3

At 16% moisture :
14C : 600 p. ; 20C : 190 p.
30C : 65 p. ; 40C : 20 p.
50C : 10 p. ; 70C : 3 p.

At 25C:
13.7% : 420 p ;
17.1% : 70 p. ;
20.2% : 20 p.

14.2% : 270 p;
18.2% : 48 p. ;
14 p. : 14 p.

15.5% : 138 p
19.1% : 35 p.

Further Reading: 1, 17, 23, 24, 27, 31, 42, 49

DENSITY
Another physical characteristic of practical importance is density. Honey density, expressed as specific
gravity, is greater than water density by about 50 %, and it also depends on the water content. Because of the
variation in density it is sometimes possible to observe distinct stratification of honey in large storage tanks.
The high water content (less dense) honey settles above the denser, drier honey. Such inconvenient
separation can be avoided by more thorough mixing.
Specific gravity of honeys with different water content 47

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24

Water content
(%)

Specific
gravity at
20C

Water content
(%)

Specific
gravity at
20C

Water content
(%)

Specific
gravity
at 20C

13.0

1.4457

16.0

1.4295

19.0

1.4101

14.0

1.4404

17.0

1.4237

20.0

1.4027

15.0

1.4350

18.0

1.4171

21.0

1.3950

HYGROSCOPICITY
Honey is strongly hygroscopic, this characteristics being important
in processing and storage. From the table below it can be seen that
normal honey with a water content of 18.3 % or less will absorb
moisture from the air at a relative humidity of above 60%. Thus it is
important to keep honey well closed when it is stored in humid
places. Also, under conditions of moist climate the bees have
difficulties to keep the moisture down to safe levels, and undesirable
fermentation might be the consequence.
Graph moisture content of honey versus relative humidity3

Approximate equilibrium between relative humidity (RH) of ambient air and water
content of a clover honey 47
Air (%RH)
% honey water content

50

55

60

65

70

75

80

15.9

16.8

18.3

20.9

24.2

28.3

33.1

THERMAL PROPERTIES
For the design of honey processing plants its thermal properties have to be taken into account. The heat
absorbing capacity, i.e. specific heat, varies from 0.56 to 0.73 cal/g/0C according to its composition and state
of crystallisation. The thermal conductivity varies from 118 to 143 x 10 -5 cal/cm2/sec/0C 47 Thus, the
amount of heat for cooling and mixing which is necessary to treat honey, i.e. before and after filtration or
pasteurisation, can be calculated. The relatively low heat conductivity, combined with high viscosity leads to
rapid overheating from point-heat sources (see liquefaction in chapter 3).
Further Reading: 24, 25

ELECTRICAL CONDUCTIVITY
Honey contains minerals and acids, serving as electrolytes, which can conduct the electrical current. The
measurement of electrical conductivity (EC) was introduced in 1964 45. At present it is the most useful
quality parameter for the classification of unifloral honeys, which can be determined by a relatively
inexpensive instrumentation. This parameter was included recently in the new international standards for

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

25

honey of the Codex Alimentarius and the European Union, replacing the of ash content. Accordingly
blossom honeys should have less, honeydew honeys more than 0.8 mS/cm. Exceptions are Arbutus, Banksia,
Erica, Leptospermum, Melaleuca, Eucalyptus and Tiglia honeys and blends with them, see EU and Codex
Alimentarius standards on this website.
There is a linear relationship between ash content and electrical conductivity 2. Measurements of ash content
can be concerted to electrical conductivity units by a simple calculation:
C = 0.14 1.74 x A
Where C in the electrical conductivity in milli-Siemens per cm and the ash content in g/100 g.
Further Reading: 2, 36, 37, 39

COLOUR
Colour in liquid honey varies from clear and colourless (like water) to dark amber or black The various
honey colours are basically all nuances of yellow amber.
The most important aspect of honey colour lies in its value for marketing and determination of its end use.
Darker honeys are more often for industrial use, while lighter honeys are marketed for direct consumption.
While light honeys (e.g. acacia) achieve generally higher prices, there are also countries (Germany,
Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Turkey) where consumers prefer dark honeydew honeys.
Honey colour expressed in different units
Honey colour is frequently given in millimetres Pfund scale, while an optical density reading is generally
used in international honey trade 14 or according to the Lovibond Schale 4, used by the US Department of
Agriculture, with following relation between both:
USDA colour
standards

Lovibond
scale disk

Pfund
scale
(mm)

USDA colour
standards

Lovibond
scaleII
disk

Pfund
scale (mm)

water white

30

11

light amber

150

71

extra white

40

18

light amber

200

83

white

50

27

amber

250

92

white

60

35

amber

300

99

extra light amber

70

41

amber

400

110

extra light amber

80

46

dark amber

500

119

extra light amber

90

51

dark amber

650

130

light amber

100

55

dark amber

800

140

light amber

120

62

The values of these comparators give a measure of colour intensity, but only along the normal amber tone of
honey. The Lovibond comparators are easier to handle than the Pfund graders, but honey is generally
marketed according to the Pfund colour scale. That is why at present Lovibond graders with a Pfund scale
are marketed. Other more objective methods have also been tested, as the determination of all colour
parameters through the CIE L*a*b* tristimulus method 5, 30, 44, or reflectance spectroscopy 29, 43
Further Reading: 4, 18, 20, 26, 41, 43, 48

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

26

OPTICAL ROTATION
Honey has also the property to rotate the plane of polarisation of polarised light. This property is due to the
individual sugars. As a sugar solution, honey has the property of rotating the plane of polarised light. Some
sugars (e.g. fructose) exhibit a negative optical rotation, while others (e.g. glucose ) a positive one. The
overall optical rotation depends on the concentration of the various sugars in honey. Blossom honey have
negative values and honeydew honeys have mostly positive values 32, but the values for the different
unifloral honeys are not very typical. Thus, the determination of the electrical conductivity is the better tool
for the prediction of the botanical origin of honey.
Further reading: 6, 13, 15, 34
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43. TERRAB, A; DIEZ, M J; HEREDIA, F J (2002) Chromatic characterisation of Moroccan honeys by diffuse
reflectance and tristimulus colorimetry - Non-uniform and uniform colour spaces. Food Science and
Technology International 8 (4): 189-195.
44. VALBUENA, A; LOSADA, C (1990) Caracterizacion cromatica (CIE L10, a10, b10) de las mieles de la
alcarria y zonas adyacentes. Cuadernos de Apicultura (No 8): 8-11.
45. VORWOHL, G (1964) Die Beziehungen zwischen der elektrischen Leitfhigkeit der Honige und ihrer
trachtmssigen Herkunft. Annales de l'Abeille 7 (4): 301-309.
46. WEDMORE, E B (1955) The accurate determination of the water content of honeys. The Bee World 36 (11):
197-206.
47. WHITE, J W (1975) Physical characeristics of honey, In Crane, E (ed.) Honey, a comprehensive survey,
Heinemann Edition; London; pp 207-239.
48. WHITE, J W (1984) Instrumental color classification of honey: collaborative study. Journal - Association of
Official Analytical Chemists 67 (6): 1129-1131.
49. YANNIOTIS, S; SKALTSI, S; KARABURNIOTI, S (2006) Effect of moisture content on the viscosity of
honey at different temperatures. Journal of Food Engineering 72 (4): 372-377.
50. ZAMORA, M C; CHIRIFE, J; ROLDAN, D (2006) On the nature of the relationship between water activity
and % moisture in honey. Food Control 17 (8): 642-647.
51. ZRCHER, K; HADORN, H (1980) Vergleichende Wasserbestimmungen in Honig nach Karl Fischer, aus
Dichte, refraktometrisch und gravimetrisch. Mitteilungen aus dem Gebiete der
Lebensmitteluntersuchung und Hygiene 71: 396-403.

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29

Honey Composition

CHEMICAL COMPOSITION
Honey is composed mainly from carbohydrates, lesser amounts of water and a great number of minor
components.

Honey composition after 75, 80, values in g/100 g

Water content
Fructose
Glucose
Sucrose
Other disaccharides
Melezitose
Erlose
Other oligosaccharides
Total sugars
Minerals
Amino acids, proteins
Acids
pH

Further reading:

Blossom honey
average
17.2
38.2
31.3
0.7
5.0
<0.1
0.8
3.6
79.7
0.2
0.3
0.5
3.9

min-max
15-20
30-45
24-40
0.1-4.8
28
0.56
0.5-1
0.1-0.5
0.2-0.4
0.2-0.8
3.5-4.5

Honeydew honey
average
16.3
31.8
26.1
0.5
4.0
4.0
1.0
13.1
80.5
0.9
0.6
1.1
5.2

min-max
15-20
28-40
19-32
0.1-4.7
16
0.3-22.0
0.16
0.1-6
0.6-2
0.4-0.7
0.8-1.5
4.5-6.5

8, 44, 75

Carbohydrates

Sugars are the main constituents of honey, comprising about 95 % of honey dry weight. Main sugars are the
monosaccharides hexoses fructose and glucose, which are products by the hydrolysis of the disaccharide
sucrose. Besides, about 25 different sugars have been detected 29, 62. The principal oligosaccharides in
blossom honeys are disaccharides: sucrose, maltose, turanose, erlose. Honeydew honeys contain besides,

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30

also the trisaccharides melezitose and raffinose. Trace amounts of tetra and pentasaccharides have also been
isolated.
The relative amount of the two monosaccharides fructose and glucose is useful for the classification of
unifloral honeys 12. On the other hand, the sugar spectra of minor sugars does not differ greatly in different
blossom honeys 12. This is due to the fact, that the oligosaccharides are mainly a product of honey invertase
75
. There are considerable differences between the sugar spectra of blossom and honeydew honeys, the latter
containing a higher amount of oligosaccharides, mainly the trisaccharides melezitose and raffinose, both
absent in blossom honeys (see table above ) The differentiation between different types of honeydew honeys
is difficult. An attempt to differentiate between honeydew honeys from various aphids was made by
determination of specific oligosaccharides 72. Metcalfa honey, a new honeydew honey type, produced mainly
in Italy, can be distinguished from other honeydew honeys as it is rich in maltotriose and contains
particularly high amounts of oligomers called dextrins 36.
The sugar composition can be determined by different chromatographic methods 11, HPLC being the most
widely used one12.

Further reading: 19, 25, 47, 50

Acidity and pH
The acid content of honey is relatively low but it is important for the honey taste. Most acids are added by
the bees 31. The main acid is gluconic acid, a product of glucose oxidation by glucose oxidase. However, it is
present as its internal ester, a lactone, and does not contribute to honeys active acidity. Honey acidity is
determined by titration 11 and is expressed in milli equivalents per kg. The following acid have been found
in minor amounts: formic, acetic, citric, lactic, maleic, malic, oxalic, pyroglutamic and succinic 48.
Most honeys are acidic, that means that the pH value is smaller than 7. The pH of blossom honeys varies
between 3.3 to 4.6. An exception is the chestnut honey with a relatively high pH value of 5 to 6. Honeydew
honeys, due to their higher mineral content, have a higher pH value, varying between 4.5 and 6.5. Honey is a
buffer, that means that that its pH does not change by the addition of small quantities of acids and bases. The
buffer capacity is due to the content of phosphates, carbonates and other mineral salts.

Amino acids and proteins


The content of amino acids and proteins is relatively small, at the most 0.7 % (see table above).
Honey contains almost all physiologically important amino acids 20, 53, 54. The main amino acid is proline is a
measure of honey ripeness 71. The proline content of normal honeys should be more than 200 mg/kg. Values
below 180 mg/kg mean that the honey is probably adulterated by sugar addition.
The honey proteins are mainly enzymes, reviewed by White 75. Bees add different enzymes during the
process of honey ripening. Diastase (amylase) digests starch to maltose and is relatively stable to heat and
storage. Invertase (saccharase, -glucosidase), catalyses mainly the conversion of sucrose to glucose and
fructose, but also many other sugar conversions59. Two other main enzymes glucose oxidase and catalase
regulate the production of H202 , one of the honey antibacterial factors.
Diastase and invertase play an important role for judging of honey quality and are used as indicators of
honey freshness. A minimum value of 8 diastase units is set in the Codex Alimentarius and the European
honey directive. Their activity decay upon storage and heating of honey (see chapter 7). Invertase is more
susceptible to damage by storage and heat and is used in some countries as an indicator for honey virginity
and freshness. Fresh and virgin honeys are supposed to have at least 10 Hadorn invertase units 30, or 64
International units, while honeys with low enzyme activity should have at least 4 units 30, 73. The diastase and
invertase activity vary in wide limits, depending on the botanical origin of honey 55, 56 and thus have a limited
freshness indicating power. HMF is the better quality criterion in this respect.

Further reading: 2-5, 16, 38, 40, 42, 46, 51, 52, 54, 55, 57

Hydroxymethylfurfuraldehyde (HMF)
Hydroxymethylfurfuraldehyde or HMF is a decomposition product of fructose. In fresh honey it is present
only in trace amounts and its concentration increases with storage and prolonged heating of honey. The HMF

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building process depends on the pH, in the more acidic blossom honey it is built at a higher pace than in
darker honeys with higher pH 67. Short term heat treatment, even at higher temperature will increase the
HMF content is only slightly 64, 65, while upon storage of honey there is a steady temperature dependent
increase of HMF. According to the Codex Alimentarius and EU standards the HMF maximum is 40 mg/kg,
while honey from the tropics and blends with themshould not have more than 80 mg/kg . Beekeeping
organisations of some countries, e.g. Germany, Italy, Finland, Switzerland have set a maximum of 15 mg/kg
for specially labelled quality or virgin honeys.
Building of HMF from a hexose sugar:

Further reading: 34, 39, 43, 58, 70, 74, 77

Minerals und trace elements


Blossom honeys have a mineral content mostly between 0.1 and 0.3 %, while that of honeydew honeys can
reach 1 % of the total. In early times the mineral content was determined as a quality criterion of honey.
Today, this measurement is replaced by the determination of electrical conductivity.
Honey contains varying amounts of mineral substances ranging from 0.02 to 1.03 g/100 g 75. The main
element found in honey is potassium, besides many other elements (table) Potassium, with an average of
about one third of the total, is the main mineral element, but there is a wide variety of trace elements
Several investigations have shown that the trace element content of honey depends mainly on the botanical
origin of honey, light blossom honeys having a lower content than dark honeys, e.g. honeydew, chestnut and
heather 35, 37, 61. It was possible to differentiate between different unifloral honeys by determination of
different trace elements 9, 49.

Trace elements in honey, after 10


Element
Aluminium (Al)
Arsen (As)
Barium (Ba)

mg/100 g
0.01 - 2.4
0.014 - 0.026
0.01 - 0.08

Boron (B)
Bromine (Br)
Cadmium (Cd)*
Chlorine (Cl)
Cobalt (Co)
Floride (F)
Iodine (I)

0.05 - 0.3
0.4 - 1.3
0 - 0.001
0.4 - 56
0.1 - 0.35
0.4 - 1.34
10 - 100

Element
Lead (Pb)*
Lithium (Li)
Molybdenum (Mo)

mg/100 g
0.001 - 0.03
0.225 - 1.56
0 - 0.004

Nickel (Ni)
Rubidium (Rb)
Silicium (Si)
Strontium (Sr)
Sulfur (S)
Vanadium (V)
Zirkonium (Zr)

0 - 0.051
0.040 - 3.5
0.05 - 24
0.04 - 0.35
0.7 - 26
0 - 0.013
0.05 - 0.08

*- elements regarded as toxic, can be partially of anthropological origin

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Aroma compounds and phenolics


Honey volatiles are the substances responsible for the honey aroma. Research on
honey volatiles started in the early 1960s. Recently, by studying volatiles isolated
from the blossom and from the respective unifloral honey, it was found that most
volatile compounds originate probably from the plant, but some of them are added
by bees 1, 14. Until the present time about 600 compounds have been characterised in
different honeys. As unifloral honeys differ in respect of their sensory properties, it
is probable that analysis of volatile compounds will allow classification of unifloral
honeys. Indeed, typical volatile substances have been found in many unifloral
honey and analysis of volatiles substances can be used for the authentification of
the botanical origin of honey 12, 21.
Phenolic acids and polyphenols are plant-derived secondary metabolites. These
compounds have been used as chemotaxonomic markers in plant systematics. They
have been suggested as possible markers for the determination of botanical origin of honey. Considerable
differences in composition and content of phenolic compounds between different unifloral honeys were
found. Dark coloured honeys are reported to contain more phenolic acid derivatives but less flavonoids than
light coloured ones (Amiot et al., 1989). It was shown that most of the studied 9 European unifloral honeys
can be distinguished by their typical flavonoid profile 69 .Honey samples contain also variable amounts of
propolis-derived phenolic compounds that were not helpful for the determination of botanical origin. On the
whole, the determination of the flavonoid patterns is useful for the classification of some but not all unifloral
honeys. For a more in depth analysis of the flavonoid spectra of unifloral honeys see 12, 28.

Further reading: 12, 13, 21, 24, 26-28, 76

Contaminants and toxic compounds


Honey, as any other food can be contaminated from the environment, e.g. heavy metals, pesticides,
antibiotics etc. 7. Generally, the contamination levels found do not present a health hazard. The main problem
today is contamination by antibiotics, used against the bee brood diseases. In the European Union antibiotics
are not allowed to be used, and thus honey containing antibiotics is also not permitted on the market.
A few plants yield nectar containing toxic substances. There are two main toxin groups: diterpenoids and
pyrrazolidine alkaloids . Some plants of the Ericacea family belonging to the sub-family Rhododendron, e.g.
Rhododendron ponticum contain toxic polyhydroxylated cyclic hydrocarbons or diterpenoids 22. Substance of
the other toxin group, pyrazolidine alkaloids, are found in different honey types and the potential intoxication
by these substances is reviewed 32. Cases of honey poisoning have been reported very rarely in the literature
and concern mostly individuals from following regions: Caucasus, Turkey, New Zealand, Australia, Japan,
Nepal, South Africa and different countries in North and South America. The symptoms encountered after
honey poisoning are: vomiting, headache, stomach ache, unconsciousness, delirium, nausea, sight weakness.
The poisonous plants are generally known to the beekeepers, thus honeys which can contain poisonous
substances are not marketed. To minimise risks in countries where plants with poisonous nectar are growing,
tourists are advised to buy honeys from the market and not from individual beekeepers.
Further reading: 7, 10

MICROBIOLOGICAL COMPOSITION
Bacteria
Honey, is a very concentrated sugar solution with a high osmotic pressure, making impossible the growth of
any microorganisms. It contains less microorganisms than other natural food, especially there are no
dangerous Bacillus species. Honey contains Bacillus bacteria, causing the dangerous bee pests, but these are
not toxic for humans. That is why, in order to prevent bee pests, honey should not be disposed in open
places, where it can easily be accessed by bees.

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33

However, a number of bacteria are present in honey, most of them being harmless to man. Recent extensive
reviews covered the main aspects of honey microbiology and the possible risks 15, 63, 78.
The presence of Clostridium .botulinum spores in honey was reported for the first time in 1976 41. Since then
there were many studies in honey all over the world. In some of them no Botulinum was found, in others, few
honeys were found to contain the spores. 15, 23, 63, 66 Honey does not contain the Botulinum toxin, but the
spores can theoretically build the toxin after digestion of infants until one year old. Very few cases of infant
botulism after ingestion of honey have been reported lately and this has been attributed to C. botulinum
spores present in honey. These findings have lead the health authorities of some countries (US, UK) to label
honeys, that honey be not given to infants until one year of age. Most countries find that such notice is
unnecessary. Indeed, honey is not the only source of C. botulinum spores as it can be found in any natural
food.
In 2002 an expert study of the Health and Consumer Directorate of the European Commission carried out on
Honey and microbiological hazards 33. It was concluded that:
Although infant botulism is a serious illness, mortality is very low. In general, in Europe, the risk of infant
botulism is extremely low. The majority of infants suffering from botulism have been given honey. The level
and frequency of contamination of honey with spores of C. botulinum appear generally to be low, although
limited microbiological testing of honey has been performed. The routes by which spores of C.botulinum
contaminate honey have not been precisely identified.
Although some geographical regions of the world can be associated with a particular type of C. botulinum in
the soil, it is not possible to identify countries as the origin of honey with a greater risk of containing C.
botulinum.
C. botulinum can survive as spores in honey but cannot multiply or produce toxins due to the inhibitory
properties of honey. At present there is no process that could be applied to remove or kill spores of C.
botulinum in honey without impairing product quality.
Microbiological testing would not be an effective control option against infant botulism, due to the
sporadic occurrence and low levels of C. botulinum in honey.

Yeast
Honey contains naturally different osmotolerant yeast, which can cause undesirable fermentation.
Osmotolerant yeasts can particularly develop in honeys with high moisture content.
In 1933 Lochhead 45 summarised investigations on the relationship of moisture content and fermentation on
319 honey samples as follows:
Relationship of moisture content of honey and fermentation risk 45
Moisture content
Less than 17.1
17.1-18 %
18.1-19
19.1-20 %
Above 20 %

Liability to fermentation
Safe regardless of yeast count
Safe if yeast count < 1000/g
Safe if yeast count < 10/g
Safe if yeast count < 1/g
Always in danger

These conclusions, although based on old research, have been confirmed by practice. Some honey types,
e.g. rape, sunflower and also honeys from tropical countries has a higher content of osmotolerant yeast and
are less stable than other honeys with normal yeast counts68
Honey fermentation is undesirable. The easiest way to control is to harvest honey with low humidity. Also, it
should be stored in air-tight vessels. Fermentation control is carried out by determination of yeast count,
ethanol and glycerin content. Honey should comply to following quality criteria:
Yeast count maximum 500000 per 10 g 6, 60
Glycerol, maximum content: 300 mg/kg 6, 60
Ethanol, maximum content 150 mg/kg 79
Further Reading : 15, 17, 18, 63, 78

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34

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geographical origin. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 53 (8): 3095-3100.
51. ODDO, L P; PIAZZA, M G; PULCINI, P (1999) Invertase activity in honey. Apidologie 30 (1): 57-65.
52. PAWLOWSKA, M; ARMSTRONG, D W (1994) Evaluation of enantiomeric purity of selected amino acids in
honey. Chirality 6: 270-276.
53. PEREZ, C; CONCHELLO, P; ARINO, A; YANGUELA, J; HERRERA, A (1989) Dosage des acides amins
des protines de diffrents miels espagnols. Sciences des Aliments 9: 203-207.
54. PEREZ, R A; IGLESIAS, M T; PUEYO, E; GONZALEZ, M; DE LORENZO, C (2007) Amino acid
composition and antioxidant capacity of Spanish honeys. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry
55 (2): 360-365.
55. PERSANO ODDO, L; BALDI, E; ACCORTI, M (1990) Diastatic activity in some unifloral honeys.
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57. QAMER, S; EHSAN, M; NADEEM, S; SHAKOORI, A R (2007) Free amino acids content of Pakistani
unifloral honey produced by Apis mellifera. Pakistan Journal of Zoology 39 (2): 99-102.
58. RAMIREZ CERVANTES, M A; GONZALES NOVELO, S A; SAURI DUCH, E (2000) Die Wirkung der
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Celle, Deutschland Niederschsisches Landesinstitut fr Bienenkunde
60. RUSSMANN, H (1998) Hefen und Glycerin in Bltenhonigen - Nachweis einer Grung oder einer
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61. SEVLIMLI, H; BAYULGEN, N; VARINIOGLU (1992) Determination of trace elements in honey by INAA
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76. WOLSKI, T; TAMBOR, K; RYBAK-CHMIELEWSKA, H; KEDZIA, B (2006) Identification of honey


volatile components by solid phase microextraction (SPME) and gas chromatography/mass
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77. WUNDERLIN, D A; PESCE, S F; AME, M V; FAYE, P F (1998) Decomposition of hydroxymethylfurfural in
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39

Honeys Types

HONEY TYPES AND STYLES ACCORDING TO PROCESSING AND


PRODUCTION
Designation according to production
Extracted Honey is honey obtained by centrifuging decapped broodless combs. This is most of the honey
which is marketed in most countries of the world
Pressed Honey is honey obtained by pressing broodless combs.
Drained Honey is honey obtained by draining decapped broodless combs.

Drained honey
Organic honey
Organic honey is produced by apiaries with certified organic beekeeping. The composition of organic honey
is the same as normal natural honey. The only difference is that such honey should not contain toxic residues
of pesticides used in agriculture and beekeeping.

Honey may be designated according to the following styles according to the processing procedure:
Normal honey which is honey in liquid or crystalline state or a mixture of the two;
Comb Honey which is honey stored by bees in the cells of freshly built broodless combs and which is sold in
sealed whole combs or sections of such combs;
Cut comb in honey or chunk honey which is honey containing one or more pieces of comb honey.

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Chunk honey

Comb honey

HONEY TYPES REFERRING TO HONEY ORIGIN


The Codex Alimenterius states:
Honey may be designated by the name of the geographical or topographical region if the honey
was produced exclusively within the area referred to in the designation.
Honey may be designated according to floral or plant source if it comes wholly or mainly from
that particular source and has the organoleptic, physicochemical and microscopic properties
corresponding with that origin.
This means that honey can be designated according to its geographical and botanical origin.

Botanical origin of honey


Generally there are two types of honey: blossom and honeydew.
Due to different proportions of the possible sources, nectar and/or honeydew coming from a great variety of
plants, no honey is completely the same as another one. This variability could be a handicap, given the
market requirement for a consistent product, but when properly managed, it also could represent an
opportunity for enhancing honey by offering to the consumer a number of typical products with special
characteristics, according to the particular botanical origin. Indeed, unifloral honeys are regarded as a more
valuable class of honey, and botanical denominations are widely employed on the European market, often
achieving higher prices than honey blends. Unifloral honeys have higher prices than blend honeys. Most
unifloral honeys are marketed in Europe. In countries like France, Italy and Spain 30 to 50 % of the marketed
honey is unifloral.
There are dozens of plants that can produce enough nectar or honeydew, from which the beekeepers can
produce unifloral honeys 4 Most of them have only a limited, local significance for the local and only about a
dozen are important for the world honey market.
Information on European honeys is compiled in the special Apidologie Issue 35 from 2004. In Europe there
are more than 100 plant species that give origin to unifloral honey, most of them having only a local
importance 14. In this issue 15 most important unifloral European honeys were characterized, from sensory,
melissopalynological and physico-chemical point of view 15, and also extensive bibliographical review on
these honeys was made 16 . This will allow the trade of unifloral honeys on the European market. Presently, a
honey specialist can judge the quality of a unifloral honey according to sensory, melissopalynological and
routine physico-chemical analysis 13. This is to some extent subjective, as the sensory analysis has a very big
importance. This could be overcome by judging the sensory characteristics by sensory panels.
Recent pubicatons on non-European unifloral honeys and their productsion can be found in: Algeria
8
Argentina: 9, 10; Australia: 5, 11 ; China: 6; Morocco: 18-21; New-Zealand: Tan 1989-90;, 2007; Older
publications are reviewed in Cranes monographs on the subject2-4.
In the table below the properties of the most common unifloral honey species in the world are given. While
some honey types, e.g. black locust (Acacia, Robinia pseudocacia) and linden are very similar all over the
world. Some types, e.g. eucalyptus, thyme, orange blossom can vary considerably in taste and colour,
depending on the plant and country of origin. The appreciation of unifloral honey varies in the different parts
of the world. While honeydew honey, e.g. fir and pine honey are especially appreciated in different parts of
Europe in other parts of the world it is less appreciated.
Further Reading: 1, 13-16, 22

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41

Harvest and properties of the main world unifloral honeys


Common
name

Botanical name
of plant

Place of harvest

Acacia

Robinia
pseudoacacia
Eucalyptus spp.

temperate Europe, Asia,


America, Oceania
S. Europe, Oceania, Africa, S.
America

light water-white to
extra-white
yellow to brown
white to amber

Fir
Spruce
Heather

Abies alba
Picea abies
Calluna
vulgaris

Central and Southern Europe

dark brown amber to


dark amber
brown-reddish
amber to dark amber

Lavender

Lavandula
intermedia
Tilia spp.

temperate Europe, Asia and


N. America
temperate Europe and Asia,
temperate and subtropical N.
America
Europe, temperate and
subtropical, N.America, S.
America
temperate Europe, Asia,
Oceania
Europe, North America,

Eucalyptus*

Lime,
linden
Orange
blossom

Citrus spp.

Pine

Pinus spp.

Rape

Brassica napus

Rosemary

Rosmarinus
officinalis
Helianthus
annuus

Europe

Colour, Pfund scale

Flavour

slow
coarse
rapid to
medium
fine to medium
very slow
coarse
medium gel
consistency
coarse crystals
rapid
fine
rapid to
medium
fine to medium
rapid,
fine

weak
floral, fresh
medium-strong
caramel

brownish amber-dark
amber
white to yellowish
white
lightwhite to extra light
amber
yellow to goldenlight
amber

slow
coarse
rapid,
fine
fastfine

medium-strong
malty, resinous
medium
vegetable
floral, fruity

rapidfine

weak
vegetable, warm

redish-brownamber to
dark amber

slow coarse

fast to
mediumfine to
medium
rapid, fine
granulation

strong
mouldy,
caramelised,
bitter
strong
woody-aromatic,
resinous
weak
vegetal

lightwhite to extra light


amber
white to yellow,
white to amber
very light white

Sweet
chestnut

Castanea sativa

temperate Europe, Asia,


Africa
temperate Europe, S. and N.
America, Asia; subtr. Asia,
Africa, Oceania; trop. Africa
N.America.
Europe

Thyme

Thymus
capitatus

Mediterranean and temperate


Europe, N. America, Oceania

yellow-lightbrown
amber to amber

White
clover

Trifolium
repens

Europe, N. America

lightwhite to light
amber

Sunflower

Granulation:
speed, crystals
form

medium-strong,
woody-resinous
strong
caramelised,
floral-fruity
medium warm,
refreshing
strong, fresh,
pharmaceutical
medium floral,
fruity

Honey from other Bees

Meliponae combs
Brazil

Meliponae honey
Brazil

A. dorsata bees in a forest tree


from India

A. dorsata honey
from India

The honey referred to in this book is mostly from Apis mellifera, the European honeybee species which has
now spread all around the world. This honey is undoubtedly the most widely collected and marketed around
the world. However, regionally there are honeys made by other bee species which are sometimes collected in
considerable quantities especially from Apis cerana in China.
In tropical Asia there are three Apis species which can make honey: A. cerana, A. dorsata and A. florae, A.
cerana producing by far the largest quantities of honey. This honey very similar in composition and taste
similarly to the Mellifera honey (see table below). Generally, these honeys have only a local significance and
are not marketed world-wide. A notable exception is the A. cerana honey from China, which is produced in

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42

large quantities, as about 1/3 of the Chinese bees belong to that species. Indeed, experience has shown that A.
cerana honey fulfils the Codex quality requirements.
Honey from Asian honey outside China are reviewed. Their main peculiarity is the higher water content
lying between 21 and 23 %. Invertase activity is similar or higher to that of Melifera honeys. On the other
hand, the pH, the sugar content and composition are very similar to the Melifera honey ones. Another
peculiarity is that many of the Cerana honeys seem to originate from honeydew 7.
There is a variety of stingless bee species or so called Meliponae, producing honey, mainly cultivated in
Africa, Middle and South America and Oceania. The honeys have a local significance and have been
investigated increasingly in recent years, especially those from Latin America. A recent publication
summarises the research in stingless bee honey in Latin America 17. In table the compositional criteria of
a number of stingless bee honeys has been summarised. In comparison to Melifera honeys stingless bee
honeys have: a higher water content, acidity and electrical conductivity and a lower diastase activity and
sugar content. Stingless bee honeys are reputed to have a high healing power. In a recent publication it was
found that their antioxidant activity is particularly high, equal to that of Melifera honey with especially high
antioxidant activity (Persano et al., 2008).
Average composition and quality parameters in honey of stingless bees 17,12 and Asian honeys 7.
Bee species

Physico-chemical parameters1
pH

Free
Acidity
(meq/Kg
honey)

Ash
(g/100 g
honey)

Diastase
activity
(DN)

Electrical
conduct.

HMF

(mS/cm)

(mg/Kg
honey)

Invertase Nitrogen
(mg/100 g
activity
honey)
(IU)3

Reducing
sugars
(g/100 g
honey)

Sucrose

Water

(g/100 g
honey)

(g/100 g
honey)

Stingless bees
Meliponini

3.81

44.8

0.34

6.7

2.34

14.4

48.7

58.3

66.0

2.3

26.7

Melipona spp.

3.82

41.8

0.20

3.1

2.62

16.0

56.3

40.8

69.1

2.2

27.2

other Meliponini

3.80

49.6

0.60

16.2

1.88

11.9

37.4

110.9

63.8

2.5

26.0

M.asilavai

3.27

41.6

41.6

3.63

2.4

68.9

4.7

29.5

M. compressipes

3.27

36.6

0.26

4.5

8.77

17.1

33.2

70.5

2.5

23.8

M. favosa

3.67

49.9

0.22

1.9

2.06

9.1

55.8

71.2

1.7

26.0

M. mandacaia

3.27

43.5

3.52

5.8

74.8

2.9

28.8

T. angustula

3.93

49.7

0.38

20.5

3.07

13.3

50.1

99.3

63.1

2.3

24.7

T.carbonaria

4.0

124.2

0.48

0.4

1.64

1.2

41.9

202.3

64.1

1.8

26.5

90.1

Asian bees
A. dorsata

3.68

0.96

373.4

73.5

0.33

21.5

A. cerana

3.62

0.65

218.2

75.4

1.39

20.2

References
1. BOGDANOV, S; RUOFF, K; PERSANO ODDO, L (2004) Physico-chemical methods for the characterisation
of unifloral honeys: a review. Apidologie 35 (Special issue): 4-17.
2. CRANE, E; WALKER, P (1984) Composition of honeys from some important honey sources. Bee World 65
(4): 167-174.
3. CRANE, E; WALKER, P (1985) Important honeydew sources and their honeys. Bee World 66 (3): 105-112.
4. CRANE, E; WALKER, P; DAY, R (1984) Directory of important world honey sources. International Bee
Research Association London; 384 pp
5. GRADDON, A D; MORRISON, J D; SMITH, J F (1979) Volatile constituents of some unifloral Australian
honeys. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 27 (4): 832-837.
6. JIE, W; JILIAN, L; WENJUN, P; JIANKE, L (2006) Major honey plants and their utilisation in china part I of
two parts. American Bee Journal 146 (1): 59-64.
7. JOSHI, S R; PECHHACKER, H; WILLAM, A; VON DER OHE, W (2000) Physico-chemical characteristics
of Apis dorsata, A. cerana and A. mellifera honey from Chitwan district, central Nepal. Apidologie 31
(3): 367-375.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

43

8. MAKHLOUFI, C; SCHWEITZER, P; AZOUZI, B; PERSANO ODDO, L; CHOUKRI, A; HOCINE, L;


RICCIARDELLI D'ALBORE, G (2007) Some properties of Algerian honey. Apiacta 42: 73-80.
9. MALACALZA, N H; MOUTEIRA, M C; BALDI, B; LUPANO, C E (2007) Characterisation of honey from
different regions of the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Journal of Apicultural Research 46 (1):
8-14.
10. MALACALZA, S H; CACCAVARI, M A; FAGUNDEZ, G; LUPANO, C E (2005) Unifloral honeys of the
province of Buenos aires, argentine. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 85 (8): 13891396.
11. MOSSEL, B (2002) Antimicrobial and Quality Parameters of Australian Unifloral Honeys. University of
Queensland Australia; pp 1-328.
12. ODDO, L P; HEARD, T A; RODRIGUEZ-MALAVER, A; PEREZ, R A; FERNANDEZ-MUINO, M;
SANCHO, M T; SESTA, G; LUSCO, L; VIT, P (2008) Composition and Antioxidant Activity of
Trigona carbonaria Honey from Australia. Journal of Medicinal Food 11 (4): 789-794.
13. PERSANO ODDO, L; BOGDANOV, S (2004) Determination of honey botanical origin: problems and issues.
Apidologie 35: 2-3.
14. PERSANO ODDO, L; PIANA, L; BOGDANOV, S; BENTABOL, A; GOTSIU, P; KERKVLIET, J;
MARTIN, P; MORLOT, M; VALBUENA, A O; RUOFF, K; VON DER OHE, K (2004) Botanical
species giving unifloral honey in Europe. Apidologie 35 (special issue): 82-93.
15. PERSANO ODDO, L; PIRO, R (2004) Main European unifloral honeys: descriptive sheets. Apidologie 35
(special issue): S38-S81.
16. PIAZZA, M G; PERSANO ODDO, L (2004) Bibliographical review of the main European unifloral honeys.
Apidologie 35 (special issue): S94-S111.
17. SOUZA, B; ROUBIK, D; BARTH, O; HEARD, T; ENRIQUEZ, E; CARVALHO, C; VILLAS-BOAS, J;
MARCHINI, L; LOCATELLI, J; PERSANO-ODDO, L; ALMEIDA-MURADIAN, L;
BOGDANOV, S; VIT, P (2006) Composition of stingless bee honey: Setting quality standards.
Interciencia 31 (12): 867-875.
18. TERRAB, A; DIEZ, M J; HEREDIA, F J (2002) Characterisation of Moroccan unifloral honeys by their
physicochemical characteristics. Food Chemistry 79 (3): 373-379.
19. TERRAB, A; DEZ, M J; HEREDIA, F J (2003) Palynological, physico-chemical and colour characterization
of Moroccan honeys. II. Orange (Citrus sp.) honey
792. International Journal of Food Science & Technology 38 (4): 387-394.
20. TERRAB, A; DEZ, M J; HEREDIA, F J (2003) Palynological, physico-chemical and colour characterization
of Moroccan honeys: I. River red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehnh) honey
791. International Journal of Food Science & Technology 38 (4): 379-386.
21. TERRAB, A; DEZ, M J; HEREDIA, F J (2003) Palynological, physico-chemical and colour characterization
of Moroccan honeys: III. Other unifloral honey types
793. International Journal of Food Science & Technology 38 (4): 395-402.
22. VON DER OHE, W; PERSANO ODDO, L; PIANA, L; MORLOT, M; MARTIN, P (2004) Harmonized
methods of melissopalynology. Apidologie 35 (Special issue): S18-S25.

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44

Honey
Control and Trade

CONTROL STEPS
Honey control is carried on different levels. The beekeeper himself can perform a self control, following the
guidelines of good apicultural practice. Honey control according to the scheme given below will be carried
out by apiaries, honey companies and food control authorities. Laboratory control will include the
conformity to the standard. Trade honeys should conform to the Honey Standard of the Codex

Alimentarius
Characteristics, Parameter
Container
Homogeneity of lot
Impurities
Organoleptic characteristics
Colour
Moisture content
Geographical authenticity
Botanical authenticity
Authenticity of production
Adulteration
Contaminants
Heat damage

Control method

Requirements, Remarks

Tests at producer site


direct observation
Adequate material and condition
direct observation
Apparent homogeneity according to observable
characteristics in whole shipment
Direct observations of
Absence of bee and wax particles, other
honey surface in
extranous matter
container, filtration
Organoleptic analysis on Absence of defects: off odours and tastes
an average sample
abnormal crystallisation
Laboratory testing
Pfund units with a
Correspondence to market requirements
Lovibond grader
Refractometer
General: maximum 20 %
measurements
Top grade: < 18 %
Microscopic examination Correspondence to declared origin
Sensory, microsscopic
Correspondance to limits, need of specialized
and chemical tests
personel
Official methods
Absence of adulterants,
Absence of fermentation
Official methods
According to legal limits
Test HMF, diastase
HMF not more than 40 mg/kg
Diastase not less than 8 Schade units

SENSORY ANALYSIS
The honey consumer establishes the quality of honey with eye,
nose and mouth. Therefore, the sensory properties of honey
have a great importance. Sensory evaluation enables us to
distinguish the botanical origin of honey and to identify and
quantify certain defects (fermentation, impurities, off odours
and flavours). It also plays an important role in defining honey
products in the honey industry. There, honeys from different
origin are mixed in order that a honey with specific sensory
property be attained. The method for honey sensory analysis
have been introduced by Gonnet 16. The modern methods for
honey sensory analysis were recently laid down 28. Honey
should be assayed by a panel of a minimum of 7 trained assessors. However, in practice this number is
difficult to attain, but any number more than one is better than a single opinion! Here it will not be dealt in
detail with these methods, but the different principles of honey sensorics will be shortly discussed.

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45

Honey colour is an important quality factor. In honey trade the honey price will be determined by the
colour, lighter honey achieving generally a better price. Honey colour is determined by Pfund or Lovibond
graders. The Lovibond graders are easier to handle. Presently, Lovibond graders with Pfund grading are
available on the market.

Honey aroma will be judged directly by smelling with the nose or indirectly in the mouth through the nose
channel. It is difficult to characterise the aroma with words. Mostly, associations are used. For instance:
Linden honey: menthol-like, pharmacy; fresh
The honey taste will be judged by evaluation after ingestion (see
tongue taste regions left). The three basic tastes sweet, sour and bitter
will be judged (salty is absent). All honeys are sweet, due to the
presence of the sugars fructose and glucose. However fructose is 2.5
times sweeter than glucose. Thus fructose rich honeys, e.g. acacia are
sweeter than glucose rich ones, e.g. rape. Also, the sweet taste will be
influenced by the acidity, by aromas and by the cristalisation. Bitter
honeys like linden and sweet chestnut seem less sweet than honeys
with weak taste like acacia. The sour taste depends on the acidity of
honey. If treatments of Varroa with organic acids are not carried
according to the prescriptions during the honey flow, they can
influence honey taste and make it more sour.
The bitter taste is characteristic for sweet chestnut and linden honeys, and is a special characteristics of the
worlds most bitter honey, harvested in Italy from Arbutus 14.
The tactile properties of honey originate in the tactile sensation on lips and tongue. The tactile feeling
depends on honey granulation. Coarse and hard honeys feel pleasant, while fine crystalline and cream honeys
are felt as pleasant.
Sensory defects should be judged objectively. On the other hand, honey consumers tend to judge honey
according to their preferences.
Honey will absorb foreign odours if stored in the vicinity of strong aroma emitents and if stored in improper
vessels.
Sensory tests
Two methods are used. The first one is descriptive 16. It is easy and can
be used for routine work. It requires an overall assessment, that takes
into consideration all the components perceived. With the profile
method honey is characterised in respect to reference standards of
aroma and taste 17, 28. The sensory characterisation of the European
unifloral honeys was carried out by the descriptive method. This
method is also used in honey competitions and fairs. Such competitions
have a long tradition in countries like Germany, Italy, France and Spain.
The quality of honey will be judged according to sensory criteria and the
honeys will be then assigned to different quality classes. The assigned
quality predicates serve beekeepers as an advertisement for their honey
sales.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

46

MELISSOPALYNOLOGY
Pollen analysis of honey or mellisopolynology was
introduced at the beginning of the 20th century. The pollen
analysis method has been described by the International
Commission for Bee Botany 23 and improved recently 46.
This method can be used for the microscopic determination
of the pollen grains, contained in honey. It is used for the
determination of the botanical and the geographical origin of
honey.
The determination of the botanical origin of honey is based
on the knowledge, that nectar contains a certain number of
pollen grains. Some nectars, e.g. Robinia and Citrus, contain less pollen grains, others, like
Castanea, have more pollen grains than average. This knowledge is considered while determining
the botanical origin of honey. Due to considerable variation also of other pollen grains
melissopalynology alone can not determine the botanical origin of honey. Honeydew honey contain
algae and fungi spores, but no relation between the number and the type of these components to the
origin of the honeydew could be determined.
For the determination of the determination of the geographical origin of honey the pollen contained
in honey are placed in relation to the geographical distribution of plants. With this method, greater
geographical regions can be determined.
Osmophilic yeast can also be detected with the same method, but they can not quntified. Honey
microscopy mirrors also the purity of the product. Too many extraneous starch, wax and bee
particles in the sediment point at improper honey production and can be a subject of objection due
to inpurities.

AUTHENTICITY TESTING
Adulteration by sweeteners

Adulteration by sweeteners is the most important authenticity issue. As a natural product of a relatively high
price, honey has been a target for adulteration for a long time. Addition of sweeteners, feeding the bees
during the nectar flow or extracting combs containing bee feed may adulterate of honey. The following
sweeteners have been detected in adulterated honeys: sugar syrups and molasses inverted by acids or
enzymes from corn, sugar cane, sugar beet and syrups of natural origin such as maple.
Many methods have been tested for adulteration proof but most of them are not capable to detect
unequivocally adulteration 5. We discuss here only the most promising methods.
Adulteration by addition of cane- and corn sugar can be screened microscopically 21 and verified by
measuring the 13C/12C isotopic ratio 8, 35, 48, 49. Recently this method has been further developed to include
Site-Specific Natural Isotopic Fractionation (SNIF) measured by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance 10. A recent
development is further the inclusion of sugar chromatography in this method 9, 12, claiming, that the addition
of beet sugar can also be detected. The addition of high fructose corn syrup may be detected by detection of
oligosaccharides naturally not present in honey through capillary GC 24 Recently infrared spectroscopic
methods have been described for the detection of adulteration by adding beet and cane sugar to honey 18, 19, 43
These results were obtained by adding the adulterants to honey and comparing to the products with the

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

47

original product. In practice, this differentiation should be more difficult, due to the wide natural variation of
honey. Also, when the adulterants were fed to bees both infrared spectroscopy and front phase fluorimetry
were unable to detect 50 % honey adulteration 36.

Fermentation
Harvesting of honey with high moisture content, or subsequent addition of water can result in honey
fermentation and spoilage. Honey spoilage can be first tested by a microscopic yeast count 1, 42. This test on
its own does not yield conclusive results, as counted yeast could be in an inactive status not taking part in the
fermentation process. Determination of the fermentation products is more reliable (Beckh and Lllmann
1999) i.e. by determining the glycerol or ethanol content 2, 41, 50

Heat defects
The use of excessive heat in honey processing for liquefaction or pasteurisation has adverse effects on honey
quality, i.e. loss of volatile compounds, accumulation of HMF and reduction of invertase and diastase
activities. Quantification of HMF content and enzyme activities are useful tools to detect heat induced
defects in honey. However, it should be noted that improper storage of honey leads also to similar changes of
HMF and enzyme activity.

Honey filtration
Honey should not be strained with a mesh size smaller than 0.2 mm in order to prevent pollen removal. On
the other hand, the recently revised Codex Alimentarius Honey Standard (Codex Alimentarius Commission
2001) and EU Directive relating to honey (EU Council 2002) allow a removal of pollen if it is unavoidable
for the removal of foreign matter. Such honey should be labelled as filtered. Since microscopical pollen
analysis is still the most important tool for the determination of botanical and geographical origin of honey,
any removal of pollen by filtration will make authenticity routine testing much more difficult, if not
impossible.

Organic honey, raw or unheated honey


The production of organic honey implies organic beekeeping which is defined in European regulation EEC
No 2092/91, Annex I. The qualification of beekeeping products as being from organic origin depends on
environmental beekeeping issues, contaminants originating from the latter being by far more important 4. A
recent examination of 250 pesticides in organic Swiss honeys confirmed this, as only traces of one pesticide
were found in 2 out of 33 samples 11. Thus, only the detection of residues in honey from synthetic veterinary
drugs, not allowed in organic beekeeping can prove mislabelling of organic honey.
The term natural honey should be avoided. It is misleading, since honey is natural by definition. The terms
raw and unheated honey are also misleading, as honey is not heated during the harvest. Pasteurisation is not
mentioned in the Codex or European honey regulations. These regulations do not allow overheating of honey
such as to significantly impair its quality. Quick pasteurisation does not significantly influence the honey
quality and is often carried out in some countries. However, the labelling of honey pasteurisation is not
compulsory as in milk. On the other hand the pasteurisation of organic honey is not allowed.

Misdescription of botanical source

sensory

microscopic

physico-chemical testing

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

48

The botanical source may be labelled if the honey originates totally or mainly from a particular source and
has the organoleptic, physico-chemical and microscopic characteristics of that origin. As bees forage on
different plants, absolutely pure unifloral honeys are extremely rare. The different unifloral honeys show
typical sensory, melissopalynological and physico-chemical properties.
Pollen analysis is the classical method for the determination of the botanical
origin of honey 22, 46. However, due to the considerable variation of the pollen content it is now regarded as a
side method, besides sensory and physico-chemical analysis. Recently the International Honey Commission
has worked out standards for the main European unifloral honeys, comprising sensory, melissopalonogical
and physico-chemical characteristics 27.
In summary, the routine control of honey botanical origin includes organoleptic, physico-chemical and
pollen analysis and a decision to whether a honey is unifloral or not is based on a global interpretation of all
results 26.
Another approach is the chemometrical evaluation of physico-chemical parameters (sugars, electrical
conductivity, optical rotation, nitrogen content etc.). The combination of these methods allows a good
separation of some unifloral honeys 3, 32, 44. However, it should be noted than these methods may not allow
discrimination between unifloral and polyfloral honeys. Of all honey measurands analysis of the volatile and
aroma components is most promising 7. Both quantitation and statistical evaluation of the volatile
components can be used, but the quantitation approach should be the more successful, as it is the more robust
one. Recently promising in-situ spectroscopic techniques, combined with statistical analysis have been
successfully used for the authentification of unifloral honey.: front phase fluorimetric spectroscopy 39, nearinfrared 38 and mid-infrared spectroscopy 40. Of all the mentioned techniques the mid-infrared technique is
the most promising, as it allows also the measurement of the principal honey parameters 37.

Misdescription of geographical origin


Generally, in Western Europe and also in countries like the United States and Japan, honey imported from
the Far East or South America has a lower price than the locally produced honey, and is therefore prone to
mislabelling because of economic reasons.
Pollen analysis is at present mostly used to determine the geographical origin of honey. The possibilities of
pollen analysis for the determination of the geographical origin of honey have been reviewed recently 29.
Indeed, the differences of the pollen spectrum between honeys from quite different geographical and climatic
zone are easy to detect. However, if the geographical zones are closer, differences are more difficult to
distinguish. In such cases more sophisticated melissopalynological methods should be used. In recent years
pollen analysis has been used for the determination of honeys originating from close geographical zones by
the use of special statistical software 13, 15.
Recently the analysis of stable isotopes by IRMS has been developed for the authenticity proof of different
foods 20, 31. These isotopes depend theoretically more on the climate and are added theoretically to honey
rather through rain water than through the honey plants. This method should be tested first on unifloral
honeys of different geographical origin in order to decide if it is useful for the determination of the
geographical origin of honey.

Misdescription of the entomological source


The present EU Directive definition defines honey as derived from Apis mellifera, while according to the
Codex standard honey is the product of all honey bees. This contradiction needs to be resolved. Apis
mellifera, originally indigenous to Africa and Europe, has been introduced into major exporting countries
such as China, where now only a small part of the honey is also produced from Apis cerana. At present Apis
mellifera honey is the main honey on the market and other honeys have only a local importance. For such
purposes it is now necessary to characterise the honey from species other than Apis mellifera so that the
honey from these species can be accepted in international trade. These honeys are either almost
indistinguishable from Apis mellifera honey (e.g. Apis cerana honey) or has compositional limits of its own
(Apis dorsata, stingless bees). The honeys of bees others than Apis mellifera should also be characterised
and included into a separate standard.

RESIDUE CONTROL
Residues have become recently a major consumer concern. A recent review on the subject shows that the
trace quantities of the residues in honey will pose in most cases cause no health risk4. This control activity
needs nowadays a very sophisticated instrumentation and can be performed only by specialized laboratories.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

49

It has become evident that residues of honey originate mostly not from the environnment but from improper
beekeeping practices4. Presently antibiotic residues are the major concern. Antibiotic residues can originate
from treatments against the brood diseases American Foul Brood (AFB) or European Foul Brood (EFB).
Treatments with antibiotics are not allowed in the EU, while in many other countries they are widely used.
Thus, in most EU countries there are no MRL levels for antibiotics, which means that honey containing
antibiotic residues are not permitted to be sold. As no residues are permitted, no MRL are established.
The residues of the antibiotics, encountered in honey are not very problematic from toxicological point of
view, as MRL for many of them are common in many foods of animal origin. At present, the problem with
antibiotics in honey is the most serious for honey trade. However, the use of antibiotics for the control of
AFB is not necessary and cannot control this pest. Antibiotic residues can be avoided, as AFB can be
successfully controlled without the use of antibiotics 45, 47. Indeed, the experience in different EU countries
and New Zealand shows that a long-term efficient AFB control can be carried out without the use of
antibiotics.

Contamination Sources for Honey


Environment

Beekeeping

Pesticides
Heavy metals
Bacteria
GMO
Radioactivity

Acaricides for Varroa control


Antibiotics against AFB, EFB
Pesticides for wax moth control
Pesticides against SHB
Bee repellents at honey harvest

Plants
Air, Water

The review of the subject has shown that the contamination of honey originates less from
environmental and more from the beekeeping practice 4
Production of honey without residues by Good Apicultural Practice
Contaminant
bee product concerned
Antibiotics in honey

Source of Contamination

Control measure
Alternative control without the use of
antibiotics
Alternative Varroa control without
synthetic acaricides
Wax moth control by alternative
measures.
Alternative control of the SHB
Use of water or smoke

Toxic metals or organic substances

Control of bacterial diseases with


antibiotics (AFB, EFB, Nosema)
Varroa control with synthetic
acaricides
Control of wax moth with pesticides
Chemical control of the Small Hive
Beetle (SHB)
Use of synthetic repellents at the
honey harvest
Honey recipients

Wood protectants in honey

Pesticides in wood protectants

Synthetic acaricides in beeswax,


propolis and honey
Pesticides in honey and beeswax
Repellants in honey

Use recipients which do not diffuse


contaminants into honey.
Use of wood protectants containing no
pesticides

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

50

The above table summarises the measures, that can be taken by the beekeepers to insure a minimal
contamination of honey. Production of honey according to Good Apicultural Practice, without the use of
toxic chemicals is a guarantee for a good, nature-pure honey. Organic beekeeping is the best alternative to
produce residue free honey.
Further reading:
Sensory testing: 16, 28, 30.
Melissopaynology: 25, 33, 34
Routine chemical and residue testing: 4, 4, 6.

WORLD HONEY PRODUCTION


Today, honey is one of the last untreated natural foods. At present the annual world honey
production is estimated at about 1.4 million tons (FAO, 2005) which is less than 1% of the total
sugar production.
www.apiservices.com provides data until 2001, which has been compiled by
www.apicultura.com/malka considering the available national production figures. Later data on different
countries is provided the Commodity Research Buro, 2005.
Table 1: World production of honey after www.apiservices.com, downloaded in August 2009, data
in thousand tons

Continent
Africa
North and Central America
South America
Asia
Europe
Oceania
total

1992
117
216
87
328
182
29
958

1993
129
223
95
326
181
30
984

1994
131
195
97
354
291
38
1103

1995
138
183
105
365
319
27
1137

1996
142
174
100
362
278
35
1091

1997
140
189
109
402
281
36
1156

1998
139
218
109
401
291
31
1188

1999
141
201
133
435
293
29
1232

2000
144
208
141
457
286
29
1265

2001
145
205
131
465
288
29
1263

Table 2: Production of honey of major producing countries


data after FAOSTAT, in thousand tons
Countries & Years

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

China

254

267

295

298

299

305

303

Argentina

80

83

75

80

110

84

81

Turkey

60

75

70

74

82

80

74

Ukraine

60

51

54

58

71

76

68

USA

84

78

82

83

73

70

67

Mexico

59

59

57

57

50

56

54

Russian Federation

53

49

48

53

52

55

55

India

52

52

52

52

52

52

52

Ethiopia

29

40

38

41

36

44

44

Iran

27

28

28

28

28

36

36

Brazil

20

24

30

32

34

36

35

Canada

32

37

34

34

36

48

31

Spain

32

36

35

37

27

31

31

Tanzania

27

27

27

27

27

27

27

Kenya

25

22

22

22

22

25

25

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

51

Table 3: Honey relevant data in selected countries


Country

Prod
t/year

Export
t/year

Import
t/year

Cons.
t/year

Cons
kg p
cap

Beekeepers

Col.
p beek

Col.
p. km2

harvest
Kg/col

China

254000

103000

151000

0.1

600000

12

0.7

50

USA

84000

5000

79000

185000

0.6

125000

24

0.3

30

Argentina

80000

88000

2000

< 0.1

18000

106

0.7

37

Turkey

60000

18000

42000

0.7

150000

29

5.5

Mexico

59000

31000

28000

0.3

45000

44

1.0

25

Ukraine

60000

15000

45000

0.8

50000

60

15

India

52000

3000

49000

< 0.1

150000

0.2

8.5

Spain

32000

9500

7500

30000

0.8

25000

72

3.6

18

Germany

35000

13000

105000

127000

1.5

89000

10

2.4

40

Canada

32000

15000

3000

20000

0.7

13000

38

0.05

66

France

30000

3000

8000

35000

0.6

84000

16

2.5

22

Greece

33000

18000

3000

18000

1.8

23500

54

9.7

26

Italy

24000

20

10000

34000

0.6

75000

16

4.0

20

Australia

19000

11000

34

8000

0.4

6300

107

0.1

39

Brazil

20000

ni

ni

20000

0.1

300000

0.3

15

Egypt

20000

5000

15000

0.2

20000

100

0.2

10

Hungary

24000

15000

100

8900

0.9

16000

38

6.5

40

Iran

27000

5000

22000

0.3

56400

65

2.2

14

Israel

5400

160

210

5450

0.9

480

177

4.1

64

Japan

3000

40000

43000

0.3

7235

31

0.6

15

UK

3'000

20000

23000

0.4

43900

1.0

11

Min.

3000

5450

< 0.1

480

0.05

8.5

Max.

25600

103000

105000

185000

1.8

600000

177

9.7

66

Production data 2001 from table 2, other data are from other sources indicated in
www.apiservices.com , n.i. not indicated; - : zero,

Honey production, export and import


China is the leader in honey production and honey export, followed closely by Argentina, but they both have
a very small consumption per capita with about 0.1 kg.
Germany is the biggest honey importing country, importing 3 times more than it is producing. However
Germany re-exports a part of the imported honey. Big honey importers are the USA and Japan. Japan is
importing the 10 fold of the quantity it produces.
Most West European countries and also the USA have a low degree of honey self sufficiency and have to
import most of their honeys. In Europe from the mentioned countries only Greece and Hungary have a high
self sufficiency and are net exporters of honey. The important honey export countries like Argentina, China,
Mexico and Australia have all a high degree of self sufficiency, but their consumption per capita is very low.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

52

Annual consumption per capita


Developing countries as China, Argentina, India, Brazil and Egypt consume t 0.1 to 0.2 kg per capita. Rich
developed countries consume generally higher amounts. However the per capita consumption does not
follow the richness of the countries, but there are also cultural influences. In the European Union, the biggest
honey consumer is Greece with 1.8 kg, followed by Germany with 1.5 kg, other EU countries like Italy,
Spain, France and Hungary are in the intermediate range with 0.6-0.9 kg, while the UK is on the lowest end
with 0.4 kg.

Colonies per beekeepers


This number gives some information on how professional the beekeeping is. Low numbers means that the
majority of the beekeepers are hobbyists. In the European Union there are remarkable differences: In the
UK, Italy and France they numbers vary from 8 to 16, while in Hungary, Greece and Spain they are
considerably higher, varying from 38 to 72. The highest numbers are in Israel, meaning that the percentage
of the more professional beekeepers is the highest. It is astonishing that the biggest honey exporter China
has mostly small beekeepers with an average of 12 colonies per beekeepers, while the second honey exporter
Argentina has much more big scope beekeepers with 106 colonies per beekeeper. On the lowest end are
India, UK and Brazil, on the highest: Israel, Argentina, Australia and Egypt.

Bee density
Highest is in Greece, 9.7 colonies/km2,
Lowest, in Canada, 0.05 colonies/km2 .
Countries with the high bee densities (Greece, Portugal, Hungary) have similar per colony
yields as countries with the low bee density (Canada, USA, China). This means that there
are enough honey sources even in countries with very high bee densities. On average,
European countries have a higher bee density than overseas countries.

Honey yield per colony


The highest honey yields are reported in Israel with an average of 64 kg per colony. Israel has also the
highest number of professional beekeepers. Under conditions of a warm climate during the whole year
several honey crops are possible. Countries with high honey yields with 40 and more kg per colony are:
China, Germany, and Canada. On the lowest end are India, UK and Egypt with 8.5 to 11 kg per colony.

In many countries most of the honey is sold directly from the beekeeper.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

53

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C (2004) Sensory analysis applied to honey:state of the art. Apidologie 35 (special issue): S26-S37.
29. PIANA, M L (1997) La determinazione dell'origine geografica nel miele e le frodi collegate. Apis 5 (5): 8-17.
30. PIANA, M L; PERSANO ODDO, L; BENTABOL, A; BRUNEAU, E; BOGDANOV, S; GUYOT
DECLERCK, C (2004) Sensory analysis applied to honey: state of the art. Apidologie 35: 26-37.
31. PIASENTIER, E; VALUSSO, R; CAMIN, F; VERSINI, G (2003) Stable isotope ratio analysis for
authentication of lamb meat. MEAT SCIENCE 64 (3): 239-247.
32. PIRO, R; GUIDETTI, G; PERSANO ODDO, L; PIAZZA, M G (2002) Methematical diagnosis of unifloral
honeys, In Sabatini, A G; Bolchi Serrini, G; Frilli, R; Porrini, C (eds) Il ruolo della ricerca in
apicoltura, Litosei; Bologna; pp 235-239.
33. RICCIARDELLI D'ALBORE, G (1997) Textbook of Melissopalynology. Apimondia Publishing House
Bukarest, Romania
34. RICCIARDELLI D'ALBORE, G (1998) Mediterranean melissopalynology. Universit degli studi di Perugia,
facolt di agraria: 1-466.
35. ROSSMANN, A; LLLMANN, C; SCHMIDT, H L (1992) Massenspektrometrische Kohlenstoff- und
Wasserstoff-Isotopen-Verhltnismessung zur Authentizittsprfung bei Honigen. Zeitschrift fr
Lebensmittel-Untersuchung und -Forschung 195: 307-311.
36. RUOFF, K (2006) Authentication of the botanical origin of honey. ETH Zrich Zrich; pp 1-203.
37. RUOFF, K; IGLESIAS, M T; LUGINBUEHL, W; JACQUES-OLIVIER, B; STEFAN, B; AMADO, R (2005)
Quantitative analysis of physical and chemical measurands in honey by mid-infrared spectrometry.
European food research and technology 223 (1): 22-29.

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38. RUOFF, K; LUGINBUHL, W; BOGDANOV, S; BOSSET, J O; ESTERMANN, B; ZIOLKO, T; AMADO, R


(2006) Authentication of the botanical origin of honey by near-infrared spectroscopy. Journal of
agricultural and food chemistry 54 (18): 6867-6872.
39. RUOFF, K; LUGINBUHL, W; KUNZLI, R; BOGDANOV, S; BOSSET, J O; DER OHE, K; DER OHE, W;
AMADO, R (2006) Authentication of the botanical and geographical origin of honey by front-face
fluorescence spectroscopy. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 54 (18): 6858-6866.
40. RUOFF, K; LUGINBUHL, W; KUNZLI, R; IGLESIAS, M T; BOGDANOV, S; BOSSET, J O; DER OHE,
K; DER OHE, W; AMADO, R (2006) Authentication of the botanical and geographical origin of
honey by mid-infrared spectroscopy. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 54 (18): 6873-6880.
41. RUSSMANN, H (1998) Hefen und Glycerin in Bltenhonigen - Nachweis einer Grung oder einer
abgestoppten Grung. Lebensmittelchemie 52: 116-117.
42. RUSSMANN, H (1998) Hefen und Glyzerin in Blutenhonigen - Nachweis einer Garung oder einer
abgestoppten Garung. Imkerei-Technik-Magazin (4): 10-13.
43. SIVAKESAVA, S; IRUDAYARAJ, J (2001) Detection of inverted beet sugar adulteration of honey by FTIR
spectroscopy. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 81 (8): 683-690.
44. TERRAB, A; GONZLEZ, A G; DEZ, M J; HEREDIA, F J (2004) Characterisation of Moroccan unifloral
honeys using multivariate analysis. European food research and technology 218 (1): 88-95.
45. VON DER OHE, W (2003) Control of american foulbrood by using alternatively eradication method and
artificial swarms. Apiacta 38 (2): 137-139.
46. VON DER OHE, W; PERSANO ODDO, L; PIANA, L; MORLOT, M; MARTIN, P (2004) Harmonized
methods of melissopalynology. Apidologie 35 (Special issue): S18-S25.
47. WAITE, R (2004) The biological control of EFB. Bee Craft 86 (9): 15-17.
48. WHITE, J W (1992) Internal standard stable carbon isotope ratio method for determination of C-4 plant sugars
in honey: Collaborative study, and evaluation of improved protein preparation procedure. J.AOAC Int.
75 (3): 543-548.
49. WHITE, J W; WINTERS, K; MARTIN, P; ROSSMANN, A (1998) Stable carbon isotope ratio analysis of
honey: Validation of internal standard procedure for worldwide application. Journal of AOAC
International 81 (3): 610-619.
50. ZUCCHI, P; MARCAZZAN, G L; DAL POZZO, M; SABATINI, A G; DESALVO, F; FLORIS, I (2006) Il
contenuto di etanolo nel miele per la valutazione di processi fermentativi. APOidea 3 (1): 18-26.

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56

Honey
as Nutrient and Functional Food

INTRODUCTION
As the only available sweetener honey was an important food for Homo sapiens since his very beginnings.
Indeed, the relation between bees and Homo sapiens started as early as stone age 69. In order to reach the
sweet honey, man was ready to risk his life (Figure 1). Already the first written reference to honey, a
Sumerian tablet writing, dating back to 2100-2000 BC, mentions honeys use as a drug and an ointment 68.
In most ancient cultures honey has been used for both nutritional purposes and for medicine 21, 68, 70, 117.
According to the bible, the wise Solomon has said: Eat honey my son, because it is good (Old Testament,
proverb 24:13). The belief, that honey is a nutrient, drug and an ointment has been carried into our days. For
a long time in human history it was the only known sweetener, until industrial sugar production began to
replace it after 1800 68. In the long human history honey has been not only as a nutrient but also as a
medicine 117. A medicine branch, called apitherapy, has developed in recent years, offering treatments for
many diseases by honey and the other bee products (see Chapter 7).
At present the annual world honey production is about 1.2 million tons, which is less than 1% of the total
sugar production. Today, honey is one of the last untreated natural foods. The consumption of honey differs
strongly from country to country. In the major honey producing and exporting countries China and
Argentina the annual consumption is small: 0.1 to 0.2 kg per capita. It is higher in developed countries,
where the home production does not always cover the market needs. In the European Union, which is both a
major honey importer and producer, the annual consumption per capita varies from medium (0.3-0.4 kg) in
Italy, France, Great Britain, Denmark, Portugal to high (1-1.8 kg) in Germany, Austria, Switzerland,
Portugal, Hungary, Greece, while in overseas countries such as USA, Canada and Australia the average per
capita consumption is 0.6 to 0.8 kg/year (see Honey Chapter on this homepage)
Different surveys on nutritional and health aspects of honey have been compiled 11, 22, 25, 106, 107, 150, 155

COMPOSITION AND NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENTS


Carbohydrates
Main sugars are the monosaccharides fructose and glucose. Beyond the two monosaccharides, about 25
different oligosacharides have been detected, between them nutrition relevant ones such as panose, 1kestose, 6-kestose, palatinose 78, 195. The principal oligosaccharides in blossom honey are the disaccharides
sucrose, maltose, trehalose and turanose. Honeydew honey compared to blossom honey contains higher
amounts of oligosaccharides, and also trisaccharides such as melezitose and raffinose. During digestion the
principal carbohydrates fructose and glucose are quickly transported into the blood and can be utilized for
energy requirements of the human body. A daily dose of 20 g honey will cover about 3% of the required
daily energy

Proteins, enzymes and amino acids


Honey contains about 0.5% proteins, mainly enzymes and amino acids. Its contribution to human protein
intake is marginal with respect to quantity (Table 2).
Three main honey enzymes are diastase (amylase), decomposing starch or glycogen into smaller sugar units,
invertase (sucrase, glucosidase), decomposing sucrose into fructose and glucose, as well as glucose oxidase,
producing hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid from glucose. Since the saliva yields a sufficiently high
activity of amylase and glucose oxidase, honeys contribution to sugar digestion is of minor importance.
Honey glucose oxidase producing hydrogen peroxide, might exert an antibacterial effect in the oral cavity.

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57

Table 1. A. Main Honey nutrients, after 49


Ingredient

Recommended Daily Intake1

Amount
in 100 g

Carbohydrates
Proteins
Fats

kcal
g
g

Minerals
Sodium (Na)
Calcium (Ca)
Potassium (K)
Magnesium (Mg)
Phosphorus (P)
Zinc (Zn)
Copper (Cu)
Iron (Fe)
Manganese (Mn)
Chromium (Cr)
Selenium (Se)

mg

300
0.5
0

1-4
years old
1000-1100
13-14
-

4-15
years old
1400-2700
17-46
-

1.6-17
3-31
40-3500
0.7-13
2-15
0.05-2
0.02-0.6
0.03-4
0.02-2
0.01-0.3
0.002-0.01

300
600
1000
80
500
3
0.5-1
8
1-1.5
0.02-0.06
0.001-0.004

410-550
700-1200
1400-1900
120-310
600-1250
5-9.5
0.5-1
8-15
1.5-5
0.02-0.1
0.001-0.006

After 15
years old
2400-3100
44-59
-

550
1000-1200
2000
300-400
700-1250
7-10
0.5-1
10-15
2-5
0.03-1.5
0.003-0.007

Table 1. B Vitamins in honey, according to 49, 65, 77


Vitamins

mg/kg

Phyllochinon (K)

ca. 0.025

15

20-50

60-70

Thiamin (B1)

0.02-0.9

0.6

0.8-1.4

1-1.3

Riboflavin (B2)

0.01-0.9

0.7

0.9-1.6

1.2-1.5

Niacin (B3)

0.10-2.7

10-18

13-17

Panthothenic acid (B5)

0.02-1.9

4-6

Pyridoxin (B6)

0.01-0.32

0.4

0.5-1.4

1.2-1.6

Folic acid (B9)

0.01-0.7

0.2

0.3

0.4

Ascorbic acid (C)


0.1-2.5
60
70-100
100
2
Niacin equivalents: 1 mg nicotinamide = 1 mg niacin = 60 mg tryptophan ( = niacin-precursor)

Table 2 Other trace elements in honey, after 49


Element
Aluminium (Al)
Arsen (As)
Barium (Ba)
Boron (B)
Bromine (Br)
Cadmium (Cd)*
Chlorine (Cl)
Cobalt (Co)
Floride (F)
Iodine (I)

mg/100 g
0.01-2.4
0.014-0.026
0.01-0.08
0.05-0.3
0.4-1.3
0-0.001
0.4-56
0.1-0.35
0.4-1.34
10-100

Element
Lead (Pb)*
Lithium (Li)
Molybdenum (Mo)
Nickel (Ni)
Rubidium (Rb)
Silicium (Si)
Strontium (Sr)
Sulfur (S)
Vanadium (V)
Zirkonium (Zr)

mg/100 g
0.001-0.03
0.225-1.56
0-0.004
0-0.051
0.040-3.5
0.05-24
0.04-0.35
0.7-26
0-0.013
0.05-0.08

*- elements regarded as toxic, can be partially of anthropological origin

Vitamins, minerals and trace compounds


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58

The amount of vitamins and minerals is small and the contribution of honey to the recommended daily
intake (RDI) of the different trace substances is marginal (Table 2). It must be born in mind that different
unifloral honeys contain different amounts of minerals 34.
Honey contains a number of other trace elements. From the nutritional point of view the minerals chrome,
manganese and selenium are of nutritional importance, especially for children of the age of 1 to 15 year. The
elements sulphur, boron, cobalt, fluorine, iodine, molybdenum and silicon can be important in human
nutrition too, although there are no RDI values proposed for these elements (Table 2).
Honey contains 0.3-25 mg/kg choline and 0.06 to 5 mg/kg acetylcholine 107. Choline is an essential for
cardiovascular and brain function, and for cellular membrane composition and repair, while acetylcholine
acts as a neurotransmitter.

Aroma compounds, taste-building compounds and polyphenols


There is a wide variety of honeys with different tastes and colours, depending on their botanical origin 71.
The sugars are the main taste-building compounds. Generally, honey with high fructose content (e.g. acacia)
are sweet compared to those with high glucose concentration (e.g. rape). Beyond sugars the honey aroma
depends on the quantity and quality of honey acids and amino acids. In the past decades some research on
honey aroma compounds has been carried out and more than 500 different volatile compounds have been
identified in different types of honey. Indeed, most aroma building compounds vary in the different types of
honey depending on its botanical origin 50. Honey flavour is an important quality for its application in food
industry and also a selection criterion for consumers choice.
Polyphenols are another important group of compounds with respect to appearance and functional
properties. 56 to 500 mg/kg total polyphenols were found in different honey types, depending on the honey
type 10, 101. Polyphenols in honey are mainly flavonoids (e.g. quercetin, luteolin, kaempferol, apigenin,
chrysin, galangin), phenolic acids and phenolic acid derivatives 204. The flavonoid content can vary between
2 and 46 mg/kg of honey and was higher in samples produced during dry season with high temperatures 121.
The polyphenols are responsible for the antioxidant properties of honey.

ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
The physiological action of gel and powdered forms of honey as a
carbohydrate source for athlete performance, mainly cycling one,
was studied recently under controlled conditions by Kreider and
coworkers 86, 87, 124, 125, 127, 128. Honey increases significantly the heart
frequency and the blood glucose level during performance129. It did
not promote physical or psychological signs of hypoglycemia in
fasted subjects 128, 135, during resistance training 86 or following
resistance training 85, 86. In another trial the effect of low and high
glycemic index carbohydrate gels and honey were tested on 64 km
cycling performance 87, 129. Both high (glucose) and low GI (honey)
gels increased cycling performance, honey being slightly better than glucose. The carbohydrate profile and
GI response of honey was identical to that of a popular sports gel128, 182. According to these authors honey is
well tolerated and can be an effective carbohydrate source for athletic performance. Summarising the
research on honey and sport nutrition it is recommended that the amount of honey should be adapted to the
body weight and to the ingestion time before exercise 124:
4 hours before exercise: ingest 4 g per kg body weight
1 hour before exercise: ingest 1 gram per kg body weight
10 minutes before exercise: ingest 0.5 g per kg body weight
During exercises 30 to 60 g can be ingested during each hour of exercise.
After physical exercise or competition carbohydrates should be supplemented by protein for optimal
recovery. Dry honey, combined with whey protein was found to be more effective than protein combinations
with glucose or maltodextrin 124. For optimal recovery athletes should consume about 1 g honey per kg body
weight within 15 minutes and repeat this procedure for the next 4 to 6 hours. Combining of honey with
protein (3:1) may help to inhibit protein catabolism after the exercise124. The results by Kreider and coworkers86, 87, 124-126, 128 should be confirmed by other researchers.

GLYCEMIC INDEX, GLUCOSE AND FRUCTOSE


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59

Glycemic index, diabetes and the human diet


The impact of carbohydrates on human health is discussed controversially especially the understanding of
how the carbohydrate content of a given food affects blood glucose levels. Today, the dietary significance of
carbohydrates is often indicated in terms of the glycemic index (GI). Carbohydrates having a low GI induce
a small increase of glucose in blood, while those with high GI induce a high blood glucose level. Fructose,
besides glucose the main honey sugar, has a GI of 19, sucrose: 68. Theoretically high-fructose honeys like
acacia, tupelo, chestnut, thyme, calluna should have a relatively lower GI. The only comprehensive data on
honey GI is the one presented in table 3. It is based mainly on data of different Australian honeys 28, 96. There
was a significant negative correlation between fructose content and GI is probably due to the diverse
fructose/glucose ratios of the various honey types testes. It is known that unifloral honeys have varying
fructose content 96, 173. Indeed, there is a significant negative correlation between honey GI and fructose
concentration (Arcot & Brand-Miller, 2005). Some honeys, e.g. acacia and yellow box, with relatively high
concentration of fructose, have a lower GI than other honey types (Table 3). A negative correlation between
GI and fructose was established, while there was no significant correlation between GI and the other honey
sugars. In a study with four North American honeys with different fructose content the resulting GI values
were higher than those of the Australian study and varied between 69 and 74 111. In another US investigation
the GI of a honey of an unidentified botanical origin was found to be 35128. Recently a study with German
honeys revealed GI values lying between 49 and 8936, 76. In these studies acacia, chestnut, linden and
heather honey had GI between 49 and 55. A rape honey had a GI of 64 while a honeydew honey had the
highest GI with 89, which was due to its high melezitose content.
In experiments with humans Ahmad et al showed that the honey induced glucose rise in blood is less
pronounced that that after intake of artificial honey control and glucose5.
The effect of ingestion of a 75 g sugar solution containing linden honey or fructose/glucose control on serum
insulin and C-peptide values of healthy humans was examined. These parameters were significantly lower
for honey. The mean serum glucose concentration was also lower for honey, but direct comparisons at the
various times showed no significant differences between the honey and the control. However, the area under
the concentration-time profile for glucose response was lower for the honey than the control163
The GI concept claims to predict the role of carbohydrates in the development of obesity138, meaning that
low GI honeys could be a valuable alternative to high GI sweeteners. In order to take into consideration the
quantity of ingested food, a new term, the glycemic load, is introduced. It is calculated as the glycemic index
multiplied with the carbohydrate content in a given portion, divided by 100. Values lower than 10 are
considered low, 10 to 20 are intermediate ones and above 20 belong to the category high. For an assumed
honey portion of 25 g the glycemic load of most honeys is low and some are in the intermediate range
(Table 3).
The GI concept was developed to provide a numeric classification of carbohydrate foods on the assumption
that such data would be useful in situations in which glucose tolerance is impaired. Therefore food with low
GI should provide benefits with respect to diabetes and to the reduction of coronary heart disease116. Thus,
consumption of honeys with a low GI, e.g. acacia honey might have beneficial physiological effects and
could be used by diabetes patients. The consumption of 50 to 80 g honey of unspecified type by healthy
people or diabetes patients leads to smaller increases of blood insulin and glucose than the consumption of
the same amounts of glucose and of a sugar mixtures resembling to honey9, 15, 115. It was shown that
consumption of honey had a favourable effect on diabetes patients, causing a significant decrease of plasma
glucose13, 15, 170. Honey was well tolerated by patients with diabetes of unspecified type33 and on diabetes
type-2 patients51, 120, 186. According to recent studies, long term consumption of food with a high GI is a
significant risk factor for type-2 diabetes136.
Relatively high amounts from 70 to 90 g honey were administered without any problems for the type 2
diabetes 4, 15.
Honey seems to be also well tolerated by type 1 diabetes patients. Honey caused a higher c-peptide increase
than comparable amounts of sucrose or glucose2. The c-peptide is a mass of the insulin increase in blood.
On the other hand it was found that linden honey caused lower c-peptide increase than comparable amounts
of a fructose/glucose mixture163. The contradiction between the two studies should be resolved.

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Table 3. Glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) for a serving (25 g) of honey, after 28, 96
honey origin
Acacia (black lockust)*
Yellow box
Stringy bark
Red gum
Iron bark
Yapunya
Pure Australia
Commercial blend
Salvation June
Commercial blend
Honey of unspecified origin
average
Glucose
Fructose
AC = available carbohydrate

Romania
Australia
Australia
Australia
Australia
Australia
Australia
Australia
Australia
Australia
Canada

Fructose
g /100 g
43
46
52
35
34
42
38
32
28
55

GI
32
354
444
463
483
525
586
623
645
726
878
555
100
19

AC
g/serving
21
18
21
18
15
17
21
18
15
13
21
18

GL (per
serving)
7
6
9
8
7
9
12
11
10
9
18
10

Fructose and obesity


Fructose is the main sugar in most honeys (Table 1). An over-consumption of fructose in todays American
diet, mainly in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, is suspected to be one of the main causes for
overweight problems89. After reviewing clinical studies these authors found that fructose ingestion leads to a
rise of de-novo lipogenesis, which finally has an unfavourable effect on energy regulation and on body
weight.
In rat feeding experiments the hypertriglyceridemic effect observed after intake of fructose alone does not
take place after feeding of honey fructose. Compared to rats fed with fructose, honey-fed rats had higher
plasma -tocopherol levels, higher -tocopherol/triacylglycerol ratios, lower plasma NOx concentrations
and a lower susceptibility of the heart to lipid peroxidation. These data suggest a potential nutritional benefit
of substituting fructose by honey in the ingested diets 59.
It was shown that in patients with hypertriglyceridemia, artificial honey increased TG, while honey
decreased TG 7.
Recently it was found out that feeding rats by 10 % honey solution decreased the weight of the rats by
decreasing their feeding frequency42.
Feeding of honey or sugar to Wistar rats resulted both in increase of weight in comparison to controls.
Sucrose fed fat cells were significantly larger than the honey fed ones.184
Honey ingestion by humans leads to a rise of blood fructose concentration: in one case (rape honey), this
rise was lower than that achieved after fructose/glucose controls, in the other cases it was same as after the
controls (acacia honey). Fructose metabolism may be inhibited by unidentified substances present in the
rapeseed honey162
Summarising the above research, honey has probably no or a weak effect on obesity compared to pure
fructose. However, there is need of further tests with human nutrition studies, carried with a variety of
unifloral honeys.

INFANT NUTRITION
The application of honey in infant nutrition used to be a common recommendation during
the last centuries and there are some interesting observations reported. Infants on a diet
containing honey had better blood building and a higher weight increase compared to a diet
without honey98. Honey was better tolerated by babies than sucrose 159 and compared to a
water based placebo significantly reduced crying phases of infants 180. Infants have a higher
weight increase when fed by honey than by sucrose, and showed less throw up than the
sucrose controls 157. Compared to sucrose, ingestion of honey by infants resulted in an
increase of haemoglobin content, better skin colour while no digestion problems were
encountered198, 205. Infants exposed to a honey regimen had a better weight increase and during the regimen
were less susceptible to diseases than infants fed normally or infants given blood building agents 98.

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61

The positive effects of honey in infant diet are attributed to effects on the digestion process. One possible
cause is the well established effect of oligosaccharides on B. bifidus 183. When fed on a mixture of honey and
milk infants showed a regularly steady weight gain and had an acidophilic microorganism flora rich in B.
bifidus109. In an other experiment with honey and milk it was shown that the infants were suffering less
frequently from diarrhoea, and their blood contained more haemoglobin compared to a diet based on sucrose
sweetened milk198. Feeding honey to infants improved calcium uptake into the blood, resulting in lighter and
thinner faeces38.
There is a health concern for infants regarding the presence of Clostridium botulinum in honey. Since the
presence of this bacterium in natural foods is ubiquitous and honey is a non sterilized packaged food from
natural origin the risk of a low contamination cannot be excluded. Spores of this bacterium can survive in
honey, but they cannot build toxin. But in the stomach of infants younger than one year the bacteria spores
from honey can survive, grow, and theoretically build the toxin. On the other hand humans older than 12
months can ingest honey without any risk. In some cases, infant botulism has been explained by ingestion of
honey 67, 147, 160, 200. In Germany about one case of infant botulism per year is reported 160. As a result of the
reported infant botulism cases some honey packers (e.g. the British Honey Importers and Packers
Association) place a warning on the honey label that honey should not be given to infants under 12 months
of age. Recently, a scientific committee of the EU has examined the hazard of Cl. botulinum in honey. It
has concluded, that no microbiological examinations of honey are necessary, as the incidence of Cl.
botulinum is relatively low and tests will not prevent infant botulism. In the EU countries the health
authorities have not issued a warning label on honey pots. Also, the counter-indication of honey in
nourishing of infants in developing countries has been questioned 91.
For safety reasons honey should be given only to infants older than 1 year

APPLICATIONS IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY

Due to its various favourable properties honey is used as an additive to a variety of food and beverages (see
Table 5). The application of honey as a food additive is based on its manifold properties. The antibacterial
effect of honey (see part II) counteracts microbial spoilage of food, e.g. of meat 165. The antioxidant effect of
honey prevents oxidation of food during storage. Honey acts against lipid oxidation of meat 145, 165 and is thus
a efficient meat additive for preventing oxidation spoilage, e.g. to poultry 27 or to meat and muscle of
unspecified origin 165. Effects of honey against enzymatic browning of fruits and vegetables 61, soft drinks 133
light raisin 146, apple slices 169 have been reported. Honey enzymes have a clearing effect in fruit juices and
fruit drinks manufacturing 134, 169. Other physical and sensory properties make honey a good candidate for an
additive to a wide variety of food: good sensory and rheological properties, superior microwave reactivity
than synthetic sugars etc. More information on honey application in food is available through the American
National Honey Board (http://www.nhb.org/foodtech/index.html).
Honey enhances the growth of dairy starter cultures in milk and milk products. Especially species with week
growth rates in milk such as bifidobacteria are usually fortified by growth enhancers or by honey. The
growth rate of two bifidobacteria Bf-1 and Bf-6 in milk can be stimulated by the addition of honey to milk
211
. The effect of honey was more pronounced than the one caused by common growth enhancers based on
other oligosaccharides. Thus, honey can be used as a prebiotic additive to probiotic milk products.
Honey added to non fat dry milk has a favourable influence on some other good bacteria 64 The milk was
incubated with Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp.
bulgaricus, or Bifidobacterium bifidum. Honey supported the growth of all strains. The authors conclude that

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various oligosaccharides found in honey may be responsible for the enhanced lactic acid production by
bifidobacteria.
Due to its antioxidant activity the addition of honey to patties seems to prevent formation of heterocyclic
aromatic amine and overall mutagenicity in fried ground-beef patties 193.
Acacia honey did not affect the survival of the microbial flora of yoghurt during a 6 week refrigerated
storage period 212. Also, honey had no effect on pH and lactic acid levels of the final products. In addition, at
a rate of approximately 3.0% (w/v), it highly improves the sensory quality of the product without having a
detrimental effect on characteristic lactic acid bacteria. Another study with sunflower honey showed that
addition of honey (2,4 and 6 %) increased the values of Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus
delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus values, optimum sweetness was at 4 % honey190.
Another main application of honey in food industry is in baking, cereal and the confectionary industry. A
review on these applications is summarised in a PhD study 196. Proposed advantages of honey additions to
baked goods are moisture retention, good texture, improved baking, flavour and sensory properties.
An overview of the different application of honey in food industry is given in the table below. A wide
variety of the application research on different application of honey as a food additive has been
commissioned by the American National Honey Board. (www.honey.com) All the mentioned applications
showcase a detailed description of the research carried out, together with comprehensive explanations of the
honey use.

Honey applications in the food industry


Use

Explanation

Sweetener for: sport beverages, non-alcoholic fruit


beverages, ice tea, yoghurt drinks, chocolate milk
beverages; fermented beverages; vinegar, vegetable
juices; in mead production
Additive to poultry and other meat, to fruit and vegetable
processing
Additive to microwave foods: cakes, muffins, cookies,
glazes
Additive to flour bagels, cereals, chicken marinades,
French fries, bread, pasta, extruded snacks, corn chips,
potato chips
Additive to frozen ice cream and dough
Additive to fruit spreads, peanut butter, nut spread,
Additive to salsas and sauces
Additive to fried or roasted beef, poultry

supplies different natural honey flavours and colours;


honey sugars are fermentable and give alcoholic drinks
unique flavours; prevents browning due to antioxidative
properties
Antioxidant and preservative (anti-bacterial) properties,
reduces browning, improves sensory properties
Superior microwave reactivity and water activity
managements than synthetic sugars
Improves sensory properties, adds/retains moisture due to
hygroscopic properties; improves browning due to
reducing sugars;
Better stability and sensory properties
Better storability and sensory properties
Neutralises sour and burn intensity
Reduces the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines and
their mutagenic effects
Convenient as consistent in texture, flavour and colour,
allowing blending with other dry ingredients

Dried honey

Further reading for this section: 74

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63

ANTIMICROBIAL PROPERTIES
Direct antimicrobial action
Honey inhibits the growth of microorganisms and fungi. The antibacterial
effect of honey, mostly against gram-positive bacteria, is very well
documented 45, 151, 152, 154. Both bacteriostatic and bactericidal effects have
been reported, against many strains, many of which are pathogenic (Table
5).

Table 4 Infections caused by bacteria that have found to be sensitive to honey 151, 154
Pathogen

INFECTION CAUSED

Bacillus anthracis
Corynebacterium diphtheriae
Escherichia coli

anthrax
diphtheria
diarrhoea, septicaemia, urinary infections,
wound infections
ear infections, meningitus, respiratory
infections, sinusitis
pneumonia
tuberculosis
septicaemia, urinary infections
urinary infections, wound infections
diarrhoea
septicaemia
typhoid
wound infections
septicaemia, wound infections
dysentery
abscesses., boils, carbuncles, impetigo, wound
infections
urinary infections
dental carries
ear infections, meningitis, pneumonia, sinusitis
ear infections, impetigo, puerperal fever,
rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, sore throat,
wound infections
cholera
mastitis

Haemophilus influenzae
Klebsiella pneumoniae
Mycobacterium tuberculosis
Proteus sp.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Salmonella sp.
Salmonella cholerae-suis
Salmonella typhi
Salmonella typhimurium
Serrata marcescens
Shigella sp.
Staphylococcus aureus
Streptococcus faecalis
Streptococcus mutans
Streptococcus pneumoniae
Streptococcus pyogenes

Vibrio choleriae
Actin. pyogenes, Kleb. Pneum., Noc. asteroids, Staph. aureus,
Streptoc. agal., dysgal.,
Epiderm floccosum, Microsp. canis, M.. gypseum, Trichoph.
rubrum, T. tonsurans, T. mentagr. var.

tinea

E coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, Hel. pylori

peptic ulcer

In 1937 Dold et al. determined the antibacterial acivity as inhibine. The antibacterial assay carried out with
Staph. aureus was senstitive to hydrogen peroxide. Researchers using this method found a good correlation
between the capacity of honey to produce peroxide and the inhibine value. Honey glucose oxidase produces
the antibacterial agent hydrogen peroxide 220, while another enzyme, catalase breaks it down80. Honey with
a high catalase activity have a low antibacterial peroxide activity70, 71. White established a good correlation
between the peroxide accumulation capacity and the antibacterial activity expressed as inhibine82, 219. Lavie
was the first to postulate the existence of other antibacterial substances in honey132.
It was reported that depending on the antibacterial test it is possible to differentiate between the peroxide
and non peroxide antibacterial action. Using this test different types of antibacterial substances have been
determined, the chemical identity of which remains to be determined. The substances have different
chemical characteristics: acidic, basic or neutral and that the main non-peroxide antibacterial activity is

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acidic45. Studies with Malaysian Tualang honey showed also, that the main non-peroxide antibacterial
activity is acidic122. Interestingly, honey acts best against bacteria in acedic medium. This is important from
therapeutic point of view as the wound medium is also acidic14
Truchado et al, using another antibacterial test measured also mainly non-peroxide antibacterial activity207.
Thus, depending on the antibacterial test different types of antibacterial activity can be determined.
Summarising, antimicrobial effect of honey is due to different substances and depends on the botanical
origin of honey 45, 151, 152, 154. There are non-peroxide antibacterial substances with different chemical origin,
e.g. and compounds with different chemical properties:
1. Phenolics and flavonoids, present in honey are also likely candidates, as many of them have been shown
to have antibacterial activity 19, 72, 90, 140, 158, 216, but there was no correlation between honey phenolics and
antibacterial action207. In a study with Cuban unifloral honeys honeys with higher phenolic content tended to
have a higher antibacterial activity24
2. The high sugar concentration of honey161, and also the low honey pH224 can be responsible for the
antibacterial activity.
3. It was found that undetermined components of the water and methanolic extract of chestnut honey inhibit
pathogenic bacteria like Erwinia carotovora, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Aeromonas hydrophila interfering
in the quorum signal (QS) system of bacteria. The bacterial QS system is thought to determine the virulence
of bacteria. The substances are thought to belong to the carbohydrate fraction of honey 206.
4. Antibacterial carbohydrates break-down Maillard products are also present in Canadian honey56, 58, but
probably also in any honey.
5. Antibacterial aromatic acids 185 and 10-HDA, the main royal jelly acid with antibacterial properties112
have also been found in honey.
6. An antibacterial honey protein as defensin-1, which originates in royal jelly, was also found in honey131.
7. The strong antibacterial activity of Manuka honey is due to the presence of the antibacterial substance
methylglyoxal144.
Summarising, following antibacterial factors are responsible for the antibacterial action
Osmotic effect of sugars
pH and honey acids
Hydrogen peroxide
Others: phenolics, carbohydrates, proteins, methylglyoxal and non-determined ones.
Contrary to the non-peroxide activity, the peroxide one can be destroyed by heat, by light and by storage 45
(Table 6). The antibacterial activity of light blossom honey was more influenced by these different factors
that of the dark honeydew honey. Thus, for optimum antibacterial activity, honey should be stored in a cool,
dark place and should be consumed when fresh.
Influence of heat and storage
Table 5. Influence of heat, light and storage on the antibacterial activity of honey against Staph. aureus
after 44, 47

Non-peroxide activity
Storage: 15 months at rt
Blossom honey
Honeydew honey
Heat: 15 min 70oC
Blossom honey
Honeydew honey

light
76
78

dark
86
80
86
94

Peroxide activity
light
19
63

dark
48
70
8
78

antibacterial activity in % of the untreated controls, rt room temperature 20-25 oC


Only fresh and unheated honey has optimum antibacterial activity. Early research showed that the peroxide
activity is destroyed by heat and by storage in the light 81, 217, 218. On the other hand it was shown that the
non-peroxide activity is less susceptible to heat and light44, 47, 104. On the other hand, Maillard products which

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are produced upon heating and storage of honey have also antibacterial activity56, 58. The results are difficult
to interpret as it is not clear which type of antibacterial activity has been tested in many studies. However,
taken a whole there is an overall decrease of all activity upon storage, less if stored in the dark.
For optimum activity store unheated honey in a dark cool place.
Bactericidal or bacteriostatic?
In most of the reports on honey antibacterial action no distinction has been made between the two. Most
experiments report on stop of bacterial growth after a certain time. The higher the concentration the longer is
the period of growth inhibition. Complete inhibition of growth is important for controlling infections152
The bactericidal action of honey seems to be dependent on the time of honey action. The time for
bactericidal action depends on the bacteria type and vary from several to 40 hours. The concentration of
honey also plays a role. Honey concentrations varying from 5 to 50 % have been found to be bactericidal.
Generally, the higher the concentration, the faster the bactericidal action can take place 152.
Antiviral, fungicide and anti-parasite activity
It was reported that honey has been also shown to inhibit in vitro the Rubella virus 227 and Herpes virus16
and three species of the Leishmania parasite 228.
Honey has also fungicide acitivity, but not many funghi species have been tested. It has antifungal activity
against dermatophytes, that can cause human mycoses (Tinea). Such mycoses is a common disease in
humans. Honey has been shown to have a fungicide activity agains dermatopytes from the genera
Epidermophyton, Microsporum and Thrichophyton, all species that can affect humans 154.
Recently honey samples from different floral sources were evaluated for their ability to inhibit the growth of
40 yeast strains (Candida albicans, C. krusei, C. glabrata and Trichosoporon spp.). Rhododendron and
multifloral honeys have generally more inhibitory effect than eucalyptus and orange honeys (P < 0.05) 123.
Different unifloral honey from Slovakia also showed antifungal activity against Penicillium crustosum, P.
expansum, P. griseofulvum, P. raistrickii and P. verrucosum , mostly at concentration higher than 10% 118.
Further studies are now required to demonstrate if this antifungal activity has any clinical application.

Indirect antimicrobial action


Honey can fight microbial infection also by its immuno-activating, anti-inlammatory and prebiotic
activity (see below).

ANTIOXIDANT PROPERTIES
The term oxidative stress describes the lack of equilibrium in the organism
between the production of free radicals and the antioxidant protective activity.
The protection against oxidation is thought to prevent some chronic diseases.
The oxidative modification of the lipoproteins is considered to be an
important factor for the pathogenesis of arteriosclerosis.
Honey has been found to contain significant antioxidant activity including glucose
oxidase, catalase, ascorbic acid, flavonoids, phenolic acids, carotenoid derivatives,
organic acids, Maillard reaction products, amino acids, proteins 10, 20, 35, 43, 57, 73, 94, 97,
102, 102, 110, 165, 171
. The main antioxidants seem to be the phenolis and the Maillard products named
melanoidins.
Different methods have been applied and also antioxidant activity units determined. The different methods
for the determination of the antioxidant activity have been reviewed23.
There is a significant correlation between the antioxidant activity, the phenolic content of honey and the
inhibition of the in vitro lipoprotein oxidation of human serum. It was found that honey intake caused a
higher antioxidative effect in blood than the intake of black tea, although its in vitro effect measured as
ORAC activity was five times smaller than that of black tea 103.
Generally, the darker the honey, the higher its phenolic content and its antioxidant power 37, 102, 143, 175, 213.
Further, in a lipid peroxidation model system buckwheat honey showed a similar antioxidant activity as 1
mM -tocopherol 165. Also, the influences of honey ingestion on the antioxidative capacity of plasma was
also tested 12, 189. In the first study the trial persons were given maize syrup or buckwheat honeys with a
different antioxidant capacity in a dose of 1.5 g/kg body weight. In comparison to the sugar control honey

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caused an increase of both the antioxidant and the reducing serum capacity 189. In the second study humans
received a diet supplemented with a daily honey consumption of 1.2 g/kg body weight. Honey increased the
body antioxidant agents: blood vitamin C concentration by 47%, -carotene by 3%, uric acid by 12%, and
glutathione reductase by 7% 12. It should be borne in mind that the antioxidant activity depends on the
botanical origin of honey and has remarkable variations in honey from different sources 10, 32, 97, 102, 130, 213.
The impact of heat on the antioxidant capacity of clover and buckwheat honey during storage was analysed
recently. Processing clover honey did not significantly impact antioxidant capacity. Storage during 6 months
reduced the antioxidant capacity of honeys by about 30%, with no impact of storage temperature or
container type detected at the end point of the storage period. Antioxidant capacity of processed and raw
honeys was similar after storage 215. In another study both antioxidant activity and brown pigment formation
increased with heat treatment and time 209.
These results suggest that not only flavonoids, but also other substances formed under heating could be
responsible for the honey antioxidant effect.
Antioxidant scavenging activity is linked to the prevention of many chronic and age dependent pathological
conditions like cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, cataract and chronic neurological conditions 26. Thus the
antioxidant activity of honey is linked to the observed anticancer and anti-atherosclerosis effects of honey.

ANTI-INFLAMMATORY EFFECTS

STOP

Anti-inflammatory effects of honey in humans were studied by Al Waili and


Boni 17 after ingestion of 70 g honey. The mean plasma concentration of
thromboxane B(2) was reduced by 7%, 34%, and 35%, that of PGE(2) by
14%, 10%, and 19% at 1, 2, and 3 hours, respectively, after honey ingestion.
The level of PGF(2 ) was decreased by 31% at 2 hours and by 14% at 3
hours after honey ingestion. At day 15, plasma concentrations of
thromboxane B(2), PGE(2) and PGF(2 ) were decreased by 48%, 63% and
50%, respectively.

Ingestion of honey had a positive effect in an experimental model of inflammatory bowel disease in rats 40.
Honey administration is as effective as prednisolone treatment in an inflammatory model of colitis. The
postulated mechanism of action is by preventing the formation of free radicals released from the inflamed
tissues. The reduction of inflammation could be due to the antibacterial effect of honey or to a direct
antiinflammatory effect. A support of the latter hypothesis was shown in animal studies, where
antiinflammatory effects of honey were observed in wounds with no bacterial infection 176.

Inflammation in specific parts of the human body is thought to be a major cause of


cardiovascular diseases 222. Thus, the positive effect of honey on cardiovascular health can be
explained by the ant-inflammatory activity of honey.

ANTIMUTAGENIC AND ANTITUMOR EFFECTS


Mutagenic substances act directly or indirectly by promoting mutations of genetic
structure. During the roasting and frying of food heterocyclic amines are built, e.g.
Trp-p-1 (3-Amino-1,4-dimethyl-5H-pyridol [4,3-b] indole). The antimutagenic
activity of honeys from seven different floral sources (acacia, buckwheat, fireweed,
soybean, tupelo and Christmas berry) against Trp-p-1 was tested via the Ames assay
and compared to that of a sugar analogue and to individually tested simple sugars. All
honeys exhibited significant inhibition of Trp-p-1 mutagenicity. Glucose and fructose
were found to be similar antimutagenic as honey and were more antimutagenic than
maltose and sucrose 214.
Nigerose, another sugar, present in honey 78, 195, has immunoprotective activity164.
The antimetastatic effect of honey and its possible mode of antitumor action was studied by applying honey
in spontaneous mammary carcinoma, in methylcholanthrene-induced fibrosarcoma of CBA mouse and in
anaplastic colon adenocarcinoma of Y59 rats 167. A statistically significant antimetastatic effect was
achieved by oral application of honey. These findings indicate that honey activates the immune system and
honey ingestion may be advantageous with respect to cancer and metastasis prevention. In addition, the

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authors postulate that honey given orally before tumour cell inoculation may have an impact on tumour
spreading. In another work of the same group the effect of honey on tumour growth, metastasising activity
and induction of apoptosis and necrosis in murine tumour models (mammary and colon carcinoma) was
investigated. A pronounced antimetastatic effect was observed when honey was applied before tumour-cell
inoculation (peroral 2 g kg-1 for mice or 1 g kg-1 for rats, once a day for 10 consecutive days) 168.
The anti-proliferative effect of honey in colon cancer cells was explained by its antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties 113.
Honey exerted antiproliferative potential against the HCT-15 and HT-29 colon cancer cells as assessed by 3(4, 5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2, 5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay. Flow cytometric analysis
showed the increasing accumulation of hypodiploid nuclei in the sub-G(1) phase of cell cycle indicating
apoptosis. Honey transduced the apoptotic signal via initial depletion of intracellular non protein thiols,
consequently reducing the mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) and increasing the reactive oxygen
species (ROS) generation. An increasing earlier lipid layer break was observed in the treated cells compared
to the control. Honey induced apoptosis was accompanied by up-regulating the p53 and modulating the
expression of pro and anti-apoptotic proteins. Further apoptosis induction was substantiated using DNA
fragmentation assay and YO-PRO-1 staining. Results showed honey as a plausible candidate for induction
of apoptosis through ROS and mitochondria-dependent mechanisms in colon cancer cells. This will promote
honey as a potential chemotherapeutic agent against colon cancer114.
Honey ingestion by rats induced antitumor and pronounced antimetastatic effects. The experimental
evaluation of antitumor properties of honey was carried out using five strains of rat and murine tumors.
Honey potentiated the antitumor activity of 5-fluorouracil and cyclophosphamide105
In another study the antitumour effect of bee honey against bladder cancer was examined in vitro and in vivo
in mice 197. According to these results honey is an effective agent for inhibiting in vitro the growth of
different bladder cancer cell lines (T24, RT4, 253J and MBT-2). It is also effective when administered
intralesionally or orally in the MBT-2 bladder cancer implantation mice models.
Tsiapara et al. investigated the influence of Greek honey extracts (thyme, pine and fir honey) on the
oestrogenic activity and cell viability of breast (MCF-7), endometrial (Ishikawa) and prostate (PC-3) cancer
cells. Thyme honey reduced the viability of Ishikawa and PC-3 cells, whereas fir honey stimulated the
viability of MCF-7 cells. The authors concluded that modulation of oestrogen activity was linked to the rich
phenolic content of Greek honeys and suggested that a thyme honey-enriched diet may prevent cancer
related processes in breast, prostate and endometrial cancer cells208.
The antiproliferative activity, apoptosis, and the antitumor effects of honey on human renal cancer cell lines
(ACHN) were studied. Honey decreased the cell viability in the malignant cells in a concentration-and timedependent manner. Honey induced apoptosis of the ACHN cells in a concentration-dependent manner. It is
concluded that honey may cause cell death in the ACHN cells by inducing apoptosis 187
HMF, a compound found in heated honey has been found to possess antitumor properties149. Thus,
overheated honeys could potentially compensate the loss of quality by winning anti-cancer properties.
Jungle honey, collected from tree blossom by wild honeybees that live in the tropical forest of Nigeria)
enhanced immune functions and antitumour activity in mice99.
Tualang honey from Malaysia has antiproliferative activity on OSCC and HOS cell lines, exerting early
apoptosis effects100
Honey has a supportive effect on human patients who have undergone a cancer radiation therapy, decreasing
radiation mucositis. Patients with head and neck cancer treated with radiation therapy were given honey.
There was a significant reduction in the symptomatic grade 3/4 mucositis among honey-treated patients
compared to controls; i.e. 20 versus 75%. The compliance of honey-treated group of patients was better than
controls. Fifty-five percent of patients treated with topical honey showed no change or a positive gain in
body weight compared to 25% in the control arm, the majority of whom lost weight 41. Febrile neutropenia
is a serious side effect of chemotherapy. Honey was administered to chemotherapy patients with neutropenia
and was found that it reduced the need for colony-stimulating factors 229.

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IMMUNOACTIVATING AND IMMUNOSUPPRESSIVE PROPERTIES


Immuno-activating properties
The effect of honey on the antibody production against thymus-dependent antigen sheep
red blood cells and thymus-independent antigen (Escherichia coli) in mice was studied
18
. According to this study oral honey stimulates antibody production during primary and
secondary immune responses against thymus-dependent and thymus-independent
antigens.
It has been reported that honey stimulates T-lymphocytes in cell culture to multiply, and
activates neutrophils 3
In a study with humans receiving a diet supplemented with a daily honey consumption for two weeks of 1.2
g/kg body weight ingestion of honey following effects were observed: Increase of serum iron by 20% and
decrease of plasma ferritin by 11%, an 50 % increase of monocytes and slight increases of lymphocyte and
eosinophil percentages, reduction in serum of immunoglobulin E (34%) aspartate transaminase (22%) and
alanine transaminase (18%), lactic acid dehydrogenase (41%), fasting sugar (5%) and creatine kinase and
finally an increase in blood of copper (33%) and slight elevations of zinc and magnesium, hemoglobin and
packed cell volume 12
Honey increase proliferation of B- and T-lymphocytes and neutrophils in vitro3.
In another study with rats, feeding of honey caused an increase of lymphocytes in comparison with the
sucrose fed controls62.
Apalbumine 1, the dominant royal jelly in honey with immunostimulating properties, is present in honey39
Immuno-supressive propeties
In animal experiments honey showed an immunosuppressive activity 79. In experiments with isolated
leukocytes honey inhibited phagocytic myeloperoxidase activity 148.
These findings is in line with the common belief that ingestion of honey can relieve pollen hypersensitivity.
Immuno suppression plays also a positive role in autoimmune diseases.
Honey causes both an enhancement of the immune response and an immuno-supression. The
immunoactivating effects are in line with the common belief that honey improves human reaction to viral
infections. Honey may be also trigger immunoactivating activity by its stimulatory effects on lymphocytes
and also by its probiotic effects (see above).
On the other hand the immunosuppressive activity of honey is probably due to ts anti-inflammatory effect.
These effects are in line with the belief that honey ingestion will decrease allergic reactions like hay fever.

CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH
Feeding of honey or sugar to Wistar rats resulted both in increase of weight in comparison to controls.
Sucrose fed fat cells were significantly larger than the honey fed ones. Compared to the controls (no sugars)
sucrose feeding increased blood pressure, but not the honey fed rats184.
Ahmad et al. tested the effect of honey on bovine thrombin -induced oxidative burst in human blood
phagocytes. Honey treatment of phagocytes activated by bovine thrombin showed effective suppression of
oxidative respiratory burst. It can be assumed that this suppressive activity of honey could be beneficial in
the interruption of the pathological progress of cardiovascular disease and may play a cardioprotective role6
Compared with fructose-fed rats, honey-fed rats had a higher plasma -tocopherol level, and an tocopherol/triacylglycerol ratio, as well as a lower plasma nitrate levels and susceptibility of the heart to
lipid peroxidation59
It was found that honey ingestion improves experimental heart weaknesses as extrasystoles, arrhythmia and
tachicardia of rats179

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PREBIOTIC AND PROBIOTIC EFFECTS


Other important honey effects on human digestion have been linked to honey
oligosaccharides. These honey constituents has a prebiotic effect, similar to that
of fructooligosaccharides 188, 225. The oligosaccharide panose was the most
active oligosaccharide. These compounds exert the prebiotic effect in a
synergistic mode of action, rather to one of individual components, leading to
an increase of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli 210. According to an in vitro study
on five bifidobacteria strains honey has a growth promoting effect similar to
that of fructose and glucose oligosaccharides119. Unifloral honeys of sour-wood, alfalfa and sage origin
honey stimulated also the growth of five human intestinal bifidobacteria 194. In another study honey
increases both in vivo (small and large intestines of rats) and in vitro the building of Lactobacillus
acidophilus and Lactobacillus plantarum, while sucrose failed to produce any effect191.
Honey showed prebiotic activity towards 3 Lactobacillus species isolated from human faeces202
It is not clear whether all types of honey exibit prebiotic effects and whether some honeys have a stronger
prebiotic effect. Sour-wood, alfalfa and sage119 and also clover honey119 have been shown to have prebiotic
activity.
The prebiotic activity of chestnut honey was found to be higher than that of acacia honey137.
Oligosaccharides from honeydew honey have prebiotic activity188. Theoretically honeydew honeys,
containing more oligosaccharides should have a stronger prebiotic activity than blossom honeys. There is
need of more research on prebiotic activity of unifloral honeys.
It has been shown that fresh honey has probiotic Bifidus and Lactobacilus bacteria. However these bacteria
are viable only in fresh honey, about 2-3 months old 166

Other effects
Honey improving renal function
Experiments with rats showed that honey ingestion improves their renal function8

Honey for good memory


Honey ingestion improves anxiety and the spatial memory of rats63
Honey for good fertility
Tualang honey from Malaysia was found to have a beneficial effect on menopausal rats by preventing
uterine atrophy, increased bonde density and suppression of increase of body weight226
Malaysan honey had a positive effect of testicular function in rats141. A study with Palestine honey showed
that it increased spermatogenesis in rats1.
Against osteoporosis
Honey improves on the short term Ca absorption in rat bones in a positive dose response fashion, but this
effect disappears on the long term29

NUTRITIONAL AND FUNCTIONAL PROPERTIES OF UNIFLORAL


HONEYS
Due to different proportions of the possible sources, nectar
and/or honeydew coming from a great variety of plants, no
honey is completely the same as another one. This variability
could be a handicap, given the market requirement for a
consistent product, but when properly managed, it also could
represent an opportunity for enhancing honey by offering to the
consumer a number of typical products with special
characteristics, according to the particular botanical origin.
Indeed, unifloral honeys are regarded as a more valuable class of honey, and botanical denominations are
widely employed on the European market, often achieving higher prices than honey blends. Unifloral

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honeys have higher prices than blend honeys. In countries like France, Italy and Spain 30 to 50 % of the
marketed honey is unifloral. In non-European countries, with the exception of the Manuka New Zealand
honey, unifloral honeys have a smaller importance. Information on European unifloral honeys is compiled in
the special Apidologie Issue 35 from 2004. In Europe there are more than 100 plant species that can give
origin to unifloral honey, most of them having only a local importance 172.
While the characterisation of microscopical, physical and physical properties of unifloral honeys is well
advanced, the nutritional and health enhancing properties of unifloral honeys is quite a new field of research.
The composition of honey depends on its botanical origin, regarding the main nutrients, the carbohydrates,
and also the minor ones Persano and Piro173.

Glycemic Index and fructose


The variation of the Glycemic Index (GI) varies according to the botanical origin of honey is described
earlier in this chapter.

Vitamins
Table 6: Average concentration of water-soluble vitamins in Sardinian monofloral honeys
mg/kg +/- SD, after 65

B2

B3

B5

B9

Sum

Eucalyptus (n = 5)

<1.458

Sulla (n = 3)

<0.417

<2.262

<3.686

5.6 0.4

3.2 0.7

<16.2

51

5.2 0.7

<0.383

1.3 0.8

<12

Citrus (n = 3)
Asphodel (n = 3)

2.2 0.2

26 2

<5.613

<0.383

22

<36

3.7 0.3

5.8 0.1

16 6

<1.1

22

<28

Acacia (n = 2)

<0.25

51

<1.75

<0.325

1.2 0.2

<8.5

Lavender (n = 2)

41

<3.125

<0.58

<1.575

2.2 0.4

<11.5

Thistle (n = 3)

<4.16

8.6 0.8

<1.75

<1.447

2.3 0.3

<18.3

Strawberry-tree (n = 3)

<0.87

<4.633

<10.11

<0.39

41

<20

Heather (n = 1)

<0.25

5.92 0.01

<0.58

<0.50

2.7 0.9

<10.0

Rosemary (n = 1)

<0.25

<0.75

<0.58

1.7 0.2

1.5 0.2

<4.8

Linden (n = 1)

<0.25

7.0 0.3

<0.58

1.28 0.05

<0.10

<9.2

1.1 0.5

81

<0.58

1.8 0.3

<0.10

<11.6

Multioral (n = 1)

Mineral content
The mineral composition of honey depends on the botanical origin of honey34, 48, 139, 181, 203

% des RDI at 20 g / day

Variation of honey mineral content, after34

8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

Fir
Rape
Linden
Rododendron
Chestunut

Cu

Mn

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Antibacterial properties
Table 7. Antibacterial potency of unifloral honeys
Honey type

Buckwheat
Blueberry
Chestnut
Cotton
Heather
Honeydew, dark, both coniferous
and non coniferous
Linen vine (Cuba)
Manuka
Tualang
Eucalyptus,
Linden,
Thyme
Tupello
Ulmo
Acacia
Christmas vine (Cuba)
Borage
Clover
Lavender
Lucerne
Rosemary
Orange
Rape
Rhododendron
Sunflower
Taraxacum
High activity
blueberry, buckwheat, chestnut,
cotton, heather, honeydew, linen
vine, manuka, tualang, ulmo

Antibacterial potency,
type of antibacterial activity
Dark colour
High potency, undetermined type
High potency, undetermined type
Average to high, both peroxide and non-peroxide
High, undetermined, peroxide
low to high, undetermined type
High: both peroxide and non peroxide

Reference

153
55
45, 152, 207, 223
152, 220
45, 152
45 54, 82, 142, 152

24
High, undetermined type
45, 152
high: peroxide and non-peroxide
122, 199
High: peroxide and non peroxide
Intermediate colour
45, 54, 207, 221
low to high: peroxide and non peroxide
152, 207
low to high: peroxide and non peroxide
54, 60
low to high: peroxide and non-peroxide
220
average: peroxide
192
High: probably peroxide
Light colour
45, 207
Low-average: undetermined, non-peroxide
24
low, undetermined type
54, 156
low-medium
54, 152, 220
low-average undetermined, peroxide
45, 207, 221
medium: undetermined or non-peroxide
207, 220
low: undetermined and peroxide
221 172
low to high, undetermined, non-peroxide
,
45, 207, 220
low-average: peroxide and non-peroxide
31, 45, 54, 152
low to high: peroxide and non peroxide
45, 207
low to high, undetermined or non-peroxide
45, 207
Low-average: undetermined or non-peroxide
45, 207
Low-high: undetermined, non-peroxide
Summary
Intermediate activity
Low activity
eucalyptus, lavender, linden,
acacia, Christmas vine, borage,
rape, rhododendron, rosemary,
clover, lucerne, orange
thyme, tupello

The antibacterial properties of honey have been reviewed above. The dependence of the antibacterial
activity on the botanical origin is less clear cut than the antioxidant properties of honey. This can be
explained by two facts. On one hand, there are different antibacterial factors: hydrogen peroxide, different
honey components, most of all acids, and also phenolics, on the other a part of the antibacterial substances
are added by the bees45.
The hydrogen peroxide in honey is produced by glucose oxidase and destroyed by catalase. The resultant
between the two enzymes will determine the peroxide accumulation capacity of honey.
According to White and Dustmann the peroxide accumulation capacity of honey depends on the botanical
origin of honey. Generally, dark honeys have a higher activity82, 219.

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72

The non-peroxide, antibacterial activity depends also on the botanical source of honey 45, 207, but there was
no clear cut correlation between honey colour and non-peroxide activity. Taormina et al found that darker
honeys (buckwheat, blueberry) have a significant non-peroxide activity201
Manuka is considered the honey with the strongest antibacterial properties 154, but there is increasing
evidence that other unifloral honeys, most of them with a dark colour have a similarly high antibacterial
potency (table 7).

Antioxidant properties
The antioxidant activity of honey has been reviewed above. The antioxidant properties of honey depend on
the botanical origin of honey, the darker the honey the higher its antioxidative power 37, 66, 95, 97, 102, 130, 143, 174,
175, 213
. This effect seems to be due to honey polyphenols (see section on antioxidant properties above).
Following dark honey types have especially high antioxidant power:
Honeydew (all types of honeydew honeys)
Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa)
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum sp.)
Heather (Caluna vulgaris)
Manuka (Leptospermum Scoparium)
Savory (Satureja)

Prebiotic properties
It is not clear whether all types of honey exibit prebiotic effects and whether some honeys have a stronger
prebiotic effect. Sour-wood, alfalfa, sage and clover honeys119 have been shown to have prebiotic activity.
It was shown that the prebiotic activity of chestnut honey is bigger than that of acacia honey137.
Oligosaccharides from honeydew honey have prebiotic activity188. Theoretically honeydew honeys,
containing more oligosaccharides should have a stronger prebiotic activity than blossom honeys. There is
need of more research on prebiotic activity of unifloral honeys.

QUANTITY AND TIME OF HONEY INGESTION


From nutrition point of view honey is a sugar. For sweeteners a maximum of 40 to 50 g per day is generally
accepted. Taking into consideration that other sugars are also ingested a quantity of 20 g daily can be
recommended. However it should be remembered, that for health enhancing and medical purposes higher
amounts, 50 to 80 g of honey per day are recommended (see Chapter 8 on honey and medicine). But such
high intake should be limited to a certain period of time.

ALLERGY AND POTENTIAL HEALTH HAZARDS


Allergy
Up to 5 % of the population is suffering from allergies. Compared to other foods allergy to honey seems
relatively uncommon. Recently honey allergy was reviewed84. In epidemiological studies with normal
people the allergy incidence is very low. In one study in Turkey with 4331 students no honey allergy could
be detected, while in another Turkish study with 3810 patients searching consultation in an allergy clinic the
honey allergy incidence was 1.8 %.
The incidence of honey allergy, reported in a group of 173 food allergy patients was 2.3% as reported by 83.
In this study with allergic patients the allergy honey allergy is explained by the presence of honey
components of bee origin or by dandelion and Compositae pollen.
Allergies reported can involve reactions varying from cough to anaphylaxis 108.
It was also reported that patients allergic to pollen are rarely allergic to honey, although there is one reported
case of honey pollen allergy53.

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73

Toxic compounds in honey


Honey as any other natural food can be contaminated from the environment, e.g. heavy metals, pesticides,
antibiotics etc. Generally, the contamination levels found in Europe do not present a health hazard. 46.
A few plants are known to produce nectar containing toxic substances. Diterpenoids and pyrazolidine
alkaloids are two main toxin groups relevant in nectar. Some plants of the Ericaceae family belonging to the
sub-family Rhododendron, e.g. Rhododendron ponticum contain toxic polyhydroxylated cyclic
hydrocarbons or diterpenoids75. Honey containing R. ponticum is called mad honey and is found in some
regions of Turkey. Ingestion of this type of honey is not lethal, it causes some complaints such as dizziness,
nausea-vomiting, sweating, weakness, blurred vision, convulsions and loss of consciousness, extremity
paresthesia, excessive perspiration and salivation52
Substances of the other toxin group, pyrazolidine alkaloids, are found in different honey types and the
potential intoxication by these substances is reviewed by 88
Cases of honey poisoning have been reported very rarely in the literature and concern mostly individuals
from the following regions: Caucasus, Turkey, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Nepal, South Africa and
different countries in North and South America. The symptoms encountered after honey poisoning are
vomiting, headache, stomach ache, unconsciousness, delirium, nausea and sight weakness. In general those
poisonous plants are known to the local beekeepers, thus honey, which can contain poisonous substances is
not marketed. To minimise risks of honey born poisoning in countries where plants with poisonous nectar are
growing tourists are advised to buy honey from the market only and not from individual beekeepers.

Clostridium botulinum
There is a health concern for infants regarding the presence of Clostridium (Cl.) botulinum in honey. Since
the presence of this bacterium in natural foods is ubiquitous and honey is a non sterilized packaged food
from natural origin the risk of a low contamination level cannot be excluded. Spores of this bacterium can
survive in honey, but they cannot build toxin. Thus, in the stomach of infants younger than one year the
bacteria spores from honey can survive and theoretically build the toxin, while children older than 12
months can ingest honey without any risk. In some cases, infant botulism has been attributed to ingestion of
honey 67, 200. In Germany one case of infant botulism per year is reported 160. As a result of the reported
infant botulism cases some honey packers (e.g. the British Honey Importers and Packers Association) place
a warning on the honey label that honey should not be given to infants under 12 months of age.
In 2002 a scientific committee of the EU examined the hazard of Cl. botulinum in honey It has concluded
that microbiological examinations of honey are necessary for controlling the spore concentration in honey,
as the incidence of Cl. botulinum is relatively low and sporadic and as such tests will not prevent infant
botulism. Thus, in the EU countries the health authorities have not issued a regulation for placing a warning
label on honey jars92.

HEALTH CLAIMS FOR HONEY

According to the EU Regulation 1924/2006 93 different health claims can be made: The claims are classified
using the Passclaim project classification of the International Life Science Institute (ILSI) 30, wherever
possible In the Passclaim project the claims are classified into the following subject areas:
1. Diet-related cardiovascular disease
2. Bone health and osteoporosis
3. Physical performance and fitness
4. Body weight regulation, insulin sensitivity and diabetes risk
5. Diet-related cancer
6. Mental state and performance
7. Gut health, digestion and immunity

Honey health claims


Quantity and time of honey ingestion
The health enhancing effects in human adults, described in this report were mostly achieved after ingestion
of 50 to 80 g of honey per day.

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74

The health claims of honey which are reported below are valid for intakes of following amounts of honey:
Adults: after ingestion of 50 to 80 g per day by adults,
General (adults or infants): 0.8 g to 1.2 g honey per g human weight
The health effects reported in the different publications reported above were measured mostly after 2 to 3
weeks of daily honey ingestion. Practical apitherapists suggest a daily honey ingestion for 1.5 to 2 months
177, 178
.
The main honey health claims for honey are
Physical performance and fitness
Honey is high carbohydrate food and its ingestion increases performance and fitness
Ingestion of honey increases performance and fitness
Gut health and digestion
Long term ingestion of honey can improve gut and gastroenterological health
Immunity
Long term ingestion of honey can improve the immunological reaction towards infections

Specific nutritional effects


Nutrition of infants
Honey should not be given to infants less than one year old
Honey can be recommended as food for infants older than one year..
Nutrition of Diabetes II patients
There evidence that honey can used as a sweetener by humans with diabetes II. Any honey can be used for
this purpose, the most suitable honey is acacia honey (Robinia pseudoacacia), as it has the lowest GI.

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75

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202. TEJPAL, D; GOYAL, N (2009) Effect of Inulin, Honey and Gum Acacia on Growth of Human Faecal
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Honey in Medicine

SHORT HISTORY OF HONEY IN MEDICINE

Pabasa tombs, 26th Dynasty, 760-656 BC

Preparation of honey medicine from Materia


Medica, Dioscorides, Arab translation 1224

Wound healing was probably the first use of honey for human health. In
the oldest human scriptures from Sumer, dating back about 2000 BC a
prescription for treating wounds states: Grind to a powder river dust and
. (words missing) then knead it in water and honey and let plain oil and
hot cedar oil be spread over it47
According to the Ebers papyrus (1550 BC) honey is included in 147
prescriptions in external applications: Mix honey, red ochre, powdered
alabaster to cure spotted baldness or includes honey after surgery, as
suppository and to reduce inflammation. 47
According to the Smith papyrus (1700 BC) it was used in wound healing:
Thou shouldst bind [the wound] with fresh meat the first day [and] treat
afterwards with grease, honey [and] lint every day until he recovers. 47
In the first compendium of ancient Chinese Medicine Shen Nang,
compiled many years BC, and mentioned in a written form for the first
time around 200 AD there are many prescriptions and medical indications
which contain honey86.
In ancient India ayuruvedic medicine uses honey for many purposes.
According to the Ayruveda classic Ashtanga Hridaya, written about 500
AD honey can be used against many diseases, e.g. healing and cleaning
wounds, against different internal and external infections51
The ancient Greeks considered honey as medicine and believed that if bee
honey is taken regularly human life could be prolonged. Early thinkers
such as Homer, Pythagoras, Ovid, Democritus, Hippocrates and Aristotle
mentioned that people should eat honey to preserve their health and
vigour. Dioscorides, in the first century AD (see picture to the left) used
honey for treating wounds54
Honey was the most useful substance used in old Roman pharmacopoeia.
Pliny writes that it is good for afflictions of the mouth, pneumonia,
pleurisy and snake bites47
The wise Solomon praises the virtues of honey in the old testament. The
Koran says thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and
in (men's) habitations..... there issues from within their bodies a drink of
varying colours, wherein is healing for mankind (Quran 16:68-69).
The ancient Maya civilisations used Melipona (stingless bee) honey in the
treatment of cataracts47
Today the knowledge on the healing virtues of honey and the other bee
product is called apitherapy is compiled in many books or on the Internet
www.apitherapy.com, www.apitherapy.org

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HONEY AND WOUND CARE: AN OVERVIEW


By Keith Cutting
Reprint with permission from Ostomy Wound Management29.

History
Until the first part of the 20th century, honey dressings were part of everyday wound care practice. With the
advent of antibiotics in the 1930s and 1940s, views changed and honey was consigned to items of historical
interest. Misuse of antibiotics, the emergence of resistant bacteria, and increasing interest in therapeutic
honey have provided an opportunity for honey to be re-established as a broad-spectrum, antibacterial agent
that is non-toxic to human tissue.
Despite lack of promotional support from large corporations, interest in the use of honey in wound
management has increased in recent years. However, a clinical profile in wound care commensurate with
other modalities has not been achieved despite offering similar indications of use and an increase in research
activity and clinical reports. It is observed that The therapeutic potential of uncontaminated, pure honey is
grossly underutilized 105
Clinicians need reassurance that any health-related agent is safe and meets its stated therapeutic purpose.
Therefore, it is important to emphasize that although natural in origin, the honey used in wound care should
be of medical-grade standard and not sourced from honey destined for the supermarket shelf. Medical grade
honey is filtered, gamma-irradiated, and produced under carefully controlled standards of hygiene to ensure
that a standardized honey is produced100

Therapeutic benefit of honey in wound care

The therapeutic properties of honey are variable and depend on the type of honey used 59 . Manuka (the
Maori name for the New Zealand tea tree/bush Leptospermum scoparium) or Leptospermum is honey
derived from the tea tree; the former is the more widely used term. In a review of the literature, Moore
showed that Manuka honey has very special healing properties and described it as the best natural
antibiotic in the world.65.
Medical grade Manuka honey is prepared purely for medical use and controlled by a rigorous set of systems
and standards. These exacting standards apply to the leptospermum honey distributed in US (Medihoney,
Derma Sciences, Princeton, NJ). This product is a blend of L. scoparium (Manuka) and L. polygalifolium
know as Jelly Bush.
A systematic review 65 of honey as a wound dressing noting the dearth of good evidence on topical wound
agents contradicts Molans literature review61 of the evidence (17 randomized, controlled trials involving
1,965 participants and five clinical trials involving 97 participants, plus numerous case studies) supports
the use of honey as a wound dressing and underscores clinician failure to recognize that evidence. Molans
research reviews also addressed the range of honeys therapeutic activities63 :

Bioactivity of honey

Suggested Rationale

Prevention of cross-contamination

Viscosity of honey provides a protective barrier

Provides a moist wound healing environment

Osmolarity draws fluid from underlying tissues

Dressings do not adhere to wound surface.


Tissue does not grow into dressings

The viscous nature of honey provides an interface between wound


bed and dressing

Promotes drainage from wound

Osmotic outflow sluices the wound bed

Removes malodor

Bacterial preference for sugar instead of protein (amino acids)


means lactic acid is produced in place of malodorous compounds

Promotes autolytic debridement

Bacterial preference for sugar instead of protein (amino acids)


means lactic acid is produced in place of malodorous compounds

Stimulates healing

Bio-active effect of honey

Anti-inflammatory

Number of inflammatory cells reduced in honey-treated wounds

Managing infection

Antiseptic properties found to be effective against a range of


microbes including multi-resistant strains

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90

Wound bed preparation


Wound bed preparation may be viewed as management of the wound in order to accelerate endogenous
healing 63. The bio-activity of honey aligns closely with the concept of wound bed preparation. The
physiology of healing in acute wounds is a carefully controlled series of events that ensures healing
progresses in a timely fashion. However, in chronic wounds this orderly sequence is disrupted and the repair
process is delayed. If wound bed preparation is to be successful, the impediments to healing must be
recognized and addressed, implying appropriate management of exudate, devitalized tissue, and associated
bioburden. The appropriate application of honey dressings offers a way forward in managing potential
wound-related barriers to healing.

Exudate

A clinical study by Al-Waili and Saloom4 compared honey with topical antiseptics in 50 patients with
postoperative abdominal wound infections; Ahmed et al's 1 non-randomizes study of 60 patients with
chronic surgical or trauma wounds; and Betts and Molans 18 in vivo pilot study reported that honey helps
reduce the amount of wound exudate. This is most likely a consequence of honeys anti-inflammatory
properties. Inflammation increased vessel permeability increases fluid movement into soft tissue,
subsequently increasing surface exudate. A decrease in inflammatory cells has been found (histologically) in
animal models following application of honey in full-thickness burns. Similar findings79 have been reported
in animal studies comparing ampicillin and nitrofuazone in treating infection of full-thickness wounds52, 72.
The anti-inflammatory activity of honey also has been documented in clinical studies of human burn wounds
and in in vitro studies93-95 . The potential consequences of effectively managing inflammation include rapid
reduction of pain, edema, and exudate; additionally, hypertrophic scarring is minimized by avoiding
protracted inflammation that may result in fibrosis64. It follows that reducing inflammation lessens exudate
production and dressing change frequency, which may conserve resources in terms of dressings used, staff
time, and unnecessary disturbance of the patient and the wound bed.
Devitalized tissue
It has been established that dressings that create the type of moist wound environment that honey provides
facilitate the process of autolytic debridement. The osmotic pull of honey draws lymph from the deeper
tissues and constantly bathes the wound bed. Lymph fluid contains proteases that contribute to the debriding
activity of honey. In addition, the constant sluicing of the wound bed is believed to help remove foreign body
(e g, dirt and grit) contamination64 . Molan60 has suggested the most likely explanation for honeys debriding
activity involves the conversion of inactive plasminogen to plasmin, an enzyme that breaks down the fibrin
that tethers slough and eschar to the wound bed. Stephen-Haynes92 who presented the results of three patient
case studies and an additional five patients who benefited from management of wound malodor, attests to the
clinical impact of honey in debridement. Malodor is known to occur in a variety of wounds in conjunction
with slough and necrotic tissue; it is a particular concern when managing fungating lesions. Malodorous
substances such as ammonia and sulphur compounds are produced when bacteria metabolize protein.
Because honey provides bacteria an alternative source of energy (glucose), these noxious compounds are no
longer produced and wound malodor is avoided.

Maceration

Macerated periwound skin can be a problem in some wounds and is often related to the dressing used28. The
osmotic action of honey, previously mentioned, has been shown in previous reviews of the literature to
reduce the risk of maceration honey draws moisture rather than donates it 64. Thus, periwound skin is
protected from overhydration.

Bioburden
Honey has been shown in clinical observations to have the ability to manage wound infection in situations
where conventional antimicrobial (antibiotics/antiseptics) have failed34, 36, 101 . Honey also has been found to
be effective in vitro against a range of multiresistant organisms including methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE), and other multiresistant Gramnegative organisms including Pseudomonas aeruginosa 39 . Other in vitro studies involving different microorganisms also have demonstrated honeys effectiveness against antibiotic-resistant bacteria26, 49. George and
Cutting specifically identified honeys antibacterial activity39. The binding of water can be added to these
antibacterial properties:
The high sugar content/low water activity provides osmotic action
Acidic pH (3.2 to 4.5) inhibits bacterial growth
Glucose oxidase enzyme helps produce hydrogen peroxide

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91

Plant-derived factors (present in some honeys and not specifically identified).


The antibacterial action most likely reaches below the wound surface. Although topical honey manages
superficial bacteria (bactericidal in action rather than bacteriostatic) 26, 97 it also has been shown in vitro to
provide prompt clearance of deep-seated infection and boils with unbroken skin, suggesting that honeys
antibacterial activity may diffuse through the skin to deeper tissues. Cooper et al 26 performed sensitivity
testing of 17 strains of P. aeruginosa isolated from infected burns using two honeys with different types of
antibacterial activity; Wahdan97 compared the antibacterial activity of a sugar solution and honey on 21
types of bacteria and two types of fungi.

Some commercial honey preparations used in wound healing

Medihoney for wound care

Medihoney wound gauze

Antibacterial wound gel

Moistering cream agains


eczemas

Wound-healing creams

Wound dressing with


Medihoney gauze

Biofilms
In recent years, attention has turned to the potential role of biofilms in wound infection. A biofilm may be
described as a bacterial community living within a self- produced extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) matrix.
The EPS protects the bacterial community from antimicrobial and phagocytic onslaught. Lately, in vitro
evidence has indicated that honey is an effective agent for preventing biofilm formation. In an in vitro study
it was found that laboratory-grown Pseudomonal biofilms were disrupted following application of Manuka
honey46. These findings are particularly encouraging when considering the emergence of antimicrobialresistant bacteria. No evidence has yet been presented that bacterial resistance to honey has occurred it is
highly unlikely that bacteria will select for resistance to honey because bacteria rely on sugar as a source of
food.

Cross-contamination
Use of honey dressings may help prevent cross contamination. This is and will remain an important issue in
healthcare. The viscous nature of honey is believed to provide a physical barrier that helps safeguard patients
by preventing cross contamination.

Dressing wounds with honey


All dressings must be used in accordance with the manufacturers instructions. This helps endorse the maxim
do no harm and ensure that the full benefit of the product is realized.
Because of its fluid and viscous nature, honey can be difficult to apply. This is particularly true when profuse
exudate is present, diluting the honey. Experience has shown that use of the appropriate honey vehicle,
including a secondary dressing, can sometimes circumvent this problem:

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92

Honey liquid or gel dispensed from a tube: Applied directly onto wound or onto appropriate dressing
before application
Absorbent alginate dressing with honey: Can be applied to most acute/chronic wounds including
infected or sloughy wounds
Honey in a hydrocolloid-like sheet: Should be selected according to the exudate level of the wound

Allergy
Before honey is applied to a wound, the patient should be asked routinely if he/she is allergic to honey or bee
products, including bee stings. It is advisable not to proceed with a honey-containing dressing if the answer
is affirmative.

Discomfort
Occasionally, some patients report transient stinging on application of honey. The discomfort often
disappears in a short period of time or after the first few applications. Analgesia is required only in those rare
circumstances when pain may persist. In a review paper, Molan5 noted that patient response to honey
applied to open wounds was reported as soothing, pain-relieving, and non-irritating, and demonstrated no
adverse effects61

Conclusion
The resurgence of interest in honey as a modern wound dressing offers opportunities for both patients and
clinicians. Recent additions to the honey product range of dressings indicate commercial confidence in the
future of therapeutic honey. The wheel has turned full circle and honey is being re-established as a valuable
agent in modern wound care management. Its advantages providing a moist environment, debriding,
deodorizing, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory capabilities are factors that have been shown to facilitate
healing. These advantages have been experienced by patients and clinicians in Europe and Australia and are
now available to patients in North America. Use of any medical device must be based on clinical justification
and available evidence about product safety and effectiveness. Continued research is needed to increase our
understanding about the role of honey in a variety of wounds and its effect on healing compared to other
treatment modalities.

HONEY FOR WOUND HEALING UNDER HOME CONDITIONS


Besides scientifically based use of honey in wound care in hospitals (see next section), honey can also be
used under home conditions, as it was used for many centuries. Although sterilised honey is only used in
hospitals, raw honey can also be used under home conditions without any risk, as no adverse effects have
been reported. Indeed, Prof. Descotte lectured in several Apitherapy conferences that his team has used raw
honey routinely for wound care in hundreds of cases in the hospital of Limoge, France32

Honey applied in wound healing in a Swiss hospital


Wound at the treatment beginning
A painful and infected wound on the left leg. The fracture was
stabilised with plates and screws. After several operations the
blood circulation of the leg was diminished and sores were built
because of the prolonged bed lying.
The wound treatment with conventional means was not successful.
The patient agreed to make a honey treatment.
After only 5 days of treatment the wound condition was
significantly improved. New tissues were built and the bacterial
inflammation has diminished significantly

After two months the wound was completely closed. The cicatrise
is almost invisible and he skin is healthy, tender and elastic at the
same time.
photos and comment by Kathrin Rieder, Switzerland, application see below.
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93

Application of honey for wound healing under home conditions, after20


It is not necessary to disinfect wound because honey will disinfect it
1. Apply honey as much honey on a gauze or clean cotton cloth as it is necessary to cover wound fully.
Gauze and cloth need not be sterile.
2. Abscesses, cavity or deep wounds need more honey to adequately penetrate deep into the wound tissues.
The wound bed should be filled with honey before applying the honey dressing pad.
3. Change bandage once a day. When doing it, wound need not be cleaned from honey. Honey is
dissolved in the wound or sticks to the gauze.
4. When changing the bandage remove hornification at the border of the wound with a pincette. This can be
done under running water or with a soft tooth brush. Cell debris, which were not removed will not
disturb healing process.
5. After cleaning, wound should be padded with as much gauze as is needed for drawing the wound liquid.
6. If wound is infected by yeast or it heals badly, a mixture of honey-betadine 1:1 can be used.

CANCER
Most of the cancer research has been done in animal models (see chapter 7). The use of honey in clinical
cancer treatments has been reviewed in 2008 by Bardy16 and in 2009 by Orsolic71

Urogenital carcinoms
The first reported use of honey in oncology patients was the topical application of
household honey to 12 patients with wound breakdown following radical excision
of vulval carcinoma. Clearance of infection was observed within 3-6 days, and
improved healing rates were recorded23. In a report from the Russian Academy of
Medical Science, patients with uterine cancer undergoing radiotherapy and treated
with honey laminolact showed a significant decrease in the severity of radiationinduced intestinal morbidity90

Honey treatment for prevention of oral mucositis


This topic has been reviewed in 2008 by Bardy. It has been pointed out that honey may be used for
radiation-induced mucositis, radiotherapy-induced skin reactions, hand and foot skin reactions in
chemotherapy patients and for oral cavity and external surgical wounds16 .
Patients with head and neck cancer treated with radiation therapy were given honey. There was a significant
reduction in the symptomatic grade 3/4 mucositis among honey-treated patients compared to controls; i.e. 20
versus 75%. The compliance of honey-treated group of patients was better than controls. Fifty-five percent
of patients treated with topical honey showed no change or a positive gain in body weight compared to 25%
in the control arm, the majority of whom lost weight19.
Febrile neutropenia is a serious side effect of chemotherapy. Honey was administered to chemotherapy
patients with neutropenia and was found that it reduced the need for colony-stimulating factors104 .

Pediatric oncology
In paediatric oncology patients, the immune system is often suppressed by cytotoxic antineoplastic agents or
radiation therapy and wound healing is impaired. In the Department of Paediatric Oncology at the Childrens
Hospital in the University of Bonn, Medihoney has become a readily accepted treatment with a positive
impact on patient and parent satisfaction87.

Honey and chemotherapeutic drugs in combined supportive therapy


This use of honey has been reviewed81. Honey has been used to support chemotherapeutic action and reduce
its side effects in myelosuppression, neutropenia etc.
The antitumor activity of honey can be explained by the antibacterial, antiinflammatory,
immunodmodulating, antioxidant and probiotic effects of honey.

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94

HONEY AGAINST EYE DISEASES


Since ancient times honey has been used for the treatment of eye disorders. This topic is reviewed by Molan,
2001, see there the original references63 : Aristotle has written in his Historia Animalium that honey is good
as a salve for sore eyes. It has also been used by traditional Indian medicine and in Mali. In the Rangarya
Medical College of India it has been used to treat corneal eye ulcers, treatments of plepharitis (inflammation
of he eye-lids) catarrhal conjunctivitis and keratitits. Honey is also successful in various ailments of the
cornea. The use of honey in Russia has been reviewed: undiluted or 20-50 % water solutions being being
applied to the eye under the lower eye lid against chemical and thermal burns of the eye, conjunctivitis and
infections of the cornea. The healing effect of honey is explained by its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and
antifungal actions of honey.
There are reports on the successful treatment by honey of keratitits, conjunctivitis and blepharitis in Egypt37
Another explanation of the healing effect of honey in eye diseases is a irritation effect, triggering healing
processes of the eye19. Stingless bee honey has been traditionally used by the Mayas against cataract108.

HONEY IN GASTROENTEROLOGY
According to the Muslim holy book The Holy Hadith, dating back to the 8 th century
AD the prophet Mohamed recommended honey against diarrhoea5. Also, the Roman
physician Celsus (ca. 25 AD) used honey as a cure for diarrhoea24 . The use of honey for
prevention and treatments of gastro-intestinal disorders such as peptic ulcers, gastritis,
gastroenteritis has been reported in various books and publications from Eastern Europe50,
55, 58, 89
and from Arab countries83
Ulcers and Gastritis
Honey is a potent inhibitor of the causing agent of peptic ulcers and gastritis,
Helicobacter pylori 2, 13, 56, 73 In rats honey acted against experimentally induced gastric
ulcers10, 12, 40, 48.
Honey is not involved on prostaglandin production, but has a stimulatory effect on the
sensory nerves in the stomach that respond to capsaicin3, 8. As a second mechanism of action has been
postulated that this effect is due to the antioxidant properties of honey. Honey intake in rats prevented
indomethacin-induced gastric lesions in rats by reducing the ulcer index, microvascular permeability and
myeloperoxidase activity of the stomach68 . In addition, honey has been found to maintain the level of nonprotein sulfhydryl compounds (e.g. glutathione) in gastric tissue subjected to factors inducing ulceration3, 8,
11
. A third mechanism of the gastroprotective effect of honey has been suggested by Beretta et al. It involves
the salivary reduction of nitrate (NO3-) to nitrite (NO2-) and the intragastric formation of nitric oxide (NO),
the latter involved in the preservation of the gastric mucosa capillaries and in boosting mucous production.
Honeys contained NO2 and NO3, the concentration in honeydew honeys being higher than that of blossom
honeys17
Ingestion of dandelion honey was shown to reduce gastric juice acidity by 56%15. The gastric emptying of
saccharides after ingestion of honey was slower than that of a mixture of glucose and fructose78
The effect of honey under clinical condition on more than 40 gastric ulcer patients was studied in a Russian
hospital. Control treatments were with water. It was found that ingestion of 120 ml of 33 % honey solution
by gastric ulcer patiens improves the micro capillary blood circulation, which can beneficially influence the
gastric ulcers. Ingestion of 120 ml of 33 % honey warm honey solution decreases the acidity of the gastric
juice, while the ingestion of the same amount and concentration of a cold honey solution increased the
acidity of the gastric juice. The sleep of the gastric ulcer patients was also improved by ingestion of 50 g
honey before sleep. In order to decrease gastric juice acidity the author recommends the intake of warm
honey solution 40 to 60 minutes before eating. The function of the gall bladder is improved by the ingestion
of cool solution of 100 ml 50 % honey (13-15 0C ) The author concludes that ingestion of warm honey ev. in
combination with propolis ingestion, is a good way to treat gastric ulcers33.
There are reports on healing of patients of suffering from gastritis, duodenitis and duodenal ulcers by intake
of 30 ml of honey83.
A clinical study of honey treatment in infantile gastroenteritis was reported by Haffejee and Moosa (27).
They found that by replacing the glucose (111 mmol/l) in the standard electrolyte-containing oral

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rehydration solution recommended by the World Health Organisation/UNICEF as well as the solution of
electrolyte composition 48 mmol/ l sodium, 28 mmol/l potassium, 76 mmol/l chloride ions, with 50 ml/l
honey (29), the mean recovery times of patients (aged 8 days to 11 years) were significantly reduced. Honey
was found to shorten the duration of diarrhoea in patients with bacterial gastroenteritis caused by organisms
such as Salmonella, Shigella and E. coli. They recommended that honey was a safe substitute for glucose as
long as it provided 111 mmol/l each of glucose and fructose. The high sugar content of honey means that it
could be used to promote sodium and water absorption from the bowel42 .
Clinical and animal studies have shown that honey reduces the secretion of gastric acid. Additionally, gastric
ulcers have been successfully treated by the use of honey as a dietary supplement. An 80% recovery rate of
600 gastric ulcer patients treated with oral administration of honey has been reported. Radiological
examination showed that ulcers disappeared in 59% of patients receiving honey48.
Animal experiments have shown that the administration of a honey solution via a tube in the stomach of
rabbits prior to them being administered with 0.5 g ethanol per kg body weight, accelerated alcoholic
oxidation. Honey administered subcutaneously or orally before oral administration of ethanol affords
protection against gastric damage and reverses changes in pH induced by ethanol9
A controlled clinical trial demonstrated the use of fructose in the treatment of acute alcoholic intoxication. A
small but significant increase occurred in the rate of fall of blood-ethanol levels and it was concluded that
fructose may be beneficial in shortening the duration of alcoholic intoxication22.
In certain cases, consumption of relatively large amounts of honey (50 to 100 g) can lead to a mild laxative
effect in individual with insufficient absorption of honey fructose53 . Fructose is less readily absorbed in the
intestinal tract than fructose together with glucose82. The mild laxative properties of honey are used for the
treatment of constipation in Eastern Europe, China and the Near East. However one should not give honey
against constipation of infants younger than 1 year old because of the children botulism risk.
Supplementation of honey in concentration of 2, 4, 6 and 8 g/100 g to protein fed to rats improved the
protein and lipid digestibility88.
The anti gastric ulcer and anti-gastritis effect of honey can be explained by its antibacterial and antiinflammatory action, as well as with its inhibitory effect on the acidity of the gastric juice. The positive
effect of honey on nutrition function is also due to its prebiotic effect.

CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH
The effects of ingestion of 75 g of natural honey by humans
compared to the same amount of artificial honey (fructose plus
glucose) or glucose on plasma glucose, plasma insulin,
cholesterol, triglycerides (TG), blood lipids, C-reactive proteins
and homocysteine, most of them being risk factors for
cardiovascular diseases were studied in humans. Elevation of
insulin and C-reactive protein was significantly higher after
dextrose than after honey.
Dextrose reduced cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C). Artificial honey slightly
decreased cholesterol and LDL-C and elevated TG. Honey reduced cholesterol, LDL-C, and TG and slightly
elevated high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C). In patients with hyperlipidemia, artificial honey
increased LDL-C, while honey decreased LDL-C6.
A similar study has been recently carried out in normal and overweight persons carrying a higher risk for a
cardiovascular disease. These patients were given 70 g honey for 30 days. Results showed that honey caused
a mild reduction in body weight (1.3%) and body fat (1.1%). Honey reduced total cholesterol (3%), LDL-C
(5.8), triacylglycerole (11%), FBG (4.2%), and CRP (3.2%), and increased HDL-C (3.3%) in subjects with
normal values, while in patients with elevated variables, honey caused reduction in total cholesterol by
3.3%, LDL-C by 4.3%, triacylglycerole by 19%, and CRP by 3.3% (p < 0.05). The conclusion of the authors
is that consumption of natural honey reduces cardiovascular risk factors, particularly in subjects with
elevated risk factors, and it does not increase body weight in overweight or obese subjects102
The above cited studies suggest small effects of honey on arteriosclerosis risk factors such as cholesterol,
LDL-c and TG, the first studies being carried out with only 9 patients.

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96

In a study with 30 persons and 30 controls it was shown that no significant decrease of cholesterol HDL and
TG was encountered after ingestion of 75 g honey daily for a period of 14 days. While there were no effects
in men, in women HDL values were increased in the controls having ingested sucrose, while in the honey
group no increase was encountered, pointing out that honey has a positive effects in women67
The effect of honey intake on the blood risk factors was tested in diabetes 2 patients (controls with no
intake). Body weight, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and triglyceride decreased, while
and high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol ratio increased significantly14 .
Honey can contain nitric oxide (NO) metabolites which are known cardiovascular disease risk indicators.
Increased levels of nitric oxides in honey could have a protecting function in cardiovascular diseases. Total
nitrite concentration in different biological fluids from humans, including saliva, plasma, and urine was
measured after ingestion by humans of 80 g of honey. Salivary, plasma and urinary NO metabolites
concentrations showed a tendency to increase 11, 13. Different honey types contained various concentrations
of NO metabolites, darker or fresh honeys containing more NO metabolites than light or stored honey. After
heating, NO metabolites decreased in all the kinds of honey 11, 13.

The cardiovascular effects of honey can be explained by its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
effects.

HONEY AGAINST COUGH


Small doses of honey, 1 to 2 tablespoons intake has been found to influence favourably cough30, 45, 98, 99
and also sleep99 of children.
The dose of honey used was tsp for 2-5 year olds, 1 teaspoon for the 6 to 11 year-olds and 2 tsp for 12 to
18 year-olds. Buckwheat honey was chosen in this study because of its high antioxidant properties. The
same study shows that honey is more effective than a chemical anti cough syrup74

HONEY IMPROVES SLEEP


It has been claimed for a long time that honey influences beneficially human sleep, but there were no
experiments to prove the claims.
Ingestion of one to two table spoons of buckwheat honey (10-20 g) by children of 6 to 18 years (6-11 years
old- one table spoon, 12-18 yeas old 2 table spoons) improved also the sleep of coughing children74, 99.
According to a theoretical model for the influence of honey on sleep honey stabilizes blood sugar levels and
contributes to the release of melatonin, the hormone required for recovery and rebuilding of body tissues
during rest57

THE EXPERIENCE IN RUSSIA


Ludyansky, a chief doctor in a big Russian hospital, with life-long practice in apitherapy, has summarised
the apitherapy knowledge in his monograph Apitherapia (in Russian)55
Ludyanski summarises the medical uses of honey in his hospital in the following table:
Treated disease
Alopecia
Geriatry
Impotency
Inflammation of the vagina
Neurasthenia
Pediatrics
Prostatitis
Radicultis
Stomatology

Very good and good improvement


11
59
21
21
60
47
24
47
43

No improvement
5
6
5
12
5
15
16

Influenza and common cold


The Ukranian doctors Frolov and Peresadin reported on a unique long term honey intake experiment. Frolov
is the chair of the department of infectious diseases in the medical university of Luganska. All members of

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97

the department took 3 times a day, a total of 40-45 g of honey added to lukewarm tea. In the whole
experiment 26 people took part in this unique experiment (n and number of years): n 5 for 20 y; n 6 for 15 y;
n 8 for 10 y; n 5 for 5 to 10 y. During the whole experiment no other prophylactic was used. During the last
8 years of the experiment the department was in close contact with 40-60 patients with influenza and
inflammation of the upper respiratory organs or with other infectious diseases like virus hepatitis, dysentery
and even cholera. During the 20 year duration of the experiment no department member had any of the
described diseases. In the immunological blood test it was found that the skin and the blood had an increased
bactericidal activity, combined with very low microbial counts on the skin, while there were no pathogens in
the whole area of the upper respiratory organs. And there was a control group to this experiment: a medical
department, which was in close proximity of Frolovs test group, which had influenza or sore throat 3 to 4
times a year. This shows that a long term honey intake increases the anti-infectious immunity38.

OTHER HEALTH ENHANCING EFFECTS


Hay fever
Another controversial possible application of honey is its use for preventing hay fever. Beekeepers claim
that eating honey in the pre-vegetation season (i.e. during winter) will prevent or weaken hay fever
symptoms. A report by Croft presented evidence that daily ingestion during winter time of 10-20 g of honey
resulted in improvements of hay fever symptoms in 16 out of 21 patients27. Mnstedt and Kalder found a
positive effect of honey ingestion by means of questionnaire filled out by 29 beekeepers66.
A 2002 clinical trial did not confirm the positive effects of honey ingestions, but honey was taken during the
hay fever season and not before it81.
As hay fever is increasing in developed countries this issue should be faced with more clinical trials, carried
out in a correct way. More research is necessary to clarify this possible effect of honey.

Infertility
In a preliminary announcement at the 2nd International Conference on the Medicinal Use of Honey in 2010
there is a preliminary announcement that intracervical injection of honey in women with chronic
endocervitis was of positive therapeutic value both in terms of clinical cure and fertility enhancement1. At
the same conference it was reported that honey has positive effect on the mechanical properties of the fetal
membranes, may be through collagen promoting action2.

Against alcohol abuse


Positive effects of honey on ethanol intoxication such as disappearance in blood increase and of ethanol
elimination rate has also been confirmed in studies with humans69, 70.
Ingestion of both honey (2 g/kg body weight) and fructose, prevented the ethanol-induced transformation of
erythrocytes of mice103

Hepatitis
A positive effect of honey on hepatitis A patients was found after ingestion of clover and rape honey,
causing a decrease of alanine aminotranferase activity (by 9 to 13 times) and of bilirubin production by 2.1
to 2.6 times15 .

Anaemia
Remy Chauvin reviews different early works carrreid out by Theobald et al. and Frauenfelder and Errerich in
Germany, Perez in Spain and Johnsen in Sutralia, carried out on 4-8 old infants. The dose given was one tea
to one soup spoon in warm milk per day. The increase of blood haemoglobin was seen after one week of
intake 25
These clinical results are confirmed by experiments by Haydak et al. with rats, placed on a diet with milk and
poor in iron. Only dark honeys, e.g. calluna, were capable of bringing blood haemoglobin values back to
normal, while light honeys failed to do so44

Influenza and common cold


An Iranian study claims that intake of 50 g of honey daily reduces the length of the common cold by two
days 80.

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98

ORAL HEALTH

in the manufacture of candy62.

There is much debate whether honey is harmful to teeth. Some reports show a
cariogenic effect of honey21, 85, while others claim that the effect of honey is
less cariogenic effect that sucrose31 38. Due to its antibacterial activity honey
ingestion inhibits the growth of bacteria, that cause caries62, 91 and might have
a carioprotective effect35, 84. It was also shown that Manuca honey, a very
potent antimicrobial honey, has a positive effect against dental plaque
development and gingivitis and thus can be used in the place of refined sugar

According to electron microscopic studies ingestion of honey does not cause erosion of tooth enamel as
observed after drinking of fruit juice (pH 3.5). Ten minutes after consumption of fruit juice tooth erosion
was seen, while 30 minutes after honey ingestion the erosion was only very weak. This effect can be
explained only partially by the calcium, phosphorous and fluoride levels of honey, other colloidal honey
components have to be also responsible41.
Summarising the different findings, it can be concluded that honey is probably not as cariogenic as other
sugars and in some cases can be also carioprotective, especially when strong antibacterial honey is
ingested. However, for safety reasons, after consumption of honey it is advised to clean the teeth.

HONEY FOR DIFFERENT EXTERNAL APPLICATIONS


Besides the application in wounds and burns honey has also other external applications:
Against virus action on lips and genitals 7:
Apply honey on gauze auf critical point and change once a day

Against boils and furuncles


Mix liquid honey and flour 1:1, add a little water and brush with it affected area. Cover with gauze and
leave it overnight.

Against muscle cramps


Cover affected area with honey, cover with gauze or cloth and fix it with adhesive plaster. Ev. cover with a
warm wool cloth. Leave at least 2 hours.

Against bruises and contusions


Mix honey and olive oil 1:1 and cover with mixture affected area. Cover with gauze and leave for 4-6 hours.

Honey massage
Honey massage was developed in Tibet and Russia and is
extensively described elsewhere43, 96
Both liquid and crystalline honeys can be used.
1-2 tea spoons of liquid honey are applied on the back. Massagist
puts hands puts hands onto this area and unglues the palms. Easy
at first, "ungluing" the hands becomes more difficult with every
move because the tension force increases. Massage lasts until the
palms no longer stick to the massaged area, and the honey
disappears from it. The actual duration depends on the type and
quality of honey. Generally, honey massage lasts from 30 minutes.

Honey in Cosmetics
Since old times honey was used in cosmetics. Queen Cleopatra took a bath of honey and milk for her beauty.
Today honey is also contained in many cosmetic products. Generally, honey cosmetics is suitable for all skin
types. Honey is hygrscopic, antibacterial and fungicide, and its ingredients nurture the skin. It is mildly
acetic and contributes to strengthening the upper acetic protective skin layer (pH of the skin is 5.5).

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99

Honey cosmetic products

Shampoo, Hairbalm and purifying lotion


with honey

A hand cream and sun cream with honey

Mask is the best form that complies with the consistency of honey. It nourishes the skin and keeps it
moisturized. Regular use of them keeps skin juvenile and retards wrinkle formation. To mix the ingredients
you can use mixer. They are left for about an hour, then removed using a gauze and warm water and then
washed.

Simple recipes for honey cosmetics taken from different Internet sources
Face Masks
Cleopatra mask
Honey 1 teaspoonful
Milk 1 tablespoonful
Egg white of 1 egg
Egg yolk mask
Honey 1 teaspoonful
Glycerin 1 teaspoonful
Egg yolk of 1 egg
Fairness Mask
Honey 10 g
Distilled water 155 ml + alcohol 70% 30 ml
Borax 4 g
Bergamot oil 3 drops + orange oil 2drops
Hand Care
Emulsion for hands
Honey 2 teaspoonful
Almond oil 1 teaspoonful
Perfume few drops
Massage your hands, leave for a while and wash if
you need.

Honey mask
Place a cloth in warm water and apply to your face to
open the pores. Smear on honey, and leave on for 15
to 30 minutes. Rinse off with warm water, then use
cold water to close the pores.
Use once a week.
Egg white mask
Honey 1 teaspoonful
Glycerin 1 teaspoonful
Egg White of 1 egg
Quick mask
Honey 100 g
Alcohol 25 ml
Water 25 ml
Paste for hands
Honey 10 g
Wheat flour 6 g
Water 4 g
Massage your hands

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100

Honey Bath
Add 200-250 g of
honey to the bathing
water.
If used once in a while
(e.g. every 2 weeks), it
will keep on a good
turger of the cells and
nourishes the skin.

1/2 cup sea salt


2 tablespoons baking soda
1 cup boiling water
1 cup honey
2 cups milk
10 drops of vanilla oil
dissolve sea salt and baking soda in bathwater,
dissolve honey in boiling water and add milk, add
milk-honey mixture and vanilla oil to bathwater, swirl
water to blend all ingredients

Cracked Lips
Honey 10 g
Lemon juice 10 g
To be used concomitantly with lip moisturizer
containing Panthenol.

SPECIFIC HEALTH EFFECTS OF UNIFLORAL HONEYS


Due to different proportions of the possible sources, nectar and/or
honeydew coming from a great variety of plants, no honey is
completely the same as another one. This variability could be a
handicap, given the market requirement for a consistent product,
but when properly managed, it also could represent an opportunity
for enhancing honey by offering to the consumer a number of
typical products with special characteristics, according to the
particular botanical origin. Indeed, unifloral honeys are regarded as a more valuable class of honey, and
botanical denominations are widely employed on the European market, often achieving higher prices than
honey blends. Unifloral honeys have higher prices than blend honeys. In countries like France, Italy and
Spain 30 to 50 % of the marketed honey is unifloral. In non-European countries, with the exception of the
Manuka New Zealand honey, unifloral honeys have a smaller importance.
Information on European honeys is compiled in the special Apidologie Issue 35 from 2004. In Europe there
are more than 100 plant species that can give origin to unifloral honey, most of them having only a local
importance75-77
Most biological and clinical studies reviewed above have been made with undetermined types of honeys and
there are very few studies where comparisons have been done with different unifloral honeys. Here the
fields will be reviewed where such studies have been carried out.

Unifloral honey in folk medicine


Unifloral honeys are used in folk medicine for different purposes. The
applications given in the table below remain to be confirmed by experimental
science. Indeed, in most scientifically conducted clinical studies the botanical
origin of the honey was not determined. On the other hand, the antibacterial
and the antioxidant activity of honey depends strongly on the botanical origin.
Health enhancing effects of different uniflroal honey have been claimed in
different practical apitherapy books, e.g. 32, 89, 100. The table below has been
compiled from them. At present there is no scientific explanation of many of the claimed effects.

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101

Unifloral honey in practical apitherapy after20


Honey type
Acacia,
liquid and mild;
Buckwheat
dark and strong
Eucalyptus
dark and strong
Calluna
dark and strong
Chestnut
dark and strong
Clover
light und mild
Lavendel
aromatic
Linden
strong, aromatic
Manuka
Dark and strong
Dandelion
aromatic
Citrus
light and mild
Rape
mild
Rosmarine
mild
Sunflower
mild
Fir, honeydew
dark and strong
Thyme
dark and strong

Applications
Sweetener for people with Diabetis Type II. Improved digestions. Applied at
diseases of stomach, intestines, liver and kidney
High antioxidant activity, improves digestions, to be taken by pregnant women
and when nursing
Against infections and diseases of respiratory organs and urinary passages.
Increases immunity
High antioxidant activity. Invigorating at fagigue and convalesence; against
problems with kidney urinary bladder
Improves blood circulation; against anemia and infactions of kidney urinary
bladder
sedative
Treatment of wounds, burns, insect stings, infections or respiritory organs and
depressions
Diaphoretic, diuretic, palliative, apetising; against cold, flu, cough, sinusitis,
headache, sleeplessness and anxiety.
High antibacterial activity, against infections and for wound healing
Hemo-protective, against gastric, intestine, liver, kidney and gall bladder diseases
Against indigestion and sleeplessness
Sedative, relaxing
Hemo-protective; against gastric, intestine, liver diseases
spasmolytic in asthma cases, gastric, intestine colic
High antioxidant activity. Against infections of respiritory organs
Against infections of respiratory organs; wound treatment

HOW TO EXPLAIN THE USE OF HONEY IN MEDICINE


Therapeutic and health enhancing use
Therapy of digestive diseases like peptic ulcers and
gastritis
Against children diarrhoea

Biological rationale

Improvement of gut microbial health and of digestion

Prebiotic effect

Improvement of immune reaction of the body

Immunoactivating effect

Regular intake improves cardiovascular health

Lowering of blood risk factors and specific heart


conditions as extracystoles, arrhythmia and tachicardia

Long term ingestion of honey can reduce the risk of human


cancer
Positive glycemic nutritional effect.
Can be used as a sweetener of people with diabetes type II
and also probably type I

Anticancerogenic effects

Use for the treatment of radiation-induced mucositis

Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects

Positive effect of honey ingestion on hepatitis A patients

Anti-inflammatory effect
Contact soothing effect, sweet substances, as a sweetener
honey causes reflex salivation and increases airway
secretions which may lubricate the airway and remove the
trigger that causes a dry, nonproductive cough.

Improvement of cough in children

Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects


Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects

Some honeys have a low glycemic index: e.g. acacia


honey. Other fructose rich honeys such as thyme,
chestnut, heather and tupelo are good alternatives.

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102

EVENTUAL HEALTH HAZARDS


See Chapter 8, Honey as nutrient and functional food.

QUANTITY AND TIME OF HONEY INGESTION


The health enhancing effects in human adults, described in this report were mostly achieved after ingestion
of 50 to 80 g of honey per day.
The health claims of honey which are reported below are valid for intakes of following amounts of honey:
Adults: after ingestion of 50 to 80 g per day by adults,
General (adults or infants): 0.8 g to 1.2 g honey per g human weight
The duration of honey ingestion for increase of physical performance and fitness
is very fast, and takes place already 1 to 4 hours after intake.
The health effects reported in the different publications reported above were measured mostly after 2 to 3
weeks of daily honey ingestion. Practical apitherapists suggest for health enhancing effects a daily honey
ingestion for 1.5 to 2 months 65, 89.
The normal daily allowance for carbohydrate sweeteners is 25 grams. Considering that the recommended
amount of honey is quite high, intake of other sweeteners should be avoided. A normal intake of about 20-25
g per day will rather have a long term health enhancing effect.

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Chapter 2: Pollen

Bee on Thyme, Savory and Rosemary

Wild Thyme and Sav'ry set around their cell


Sweet to the Taste and fragrant to the smell
Set rows of Rosemary with flow'ring Stem,
and let the purple Vi'lets drink the Stream
Virgil, "Georgica", 20 BC

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109

Pollen: Collection, Harvest, Composition, Quality


The old Egyptians describe it as "a life-giving dust." In ancient Greece the pollen pellets, carried on the
bees legs were considered to be made of wax. Aristotle in his Historia animalism observes, that they
resemble wax in hardness but are in reality sandarace or bee-bread. Later it was called farina.The name bee
bread persisted until many centuries. Pollen (a Latin word for fine flour or dust) was used for the first time
by John Ray in Historia plantarum (1686). The first works on the mechanism of pollen foraging were carried
out by Meehan in 1873.
By determining pollen in soil sediments information on the vegetation history of the earth is gathered. The
importance of pollen for the determination of honey origin was realized at the beginning of the 20th century.

POLLEN AND POLLINATION


The pollen contains the plant's male reproductive organs or gametophytes. They are situated in he anthers of
the higher flowering plants. The pollen is transferred onto the stigma of a flower, a process called
pollination. This transfer is carried either by the wind, by or by insects Each pollen grain carries a variety of
nutrients and upon arrival at the stigma it divides into several cells and grows a tube through the often very
long stigma of the flower. Growth continues to the embryo sac in the ovary of the flower, inside which one
egg cell will fuse with a sperm cell from the pollen and complete the fertilization. There are two types of
flowers: naked and covered. The open flowers are pollinated by wind, the covered ones, mostly by insects.
The pollination by insects came into being some 100 millions years ago. Pollen are well preserved in the
earth. The science, by which pollen are
studied in order to gain knowledge about
the vegetation on earth in called
paleopalynology.
Bees pollinate around 40 000 plant species.
The importance of bee pollination for
ecology and agriculture is immense. The
economic importance for the USA in 1973
was estimated to be the 143 fold of the
honey harvest, that is 18.9 billions $ 26
In the USA in other countries beekeepers
are paid by the peasants for pollination
services. The importance of bees for the
pollination and multiplication of wild plants is also immense, but cannot be quantified in a money value.

ANATOMY AND POLLINATON


Pollen itself is not the male gamete, but each pollen grain
contains vegetative (non-reproductive) cells (only a single cell
in most flowering plants but several in other seed plants) and a
generative (reproductive) cell containing two nuclei: a tube
nucleus (that produces the pollen tube) and a generative nucleus
(that divides to form the two sperm cells). The group of cells is
surrounded by a cellulose-rich cell wall called the intine, and a
resistant outer wall composed largely of sporopollenin called
the exine.

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110

The transfer of pollen grains to the female reproductive


structure (pistil in angiosperms) is called pollination. This
transfer can be mediated by the wind, in which case the plant is
described as anemophilous (literally wind-loving).
Entomophilous (literally insect-loving) plants produce pollen
that is relatively heavy, sticky and protein-rich, for dispersal by
insect pollinators attracted to their flowers. Bees and many
insects and some mites are specialized to feed on pollen, and
are called palynivores.

HOW AND WHICH POLLEN ARE GATHERED BY THE BEES?


How the bees collect pollen
When visiting flowers blossom bees touch the stamen and its body is covered with pollen dust. The honey
bee uses hind legs this plate to compress the pollen into the pollen basket. The bee moistens the pollen with
secretions from it's mouth which helps the pollen cling together and to the basket hairs. This secretions
contains different enzymes, e.g. amylase and catalase. A pollen load contains up to 10% nectar, which is
necessary for packing. To collect a load of pollen, on the average about 8 mg, a bee has to visit about 200
different flowers. Mostly, a load contains pollen from the same flower. Approximately 10 trips a day are
made for pollen by a worker. In good weather 50,000 to pollen loads were brought into the hive daily. In the
hive, pollen is removed from the rear legs by a spike on the mid legs and is placed in cells. Often the head is
used to pack the pollen in cells. Honey is added to maintain pollen quality, which is called beebread.
While honey is the energy source of the bee colony, pollen, is the bees main source of the other important
nutrients: proteins, minerals, fats and other substances. Consequently, an adequate pollen supply will be
essential to ensure the long-term survival of a colony and to maintain its productivity.
Honey bee foragers mix freshly collected pollen with some nectar before packing it into their corbiculae. In
the hive, the workers add more nectar and glandular secretions to the pollen, which then undergoes lactic
acid fermentation.
Pollen is a very important factor for the
development of the colony, in the first place for
producing brood. It supplies the necessary food:
proteins, lipids and minerals. It seems that under
normal conditions bees will gather enough pollen
for a sufficient colony development. Thus there is
no need for a pollen supplement.
See further information at 16, 17

Which pollen types are gathered by the bees?


Basic studies on pollen collection by bees were carried out in the Swiss Bee Research Centre by Wille and
collaborators during the 1980s. These studies have been recently reviewed by Keller et al. 16, 17 and are
summarised here: Different investigations show that the bulk of the pollen generally came from few plant
species.. The five most common pollen sources yielded on average more than 60% of the total collected
pollen. Following conclusions are based on this study, carried out in different locations of Switzerland ,in
the most important pollen sources were plants occurring at high densities either naturally or due to
cultivation: white and red clover (Trifolium repens and pratense), corn (Zea mays), rape (Brassica napus)
and sunflower (Helianthus sp.). Other plants such as plantain (Plantago sp.), dandelion (Taraxacum
officinale) and mustard (Sinapis arvensis) are generally abundant in meadows and pastures 7. A third group
of important pollen sources included different tree species such as maple (Acer sp.), willow (Salix sp.), stone
fruit (Prunus sp.) and pome (Pyrus sp.). Of course, this list is strongly influenced by the overrepresentation
of study sites from the Swiss midland, and in other sites many other plant species may be important. Thus,
pollen from heather (Calluna vulgaris), sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) and scotch broom (Cytisus
scoparius) was quite dominant in samples from Intragna in southern Switzerland (black bars in fig. 1), but

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111

was not found at other localities. In two other sites lying the subalpine region of Switzerland at an elevation
of 1250 and 1560 m above sea level respectively dominant plants were: crocus (Crocus sp.) and sedges
(Carex sp.), besides Rhinanthus sp. and Euphrasia sp., found exclusively in one of the locations In another
study the composition of bee-collected pollen was compared with the composition of the surrounding flora
and was found that the bulk of the pollen indeed came from common plants. However, it is likely that the
pollen composition does not simply reflect the proportions of different flowers in the surroundings but is, at
least to some extent, determined by the preferences of the bees.
At the beginning of the vegetation period, a uniform pattern was observed across most available studies with
a very pronounced dominance of different tree species as the most popular pollen sources. These included
maple (Acer sp.), ash (Fraxinus sp.) different fruit trees (Prunus sp. and Pyrus sp.), poplar (Populus sp.),
oak (Quercus sp.), willow (Salix sp.) and elm (Ulmus sp.). At some Swiss locations, dandelion (Taraxacum
officinale) was also an important pollen source in spring. In May and June, the spectrum of pollen types
became much more diverse and generalisations across all study sites were hardly possible. In Ireland and
England, some shrub species such as hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and elder (Sambucus sp.) were
important pollen sources whereas rape (Brassica napus) was frequently collected at several of the Swiss
locations. In midsummer and early fall, pollen from red and white clover (Trifolium pratense and repens),
corn (Zea mays) and plantain (Plantago sp.) dominated the samples from all locations from the Swiss
midland. In southern Switzerland, European chestnut (Castanea sativa) and heather (Calluna vulgaris)
were the dominant pollen sources at this time of the year. In Ireland, on the other hand, large amounts of
pollen were collected from blackberry (Rubus sp.) and meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria). Towards the end
of September, ivy (Hedera helix) became the dominant pollen source at several locations.
60
50

number

40
30
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pollen types

Pollen types gathered in Switzerland in the 1980s: number of studies in which a given plant taxon
ranked among the five most common pollen sources after 16, 17

How much pollen do bees collect?


There are two types of pollen: hand collected and bee collected. Only
in the cases where one wishes to collect the pollen of a certain plant it
can be collected by hand. There is only bee collected pollen on the
market.
Beekeepers collect pollen by means of pollen traps, which also
provide quantitative estimates of the pollen harvest of a colony. The
information here is taken from the review of Keller at al.16, 17: There is
a large variety of different trap designs, but all consist of some type
of grid, which removes the pollen pellets from some of the returning
foragers as they enter the hive. The pollen is collected in a tray and

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112

can be easily removed by the researcher. The grid is installed either in front of the hive entrance or
horizontally underneath the entrance to the brood nest (O.A.C. trap design) The percentage of pollen
actually retained in a trap may be quite variable, but will always be considerably less than 100%. Extensive
observations by Imdorf showed that the efficiency of a trap at one colony could vary between 3 and 25%
during the course of the vegetation period. Still larger variation (15 43%) was observed between different
colonies, even if the same trap type was used. Such discrepancies may stem from small differences in the
material used for the individual traps. Alternatively, honey bee colonies may vary in the average size of the
workers or may collect a different spectrum of pollen types. The species composition of the collected pollen
appears to be of particular importance. Thus, it was found that the average efficiency of their traps
increased from 33% to 60% when they were moved to a different location where different flowers were
available, and the foragers collected significantly larger pollen pellets.
From the above discussion it becomes clear that accurate estimates of the actual quantity of pollen collected
by a colony are virtually impossible. It is also not well understood to what extent honey bee colonies might
be harmed by the permanent use of pollen traps.
In different studies the amount of pollen, gathered in different locations in Europe and the USA was
determined The available estimates of the amount of pollen collected per colony and year in different
European and one American location range between 5.6 kg and 222 kg. Assuming an average trap efficacy
of 20 % the amount gathered by the pollen trap varies from 1.1 to 40. 4 kg. The maximum of 40.4 kg, found
in the pollen traps in California, was considerably higher than the amounts gathered in Europe, which
varied between 1.4 and 9.2 kg. This difference is probably the result of a longer collection period. In the
study by Eckert more than 50 kg of pollen were actually retained in the traps. Factors for pollen gathering
are abundance of pollen, weather conditions and the nutritional need of the colony may influence the
foraging behaviour of the bees.
The amount of pollen available for consumption at any given point in time is determined not only by the
intensity of pollen collection but also by the pollen stores of a colony. In experimental colonies, the intensity
of pollen foraging could be decreased by adding and increased by removing pollen stores. In apiaries
specialized on the production of bee pollen in countries with a longer vegetative period up to 10 to 20 kg per
colony can be harvested, the normal however is lower, about 5-15 kg per hive.
Pollen is collected with a pollen trap, made out of a grid, placed
on the entrance of the hive. These traps vary greatly in size,
appearance, and method of installation on the hive. Each has
some feature that makes it particularly adaptable for a specific
purpose. All traps, however, have two basic elements: 1. a grid
through which pollen-carrying bees must crawl to separate the
pollen pellets from the bees legs, and 2. a container to store
these pellets. Upon entering the hive the pollen loads of the bees
are stripped away and fall in a drawer beneath.

HARVESTING BY THE BEEKEEPER


Fresh, bee collected pollen contains about 20-30 g water per 100 g. This
high humidity is an ideal culture medium for micro-organisms like
bacteria and yeast. For prevention of spoilage and for preservation of a
maximum quality the pollen has to be harvested daily and immediately
placed in a freezer. After two days of storage in the freezer, the pest
insects will be killed23 After thawing pollen can be kept only for a few
hours and should be further processed as soon as possible.

Drying
The pollen is best dried in an electric oven, where humidity can continuously escape. Then it is purified by a
special machine, similar to the seed cleaning machine. The maximum temperature is 30C and the drying
time should be as short as possible in order to avoid vitamin losses.
Fresh, bee collected pollen contains about 20-30 g water per 100 g. This high humidity is an ideal culture
medium for micro-organisms like bacteria and yeast. For prevention of spoilage and for preservation of a
maximum quality the pollen has to be harvested daily and immediately placed in a freezer. After thawing

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113

pollen can be kept only for a few hours and should be further processed as soon as possible. After drying the
water content should be 6 g water per 100 g pollen.
Today pollen is dried generally in electric ovens, where humidity can continuously escape. The prescribed
maximum temperature was 40C. However this temperature seems to be high. The effect of different
methods of preservation (freezing, drying at about 40C and lyophilisation) on selected parameters attributed
to the biological quality of bee pollen were tested in Poland. Freezing caused no substantial changes in the
chemical composition of the pollen loads, so this technique should be recommended when the preservation
of the pollen load for nutrition or therapeutic purposes is important. Lyophilisation markedly decreased
vitamin C and provitamin A content, but drying at 40C revealed the most disadvantageous effect 39.
A Brazilian study found that pollen drying for 6 hours at 45 C led to significant losses of vitamin E and carotene, as well as pro-vitamin A by 15 to 25 % 7
A Portuguese study revealed that quick drying of bee pollen (3 times for 45 seconds) at 50o C in an infra-red
oven did not lead to losses of anti-oxidant activity.
Concluding the above results, pollen should be dried at possible low temperatures, a maximum of 30 C. The
better alternative is to use freeze drying. A pollen freeze drying machine is described in the literature 9 , but
its effect on pollen quality has not been tested.

Storage
Experience in Switzerland showed that from a microbiological and sensory point of view pollen remains
stable until 1.5 years of storage at room temperature. Under these conditions pollen keeps its sensory and
3
microbiological quality for a storage period of 2 years, if stored in a cool, dry and dark place .
As a functional food one of the main health enhancing properties is the strong antioxidant activity of pollen.
Pollen loses a considerable amount of its antioxidant activity (about 59%) after one year4.
The amounts of four out of nine constituents examined (reducing sugars, total proteins, vitamin C, and
provitamin A) markedly decreased upon storage. Taking into account the methods of production practical
recommendations for the means of preservation and optimum conditions for the storage of pollen loads are
suggested. Freezing followed by storage at -20C in pure nitrogen guarantees high biological qualities of bee
pollen kept for up to 6 months. Pollen stored for a longer periods should, however, be dried by lyophilisation
and stored at -20C in pure nitrogen to preserve its highest biological activities. Storage of pollen at 0 to 10
degrees in vacuum has been proposed in order to prevent antioxidant spoilage 35.
A Brazilian study found no loss of vitamin C and losses of vitamine E and beta-carotenes by 15 to 20 %
upon storage of dry pollen for one year at room temperature 8
Fresh, frozen purified pollen should be stored under nitrogen until consumption for preservation of optimal
biological and nutritive properties 25.

Harvesting of unifloral pollen


Normally beekeepers collect mixed pollen. Harvesting of unifloral pollen is important because only this type
of pollen has constant composition and thus can be successfully used in nutrition and medicine. A machine
was constructed in Austria, by the help of which bee pollen can be sorted into different types, the purity of
the sorted pollen being about 90 %28.

Fresh freeze-dried pollen


Patrice Percie du Sert from France invented and patented a
technique in 1994 that allows all the nutrients in fresh bee pollen to
be preserved. The pollen is frozen at collection and packed in a
nitrogen filled package; oxygen is excluded, eliminating decay. This
process allows the pollen to be presented as close to its pure state as
possible. Fresh, purified pollen can be frozen and stored under
nitrogen until consumption for preservation of optimal biological
and nutritive properties25

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114

Bee bread
Bees store pollen in the hive as beebread. Pollen is
mixed with honey and bee secretions and stored in
the combs. Bee bread undergoes a lactic acid
fermentation and can be thus preserved. Beebread
combs will often be sold as a whole. For that
purpose a bee queen separator is placed between
brood and honey combs during a period of a
maximum pollen gathering activity. When the
combs are full, the pollen is harvested by means of
a scraper and filled into a jar.

Production of home bee bread after Dany 1988, as described by Krell19


The term bee bread is reserved for the original bee pollen stored in the combs. Thus, the product
described below cannot be called home bee bread or fermented pollen.
Normally, the term beebread refers to the pollen stored by the bees in their combs. The beebread has already
been processed by the bees for storage with the addition of various enzymes and honey, which subsequently
ferments. This type of lactic acid fermentation is similar to that in yoghurts (and other fermented milk
products) and renders the end product more digestible and enriched with new nutrients. One advantage is
almost unlimited storability of beebread in comparison with dried or frozen pollen in which nutritional
values are rapidly lost. The natural process carried out by the bees can more or less be repeated artificially
with dry or fresh bee-collected pollen. It is important however, to provide the correct conditions during the
fermentation process.
The container
Wide-mouthed bottles or jars with airtight lids are absolutely essential. Airtight stainless steel or glazed clay
pots can also be used. Containers should always be large enough to leave enough airspace (20 to 25 % of
the total volume) above the culture.
The temperature
The temperature for the first two to three days should be between 28 and 320C; the bees maintain a
temperature of approximately 34C. After the first two or three days the temperature should be lowered to
20C.
The high initial temperature is important to stop the growth of undesirable bacteria as quickly as possible.
At this ideal temperature all bacteria grow fast so that an excess of gas and acid accumulates. Only lactic
acid producing bacteria (lactobacilli) and some yeasts continue to grow. The former soon dominate the
whole culture. This final growth of lactobacilli should proceed slowly, hence the reduction in temperature
after 2-3 days.
The starter culture
It is best to start the culture with an inoculation of the right bacteria such as Lactobacillus xylosus or
lactobacilli contained in whey. Freeze-dried bacteria are best if they can be purchased, but otherwise, the
best cultures are those that can be obtained from dairies. Whey itself can be used. If the whey is derived from
unprocessed fresh milk it should be boiled before use. A culture can also be started with natural beebread.
Preservation
Fermentation produces a pleasant degree of acidity (ideally pH 3.6-3.8). Some pollen species may promote
excessive yeast growth but this does not spoil the beebread. If the flavour is strange or some other mildewlike or unpleasant odours arise from the beebread, discard it and try again. The final product, can be stored
for years, once unsealed, it can be dried and thus is storable for many more months.
General conditions
For successful fermentation, exact quantities are less important than the correct conditions:
- the pollen to be fermented needs to be maintained under pressure
- the air space above the food needs to be sufficient (20-25 % of total volume)
- the container needs to be airtight
- the temperature should not drop below 18C
Ingredients (in parts by weight):
10 Pollen; 1.5 Honey; 2.5 Clean water 0.02 Whey or very small quantity of dried lactic acid bacteria

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115

Clean and slightly dry the fresh pollen. If dried pollen is used, an extra 0.5 parts of water is added and the
final mix soaked for a couple of hours before placing it in the fermentation vessels. If the mixture is too dry,
a little more honey-water solution can be added.
Heat the water, stir in the honey and boil for at least 5 minutes. Do not allow the mix to boil over. Let the
mix cool. When the temperature is approximately 30-32 0C, stir in the whey or starter culture and add the
pollen. Press into the fermentation container.
When preparing large quantities in large containers, the pollen mass should be weighted down with a couple
of weights (clean stones) on a very clean board.
Close the container well and place in a warm place (30-32 0C).
After 2-3 days, remove to a cool area (preferably at 200C). 8 to 12 days later the fermentation will have
passed its peak and the beebread should be ready. The lower the temperature, the slower is the progress of
fermentation. Leave the jars sealed for storage.

COMPOSITION
The pollen composition varies greatly according to its botanical origin:
Pollen composition after5
Main Components
Proteins
Lipids
total Carbohydrates*
Dietary fibre, Pectin
Ash
undetermined
Minerals, trace elements
Potassium
Magnesium
Calcium
Phosphorus
Iron
Zink
Copper
Manganese
Vitamins
-Carotene
B1; Thiamin
B2; Riboflavin
B3; Niacin
B5; Pantothenic acid
B6; Pyridoxin
C; Ascorbic acid
H; Biotin
Folic acid
E: Tocopherol

Content Minimum Maximum


g/100g dry weight
10-40
1-13
13-55
0,3-20
2-6
2-5
mg/kg
4000-20000
200-3000
200-3000
800-6000
11-170
30-250
2-16
20-110
mg/kg
10-200
6-13
6-20
40-110
5-20
2-7
70-560
0.5-0.7
3-10
40-320

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

116

The protein concentrations in hand-collected pollen


from 377 plant species from 93 families . Pollen from
different species may vary considerably in protein
content, with values ranging between 2.5% in the
cypress Cupressus arizonica and 61.7% in Dodecatheon
clevelandii (Primulaceae). Within plant families,
however, protein concentration appears to be highly
conserved, except in the species-rich Cactaceae and
s

riu
sc
op
a
s

Fabaceae.
On average, animal-pollinated plants do not appear to be
richer in pollen protein than wind-pollinated plants 30.

Sa

Pl

ro
th
a

m
nu

Br
as

sic

na

al

pu

us

s
ay
m

go
ta
an

Py
ru

nc
la

at
a
eo
l

s
lu
pu

Ze

sp
.

40
35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0

Po

Protein and amino acids

Figure: Variation of protein in pollen gathered in Switzerland, after 20


Only about 1/10 of the total protein comes from free amino acids. Generally, there appear to be few
qualitative differences in the amino acid composition of different pollen types and most of them contain all
essential amino acids30 Wille et al. detected also very similar proportions of the different amino acids in
bee-collected pollen samples from 99 plant species16.
Pollen proteins play a key role as an allergens29.

Carbohydrates
They are mainly polysaccharides like starch and cell wall material36
The calculated carbohydrate content is higher than the one, determined by analytical methods. The reason is
that a part of the carbohydrates is composed by crude fibre and cell wall material, which are generally not
determined by chemical methods, while their part can be calculated: 100 less the sum of water, fat, protein
and ash content.
The sugars fructose, glucose and sucrose comprise about 90 % of all low molecular sugars32
Crude fibre
The crude fibre is composed of starch and insoluble polysaccharides like callose, pectin, cellusose and
sporopollenin36. There is quite a large variation between the minimum and the maximum values, due
probably to the different methods and to the different plants measured1, 12, 32, 34

Lipids
There are considerable differences of the fat composition, depending on the botanical origin. There are
mainly polar and neutral fats (mono-, di and triglycerides), as well as small amounts of fatty acids, sterines
and hydrocarbons.
In one study 3 % of the total lipids are free fatty acid are reported. about half of them are the unsaturated
acids oleic, linoleic (omega-6) and linolenic (omega-3) 36, while in a study of pollen of different geographic
origin it is reported that 50 to 60 % of the fatty acids are unsaturated (oleic, linoleic and alpha-linoleic) while
the rest being saturated, mainly palmitic acid 37
Other physiologically important compounds are the sterols.

STANDARD AND QUALITY


From hygienic point of view the microbiological safety is the main quality criterion. It is important to control
the microbiological quality of pollen, especially the absence of pathogenic germs and fungi. Destruction of
bacteria by irradiation, ozone treatments40 or chemical fumigants31 is not necessary and leads to toxic
residues..
For specific use the composition of biological active components e.g. flavonoids (Campos et al. 1997, SerraBonvehi et al., 2001) or vitamin content should be evaluated.

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117

Pollen is the bee product, least influenced by contaminants from beekeeping2. However, it can be polluted
by air contaminants, e.g. by heavy metals and pesticides. Thus, for optimum quality pollen should be
gathered in areas which are at least 3 km distant from contamination sources such as heavy traffic and
pesticide-treated agricultural areas.
In the last few years there are genetically manipulated plants and also pollen. No studies on the negative
effect of such pollen on human nutrition have been published. The consumer should be aware of that. In the
EU there is a compulsory indication of the content of genetically manipulated organisms (GMO) in food (
and also of pollen, if there the GMO content exceeds 1 %.

Analysis

Quality criteria

Sensory examination
Microscopic examination
Microbiological testing
Chemical Examination

Typical odour and taste, no visible contaminants


Origin test (botanical, geographical)
Bacterial load should be within legal hygienic limits
Water content: maximum 6 g/100 g pollen
Content of main ingredients, carbohydrates, fat and protein, if labelled
accordingly:
Pesticides, heavy metals

Contamination

Sensory Analysis
Colour, appearance, odour and taste vary according to the botanical origin.
Colour: mostly yellow or yellow-brown, but many different colours are possible13, 18
Appearance: as so called pollen loads
Odour: hay-like
Taste: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy,
Defects: off-odour and taste, molds, fermented, rancid, visual impurities

Microscopical examination
The pollen should not contain impurities like bee parts, wax, plant particles or other extraneous matter.
Pollen analysis can be used for the determination of the botanical origin. The same methodology, as used for
pollen analysis of honey can be used 22
There is no international standard. Some countries as Brazil, Bulgaria, Poland and Switzerland have national
standards 5. A proposal has been recently made 5:
Proposal for a chemical standard
Component
Water content
Total protein content (N x 6.25)
Sugar content (total)
Fat

Requirement
not more than
not less than
not less than
not less than

Content
8 g/100 g
15 g/100 g
40 g/100 g
1,5 g/100 g

Water content
The maximum allowed humidity varies from country to country: Brazil, 4 %, Switzerland, 6 %, in Russia: 810 %, Bulgaria: 10 %. More than 10 % makes the pollen susceptible to fermentation. The examination of the
sensory quality in Switzerland concluded that humidity of less than 6 % makes the pollen too dry and less
acceptable from sensory point of view.
The determination of pollen water content is carried out after drying to a constant weight in a cabinet dryer
or infra-red oven drier 11, 24 or by Karl-Fischer method 10, 33.
Carbohydrates
Generally the carbohydrate content in g/ per 100 g will be determined by calculation, as the total
carbohydrate content cannot be determined easily: 100 less the sum of water, fat, protein and ash content.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

118

Proteins and amino acids


Protein content is a standard determination after Kjedahl, using a factor of 6.25 or 5.6 27 (Rabie et al., 1983).
According methods for protein content in pollen loads we recommend to use for calculation (Kjeldahl
method) N x 5.6 rather than N x 6.25 This factor is used by other authors too.
Lipids
Lipids are determined by extraction with petrol ether 38
Contaminants
Pollen is the bee product that is most susceptible to pesticide contamination 2. Pesticides should be tested
whether they conform to the requirements. Also pollen should be tested for microbial purity.

LABELLING
Composition
The composition of pollen varies greatly depending on the botanical composition of the pollen. There are
two possibilities.
1. Determine the composition of each lot and state the composition:
2. Indicate an average composition, example for Swiss pollen:
100 g pollen contain on the average 20 g protein, 60 g carbohydrates 8 g fat and approx. 300 calories.
Also the fiber content could be indicated,
Serving: 2 tea spoons daily (approx. 10 g); children: half dose.
Warning: It is recommended that people who are susceptible to allergies or asthma should avoid intake of
bee pollen.
Storage: store in the dark in a cool dry place
Best before (valid after packaging of product)
Dried pollen stored at room temperature:
12 months
Dried pollen packed in vacuum:
24 months
Frozen fresh pollen stored in the freezer:
12 months

TRADE
There are no official figures on pollen trading. Mainly bee gathered pollen is traded, with the exception of
maize pollen, which is also gathered by special machines. There are no official figures about the trade of
pollen, but according to Crane the production of pollen is the greatest among the secondary bee products (all
besides honey). According to the same sources 1986 60-130 tons were produced in in West Australia6
In Europe production is greatest in Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and Italy, as well as Eastern Europe14,
Spain is the biggest producer in Europe, in 1986 about 1200 tons were produced, 943 tons of which being
exported32.

15

Other countries like like Canada, USA as well as the Latin American countries and China are also good
pollen producers and export some pollen. Especially China is becoming a leading producer and exporter in
the world, it produces at present about 2500 tons per year21

Storage in glass for one or more


years results in decrease of
antioxidant activity. Packing in
vacuum or under N2 is better.

Pollen packed in vacuum


packed air-tight plastic bags
prevents oxidation and
decrease of antioxidant activity
due to contact with oxygen.

Harvesting of unifloral pollen ensures constant


and reproducible concentration of biologically
active ingredients.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

119

References
1. BELL, R R; THORNBER, E J; SEET, J L L; GROVES, M T; HO, N P; BELL, D T (1983) Composition and
protein quality of honey-bee-collected pollen of Eucalyptus marginata and Eucalyptus calophylla.
JOURNAL OF NUTRITION 113 (12): 2479-2484.
2. BOGDANOV, S (2006) Contaminants of bee products. Apidologie 38 (1): 1-18.
3. BOGDANOV, S; BIERI, K; GREMAUD, G; IFF, D; KNZIG, A; SEILER, K; STCKLI, H; ZRCHER, K
(2003) Bienenprodukte; 23 B Pollen. Swiss Food Manual (Schweiz.Lebensmittelbuch): 1-6.
4. CAMPOS, M G; WEBBY, R F; MARKHAM, K R; MITCHELL, K A; DA CUNHA, A P (2003) Age-Induced
Diminution of free radical scavening capacity in bee pollens and the contribution of Consistent
flavonoids. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 51 (3): 742-745.
5. CAMPOS, M G R; BOGDANOV, S; ALMEIDA-MURADIAN, L B; SZCZESNA, T; MANCEBO, Y;
FRIGERIO, C; FERREIRA, F (2008) Pollen composition and standardisation of analytical methods.
Journal of Apicultural Research 47 (2): 154-161.
6. CRANE, E (1990) Bees and beekeeping: Science, practice and world resources. Cornell University Press
Ithaca, New York
7. DE MELO PEREIRA, I (2008) Stability of antioxidant vitamins in bee pollen samples (original in
Portuguese). PhD Pharmaceutical Science School Sao Paolo University, Sao Paolo, Brazil; pp 90pp.
8. DE MELO PEREIRA, I; ALMEIDA-MURADIAN, L (2010) Stability of antioxidant vitamins in bee pollen
samples. Quimica Nova 33: 514-518.
9. FIVEASH, J; MCCONNEL, J (1989) A Storage Method for Pollen Using Freeze Drying. TreePlanters' Notes:
18-19.
10. GERGEN, I; RADU, F; BORDEAN, D; ISENGARD, H D (2006) Determination of water content in bee's
pollen samples by Karl Fischer titration. Food Control 17 (3): 176-179.
11. GERGEN, I; RADU, F; POIANA, M (2005) Bee's pollen moisture determination by halogen lamp infrared
drying method. Revista de Chimie 56 (1): 54-56.
12. HERBERT, E W; SHIMANUKI, H (1978) Chemical composition and nutritive value of bee-collected and
bee-stored pollen. Apidologie 9 (1): 33-40.
13. HODGES, D (1952) The pollen loads of the honeybee. Bee Research Association Limited London
14. JANNE, F (1985) L'apiculture de A Z. Le pollen. Abeilles et Fleurs: 8-11.
15. JANNE, F (1988) Rcolte et conservation du pollen. Bulletin Tchnique Apicole 15 (2): 89-96.
16. KELLER, I; FLURI, P; IMDORF, A (2005) Pollen nutrition and colony development in honey bees - part I.
Bee World 86 (1): 3-10.
17. KELLER, I; FLURI, P; IMDORF, A (2005) Pollen nutrition and colony development in honey bees - Part II.
Bee World 86 (2): 27-34.
18. KIRK, W (1994) A colour guide to pollen loads of honey bee. International Bee Research Association Cardiff
19. KRELL, R (1996) Value-added products from beekeeping. FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations Roma; 409 pp
20. LEHNHERR, B; LAVANCHY, P; WILLE, M (1979) Pollensammeln 1978; 5. Eiweiss- und
Aminosuregehalt einiger hufiger Pollenarten. Schweizerische Bienen-Zeitung 102: 482-488.
21. LIHONG, C (2009) Advances in propolis research and propolis industry in China. J.Royal Inst Thailand 1:
136-151.

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22. LOUVEAUX, J; MAURIZIO, A; VORWOHL, G (1978) Methods of melissopalynology. Bee World 59 (4):
139-162.
23. MOOSBECKHOFER, R; ULZ, J (1996) Der erfolgreiche Imker. Graz-Stuttgart
24. OLIVEIRA, K (2006) Caracterizao do plen apcola e utilizao de vitaminas antioxidantes como
indicadoras do processo de desidratao. University of Sao Paolo Sao Paolo, Brazil
25. PERCIE DU SERT, P (2002) Ces pollens qui nous soignent. Paris; 211 pp (Guy Trdaniel. edition)
26. PICKHARDT, A; FLURI, P (2000) Die Bestubung der Bltenpflanzen durch Bienen. Biologie, Oekologie,
Oekonomie. Mitteilung des Schweizerischen Zentrums Bienenforschung (38): 1-75.
27. RABIE, A L; WELLS, J D; DENT, L K (1983) The nitrogen content of pollen protein. Journal of Apicultural
Research 22 (2): 119-123.
28. REISNER, W; GARTLEHNER, K (2006) Entwicklung einer maschinentauglichen
Identifikationsmethode fr Bltenpollen. Berichte aus Energie und Umweltforschung 24: 1-36.
29. RIMPLER, M (2003) Von Bienen gesammelte Bltenpollen: Eigenschaften und Verwendung. rztezeitschrift
fr Naturheilverfahren 44 (3): 158-165.
30. ROULSTON, T H; CANE, J H (2000) Pollen nutritional content and digestibility for animals. Plant
Systematics and Evolution 222 (1-4): 187-209.
31. SERRA BONVEHI, J; GOMEZ PAJUELO, A (1987) Etude de la conservation du pollen des abeilles, emploi
de fumigants. Def.Vegetaux 243: 90-94.
32. SERRA BONVEHI, J; GONELL GALINDO, J; GOMEZ PAJUELO, A (1986) Estudio de la composicion y
caracteristicas fisico-quimicas del polen de abejas. Alimentaria: 63-67.
33. SERRA BONVEHI, J; MARTI CASANOVA, T (1987) Estudio analitico para determinar la humedad del
polen. Analytical study of quantification of moisture in pollen. Anales de Bromatologia 39: 339-349.
34. SOLBERG, Y; REMEDIOS, G (1980) Chemical composition of pure and bee-collected pollen. Scientific
reports Agric.Univ.Norway 59 (18): 2-12.
35. SOLOMKA, V (2001) On bees pollen storage technologies. Pasika (3): 22-23.
36. STANLEY, R G; LINSKENS, H F (1974) Pollen. Biology - Biochemistry - Management. Springer-Verlag
Berlin, Heidelberg
37. SZCZESNA, T (2006) Long chain fatty acids composition of of honeybee-collected pollen. Journal of
Apicultural Science 50 (2): 65-79.
38. SZCZESNA, T (2006) Long-chain fatty acids composition of honeybee-collected pollen. Journal of
Apicultural Science 50 (2): 65-79.
39. SZCZESNA, T; RYBAK, H; SKOWRONEK, W (1995) Alterations in the chemical composition of the pollen
loads stored under various conditions: I, III, IV. Pszczelnicze Zeszyty Naukowe 40: 145, 171, 191-156,
189, 207.
40. YOOK, H-S; LIM, S-I; BYUN, M-W (1998) Changes in microbiological and physiochemical properties of bee
pollen by application of gamma irradiation and ozone treatment. Journal of Food Protection 61 (2):
217-220.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

121

Pollen: Nutrition, Functional Properties, Health

The Life Giving Dust

tiger lilly pollen, courtesy


www.pbrc.hawaii.edu

The old Egyptians describe pollen as "a life-giving dust." Pollen and its nutritional value is still surrounded
by mysteries. It is called the only perfectly complete food. The consumption of plant producing seed, the
pollen, is praised in the Bible, Genesis 1:29: And God said, See, I have given you every plant producing seed,
on the face of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit producing seed: they will be for your food.
The earliest references found to its medical uses are in books by Arab and Jewish physisicans in Islamic
Spain, although pollen may not have been bee collected. Maimoides (1135-1204) a physician in Cordoba,
recommended its use as an astringent and sedative tonic. In the early 1200s Ibn el-Beithar described it as
aphrodiasiac, also beneficial for the stomach, giving back the fervour of the blood and curing swellings
produced by eating certain foods31.
In new times bee collected pollen began to be used for human nutrition only after the second world war,
when pollen traps were developed.
In this review it will be distinguished between the effects of bee pollen and of hand collected pollen which
will be named flower pollen.

COMPOSITION AND NUTRITION


Pollen Composition and nutritional requirements: main components, after 19, 23
% RDI
RDI*
Main Components
g in 100 g
for 10 g daily
(g/day)
pollen intake
Carbohydrates
(fructose, glucose, sucrose, fibers)
Crude fibers
Protein
Fat

13 - 55

0.4 1.7

320

0.3 20
10 40
1 13

0.1 6.7
28
0.1 1.6

30
50
80

As shown in chapter 1 of this book, there is a big variation of pollen composition. This variation is mainly
due to the botanical origin of pollen. Thus, for some pollen types there is a better contribution of pollen to
the RDI than for other pollen types. Consequently, it is important to establish the RDI coverage for the
pollen types that are offered by companies or beekeepers by making a chemical analysis of the marketed
pollen.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

122

Carbohydrates

They are mainly polysaccharides like starch and cell wall material129 .The sugars fructose, glucose and
sucrose comprise about 90 % of all low molecular sugars121

Crude fibre
The crude fibre content varies considerably, this variation is due both to the determination method and to the
botanical origin. Recent measurements are in a better agreement. A Swiss study reports it to differ between
10 and 13 g/ in different commercial pollen12 while in pollen from France values between 9.2 and 14.4
g/100 g are reported105 .

Protein
The protein can play an important role for covering the RDI. Only about 1/10 of the total protein comes from
free amino acids. Pollen contains all essential amino acids (see table below). However, protein content
depend strongly on the botanical origin of honey, while the qualitative pattern of the amino acids is similar
in the different types of pollen115

Fat
There are considerable differences of the fat content and composition, depending on the botanical origin. The
differences of fat content are due to the different botanical origin of pollen. There are mainly polar and
neutral fats (mono-, di and triglycerides), as well as small amounts of fatty acids, sterines and hydrocarbons.
In one study 3 % of the total lipids are free fatty acid are reported, about half of them are the unsaturated
acids oleic, linoleic (omega-6) and linolenic (omega-3) 129.
Manning reports in a review that 70 to 90 % of the lipids are composed of fatty acids, the average being
around 90 %. In the same review he finds a big variation of the different fatty acids depending on the pollen
type. Mostly pollen has a higher amount of unsaturated acids, but there are some exceptions, e.g. sunflower
pollen. 85
In a study of mixed pollen originating from different geographic origins that 50 to 60 % of the fatty acids
were unsaturated: oleic, linoleic and mainly alpha-linoleic (about 70 % of all unsaturated acids) 130
There is agreement that the main saturated acids are C14, C16 and C18 acids: myristic, palmitic and stearic
acids, while the main non-saturated acids are C18 : oleic, linoleic and alpha-linoleic. The main acid is the
alpha-linolenic acid is an omega-3 acid. The concentration of this acid in pollen in different pollen types
varies widely, lying between 0.1 and 4 g /100 g 85. The amount of the acid in pollen mixtures from different
countries varies much less, the values vary between 1.7 and 4.4 g /100 g 130.
The alpha-linoleic acid is a so called omega-3 acid, has many beneficial effects in nutrition125. Compared to
other food pollen has a higher concentration of most vegetable food. However, no official RDI has been
established.
Other physiologically important compounds are the sterols and terpenes, but they are contained in minor
quantities

Minor components
Minerals and trace elements
Minerals and Nutritional Requirements, after 19, 23
Minerals

mg in 100g

Potassium (K)
Phosphor (P)
Calcium (Ca)
Magnesium (Mg)
Zink (Zn)
Manganese (Mn)
Iron (Fe)
Copper (Cu)

400 2000
80 600
20 300
20 300
3 25
2 11
1.1 17
0.2 1.6

% RDI for
10 g Pollen
2 27
2 - 16
0.5 7
2 23
10 79
15 85
2 37
4 36

RDI
(mg/day)
2000
1000
1100
350
8.5
3.5
12.5
1.2

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

123

There is a considerable variation depending on the pollen type129. The main mineral is potassium. The
mineral levels in pollen were also found to vary considerably in the course of the year due to differences in
the floral origin of the pollen. This was true for potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese and iron, while
the zinc and copper content of pollen appeared to be more constant56.
The sodium content of pollen is relatively low, values were found varying between 28 and 93 mg / 100 g 10,
.

105, 123, 128

The selenium content of pollen is rarely analysed, due to the fact that this element is probably bound to
pollen lipids. Due to this methodological difficulty the Se content of French Cistus pollen was only
estimated to be around 25 g/100 g105.

Vitamins and carotenoids


500
450
400
350
300
250
200
150
100
50
0

A 10
ve
ra
ge

Carotenoids
g/g

There is a significant nutritional contribution from most of the


vitamines present in pollen: provitamine A, vitamine E (tocopherol),
niacin, thiamine, folic acids and biotin. Specially in those cases,
where high values have been measured, while in some pollen types
the content is lower. Like other components, there is a considerable
variation, depending on the pollen type.
Pollen contains significant amount of carotenoids, mainly -carotene,
are related to vitamin. But these, too depend on the botanical source
of the pollen, graph for pollen collected in Brazil after4. (graph left)

-carotene represents about 17 % of the totals carotenoids. French Cistus pollen contains 20 times more
carotenoids than chestnut one105.
Vitamins and Nutritional Requirements, after 19, 23
mg in 100g
Vitamines
Ascorbic acid (C)
-Carotin (provitamin A)
Tocopherol (vitamin E)
Niacin (B3)
Pyridoxin (B6)
Thiamin (B1)
Riboflavin (B2)
Pantothenic acid
Folic acid
Biotin (H)

7 56
1 20
4 32
4 11
0.2 0.7
0.6 1.3
0.6 2
0.5 2
0.3 1
0.05 0.07

% RDI for
10 g Pollen int.

RDI
(mg/day)

0.7 5.6
11 222
3.1 25
2.7 7.3
1.4 5
5.5 13
4.6 15.4
0.8 3.3
7.5 25
11 16

100
0.9
13
15
1.4
1.1
1.3
6
0.4
0.045

Compared to the vitamin-richest corns, fruits and vegetables, pollen has 20 times more vitamine A and
significantly more panthothenic and folic acids and biotin.
Unconjugated vitamin D and its metabolites were investigated in the pollen of Pinus nigra Ar. and Pinus
sylvestris L. It was found that vitamin D (D2, D3) was present in the pollen in amounts about 2
micrograms/10 g and 25-OHD3, 24,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol [24,25-(OH)2D3] and 1,25dihydroxycholecalciferol [1,25-(OH)2D3] between 0.1 and 3 micrograms/10 g of pollen, dependent on
pollen species and method117

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

124

Variation of pollen nutritional composition of several pollen gather in France after105


values per 100 g
RDI
Calories
Proteins. g
Lipids
Linoleic acids g
Alphalinoleic acid g
Polyunsaturated acids %
Carbohydrates g
Fibres g
Vitamins, mg
Vitamin B1
Vitamin B2
Vitamine B3
Vitamine B5
Vitamine B6
Vitamine B9
Vitamine C
Vitamine E
Minerals, mg
Copper, Cu
Magnesium, Mg
Phosphor, P
Zinc, Zn
Potassium, K
Sodium, Na
Polyphenols mg
ORAC. mmoles/g
Flavonoids. mg
Kaempferol-3.0- glucos.
Isorhamnetine-3.0- glucos.
Rutine
Luteoline-7-glucoside
Phytosterols mg
Ess. Amino acids. mg
Threonine
Valine
Methionine
Isoleucine
Leucine
Phenylalanine
Lysine
Tryptophane
Totals
Cystine

Cistus

Chestnut Willow

Heather

Poppy

Rape

2000 - 2500

354

316

354

319

316

334

50

19.56
4.19
0.31
0.15
54.30
52.17
14.4

15.5
5.8
0.31
0.33
49.50
46.77
14.4

15.5
3.26
0.13
0.55
49.50
64.5 g
13.0

22.8
3.26
0.31
0.55
68.90
48.66
9.2

22.85
8.79

25 g

14.2
6.56
0.7
0.52
57.65
58.03
12.80

40.97
13.1 g

1.4
1.6
18
6
2
200
60
10

0.80
0.76
4.60
0.86
0.27
124
14.2
27.8

0.52
1.17
6.7
1.24
0.29
371
14.3
4.2

1.01
0.86
7.1
0.9
0.30
844
29.8
11.8

0.38
0.86
4.79g
0.9
0.25
128
20.2
9.28

0.47
0.36
2.27
1.45
0.04
157
67.1
1.44

0.67
0.86
0.37
0.75
0.44
199
11.11
0.69

2.5
300
800
15
8000
2000

0.68
26.5
200.1
2.26
370
26
1033
151

0.61
50.1
337.5
6.47
504
31
1959
536

0.85
71.4
566
4.7
484
31
2086
406

0.63
60.1
279.9
3.2
433
31
1500
199

0.63
41.3
448
4.41
433
24
1788
379

1420
283

72.6
22.5
149.7
7.6
276

61.9
282
ND
13.9
232

575
158
335
6.6
191

48.3
7.1
1207
30.7
NA

648.3
37.1
239
175
NA

680
870
20
690
220
700
130
160
5870
160

640
840
420
660
1130
660
1080
160
5590
330

670
790
420
640
1130
770
1020
160
5710
170

930
130
660
950
1130
940
1020
170
5710
330

680
1130
590
950
1575
700
1465
273
7924
170

8
1.6

390
700
910
700
980
980
840
245
5845

590

160
360

NA not analysed

Flavonoids
These are the main secondary compounds of pollen. They are responsible for the colour of pollen
and are either colourless or yellow, red and purple129. The flavonoids are also responsible for the
bitter colour of pollen. Most flavonoids exist as glycosides, called aglycones, i.e. sugar derivatives.
In one study their amount varied between 1293 and 8243 mg/100 g, in another, between 530 and
3258 mg/100 g 22, 77 the variation been due to variation of the flavonoid content of the different
pollen types. Rutin seems to be the main flavonoid122. There are not daily allowences for
flavonoids, suggestions lying between 200 to 1000 mg a day.
Sterols and terpenes
Pollen contains also 0.1 0.4 % sterols, some of which having various biological properties like
-sistosterol, stigmasterol and fucosterol, as well as 0.1 to 0.2 % mono-terpenes 129.

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

-estradiol,

125

Cistus pollen contains mostly delta-5-avenasterol (108 mg/100 g) and 24- thylcholesterol (76 mg/100 g),
chestnut pollen mostly betasitosterol (111 mg/100 g) and brassicasterol (46,5 mg/100 g); willow pollen:
betasitosterol (74 mg/100g) and delta 5- avenasterol (39 mg/100 g) 106.

Pollen digestion and pharmacodynamics


Doubts have been raised, whether the tough shell of pollen can be cracked and
digested by humans. It has been found out, that in animal experiments pollen does
longer contain their content when they have left the digestion tract. This conducted
to the hypothesis that the nutritional content of pollen can be released by the
digestive juices in animals 115, 120. There is evidence that pollen can be persorbed
(direct absorption of pollen grains into the blood stream) in the digestive tract of
dogs, rabbits and humans 63. In in-vitro simulation of human digestion pollen was
partly digested 44, where as there were differences in the degree of digestion of
poppy and hazelnut pollen, with an average degree of digestibility of 15 % for
carbohydrates and 53 % for proteins. In this case has been hypothesized that pollen
is insufficiently digested and that cracking will improve the digestibility and bioavailability 114.
Different companies offer cracked bee pollen, claiming that this product is better digested. On the other
hand, there are many studies in humans with whole bee pollen (see next section) showing that a part of the
bee pollen content is digested and is bioavailable. However maceration of pollen for several hours in water
or other liquids is recommended in order to improve digestibility, a method used also for other heavy
digestible grain products.
Bee pollen extraction improves the antioxidant activity, best extraction is achieved with ethanol. Extraction
with water alone yields also extracts with higher antioxidant activity than that of whole pollen75.
After pollen has reached the human digestive tract the pollen grain begins to swell. Do to the uptake of water
they increase in size and are enzymatically activated. The material, contained in pollen wall break up and
materials (enzymes and allergens) leak out. This leads to structures similar to the pollen tube83
The exines of the pollen corn cannot be decomposed in the gastrointestinal tract as very few animals and
microorganisms are enzymatically capable of disintegrating the highly resistant sporopollenin which makes
up the pollen grain wall. Thus, only the pollen content in the submicroscopic area of the pollen wall can be
utilized as foodstuff83

Pollen in animal nutrition


Chauvin carried out animal feeding experiments with pollen. He fed different types of pollen and compared
the weight gain of pollen fed mice in comparison with the controls, fed with casein27:

Effects of pollen feeding on the weight increase of mice, after27

Rape
Clover
Sweet chestnut
Mixed pollen
Control (casein)

First week
P Extract
Whole P
6.0
5.1
5.7
5.3
6.4
3.7
7.7
4.3
3.9
5.4

Gains in gram
Second week
P Extract Whole P
5.1
6.5
5.2
6.3
4.5
7.4
5.4
7.4
4.4
4.6

Third week
P Extract Whole P
5.4
3.1
5.4
2.1
4.7
2.5
5.5
2.6
5.9
2.7

Total, Sign. *, **
P Extract
Whole P
16.4 *
14.7 *
16.3 *
13.8 *
15.6 **
13.5 **
18.7 *
13.3 **

* - Significant or non-significant according to Students t-test.


Whole pollen and aqueous extracts of pollen were fed to mice, together with the mice feeding with casein, in
a proportion of 50% pollen of the total feeding. The aqueous pollen was prepared by maceration of pollen in
water for several hours and subsequent filtration. The filtrate was boiled and the resulting precipitate was fed
to the mice. Feeding of casein with less than 10 % of pollen did not produce a significant effect. At the end
of the experiment it was found, that the mice which had pollen in their diet had eaten less food, meaning that
pollen improved the food utilisation.
In another experiments Chauvin found following increases in % of the initial weight, mice being fed with
natural pollen added to a casein food, being 50 % of the total food26:

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126

Fruit pollen: 46 %; Sweet chestnut pollen: 44 %; Poppy: 43 %; dandelion: 37 %; Rockrose:36 %; Maize: 36


%
Heather: 34 %; Clover: 16 %.
In addition, Chauvin found out that mice can be successfully fed on pollen only. However, the weight
increase of the males was much slower than that of the she-males.
In another study the ingestion of bee pollen by rats reveals that it improves the maternal nutrition of rats
without affecting the normal fetal development and thus might be a favourable nutrient during pregnancy.
However the hyperglycaemic effect revealed in the preceding assay can not be underestimated 150
Mice feed with bee pollen from different plants for 6 months show an increase of the reproduction rates 126.
Feeding of casein containing 5 % of pollen let to a total weight increase of poultry of 4 kg, while the controls
increased by 2.7 kg (initial weight was 5.8 kg). In other experiments addition of 5 % of pollen to the feeding
of laying hens resulted in a better survival rates, which was even better than when 10 % pollen were fed 133
It has been shown that fed chickens with bee pollen leads to a better development of the small intestine villi
from the duodenum, jejunum and ileum. These findings suggest that bee pollen could promote the early
development of the digestive system 142.
Bee pollen product supplementation to horses in training seems to improve feed intake
The objective of this study was to determine the efficacy of supplementation of Dynamic Trio 50/50, a bee
pollen-based product, to improve physical fitness, blood leukocyte profiles, and nutritional variables in
exercised horses. No treatment differences existed for different performance parameters, while there was a
trend for lymphocyte counts to be lower in BP than the controls (placebo) on day 42. Dynamic Trio 50/50
supplementation may have a positive effect on performance by helping horses in training meet their
potentially increased nutrient demands by increasing feed intake and thus nutrient retention137.

Pollen for increase of sport performance


In early days there were claims that bee pollen is an optimal food for sportsmen. Indeed, competitive sportsmen
in some countries have used bee pollen preparations or extracts as a dietary supplement in the belief that it can
lead to an improvement in performance. Controlled experiments with swimmers indicate that no positive benefit
was obtained from the use of this supplementation. However, the number of training days missed due to upper
respiratory tract infections was much less in the bee pollen treatment group (4 days) than in the placebo group
(27 days). In a study of longer duration, this difference could lead to an improved performance by the bee pollen
treatment group due to fewer interruptions in training 88. On the other hand, another test with long distance
runners showed that neither pollen nor protein supplementation improved the performance or the blood
haemoglobin values in comparison with the controls (placebo)147.
Experiments with sportsmen in Russia, reviewed by Asavova et al. 6 discusses different studies in Russia
1. Ivashkiavicene, 1977 tested the intake of twice a day intake of 10 g pollen on the performance on the
national light athletic team of Lithuania. The performances increased, together with an increase of the
blood haemoglobin values. Analogous positive experiments were carried out with basketball and
handball professional players.
2. Vassilecksy and Maltsev, 1988 tested the pollen intake on the performance of military trainings. They
added to the daily ration of 50 g pollen before lunch. In the recovery period between the marches the
men took 70 g of pollen. The control group did not take pollen. A number of physical parameters were
measured: weight, pulse, the spirometric value, as well as performance and psychological tests. The
authors concluded that pollen can be successfully used for recovery after physical strain periods,
improving also the psycho-vegetative condition.
3. There were successful performance tests with honey/pollen mixtures (50 g of honey with 20 to 40 g
pollen)
4. The dosage of pollen was different varying between 20 and 50 g daily.
Nechaeva tested intake of twice a day of two teaspoons pollen (10 g) for 15 days and tested the performance of
Russian sport female students. Following tests were carried out: measurement of body mass, performance of
Stanges breath holding test, measurement of the viso-motoric reaction, hanging on the bars, 30 m runs with

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

127

maximal speed, measurement of heart rate afterwards, then a 5 minute step test with a step height of 30 cm, 30
climbs per minute followed by a 5 minute rest. There was a significant increase of the reaction of the organism
to hypoxia, as measured by the Stange test by 19 % , and an improvement of the viso-motoric reaction99.

FUNCTIONAL PROPERTIES
Parts of this section have appeared in19
The main biological components of bee pollen are the phenolic acid derivatives
and polyphenolic compounds, mostly flavonoid glycosides. The flavonoids are so
called secondary plant compounds which have different important physiological
and pharmacological activities. They possess diverse biological properties such as
antioxidant, antiaging, anticarcinogen, antiinflammatory, antiatherosclerosis,
cardioprotective and improve the endothelial function. Most of these biological
actions have been attributed to their intrinsic reducing capabilities. They may also
offer indirect protection by activating endogenous defensive systems and by modulating different
physiological processes 53.
Another group of compounds contained in pollen are the phytosterols. Among several bioactivities the most
prominent is their blood cholesterol-lowering effect via partial inhibition of intestinal cholesterol absorption.
Other claimed benefits of phytosterols are possible antiatherogenic effects as well as, immune stimulating
and antiinflammatory activities carried out mainly by beta-sitosterol. Furthermore, there is emerging
evidence suggesting that particularly plant sterols may have beneficial effects against the development of
different types of cancers, like colorectal, breast and prostate cancers. It is not clear whether mechanisms
other than the established cholesterol-lowering action of phytosterols could also contribute to these potential
health benefits 136.

Antimicrobial activity
After isolation of different flavonoids from Eucalyptus globulus, Ranunculus
sardous and Ulex europeans bee pollen it was concluded that the herbacetin
derivates from Ranunculus sardous and Ulex Europeans had a marked
antibiotic activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa. On the other hand,
Eucalyptus globulus, mainly rich in quercetin derivates, did not show any
antibacterial activity 18.
In other study it was found that bee pollen hydrophobic compounds with
unknown nature had antibacterial activity against Viridans streptococci 132.
Antibacterial activity of Turkish bee pollen was studied against 13 different bacterial species pathogens for
plants (Agrobacterium tumefaciens, A. vitis, Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis, Erwinia
amylovora, E. carotovora pv. carotovora, Pseudomonas corrugata, P. savastanoi pv. savastanoi, P. syringae
pv. phaseolicola, P. syringae pv. syringae, P. syringae pv. tomato, Ralstonia solanacearum, Xanthomonas
campestris pv. campestris and X. axonopodis pv. vesicatoria). The results showed that the Turkish bee pollen
extract have an inhibitory effect against all pathogens. The conclusion of the study shows that this bee-pollen
extract has a potential to became a seed protectant because some of the bacterial pathogens are transmitted
through the seeds9.
On the other hand the assays carried out with Turkish bee pollen methanol extracts at concentrations from
0.02 % to 2.5 % had no inhibition activity against different spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms 42.
Pollen bread was found to possess an antibacterial activity against Staph. aureus and S. epidermidis 7.
In a recent study with 80 % ethanol extracts of Brazilian pollen antibacterial activity was exibited against
Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella sp 24.
The antibacterial substances of pollen, active against Streptococcus viridans are similar to the ones found in
propolis and honey combs132.
Pollen has also significant antifungal activity against different pathogens72, 101, 102

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128

Antioxidant effects
Oxidative stress is thought to contribute to the development of chronic and
degenerative diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, aging, cataract,
rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases 107. An
antioxidant is a molecule capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other
molecules and so to prevent such changes.
In several studies a close relationship between pollen antioxidant bioactivity and
phenolic compounds has been reported 21, 22, 76, 77. However the correlation
between these two parameters is not that clear86. It was also found that the bee pollen antioxidant activity is
pollen species-specific 3, 76, 77, 86 and independent of its geographical origin 3.
The difference between the antioxidant activities of the different pollen types harvested in Romania is about
10 fold. The antioxidant activity of Pinus and Knautia pollen is relatively low while that of Matricaria and
Salix pollen is higher86.
The values vary from: FRAP values, mM Fe2+ /g 0.25 to 5.35; DPPH in Trilox equiv. mM Trilox/ g: 0.27
2.8. In comparison: for most vegetables and fruits the same values are about a factor of 200 to 1000 times
smaller103.
Bee bread was also found to have a high antioxidant activity 8, 95.
The antioxidant abilities of Cistus ladeniferus pollen extracts were evaluated using lipid peroxidation model
system. Ethanol-soluble fraction (ESF) was most active followed by hot-water fraction (HWF). These
abilities of pollen extracts were higher than that of 5 mM ascorbic acid and were similar to that of 1 mM tocopherol. Superoxide-scavenging capacities were decreased in the order water-soluble fraction > HWF >
ESF. ESF showed the highest hydroxyl radical scavenging ability among these samples. The pollen extracts
showed DPPH radical scavenging ability. Particularly the ability of ESF gradually increased with passage of
the time (about 80% to 10 min)93.
The antioxidant status, estrogenic/anti-estrogenic activity and gene expression profile were studied in mice
fed with Cystus incanus L. (Cistaceae) reach bee pollen from Croatia. The pollen modulated antioxidant
enzymes (AOE) in the mice liver, brain and lysate of erythrocytes and reduced hepatic lipid peroxidation
(LPO). Bee pollen induced 25% of anti-estrogenic properties while no estrogenic activity was found.
Differential gene expression profile analyses after bee pollen enriched diet identify underexpressed gene
Hspa9a, Tnfsf6 (liver) and down-regulated gene expression of Casp 1 and Ccl21c (brain) which are
important in the apoptosis pathway and chemotaxis 119
The free radical scavenging ability decreases with the storage of dried bee-pollen at room temperature and
can loose about 50 % of the antioxidant power within 1 year 22.
Experiments with feeding rats were conducted with bee pollen during one month studying the state of the
erythrocyte redox system. It was established that the content of glutathione, total SH-groups as well as the
activities the antioxidant enzymes glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase were increased in
comparison with the control group 36.

Anti-radiation and hepatoprotective effects


Anti-radiation
The free radical scavenging activity prevents irradiation damages by free radicals. This means that an
antiradiation effect of pollen should be expected 107. Indeed, it was established that small x-irradiation doses
activate the lipid peroxidation and antioxidant system enzymes in mice liver. The introduction of a bee
pollen extract to the diet of the animals normalized the activity of several glutathione system enzymes in
mice liver 11.
Application of beta-carotene oil or bee-pollen both abolished radiation effects but did not influence the
effects caused by chemical toxics. The authors supposed that the selective action of the observed drugs is
connected with the antioxidant activity of pollen and beta-carotene 5.
Hepatoprotection

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

129

The effect of bee pollen on liver functions in old rats was studied. After one month they had a diminution of
malondyaldehyde levels and the sulphydryl groups (SH-G) content was normalized. Also serum urea and
protein levels were significantly improved at the end of the experiments 140.
Bee pollen extracts were administered to rats, intoxicated by carbaryl. Levels/activities of total protein,
albumin, glucose, triglyceride, T-cholesterol, T-bilirubin, blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, uric acid,
magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride as well as different liver enzymes were evaluated in the serum
samples of the treated rats in comparison to the controls, showed a detoxification effect of bee pollen. While
carbaryl caused negative changes in most of the oxidative stress markers and of the serum biochemical
parameters investigated in the controls, these effects were relieved with the administration of bee pollen 40
It was recently found that feeding mice with bee pollen protects from the toxic effects of the pesticide
protoxur, a very toxic pesticide, which is thought to induce oxidative stress 41.
Paracetamol intoxicated rats fed pollen extract preparations, Cernilton and Cerniltin showed that Cernilton
increased the survival of the rats by preventing hepatic lesions. It has been hypothesized that this action is
effective and not prophylactic 64.
Enzymatic hydrolysates from bee pollen of Cistus ladaniferus prepared by six proteases and angiotensin I converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitory activities were investigated. These results suggest that there is a very
high antioxidant and ACE inhibitory activities in hydrolysates from bee pollen of Cistus ladaniferus 94 .
Bee pollen of Eucalyptus glob. and Salix. atr. Showed antidiarietic activity in rats17
Cardus bee pollen was shown to have a hepatoprotecting effect in mice 32. These positive effects were
confirmed in humans. Administration of pollen bread to patients suffering from chronic hepatitis showed that
after 30 days their clinical situation improved measured by the albumin/globulin proportion in plasma and
the microscopic structure of liver 59. These effects could be explained by the pollen induced activation of the
antioxidant system liver enzymes and the decrease of lipid peroxidation 11.

Chemopreventive and anticancer activity


The pollen flavonoids quercetin, rutin and chyrisin have been shown to have a chemopreventive activity by
increasing apoptosis (programmed cell death), thus acting in cancer prevention69, 108.
Bee pollen
The morphological changes in aged canine benign prostatic hyperplasia were followed after bee pollen
treatment, 5-10 g/kg administered in oral doses for 2 months to aged dogs with prostatic hyperplasia.
Prostate size was reduced both at one month and at 2 months. Microscopic examination showed marked
diminution in gland diameter, epithelial cell heights and less papillary infolding of the epithelia compared to
untreated controls. No effect on plasma estradiol or testosterone levels was observed and no toxicities were
reported 82.
A chloroform extract of Brassica bee pollen showed anticancer activity by increasing apoptosis of human
prostate cancer PC-3 cells149.
The estrogenic/antiestrogenic activity and the genotoxicity/antigenotoxicity of bee pollen from Salix alba L
and Cystus incanus L and its derivative extracts in yeast and human cells was investigated. All samples
showed a marked inhibitory effect on the activity of the natural estrogen 17 beta-estradiol (higher than 90%
for extracts 2) and failed to cause estrogenic activity and chromosome damage. At least one preparation from
each species showed a marked antigenotoxic effect against the action of the anticancer drugs mytomicin C.
bleomycin, and vincristine. Bee pollens from C. incanus and S. alba were found to be neither genotoxic nor
estrogenic as well as effective estrogen inhibitors, and able to reduce the chromosome damage induced by
the three cancer drugs used, thus supporting their use as a safe food supplement and future
chemoprotective/chemopreventive agents109.
Extracts of Turkish bee pollen inhibited respiratory burst of K-562 cancer cells2
Bee pollen extracts inhibited the proliferation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells, but to a slighter
extent than Chinese red propolis62

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Flower pollen
Nine human-derived cancer and non-cancer continuous cell lines were employed to evaluate the relative in
vitro activity of the pollen extract, Cernitin T-60. Responses of the cell lines to the drug were assessed by
measuring growth and cell survival as determined by cell count. The results demonstrated that of the 9
continuous cell lines tested, only those derived from the human prostate were growth inhibited by the pollen
extract, whereas the non-prostate derived cells exhibited variable degrees of resistance to the T-6050. Another
experiments with Cernithin extract showed that it had an anti-tumour activity of mice with lung cancer46
2,4-dihydroxy-2H-1,4-benzoxazin-3(4H)-one (DIBOA), a cyclic hydroxamic acid isolated from had
collected rye pollen, has a strong inhibitory effect on the growth of prostate cell lines156.

Antiinflammatory activity
Inflammation is a physiological response to the damage of tissues or cells that is
caused by physical or biological agents and also free radicals involving different
reactions intended to remove the cause and repair the damage.

The antinociceptive and antinflammatory activity of pine (Pinus densiflora)


flower pollen extracts (100 and 200 mg/kg) in mice were tested. The positive
results of pollen on acid acetic- induced writhing, on formalin-induced paw
licking and on the hot plate test suggest that the analgesic effect may be
related to the antinflammatory, neurogenic and narcotic properties of pollen.
Positive results in carragenan-induced paw oedema and arachidonic acid-induced ear oedema
suggest that Pinus densiflora pollen extract acts on cycloxygenase and lypoxygenase activities 28.
The anti-inflammatory effect of ethanol extract of Cistus bee pollen of Spanish origin was tested on
rats. The results show a potent anti-inflammatory activity by the inhibition of NO production,
besides the inhibitory activity of COX-2. Some flavonoids included in bee pollen may partly
participate in some of the anti-inflammatory action87

Different health enhancing effects in animal and cell experiments


Anti-osteoporosis effects
Osteoporosis is defined as a reduction in bone mass and disruption of bone architecture resulting in reduced
bone strength and increased fracture risk.
Bee pollen water-solubilized extract from Cistus ladaniferus has an inhibitory effect on bone resorption in
rats femoral tissues and osteoclastic cell formation in bone marrow cell culture in vitro. Thus bee pollen
extract has stimulatory effects on bone formation in vitro 52. The active factor of this effect, a bee pollen
protein, has been characterised 51.
It was shown by the same research group that water-solubilized extract from Cistus ladaniferus pollen causes
a significant increase of alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme that participates in bone mineralization. The oral
administration of the water-solubilized bee pollen extract from Cistus ladaniferus to rats caused a significant
increase in calcium content, alkaline phosphatase activity and DNA content in the femoral-diaphyseal and
metaphyseal tissues, indicating that the extract exerts anabolic effects on bone components in vivo 152.
The water-solubilized extract from Cistus ladaniferus bee pollen has a preventive effect on bone loss in STZdiabetic rats, and also a restorative effect on serum biochemical factors in diabetic rats 153.
Primary and secondary humoral immune response (the level of specific IgM and IgG) as well as the intensity
of delayed-type hypersensitivity to sheep erythrocytes were investigate in rabbits fed with bee pollen load for
a month. It is shown that bee pollen is an immunomodulator. It stimulated humoral immune response and
changed the reaction of delayed-type hypersensibility 35.

Anaemia
Anaemia is characterized by a low number of red blood cells. The effects of 10 g/kg/day of oral bee pollen
on haemolytic anaemia animals were studied on the hemopoietic system of mice and rats. The results showed
that bee pollen markedly antagonized the inhibition of the hemopoietic system and reduced white blood cells
in these animals 143. Intake of bee pollen by rats induce a significant increase of the red blood cells 26.

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131

Similar studies in healthy rats and rats with nutritional ferropenic anaemia were carried out, examining the
effect of the addition of 10 g/kg/day of multifloral bee pollen on a standard diet. The bee pollen group
showed a better weight gain, an increase in the haemoglobin levels and a decrease in platelets. Platelet
concentration constitutes a haematic parameter that reflects the state of the iron within an organism. It was
concluded that bee pollen improves the digestive absorption of iron 55.

Other effects
Bee Pollen
Pollen extracts from bee collected Eucaliptus globulus labill and Salix atrocinerea Brot were tested on
Swiss OFFI mice. The results showed that both bee pollen species have antidiarrhoeal activity. However,
they have some differences, Eucaliptus globulus Labill. Bee pollen extract was more effective on retarding
the diarrhoea, where Salix atrocinerea had a better effect in reducing the percentage of diarrhoeal
excrements, but both floral types reduced the diarrhoeal excrements by 30%. This study concluded that the
antidiarrhoeal activity, of the studied bee-pollen, may be due to polyphenolic compounds, especially
quercetin, although some others compounds could have a role on this activity and may be responsible for the
differences on the results 17.
In traditional Chinese medicine a mixture of bee pollen, radix polygoni multiflore, Ziziphi spinosae semen,
Radix salviae multiorhizae, Fructus schisandrae and Fructus ligustris lucidae, known as NaO Li Su, has
reputation as a medicine against declining memory functions. In the present study the effect of this mixture
on failing memory was assessed in 100 elderly Danish volunteers by a double-blind placebo controlled crossover trial. The effect was evaluated after treatment periods of 3 months duration by a battery of
psychological and biochemical tests. No desirable effects on memory functions were achieved with this
treatment. Increases in the number of red blood cells and in the serum creatinine levels were seen after
treatment. In the subgroup initially showing a number of red blood cells below the median a significant
positive correlation was found between changes in the number of red blood cells and changes in the
Wechsler Memory Scale scores 61.
It was shown that pollen inhibits respiratory burst within cancer cell lines probably by their antioxidant
potentials2.
Bee pollen is an immunomodulator, stimulating humoral immune response and changed the reaction of delayedtype hypersensitivity in rabbits35. In a Chinese study in mice it was shown that ethanol and acetone extracts, as
well as whole Brassica bee pollen has an immunoactivating activity111, 112.
Recently a probiotic effect of fresh (deep frozen pollen) but not of dry pollen was announced. The probiotic
lactic bacteria were not found in dry pollen, because they are not viable105, 106.
The effect of bee pollen on intercellular lipofuscin in mice was studied by morphological observations. The
results demonstrate a reduction of lipofuscin in cardiac muscle, liver, brain and adrenal glands following
administration of bee pollen. This action may be related with the anti-ageing effect of bee pollen 84.
Feeding of polysaccharides isolated from Chinese bee pollen to rats resulted in a decrease of triglycerides,
but not of total cholesterol and HDL-C155
Flower pollen
Cernitin (a grass pollen preparation) has different beneficial properties: lowering serum lipid levels 118, 145
reducing atherosclerosis plaque intensity 146 and decreasing platelet aggregation both in vitro 74 and in
vivo145. These assays have been confirmed in humans144.
Cernitin intake influenced positively the activity of urinary bladder of rats and mice 96, 98.

POLLEN IN MEDICINE
Some parts of the following section have appeared in19
Most applications of pollen in modern medicine are pollen preparations of flower pollen. The
main reason is that only the utilization of specific pollen can guarantee a constant
concentration of the active ingredients.

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132

Benign prostatic hyperplasia


The most important use of pollen in medicine is its prophylactic and curative
activity in prostate disorders. Prostatitis, or prostate inflammation, can cause
difficult or painful urination that is often accompanied by a burning sensation,
by a strong and frequent urge to urinate, that often results in only small amounts
of urine, and by pain in the lower back or abdomen. Benign prostatic
hyperplasia (BPH) is an enlarged prostate, benign meaning non-cancerous and
hyperplasia, excessive growth of the tissue. BPH is the result of small non-cancerous growths inside the
prostate. Chronic prostatitis is very common in elderly men, which might be related to age and hormone
changes. As conventional therapies such as antibiotics are not efficient, it is not surprising that patients have
turned with increasing frequency to phytotherapy and other complementary treatments, including the intake
of pollen. Indeed, most of the studies reported in this section have been carried out with different flower
pollen preparations, but there are also some positive results with bee pollen.

Flower pollen preparations


Most clinical tests were conducted with different flower pollen preparations: Cernitron, Cernitol and
Prostat/Poltit are preparations of hand collected grass or rye pollen while Cernitin and Graminex contain
different flower pollens.
In the Brunetons Compendium of Pharmacognosy it was mentioned that in certain countries an extract of
flower pollen from a selected flora in the South of Sweden was commercialized for prostatitis treatment. The
active extract includes two fractions, one is water-soluble and the other soluble in acetone rich in sterols. The
hydrosoluble fraction was analysed and inhibits in vitro tumoral and normal prostatic cells to grow. The total
extract decreases the prostate hypertrophy in rats, but given to humans no change was verified in blood
levels of LH, FSH, testosterone or dihydro-testosterone. In patients with prostatic adenoma the improvement
was in nycturie, important decreases in the residue post-urinate and in the long term treatment of this
condition, a decrease of the prostate antero-posterior diameter was seen. The urinary debit did not suffer any
changes. The effect on the other symptoms usual in the hypertrophic benign of prostate was not of statistical
significance 13.
A hydroxamic acid with anti-cancer in-vitro activity156, is probably the active compound in the flower pollen
extract Cernitin which might be responsible for the symptomatic relief in patients with benign prostate
hyperplasia. Seventy nine patients, ages ranged from 62 to 89 years, with this disease were treated with
pollen extract, resulting in a mild beneficial effect on prostate volume and urination 154.
The pollen extract Prostat/Poltit (produced by Allergon) shows in a double blind placebo controlled study an
improved symptomatic relief in man with chronic nonbacterial prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome
(CNBP/CPPS). After 6 months the patients treated with Prostat/Poltit (3 tablets/day eq. 222 mg of pollen
extract/day) showed a significantly lower pain score, less of voiding symptoms, less urine storage symptoms
and better sexual function than the patients who had received placebo. No adverse effects were reported 39.
An overview on the promising pharmacologic agents in complementary medicine for their use in benign
prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer agents, showed that Cernilton (the cited rye pollen extract) is one of
them, besides Glycine max (soy), PC-SPES (a mixture of 8 herbs) and Prunus africana (Pygeum africanum;
Tadenan) 131.
Cernitron was also tested in a study with 15 patients with chronic prostatitis and prostadynia. In 13 of the
patients there was either complete or lasting relief, 2 patients failed to respond 15. Another double blind study
showed a significant improvement of the Cernitron treated patients in comparison to the controls 14. 90
patients were treated with the same product and were divided into two groups, with and without complicating
factors. Those without such factors (n=72) 78 % improved significantly. In the other group (n=18) only 1
patient showed a positive response. Cernitron was well tolerated by 97 % of the patients 116.
A clinical assay with Cernitron with a total of 89 patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) that were
treated pharmacologically for 4 months: 51 received Cernilton and 38 Tadenan (controls). Significant
subjective improvement was found in 78% of the patients in the Cernilton group compared to only 55% of
the Tadenan-treated patients. In the Cernilton-treated patients a significant improvement in the uroflow rate,
decrease in residual urine and in prostate volume were found. This study shows that Cernilton is an effective
therapy for patients with BPH 38.

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133

The effect of the flower pollen on PPH was reviewed in 2003. 13 clinical trials were reviewed, mostly
conducted with Cernilton, indicating that flower pollen therapy is a safe and effective therapy for the
management of mild to moderate Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS). The studies showed a consistent
reduction in subjective symptoms and overall effectiveness ratings of 75% and greater25. This study is
published in www.graminex.com

Bee pollen
A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was performed to investigate the efficacy and safety of 12week intake of a bee pollen (mainly Citrus) ethanol extract (PE) supplemented food in 47 patients with
benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The participants were randomly assigned to 3 study food trial groups: a
placebo group (0 mg extract per day); a lower-dose group (160 mg PE per day); and a high-dose group (320
mg PE per day) (Groups P, L, and H, respectively). Outcome measures were the change during the 12-week
intervention period in subjective symptom scores and 2 urodynamic parameters, maximum flow rate (Q max)
and residual urine volume. Q (max) values were significantly increased in group H (P < 0.05) but not in
groups L or P. While residual urine volume was significantly increased in groups L and P (P < 0.05 each),
the level in group H decreased, although the difference between groups H and P did not reach statistical
significance (P=0.052). No pollen-related health hazards or laboratory abnormalities of clinical significance
were found. The results can be summarized that a higher dose of bee pollen extract intake significantly
decrease the symptoms of BPH 91.
Dogs with BPH were successively treated with doses of 5-10 g/kg bee pollen for two months82.

Biologically active substances


Besides the above mentioned hydoroxamic acitivity there are other substances. Quercetin is one of the main
flavonoids in bee pollen 20. This compound shows in vitro a permanent inhibition of androgen-independents
cancer cells PC-3 at the dose of 100 M. In prostate cancer cells this activity is due to the ability of quercetin
to block the cell cycle in various phases through an inhibition of the expression of several specific genes.
Quercetin also up-regulates expression of various tumour suppressor genes while down-regulating oncogene
expression 97. In a prospective, double blind, placebo-controlled trial, the patients who had been taking
quercetin (500mg, 2 time/day for 4 weeks) showed a significant improvement in NIH chronic prostatitis
symptoms, 67% of the patients taking quercetin having a significant decrease of symptoms 124.
Rutin, a principal pollen constituent has antitumor properties has similar antitumor activity as quercetin.
These two substances have been recognised to act against apoptosis (programmed cell death) and thus delay
cancer growth69.
Kaempferol, another bee pollen flavonoid caused a reversible inhibition of PC-3 cancer cells growth 54. It is
known that other flavonoids present in pollen (e.g. apigenin) are able to depress the kinase activation in
prostate cancer 80.
Another class of substances that might be involved in the antiprostatitis action of bee pollen are the
phytosterols. Besides cholesterol other sterols in pollen are fucosterol, beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol and
campesterol. Like other components the amounts and sterol types vary depending on the plant species 129.
Beta-sitosterol is known to be an active substance against BPH 71.
A third group involved in the antiprostatis activity is beta- carotene. The antiprostatitis and anti prostate
cancer is evidenced for lycopene. A drop of PSA, an indicator of prostatitis and prostate cancer has been
evidenced by Cistus and willow pollen, both pollen rich in carotenes, but not by chestnut pollen, having a
relatively low beta-carotene content 105. Beta carototene decreases the risk for some prostate carcinoma30

Hay fever
Air born pollen is known to cause allergic reactions (see allergy section). However,
there are promising results that pollen can also be used to prevent these allergies.
Claims that a small consumption of bee pollen can desensitise against hay fever are
known since a long time. However, only recently it was proven that bee pollen indeed
exerts antiallergic and anti-hay fever effects.
The antiallergic activity of bee pollen phenolic extract (BPPE) and the flavonoid
myricetin (MYR) was tested in a murine model of ovalbumin (OVA)-induced allergy

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134

in mice. BPPE (200 mg/kg) and MYR (5 mg/kg) treatments showed inhibition of different allergic reactions.
The results support the hypothesis that MYR is one of the flavonoids of BPPE responsible for the antiallergic effect and a potential tool to treat allergy 89.
Since mast cells play a central role in the pathogenesis of various allergic diseases, the effect of bee pollen
ingestion by rats significantly reduced the cutaneous mast cell activation elicited specific antigens. It also
reduced in vitro mast cell degranulation and tumour necrosis factor-X production. These results revealed that
the antiallergic action of bee pollen was exerted by inhibiting the activation of mast cells, which plays
important roles, not only in the early phase, but also in the late phase of the allergic reaction 60.
Grass pollen is promising agent for treatment of persons suffering from allergies towards grass pollen allergy
but also following bee stings45, 100. In a clinical test with children allergic to grass pollen extracts of
pollen were administered orally and subcutaneously, being the last treatment the most efficient 113.
65, 141

Recently pollen vaccines have been prepared from pollen, from which allergenic components were removed.
In a recent publication a successful clinical trial in of the sublingually applied Gramineae pollen vaccine
against hay fever of humans has been reported 90. A successful therapy with a pollen based vaccine against
birch delivered sublingually and subcutaneously has also been reported 70. These results are very promising
due to the fact of increased incidence of hay fever in the developed countries.
Aqueous pollen extract has been successfully used against house-dust asthma 148. A preparation from
different bee pollen, called Pollysat was also used for decreasing the symptoms of hay fever 114.
More clinical studies with humans are necessary to confirm the promising results found in animal anaemia
studies.

Heart and blood circulation diseases


Different clinical studies with bee pollen
As reported in different monographs 6, 123, 151 or after original references

Author, clinical test, disease

Pollen intake, recommendation, results

Dudaev et al, 1988


Ischemic disease after myocardial infarct
Bashmakov and Chernov 1988
55 patients after heart surgery or with
myocardial infarct, unknown number of
patients with other heart diseases
Golovkin et al. 1993
Ischemic disease after myocardial infarct

2 teaspoons 3 times a day. Significant effects in blood values: fall of


cholesterol, fibrinogen, soluble fibrin and of blood viscosity. (after6)
Pollen in honey 1:1, dissolved in 100 ml of water 3 times a day
before meals, for 3 months, in connection with standard medication.
Treatments were successful. (after6)

Balshushkiavich et al, 1986


Ischemic disease after myocardial infarct
Koslic and Takac, 1979
5 Arteriosclerosis patients with increased
triglyceride content
Georgieva and Wassilev, 1976
60 elderly patients with arteriosclerosis and 40
with brain arteriosclerosis
Kassaynko, 2010, 66
Treatment of adult patients with dislipidia
Stasitite and Vassilauskas, 2006
Treatments of adult patients with dislipidemia
Liferov et al. 200981
Treatment of patients with arterial hypertension

Suppositories with 1 g pollen, twice a day; after 12 days


examination: positive effects on myocardial metabolism
haemodynamics and resilence. (after6)
40 g pollen: twice a day two tablespoons: recommendation to include
pollen in diet in connection with physio-and sport therapy. (after6)
Intake 2 times 2.5 pollen, measurement in blood in two weeks
triglyceride content fell to half the initial (2.44 mM/l) while Changes
in the levels of lipoproteins and cholesterol were not significant (after
123
)
1 tablespoon pollen before meals, twice a day for 1 month. A small
fall of cholesterol and lipoproteins in arteriosclerosis patients and
improvement of non dynamic neurasthenia disorders of brain
arteriosclerosis patients (after 123)
Intake for 12 weeks of 40 g daily pollen or bee bread resulted in
cholesterol decrease by 11.4, resp. 20.5 %; the same quantity of bee
bread decreased triglicerides by 12.5 % and HDC by 14.3 %
Intake for 30 days of 2x daily 4.5 g pollen for 30 days results in a
decrease of cholesterol and lipoproteins, biggest decrease in
smoking women by 30.8, resp. 12.8 %. (after151)
Treatment of 57 patients (men and women) for 45 days by intake of 2
x 15 g intake of bee bread daily. Total cholesterol decreased by 24 %,
LDL by 36 %, HDL increased by a factor of 2.1.

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135

Hepatitis
Bee pollen against hepatitis, after Asafova et al.6 and Shkenkderov and Ivanov123
Author, clinical test,

Pollen intake, recommendation, results

Ialomicianu et al. 1976


110 deteriorating chronic hepatitis patients

Intake of 30 g bee bread or fresh pollen daily: 90 days pollen or 30


days bee bread. Normalisation of albumin/globulin blood ratio. In
patients taking bee bread the ratio changed from 0.96 to 1.27 while in
patients taking pollen from 0.85 to 1.26.
Children from 3 to 5 years: 12 g , 6-12 years: 16 g, pollen as water
suspension or with honey. In comparison with controls significant
changes of white and red blood bodies, of plasma proteins and of the
humoral immune response
Children: 3 times one tablespoon, grownups 3 times one soupspoon.
1 month after the operation, improvement of patients.
Successful use of bee pollen 139

Belyaeva et al. 1990


Children virus hepatitis
Bashmakov and Chernov 1986
Chronic hepatitis and jaundice
Uzbekova (2001), Hepatitis B

Antiaging
The health enhancing effects of pollen in cardiovascular health (see above) and also its anabolic, growth
stimulating properties (page 6) make it a good candidate for treating age-connected conditions such as
arteriosclerosis and chronic fatigue. Ludyanski has applied pollen successfully in geriatrics and against
chronic fatigue (see below).
The effect of intake of a total of 40 g bee pollen was tested twice daily for 1 month on 28 patients with an
average age of 72 years with cholesterosis and cholesteatosis of the gall bladder. In 86 % of the patients the
cholesterol values decreased from 7.8 mm/l to 5.9 mm/l. In 62 % of the patients the gall bladder secretion
improved, with an improved consistency, while in the rest of the patients there was no improvement34.
In the monograph of Asofova et al. 6 successful treatments were reported for:
Climacterium for men and women: 50 g pollen and 100 g of honey daily (Ohotsky, Kostish, 1978)
Chronic weakness (asthenia): long-term intake of 1 g daily

Gastroenterological disorders
Different clinical studies with bee pollen

as reported in the monographs of Asafova et al.6 and Shkenkderov and Ivanov123

Author, clinical test,

Pollen intake, recommendation, results

Lenormand and Chauvin, 1957


diarrhoea, colitis, enteritis, and chronic
constipation
Georgieva, Vassilev, 1971
40 patients with bleeding stomach ulcer,
controls: only anti-bleeding drugs
Krikshtopaitis et al. 1986
stomach ulcer (n=7) duodenal ulcer (n=17) and
45 patients with different disorders
Krikshtopaitis and Yudovalkis 1988
Chronic duodenal and gastric ulcers
Prieditis et al. 1986
After chirurgy of duodenal and gastric ulcer
patients
Balshushkiavich et al, 1988
Duodenal ulcer, gastritis
Bashmakov and Chernov, 1988
Duodenal and gastric ulcers, colitis

good treatment results

Ivanova, Djarimov, 1993


Duodenal and gastric ulcer

Two soupspoons pollen per day for 10 days, bleeding stopped after
2-4 days while in the controls bleeding stopped after 10 days
5 g pollen in honey 1:1, 3 times a day with 100-150 ml boiled water
half an hour before meals for 2-4 weeks. Quick healing of all but one
patients (this patient had nausea after pollen)
5 g pollen in honey 1:1, 3 times a day for 4-5 weeks. Stomach pH
rose from 1.1 to 5.0; erosions healed and acidity was normalised
15 g pollen in half a glass of water twice a day after breakfast and
lunch for 10 days. Dispepsia disappeared, positive effects on
duodenal motor skills, serum and hepatic values normalised
2 times per day10 g pollen for 10 days, together with a diet and
physical exercises
Pollen in honey 1:1, 3 times a day: initial 5 days tablespoon, then 5
days with dessertspoon and finally with soupspoon for 1-2 months;
improvement, measured with gastric acidity decrease
One table spoon pollen in honey 1:2 for 3 times a day one hour
before meals. Significantly better results than controls.

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136

The experience of Ludyanski


Ludyansky, a chief doctor in a big Russian hospital, with life-long practice in apitherapy, has summarised the
apitherapy knowledge in his monography Apitherapia (in Russian)57. He summarises the medical uses of
pollen in his hospital in the following table:
Treated disease
Aneamia
Geriatry
Impotency
Gastritis
Posttraumatic asthenic syndrome

Very good and good improvement


26
23
50
47
81

No improvement
5
15
5
15

Ukranian pollen preparations against different diseases


The Ukranian pharmacist Tikhonov and his group from the National Pharmacy University of the Urkaine
developed a number of bee pollen preparation (water and organic solvents)and tested them against a number
of diseases134
Digestive diseases in mice and humans
The preparation Pollenzym is a preparation based on a water extraction from pollen and contains proteins,
enzymes and amino acids. It was successfully tested with mice. It improves the microcirculation of the
intestines and can heal following digestive diseases: chronic entercolitis, pancreatitis, hepatitis and gall
bladder inflammation.
The same preparation was used in the following manner against a number of digestive diseases: 4 times
daily one pill after the meals, for 15-20 days. A test with 30 humans with infestations of the small and the
large intestines showed only improvement of the small intestine inflammation. In a test with 39 diseased
humans with chronic pancreatitis were treated. After 5 to 7 days symptoms like burping and stomach
inflation diminish, after 8-9 days also other symptoms were improved. The preparation was also successfully
tested with 40 humans with chronic gastroduodenitis (gastric ulcer). After 10 days the majority of the
patients had improved significantly. The preparation was also successfully tested with 60 patients having a
gall bladder enlargement, the gall bladder decreased in size. The preparation was also successfully tested
with patients having a chronic pancreatitis.
The lipophylic extract of pollen (LEOP) is an exctract prepared with non-polar solvents and plant oils. It
contains beta-carotin, flavonoids, lipids, fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. This preparation is non toxic
according to different toxicity and allergenity tests if applied in animals until a dose of 40 g/kg. LEOP is
applied as a suppositoria Polenfen. Tested in mice this preparation causes improvement of sexual disfuctions
and an increase of sexual activity. According to the results the preparations can be used in the treatment of
sexual disfunctions connected with androgenic insufficiency and inhibited ejaculation, hemarroids and
proctitis. The suppositoria Polenfen are applied twice a day for 15-30 days.
Another preparation Pollentar is based on a pollen extract and succinic acid. This preparation was
successfully tested in mice for use for the increase of performance under the conditions of physical strain.
This is due to its anti-hypoxic activity, resulting in increased performance. It has also a brain blood
circulation protecting activity as tested positively in mice with brain ischemia (blood insufficiency in the
brain).

Other therapeutic effects


Bee pollen
Bee bread (as only medicine) was administered to 20 patients suffering from anaemia. For more than a month
one teaspoon of pure bee bread (or a 1:1 mixture of bee bread and honey) was administered to adults (1/3
teaspoon to children up to a year; teaspoon for children from one year onward) three times a day. The health
condition of the inpatients improved during the therapy. The patients appetite increased, they were more lively,
better humoured und gained weight. Furthermore, their headings reduced and their debility, vertigo and
tiredness receded as well. Epidermis and mucous membranes were less pale and the haemoglobin and their
number of erythrocytes increased. Referring to the results the paper states that bee bread is suitable for the
treatment of anemia.78 A Bulgarian report support these findings 47

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137

Bee pollen was ingested by 10 patients suffering from hypertriglyceridemia which were under permanent
kidney dialysis. After 2 weeks the level of serum triglyceride dropped and after 2 months it reached normal
values. The authors conclude that the positive pollen effect can be used for the treatment of
hypertriglecyridia and possibly also of uricaemia 73.
Bee pollen was effective in reducing adverse effects of radiation used for cancer treatment in a double blind
study of 25 women with inoperable uterine cancer92.
In the monograph of Asofova et al. 6 successful treatments were reported agaubst chronic bronchitis: 3 times
a day a soup spoon of honey:pollen 5:1 mixture (Chuhrienko et al. 1993; Bashmakov and Chernov, 1988)
In Chinese medicine bee pollen is used for blood formation, reducing cravings for sweets and alcohol, as a
radiation protectant and a cancer inhibitor138.
In Russia it was shown that ingestion of whole bee pollen or pollen tablets or its extracts reduced of brain
hypoxia, protecting against ionizing radiation, acting against stress and tumour of humans. The strong
adaptogenic activity exhibits pollen load in natural or powdered form (tablets, capsules) while the aqueous
and ethanol extracts had a lower adaptogenic activity. For the enhancing of physical and immunological
resistance higher doses of pollen load (10-40 g daily) and for enhancing of mental condition the lower doses
of this product (1-3 g) during 2-6 weeks should be used67.
The introduction of a pollen diet as an adjuvant in the reduction of side effects during radiotherapy of
patients with gynaecological cancer (15 women with carcinoma of the cervix) received a pollen diet during
irradiation, whilst ten further patients receiving irradiation served as controls without pollen added to the
diet. Serum enzymes, proteins, vitamins and blood count were analysed before and after irradiation. It
appears, that pollen favourably influences the efficacy of irradiation and reduces the frequency of side
effects, both subjectively and objectively58.

Flower pollen
Therapy-relevant research has been carried mainly with different flower pollen preparations: Cernitol,
Cernitron and Cernitin. Pollen extracts are reported to produce good results in patients suffering from
nutritional problems in the form of emaciation, loss of appetite and physical and mental asthenia. These
effects have been noted both in children and elderly patients convalescing after various illnesses. In
particular, protein synthesis increased as did secretion of 17-OH-steroids and 17-oxi-steroids. No side effects
being attributed to the Cernitrin intake were shown as being attributed to the preparation, and significant
results were achieved after as little as two months of treatment 33, 79.
Mixed pollen containing four sorts of pollens (Rape, Typhae, Corn, Sunflower) is capable of increasing body
tolerance to acute hypoxia and promoting adaptation to highlands. The experimental study showed that
pollen can significantly increase body tolerance to acute hypoxia pollen can also increase the high energy
content and normalize the activity of several enzymes which are important to high energy metabolism;
regulate the neurotransmitter in 4 parts of the brain and maintain normal activities in the nervous system;
increase the secretion of adrenocortical hormone which may favour O2 absorption; increase SOD content in
tissues (heart, liver) and hence may prevent super-oxygenation and guard against free radicals, increase PO2
in the brain and arterial blood; decrease oxygen consumption and blood lactic acid concentration; and
increase the immunity of animals under normal condition. In field study, carried out with humans in two
different years it was shown that humans, taking pollen 3 to 5 days before moving to 5000 m showed no or
less symptoms that individuals who had taken other or no drugs. The researchers concluded that pollen
intake can also reduce and ameliorate symptoms of acute mountain sickness 104.

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138

SPECIFIC THERAPEUTIC OF UNIFLORAL POLLEN


Therapeutic properties of different pollen types in folk medicine after16, 27
Therapeutic effect

Pollen type

Antibiotic
Improves blood circulation
Calming, against sleeplessness
Cough
Diuretic
Digestive
Heart fortification
Improvement of liver function
General tonifier
Ulcer healing

Eucalyptus, maize, chestnut, dandelion, clover


Cherry, horse chestnut, sweet chestnut, willow
Acacia. citrus, hawthorn, linden, poppy,
Poppy
Dandelion, cherry, cornflower
Acacia, lavender rosemary
Hawthorn
Horse chestnut, sweet chestnut, dandelion
Apple, eucalyptus, willow
Rape

The above effects are not based on scientific or clinic studies and no connection to specific constituents has
been established until now.

SIDE EFFECTS AND ALLERGIC REACTIONS


Allergy
Bee-pollen is normally well tolerated, but the presence of allergenic pollens and substances can not be
excluded. Pollen allergy like hay-fever, concerns mainly allergy against air-born pollen, while allergies to
ingested pollen are relatively rare, with a similar rate as other foods. A case of a 34-year-old Spanish woman
with a lifelong history of seasonal rhinoconjunctivitis and honey intolerance which developed eosinophilic
gastroenteritis after ingestion of bee pollen 110. Non-life-threatening anaphylactic reaction has been recorded
after bee pollen intake 48, 49.According to a 2008 Russian study the incidence to pollen ingestion, tested in
891 normal humans was 1.45 % 127.
About 10 to 25 % of the population has hay fever or other forms of airborne pollen allergy. The allergenic
effects of bee pollen have been reviewed 37, 135.
Allergy after ingestion of pollen of the composite family was reported 29. A case of a 34-year-old Spanish
woman with a lifelong history of seasonal rhinoconjunctivitis and honey intolerance which developed
eosinophilic gastroenteritis after ingestion of bee pollen 110. Non-life-threatening anaphylactic reaction 48, 49,
and also one case of renal failure1 have been recorded after bee pollen intake.
For safety reasons it is recommended that people who are susceptible to allergies or asthma, or people with
hay fever should avoid intake of bee pollen.
But: bee pollen has an anti-allergenic effect60, there is a successful desensitisation therapy to hay fever by
pollen, see section Hay Fever.
Toxic compounds and microbiological contaminants
Trace amounts of hepatotoxic pyrolizidine alkaloids (PA) were found in pollen of Echium vulgare, E.
plantagineum, Senecio jacobaea, S. ovatus, and Eupatorium cannabinum 116. In Middle and Northern Europe
these pollens are not among the main pollen gathered by bees, however in Southern Europe the two Echium
plants are more diffused and are gathered by bees in larger amounts 16, 93.
Recently Kempf et al. (2010) reviewed the importance of PAs for human nutrition. The quantities found in
Echium, Senecio, Eupatrium and Phalaenopsis pollen varied between 0.8 and 14 mg/g 68.

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139

Pollen should be tested to fulfil with standards for microbiological purity and to residues of contaminants.
The allergy issue will be addressed later. The different contaminants of bee-pollen have been recently
reviewed 8.

Pollen intake
Whole pollen
From biological point of view the most effective pollen forms are bee bread and fresh frozen pollen. As
pollen is relatively an expensive food product, a regular uptake of 10 g (2 teaspoons) is realistic and can have
a prophylactic effect. For prophylactics and health enhancing a dose of 10-20 g per day can be taken for a
longer period of time, best twice for 3 months a year, e.g. during winter. For apitherapy the dose of pollen to
be taken by adults is 20-50 g daily, taken 3 times per day, 1-2 hours before meals.
For improving pollen digestibility place pollen in water overnight. Good chewing or milling of pollen before
administering improves the digestibility too. In order to counterbalance the bitter taste of pollen, 1 part of
pollen can be mixed with 1 part of honey (by weight).
Approximate weight of pollen given as spoons: teaspoon 6 g; dessertspoon 9 g; soupspoon 12 g.
Cracked pollen and pollen extracts
Another intake forms are cracked pollen and bee pollen extracts. Cracking of pollen increases its
digestibility. Bee pollen extraction improves the antioxidant activity, best extraction is achieved with
ethanol75. Maceration with water increases the pollen digestibility, for several hours or overnight.

CONCLUSION: BEE POLLEN AS A FUNCTIONAL FOOD


Health claims
According to the EU Regulation 1924/2006
shown in this book.

43

different health claims can be made for pollen, as

1. Physical performance and fitness


Long term ingestion of pollen and special pollen preparations (cracked pollen, pollen extracts) can improve
the physical performance and fitness of sportsmen and elderly people
2. Gut, digestion and liver health
Pollen intake can improve gut, gastroenterological and liver health

Fresh frozen pollen conserves best the


biological properties of pollen

Bee bread

Pollen in honey combines the functional


properties of the two products.

Pollen extracts or tablets are used for intake of easily digestible pollen component supplementation.

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140

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Chapter 3: Royal Jelly

For so work the honey-bees


Creatures that by a rule in nature teach
The Act of order to a peopled kingdom.
They have a king and officer of sorts.
Shakespeare, King Henry V

Shakespeare did not know, that the queen was the chief bee officer, royal jelly being the food stuff,
produced by bees for raising her.

Image courtesy www.ccpollen.com

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Royal Jelly and Bee Brood: Harvest, Composition, Quality


THE SEARCH FOR QUEEN-MAKER IN ROYAL JELLY
Until the end of the 19th century royal jelly (RJ) was not known as a bee product. RJ is produced by the
hypopharyngeal gland of young worker bees. In 1888 the German von Planta found, that the food of
workers, drones and the queen was different, which was supported also by Haydak19.
In the sixties and seventies an intensive research by Rembold and coworkers to identify of the key queen
substance was carried out. It became clear, that the main components of the queen and the worker feedings ,
i.e. proteins, carbohydrates and lipids are the same, while royal jelly contains more amino acids, nucleotides
and vitamines 54-56, 70. The fatty acid pattern of the RJ is also different from the worker jelly 42, while the
juvenile hormone, present in RJ plays also a role for the emergence of the queen 54.
Also, it was found that feeding of lower amounts of fructose and glucose produces workers, while feeding of
higher amounts of these sugars produces queens 1.
Another hypothesis incorporating the conflicting results of other researchers, suggested that the correct
viscosity of RJ, together with higher consumption is the key factor for queen determination59.
Thus, today, there is not an accepted unifying hypothesis, which explains how RJ works to produce the bee
queen.
A. mellifera queen bees differs from the worker bee in several aspects:
Morphology: Contrary to the workers bees, the queen bee has reproductive organs
Development period: the average queen develops in 15 days, while the worker requires 21 days
Life span: The queen lives for several years, while the worker bees lives several weeks (during
summer) to several months (in winter)
Behaviour: the queen lays several thousand eggs a day, while workers lay only occasionally. Unlike
workers, the queen does not participate in common hive activities.
Mainly the fertility and the longer life span of queen bees created the myth of RJ as a wonder-creating food.
Although RJ has proven biological effects, it is far from having the status of a food creating similar wonders
in humans.

PRODUCTION OF ROYAL JELLY


Royal jelly production steps

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Images: 1, 2, 4: Y. Kohl; other images: G. Ratia.


1. Introduce drop of royal jelly in each artificial cell (image 1).
2. Take a young larvae (less than three days old) from a comb and place it in the cell (image 1). Introduce
frame in the hive. The bees start raising the queens: Images 2, 3.
3. After 3-4 days the maximum amount of RJ is produced. Take frame with queen cells and uncover the
cells. The queen larvae is in a cell full of RJ. About 0.3 g of RJ is in the cell, ready for harvest: Image 4.
4. The RJ is sucked off with a pipette and filtered (filter mesh-size 0.2 mm). Store clean RJ in a cool dark
place: Images 5 and 6
Recently it was found that the RJ quality depends on the time of harvesting. Optimum RJ quality is achieved
when RJ is harvested 72 hours after grafting of the larvae72

Fresh royal jelly


Normally bees produce small quantities of RJ because they nourish a few queen larvae. In order to produce
bigger RJ amounts beekeepers use bees instinct to produce a new queen, if the old one is away. RJ is
produced in specialised beekeeping units, where up to 500 g per colony can be produced in one season. Two
production methods are used:
Discontinuous method: Take away queen from the colony and introduce a frame with artificial queen
cells containing larvae. This frame will be exchanged every 3 days, while the RJ is harvested. After 3-4
times a harvest break should be made as the RJ quantity diminishes strongly.
Continuous method: This method allows a permanent production during the whole bee season. A
nucleus, composed of the queen, together with a small part of the colony is placed near the parent
colony. After every second RJ harvest the combs of the nucleus and the queenless mother colony are
exchanged, so that the queen has more room for laying and new nursing bees and larvae can be
transferred from the nucleus to the queenless colony.

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Presently the continuous method is mostly used for commercial RJ production.


The production steps are the same for both methods.
According to the book Apiculture in China 15 the main factors for optimum RJ production are:
Breeding of high RJ producing bee strains
Use of strong colonies
Optimum number of cells per colony. In general about 1 g of royal jelly is produced from 3 to 4
comb cells.
Adjust the cycle royal jelly extraction and use brood of the right age. If royal jelly is extracted every
3 day the brood should be 1 to 1.5 days old. If the brood is extracted once every other day the brood
should be 2 to 2.5 days old
Provide enough feeding and water for the colonies (pollen, nectar). If no enough pollen is available,
feed with pollen substitutes. The production of RJ should not be interrupted unless there is
emergency
When RJ is extracted the brood must not be broken when the queen cells are con or the brood is
picked out. After extraction RJ should be filtered with a 100 mesh nylon net and store at 18 C0 .
Details of RJ production are described in recent publications 13, 14, 17, 23,
43-45, 71
. A system has been developed at Zhejiang University to
produce high yields of royal jelly from a new strain of honey bees by
optimising the different production steps 14 According to this method
the RJ production methods could be improved by better queen
selection, new equipment, prolongation of the production period,
improved manipulations skills, technology and feeding. Presently,
about 150 g per colony over 3 days can be produced, and 7.7 kg per
colony and year14.
than A.m.mellifera 22, 25.

A.m.ligustica and A.m.caucasica are better suited for RJ production

Feeding of the colony during the productions period of the colony should be optimum with sugar syrop or
sugar patties with pollen, but no pollen replacement nutrients should be used 22.
An economic production of royal jelly and its rapid conservation method have been proposed 25.

Freeze-dried royal jelly


Freeze-dried royal jelly is a very hygroscopic powder. It is obtained by evaporating
the water content from the frozen product in vacuum. This is the drying process which
best maintains the original characteristics of the product: it retains the volatile
components which would be removed by evaporation at higher temperatures and does
not damage nor denature the thermolabile components.
Freeze-drying requires special equipment, ranging from a simple laboratory freezedrier to large industrial machines. Though the small laboratory models are normally used for analysis only,
small volumes of royal jelly can be processed adequately with this size of equipment.
For drying, the royal jelly is first diluted with some clean water. This leads to a more regular and complete
loss of water, particularly if large quantities are freeze dried in one batch. No such preparation is necessary if
royal jelly is dried directly in the sales vial. During the final drying phase, in order to achieve more complete
removal of residual water, the substrate can be warmed very slightly, but never above 35 0C.
After freeze-drying, the royal jelly becomes extremely hygroscopic and must be protected from the humidity
of the environment by storage in an air-tight container. Larger processors handle freeze-dried royal jelly only
in controlled atmospheres, i.e. air conditioned rooms with very low humidity. Depending on the final use of
the dried royal jelly, a carrier base or stabilizer can be added at this point to reduce the hygroscopicity of the
dried product, e.g. cyclodextrin 69.
Freeze-dried royal jelly marketed directly to the consumer is usually presented in separate vials one or more
for a liquid solvent and others containing the dry phase. This is the best solution for conservation without

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chemical preservatives. The liquid phase can be pasteurized and packed aseptically, without damaging the
heat sensitive royal jelly.

STORAGE AND SHELF LIFE


Storage
Freshness has been attributed a great importance for RJ quality. Royal jelly can be spoiled easily if not
properly stored. Immediately after harvest it should be placed in dark vessel and stored 0 - 5C. Stored under
these conditions its quality remains OK for half an year. Deterioration of royal jelly can be prevented by
storing RJ in Argon after harvesting24. After longer storage it will turn rancid. Frozen royal jelly can be
lyophilised as it can be transported more easily in the dry state. If frozen, it can be stored for 2-3 years
without loosing of its quality. Chauvin states that the physical properties of RJ change after 20 hours after
harvest, if left at ambient temperature 12. That means that RJ should be stored in the cold immediately after
harvest. According to Chauvin RJ the biological properties of RJ in what regards its capability to induce
hyperglycaemia, remain intact only for 1 month, if stored at about 4C. On the other hand Krylov tested
whole RJ, stored for one year at 5 C and found out that its antimyocard activity, measure was not different,
in comparison to fresh RJ33. Recently it was also shown that only storage of RJ in frozen state prevents
decomposition of biologically active RJ proteins46.
Experiments have shown that the enzyme glucose oxidase enzyme contained in RJ is influenced both by
storage temperature and time2, 5. At 4C there was small reduction of enzyme activity, while at 20C it
decreases significantly after one month and degrades completely after one year5. At 37 and 50C this
decrease is faster3. The determination of glucose oxidase is analytically very simple and thus within the
capabilities of all laboratories. This method could be used to evaluate the products freshness; however,
further investigation must first be conducted into the natural variability of this component in the fresh
product.
Recently it was proposed that furosine content can be used as a marker for RJ freshness48. The initial content
of this compound is very low in fresh royal jelly. Specifically, the content rose to as high as 500 mg/100g of
protein after 18 months storage at room temperature and 50 mg/100g at 4C. Samples taken from store
shelves showed values ranging from 40 to 100 mg/100g protein. The value of furosine, a product of
Maillards reaction, proved very low (from 0 to 10 mg/100g of protein) in freshly produced RJ samples but
increases over time and in relation to temperature. A limit of 50 mg furosine / 100g protein could be used for
fresh RJ. A specific RJ protein, decomposing upon storage can also be used as a freshness marker26.

Improvement of storability
From the above findings it is clear that RJ is an unstable product. Freeze drying is the most important
technological method in order to improve the storability of RJ. However, there is a loss of volatile
substances, as reported by Vahonina, 1995 in 9. Stabilisation can be achieved by mixing 1 to 2 % of RJ into
honey, where all enzymatic activity is stopped.
As reported in9 the Russian Braines found out in 1968, that RJ can be bound to a mixture of lactose and
glucose, which improves its durability. In Russia RJ is often offered in such lactose-glucose pills under the
name of Apilac. The method of Braines was improved as follows: Six part of frozen RJ are added to one part
of dried glucose-lactose (1:1), then the mixture containing 50 mg/kg L-ascorbic acid as an antixodant is dried
until 4 % humidity. This product is stable at 4 to 8 0C for 2 years8, 9.

COMPOSITION
Royal jelly is a viscous jelly substance. It is partially soluble in water with a density of 1.1 g/mL. Its colour is
whitish to yellow, the yellow colour increasing upon storage. Its odour is sour and pungent, the taste being
sour and sweet. The sensory characteristic is an important quality criterion. Old royal jelly, which has not
been properly stored tends to be darker and a rancid taste can develop. For optimum quality it should be
stored in frozen state. The viscosity varies according to water content and age - it slowly becomes more
viscous when stored at room temperature or in a refrigerator at 50 C. The increased viscosity appears to be
related to an increase in water insoluble nitrogenous compounds, together with a reduction in soluble
nitrogen and free amino acids 67. These changes are apparently due to continued enzymatic activities and
interaction between the lipid and protein fractions.
There is no international standard for royal jelly, while some countries like Brazil, Bulgaria, Japan,
Switzerland and Uruguay have established national ones. A working group of the International Honey

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Commission is working on the elaboration of an international standard. A first work in view of establishment
57
of a standard has been published

Composition of royal jelly after57


Fresh

lyophilized

60 - 70
3-8

<5
8 19

10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid %

> 1,4

> 3,5

Protein %

9 18

27 41

Fructose + glucose+ sucrose %

7 18

Fructose %

3 13

Glucose %
Sucrose %
Ash %

48
0,5 2,0
0,8 3,0

pH
Acidity (ml 0.1N NaOH/g)

3,4 4,5
3,0 6,0

Water %
Lipids %

25
3,4 4,5

Humidity
The water content, with 60-70 % is the main component of royal jelly. The dry substance is composed of
carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids and fat. Smaller quantities of minerals and vitamins are also present
(see table).

Proteins and peptides


With 17 to 45 % of the RJ dry weight they are the main substance class of RJ 35, and also the principal
nitrogenous compounds, accounting for about 97-98 % of them 34. About 60 % of them are water-soluble 34.
Free amino acids represent only 0.6 - 1.5% , the majority of which belong to the L series. The most
representative are proline and lysine 6, 61. Upon storage at 4C for 10 months no significant changes of amino
acids were encountered, while after room temperature storage proline and lysine content increased 6. This is
due probably to proteolytic enzyme activity.
A number of enzymes have been characterised: glucose oxidase 2, 58, invertase 2, 68, acid and alkaline
phosphatase, alpha and beta esterase, leucine aminopeptiadase,valin aminopeptiadase lipase,
phosphoamidase, 68 and superoxide dismutase 29.

Lipids
The lipids with 3 to 19 % of the RJ dry weight 6, 37, are second in importance after the proteins. 80 to 90 % of
the lipid fraction consists of free fatty acids, the rest being neutral lipids, sterols, hydrocarbons 30, 35, 37, 39, 40.
Most of the organic acids are free with rather unusual structure rarely encountered in nature, mono- and
dihydroxy acids and dicarboxylic acids with 8 and 10 carbon atoms 36, 37. The identification of this fraction
in particular as regards the pattern and quantitative analysis of free organic acids is believed to represent
the criteria of choice for defining the genuineness of RJ 5, 10. The main acid 10-hydroxy-2-decenoic (HDA) is
an unsaturated acid, which is determined for the evaluation of RJ genuinely (see Quality parameters and
Standard)
HDA and also the other fatty acids of RJ have antibacterial properties 51, 63, thus contributing to the relatively
low content of bacteria in this product.
The other fatty acids are all saturated mono- and dihydroxy-, mono- and dicarboxylic acids have not been
quantified exactly, but can be roughly estimated to be around 0.5 to to 1 g/ 100 g 39

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155

Carbohydrates
These are third in importance, composed of mainly fructose, glucose and sucrose 38, 41, 62, with some traces of
maltose, trehalose, melibiose, ribose and erlose also being found 38, 41.

Minerals
The ash content (minerals) represents 0.8 to 3 % of RJ fresh matter.
The major elements are K, P, S, Na, Ca, Al, Mg, Zn, Fe, Cu and Mn but there are trace amounts (0.01-1
mg/100 g) of Ni, Cr, Sn, W, Sb,Ti and Bi. The sodium content of RJ varies between 11 and 14 mg/ 100 g. 66

Vitamins
The concentrations of vitamins in RJ are distributed over a broad spectrum; vitamins showing fairly uniform
values are riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and folic acid. Likewise present but with greater variations are
pyridoxine, biotin, pantothenic acid and inositol.
Only traces of vitamin C are present, while the fat soluble vitamins like vitamine A,D, E and K are absent 60.

Other minor components


Numerous minor compounds, belonging to diverse chemical categories, have been identified in royal jelly.
Among these are two heterocyclic substances, biopterine and neopterine at 25 and 5 g/g of fresh weight
respectively 55. These compounds are found in the food of worker bee larvae too, but at about one tenth of
these concentration. Other substances identified include several nucleotides as free bases (adenosine, uridine,
guanosine, iridin and cytidine) the phosphates AMP, ADP, and ATP 49, acetylcholine (1 mg/g dry weight, 20
and gluconic acid (1.4 % of fresh weight, 53. Benzoic acid (8-15 mg/kg) has also been found 50. Small
amounts of malic, lactic and citric acid have also been found 28.

QUALITY AND STANDARD


There is no international standard. Some countries as Brazil, Bulgaria, Japan, Switzerland and Uruguay have
57
national standards

Sensory requirements
Sensory test

Requirements

Colour

White to yellow, yellow colour increases with storage

Odour

Sour, pungent

Taste

Sour, sweet

Consistency

A viscous jelly

Visual purity

Pollen, very few wax and larvae particles

Quality requirements for royal jelly and standards


Parameter

Requirement
Fresh RJ

Lyophylized RJ

Reference, analysis

Humidity

Max. 70 g/100g

Max. 5 g/100g

64

10-HDA (by HPLC)

> 1,9 g / 100 g

> 3,5 g / 100 g

11, 27, 31

Furosine (by HPLC)

Max 50 mg / 100 g*

Max 50 mg / 100 g*

General quality

Purity, Authenticity

48, 52

Corresponds to requirements, see 4, 57

Royal jelly can be contaminated by antibiotics by improper beekeeping practices4. Best quality of royal jelly
can be achieved in certified organic beekeeping.

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156

LABELLING
Composition
Fresh, lyophilised
Indicate protein-, carbohydrate and fat content, 10 g RJ correspond to 30 calories
Intake (See Report on health claims, intake)
One full tea spoon of fresh royal jelly is approx. 10 g, determine dosage of RJ on spatula
Fresh RJ: adults: 100 250 mg per day; children: half dose
Warning: It is recommended that people who are susceptible to allergies or asthma should avoid intake of
royal jelly

Shelf life
Fresh royal jelly:
6 months, if stored in the refrigerator (3 to 5 C)
2 years if stored in the freezer (< - 18 C)
Lyophylised royal jelly
One year if stored in the refrigerator (3 to 5 C)
At least 2 years if stored in the freezer (< - 18 C)
Fresh or lyophylised royal jelly in honey
Two years at room temperature.

TRADE
Royal Jelly is product, which is very well known in East Asia, while it is much less known in other parts of
the world. There are no official statistics on RJ trade. Some figures are given by Crane. In 1984 the annual
production was about 700 t. In the same year Japan produced 46 tons of RJ. According to these figures China
and Taiwan account for approximately 60 % and 20 % of the world production, the rest is produced in
Korea, Japan, Eastern Europe, Italy, France16
In America Mexico is the largest RJ producer 32. In Europe RJ is produced mainly in Eastern Europe, Italy
and France. According to a recent article published in 2009 about 3000 tons of RJ are produced annually in
China47 . Thus, today about 4-5000 tons annually are produced world-wide.
In the sixties the whole sale price of RJ was 180 to 400 $ per kg 32. In 1993 the wholesale price of Chinese
royal jelly was 50-80 $ per kg, in 2010 it is around 20 to 40 $, according to offers in Internet. Thus, there has
been an enormous price decline. Efforts are necessary to insure RJ quality and achieve higher prices which
are by all means deserved by such a valuable product.

BEE BROOD
Bee brood (BB) which is the least recognised bee product in terms of
use for human nutrition. Drone brood (DB), instead of bee brood
should be harvested in order to keep bee populations stable.
In earlier cultures this product was probably of second greatest
importance after honey. They could therefore serve as a direct food
source once the beekeeper has no more need for extra bees or brood,
or when undesired colonies have to be removed. Honeybee brood of
all ages is eagerly consumed by honey hunters in Africa and Asia and
is generally considered a delicious treat. The brood is said to form a
considerable part of the diet (Hill et al., 1984 and Bailey, 1989; as
cited in 60). In China and Japan, drone larvae are canned for export or,
after being covered in chocolate. DB is eaten most often together with the combs or the pupae can be picked
out and pickled or boiled. Indeed, bee brood is particularly rich in protein.
In 1960 it was estimated that 132 tons of bee brood is destroyed before winter just in the Canadian provinces
of Alberta, Manitoba and Sasketchewan. They wanted to develop a market for this food and found out that
the most accepted form was deep fat frying of the brood. When brood was prepared by either shallow frying in

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157

butter or deep-fat frying in vegetable cooking fat and tested by a panel of Canadians, "Most reactions were
favourable and some were eulogistic; initial prejudice proved easier to overcome than we had expected. When
the tasters were asked to compare the material to some more familiar food, those most commonly mentioned
were walnuts, pork crackling, sunflower seeds, and rice crispies. In a later, larger taste test, deep-fat fried, butter
fried, and baked preparations were highly rated while smoked, pickled, and brandied were much less preferred21
In many Asian and African countries fresh DB is considered a delicacy. A bee brood products named
bakuti, is produced in Nepal, described in 1990 by Burgett: Sections of comb are placed in a woven, fabric
bag and hand squeezed over an open container that collects the liquid phase. This is then heated and gently
stirred until it becomes the consistency of soft scrambled eggs. The odor and flavor of bakuti, Dr. Burgett
describes as "nut like." To make it more acceptable to the U.S. palate, he mixes an equal volume of
Philadelphia brand cream cheese and serves the preparation on crackers. In Zimbabwe the Shona use three
kinds of hive, recognized as mukuyo (honeycombs), the machinda (bee pupae), and the pfuma (royal jelly).
"Only the mukuyo honey is taken home, that from the machinda hive is either eaten on the spot or thrown
away and that from the pfuma eaten there and then." A cake-like mass made from honey boiled with millet,
and called chihungwe, is eaten as a delicacy or may be taken to other villages and sold or bartered for grain 7
BB is regularly sold alongside honey in markets in many parts of Asia 60.

Harvesting
Different aspects of harvesting bee brood as food were investigated. To insure uniformity of larval age at
harvest time, brood rearing was concentrated in certain frames by confining queens in frames having queen
excluder walls. Every fourth day the comb filled with eggs was removed from the cage and replaced by an
empty brood comb. Brood was allowed to develop until most of the larvae were capped (9-11 days). Cells can
be uncapped with a thin serrated knife, and larvae are extracted easily and efficiently by spraying the comb with
one or more jets of water. Larvae are removed from both sides of the comb and allowed to fall onto a cloth filter
such as cheesecloth. After the water is shaken from the cells, the dark empty brood combs can be returned to the
queens. The queens prefer them and they encourage maximum egg production. The author states that it is
possible to harvest at least one pound of larvae per week from each producing queen18
Harvesting of DB, which has to be taken away from bee colonies in the frame of alternative Varroa control is a
good occasion for harvesting.
Apilarnil is a Romanian product, based on drone bee larvae and its food. Its composition is similar to the
one of royal jelly 65 but outside Romania there is no published scientific data on this product.

Storage and shelf life


This topic was studied in detail by Burimistrova9. The conclusions of the studies are:
The maximum storage of fresh drone brood (FDB) at room temperature is one hour, then it has to be
cooled or frozen
The maximum storage at 4 to 8 0C is 12 to 24 hours
At -20 0C it can be stored until 3 months
For better storage six parts FDB it is added to one part of dried glucose-lactose (1:1) the mixture containing
50 mg/kg L-ascorbic acid as an antioxidant is dried until 4 to % humidity. This product is stable at 4 to 8 0C
for 2 years.

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158

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Royal Jelly, Bee Brood: Composition, Nutrition, Health


It is said that the ancient Egyptians knew royal jelly (RJ), believing it will keep the pharaos body young and
beautiful even after he passes away and that Cleopatra used it for her cosmetics in order to keep herself
beautiful. The ancient Chinese used royal jelly as a aphrodisiac168.

ROYAL JELLY AS A NUTRIENT


Table 1: Nutritional components of royal jelly and nutritional requirements, after 175, 179, 212
g in 100 g

% RDI
(0.2 g per
day)

RDI
(g/day)

< 0.1
< 0.1
< 0.1

320
50
80
RDI*
(mg/day)
15

Water
Carbohydrates
Proteins
Fat

60-70
11 - 23
9 -18
3-8

Vitamins

mg /100g

Niacin (B3)

4.5 19

% RDI
for 0.2 g RJ
< 0.3

Pyridoxin (B6)

0.2 5.5

<1

1.4

Thiamin (B1)

0.1 1.7

<1

1.1

Riboflavin (B2)

0.5 2.5

<1

1.3

Pantothenic acid

3.6 23

<1

Folic acid

0.01 0.06

<1

0.4

Biotin (H)

0.15 0.55

< 0.1 2

0.045

Minerals

mg /100g

Potassium (K)

200-1000

% RDI
for 0.2 g RJ
0.1 0.5

RDI*
(mg/day)
2000

Calcium (Ca)

25-85

< 0.1

1000

Magnesium (Mg)

20-100

0.05 0.3

350

Zink (Zn)

0.7-8

0.02 0.2

8.5

Iron (Fe)

1-11

0.02 0.15

12.5

Copper (Cu)

0.33-1.6

0.06 0.3

1.2

*- after the German Nutrition Society


The significance of royal jelly for human nutrition is relatively small. Assuming a daily intake of 2 g per day,
the basic nutrients proteins, lipids and carbohydrates contained in RJ do not play a role for their RDI. The
same is true for the minerals. From the vitamins there is a small contribution of pyridoxin (B6), thiamin (B1),
riboflavin (B2) and biotin (H).

Bio-active ingredients
HDA and other fatty acids
Most of the organic acids are free with rather unusual structure rarely encountered in nature, mono- and
dihydroxy acids and dicarboxylic acids with 8 and 10 carbon atoms 117, 118, the man acid being 10hydroxydecenoic acid (HDA, see chapter one). Numerous effects have being reported, most of them for
HAD:

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163

antibacterial and immuno activating 8, 11, 13, 129, 139, 180, 220, 223, 229
immuno-modulating, anti-cancer39, 55, 196, 206, 207, 218
anti-diabetes156
collagen promoting and skin protecting102
anti-ulcer45
facilitates differentiation of brain cells69
promotes endothelial health, antihypertensive, antihyperlipoidemia84, 137, 224
estrogenic135, 144
anti-rheumatic227
activation of TRPA1 and TRPV1 (induces thermogenesis and energy expenditure enhancement)200

Proteins and peptides


82 - 90 % of the RJ proteins belong to the Major Royal Jelly Protein type (RRJP) protein178. This protein
belongs to the albumin protein class185 and has immuno-modulating activity154. Different glycoproteins 96-99,
141, 213, 229
and peptides have been characterised: apisimin 10,one with antihypertensive activity 136, 138 and so
called jeleines with antibacterial properties 49. Many effects have been encountered for different proteins and
peptides:
anti-oxidative61, 62
immuno-modulating, monocyte-proliferation stimulating95, 154
antibacterial48
anti-inflammatory101, 130
vitalisation and anti-fatigue 91, 186, 187
anti-hypertensive134, 137, 204
anti-allergic154
anti-diabetes103
collagen proliferating and skin fibroblast differentiating209
AMP-N1 Oxide
Adenosine monophosphate N1 oxide is a compound found only in RJ. Its main effects are on the centrally
nervous system:
it stimulates neuronal differentiation, promots generation of all three types of cells composing the
central nervous system: neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, against neuronal damage71, 72
Acetylcholin221
The concentratons found is 1 mg/g dry weight 73
it is a nerve transmitter, having a number of hormone-like effects in the central and vegetative
nervous system
The hormones testosterone,progesterone, prolactine, estradiol have been found in RJ

217

see table 10.

They increase of male and female fertility, and also male power and endurance
Polyphenols have also been identified with:
Antioxidant effect124
Summarising the above it seems that the unique anti-fatigue and the brain activating properties of royal jelly
are mediated by HDA, by a specific proteins by AMP-N1 oxide and by RJ hormones.

Dietology and prophylactics


Royal jelly is a functional food and thus an ideal additive for prophylactic purposes. Due to its ideal
effects in newborn children it is an ideal additive to their food.

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164

Hovanska examined the influence of infant nursing food containing also RJ and pollen in
comparison with infant food without these ingredients. The infants fed on the food with the
ingredients had a better adaptation to stress situations78.
Krilov and Sokolski prepared a tablet containing 45 mg dry RJ, 30 mg ascorbic acid, the resting 265
mg containing lactose, sucrose, starch and calcium stearate. The authors tested the tablets, given to
test students 3 times per day. While there was no influence on normal students, test persons with
lowered immunity was beneficially influence, measured by normalised ratios between blood
albumin and globulins ratios and the content of A,B, G immunoglobulin proteins and of other
parameters109.
In summary, RJ has a variety of biological properties which make it an ideal additive with rejuvenating, antiaging. It can easily be combined with other compounds, vitamins, antioxidants and trace elements.

Royal jelly as a supplement for professional sportsmen for better performance


In a series of test in Russia a Russian preparation Ap-iton 25 was tested in
highly trained sportsmen. The tests were carried out at the beginning and after
21 days, the intake of RJ was 4 pills sublingually daily, each one containing
369 mg lactose-glucose absorbed RJ, in total corresponding to about 1.2 g dry
RJ daily, a control group took placebo. In the tests the resilience of sportsmen
was tested in a treadmill, until the sportsmen rejected a further load increase, the
load being changed every minute. The endurance of the sportsmen who took the
RJ supplement was significantly better than the controls after 10 and 21 day of
the test and remained significant 5 days after the sportsmen stopped taking the
supplement. It is known that in physical performance the endurance decreases
because of an increase of blood lipid hydroperoxides. An antioxidant as RJ should theretically inhibit the
building of the lipid peroxidaton. Indeed, there was a highly significant difference between the test and the
control groups regarding this parameter, on the 10th and 21st day of training, this difference persisted 5 days
after stopping supplementation. It is known that immunity decreases upon persistent physical strain. This
results in a decrease of immunogloblines IgA, IgG and IgM. The humoral immunity was tested by measuring
these parameters in the blood of the test persons. The IgA concentration in comparison with the initial values
was higher than the controls after 21 days, while the change of the other two parameters was not
significantly changed. The number of leucocytes, lymphocytes, T-lymphocytes, T-helpers and T-suppressers
in the blood are a function of the cell immunity. All of these parameters were significantly higher in the test
sportsmen after 21 days, when the values were compared to the initial ones, see page163-167 of 108. This
preparation is sold in Russia and is accepted as a sport supplement by the Russian Antidoping Agency, see
http://comilfo-api.com/
A 45% ethanol solution containing 2.4 g native RJ in 100 ml was tested in a sport performance of 17-20 year
old female students, who took 3 times 10 drops (approx. 100 mg RJ). Following tests were carried out:
measurement of body mass, performance of Stanges breath holding test, measurement of the viso-motoric
reaction, hanging on the bars, 30 m runs with maximal speed, measurement of heart rate afterwards, then a 5
minute step test with a step height of 30 cm, 30 climbs per minute followed by a 5 minute rest. There was a
significant increase of the reaction of the organism to hypoxia, as measured by the Stange test and an
improvement of the viso-motoric reaction177.
Football players
In a test with young football players the effect of an intake of a RJ supplement on 13 morphological
characteristics in initial and final measuring, tested against a control group (no intake). On the basis of the
research results it could be concluded that football players from the experimental group who used royal jelly
had statistically significant increase of body height and muscle components, and also a decrease of fat in the
final measurement as compared to the initial ones. The results showed statistically significant increase in
circumference above knee and circumference of lower leg in experimental group on the end of the
experimental treatment. The examinees from experimental group had higher average values in body height,
body mass, muscle and bone component, and lower average value of fat 87.

FUNCTIONAL PROPERTIES
The main significance of royal jelly lies in its health-promoting properties.

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Chauvin reviews the biological and pharmacological effects of RJ and states that results are often
controversial. He points out that RJ injection is very risky and thus ingestion should be used instead.
Sublingual application by contact of RJ in order to achieve a direct transmission of RJ into blood is also
recommended in order to avoid eventual decomposition of proteins in the digestion tract 29, 31
Many East European studies are extensively reviewed in the Krylov and Sokolskis RJ monograph109. Prof.
Krylov from the university of Nijni Novgorod has done many original contributions on this topic. The
original Russian references will be often referred to as Krylov-Sokolski, as they are not accessible to nonRussian readers.
The different biological effects reported in the literature are compiled in table 2. For better clarity the
different effects are summarised according to the type of effect.

Antibacterial, antiviral and fungicidal effects


Many studies have shown that royal jelly has antibacterial activity. These properties have been reviewed. RJ
inhibits both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, but the first group is stronger inhibited: Antibacterial
activity towards different bacteria, many of them pathogenic, has been registered: 191
The antibacterial activity is due to: HDA 13, 180 and to different proteins and peptides 49, 52, 191, 222
Antibiotic resistance increasingly encountered today, e.g against Pseudomonas aeruginosa could be
overcome by RJ 119

Bio-stimulating activity
The role of RJ in the bee colony is to stimulate and increase the growth of
larvae, increasing metabolic processes. The most evident effect is the increase
of weight of many animals, reported after ingestion of RJ (see table 2). In an
early work it was found in an animal experiments that RJ increases oxygen
metabolism of tissues and causes increased activity in mice, due to increased
concentration and use of blood glucose 58 RJ increases also tissue oxygen
consumption and thus increases performance and endurance. These effect are
due to RJ induced increase of respiration and oxidative phosphorylation 109. The
anti hypoxic, i.e. oxidative effect of royal jelly in animal experiments can be
also mentioned here 109. It was also found that RJ increases the metabolism of
humans (especially increased were breathing frequency and basal metabolism 31.

Immuno-modulating effects
Immunomodulating effects lay an important effect in cancer, allergy,and inflammation. They can be
activating and deactivating. In the case of RJ the activating effects predominate as they have been reported
by many workers (see table 1).
109

Krylov reports on the increase of all blood cells and the -1 and -2 globulins fraction after RJ ingestion
The effect on the alpha globulin fraction is probably connected to the reported immunomodulating activity
of RJ. RJ induces the formation T-lymphocytes, responsible for the immune response for the immune
response against viruses and cancer cells and play an important role in inflammation processes218. This
activity seems to be due to 10-HDA. Tamura et al. 196 showed in experiments with rats that inhibition of
tumor growth of slow growing tumors (Ehrlich and Sarcoma strains) is better than that of fast growing ones
(leukaemia).

Recently the effect of RJ was tested on tumour development and metastasis in murine tumour models. RJ did
not affect the formation of metastases when given intraperitoneally or subcutaneously. However,
synchronous application of tumour cells and royal jelly intravenously significantly (p < 0.001) inhibited the
formation of metastases 159
The immuno-activating effects or RJ are due to its main protein apalbumin1129. In one case it has been
reported that RJ has also immuno-inhibitory anti-allergic effects in mice 154.
Anti-inflammatory effects, reported for RJ, are hormone-like effects reducing inflammation. Tissue
inflammation is generally thought to be a major cause for body degeneration and ultimate death.

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166

Effects on the nervous system


RJ has also a stimulating, activating effects on the central nervous system, CNS 58
and also on the vegetative NS 109. Krylov reports on acetyl-choline like effects on
the intestine and on the innervation of the smooth respiration muscle. These
effects result in an improved muscle tonus and activity. Intake of Apilac, a
Russian preparation based on RJ, leads to an increased phosphorilation of the
CNS, to increase of rat brain cholinesterase activity. High doses of 100 mg/kg to
mice lead to structural changes of nerve neurons 109.
RJ shows neurotrophic effects on the mature brain via stimulation of Glial CellDerived Neurotrophic Factor, GDNF production. The enhanced expression of
neurofilament H mRNA is involved in events subsequently caused GDNF. RJ may play neurotrophic and/or
neuroprotective roles in the adult brain through GDNF66
Recent brain research has elucidated the mechanism of action for the RJ effects on the CNS. A unique RJ
component, cAMP-N1 oxide, not found in any other materials, acts directly on neuronal differentiation and
stimulates the formation of different brain cells 68. RJ facilitates also the differentiation of all types of brain
cells: neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes 69.
Royal jelly may be a promising agent for the activation of neural stem cells in a mature brain expected to
differentiate into neurons or glial cells. Recent investigations clarified a relationship between the
neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus and the symptoms of depression, expecting efficient
use of royal jelly to activate neurogenesis. Reduction of neuronal death and an increase of neurogenesis in
Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's diseases may be also supported by royal jelly, although a detailed
animal experiment is necessary53.

Cardiovascular effects
RJ influences different blood parameters: reduction of serum cholesterol and
triglycerides levels, increase of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels,
lowering of plasma fibrinogen levels and thrombosis (table 1). Due to these
effects RJ caused cardioprotective effects in physiological and biochemical
experiments with mice 109.
Experiments on the isolated heart showed that RJ increased the blood
pressure of the heart chamber by 60 %, the maximum velocity of the
myocard contraction by 22 and the maximum velocity of the myocard
relaxation by 87 %. The coronary blood stream was increased by 42 % and
the diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 20 %. These effects are explained by an increased synthesis of
bio-energy, ATP in the heart muscle. On the basis of these experiments RJ can be recommended as a cardioprotectant. Krylov reports also on experiments in rats of positive effects of RJ in adrenaline-induced
myocarditis 109.
Anti-hypertenisive, hypotensive, vasodilatative effects in animals has been reported by different authors
(table 2).
RJ peptides have been found to have an anti-hypertensive activity137

Other effects
Different other biological effects have been also reported (table 2)
Anti-oxidative and radiation-protective and hepatoprotective (liver-protecting
Hyperglycaemic, preventing insulin resistance
Stimulating bone formation and promoting bone healing in rabbits, preventing osteoporosis in rats
promoting building of collagen in cell cultures
suppressing the development of atopic dermatitis-like skin lesions in rats

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Table 2: Biological and pharmacological effects of royal jelly in animal and cell culture experiments
Effect

References
Antibacterial, fungicidal, antiviral, antiparasitic effects

1, 8, 52, 76, 77, 115, 191, 222, 228


Antibacterial
191
Fungicide
,
35, 191
Antiviral
123
Active against various parasitic Trypanosomidae
Bio stimulatory effects, anti-aging
75, 140, 192
Estrogenic and gonadotropic effects in cells and in rats
14-23, 29, 33
Increases growth and weight of chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, guinea-fowls,
pigs, calves, guinea pigs, mice and rats
75, 91, 109
Anti-fatigue, increases activity improves its resistance to stress
79, 80, 105-107
Increases reproduction capacity of rats and sheep
58, 109, 166
Increases oxygen consumption in tissues in vitro, antihypoxia
41, 67, 100
Against infertility of male rabbits, improves sexual efficiency in rats and hamsters
82
Life-prolonging in mice
Immuno-modulating effects: anti-cancer, anti-allergy and anti-inflammatary
5, 42, 55, 109, 111, 133, 153-155, 184, 193, 218,
Immuno-stimulating activity in animals or in cell cultures, increase of leucocytes
220, 225, 226
count
12, 34, 37, 149, 158, 159, 196, 205, 208
Anti-tumor effects in cell culture and animal experiments (ingestion or injection)
132
Inhibits autoimmunity in mice
101
Anti-inflammatory in cell culture tests
Cardiovascular effects
6, 113, 134, 182, 202, 203
Anti-hypertenisive, hypotensive, vasodilatative effects in animals
109, 112 32, 173, 181
Anti-atherosclerosis: reduces serum cholesterol and triglycerides levels, increases
HDL levels, lowers plasma fibrinogen levels and thrombosis
109
Cardio-protective in animal experiments, prevents myocarditis
29, 31
Increases blood levels of thyroxine, cortison albumin/globulin ratio and decreases
serum proteins after oral administration in rats
109
Increases number of blood cells
.
Effects on the central and vegetative nervous system
58, 68-70, 109
Acts on central nervous activity, activates and protects it.
Facilitates the differentiation of brain cells.
109
Increases phosphorilation of the CNS to increase of rat brain cholisterase activity
Acetyl-choline like effects on the intestine and on the innervation of the respiration 109
smooth muscle
29, 31
Tranquillisation of rats
Anti-oxidation, hepatoprotective, radioationprotective
30, 82, 85, 86, 147, 148
Anti-oxidative
109
Hepato-protective in animal experiments
40, 110
Reduces stress and terratogenicity, pulmonary edema, hepatic or renal damage in
rats due to intoxication with mycotoxins
90, 92, 153
Activates stimulation of hepatocyte DNA synthesis and protects cells from
apoptosis, mitogenic effect, prolongs cell proliferation, inhances albumin
production.
57, 165, 219
Radiation-protective in animal experiments
Other effects
74 150, 215
Prevents osteoporosis in rats and stimulates bone formation
,
102
Skin protection: promotes building of collagen in cell cultures
27-29, 152, 156
Hyperglycaemic action, prevents insulin resistance, antidiabetic

Decreases experimental colitis in rats

93

Suppresses the development of atopic dermatitis-like skin lesions in rats

197

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ROYAL JELLY IN MEDICINE


Royal jelly is especially popular in Asia, see Krell 104. An important part of the clinical research comes also
from Asia. However, most of the original Chinese literature, the biggest producer of RJ of the world, is not
accessible to non-Chinese.
Having in mind the many different biological effects of RJ it is difficult to imagine specific medical effects.
In the Western World there are only very few clinical studies with RJ. In more recent Eastern European
monographs there are extensive descriptions of the clinical uses of RJ: Shkenderov and Ivanov, 1983183
Ludyanski, 1994125, Krylov and Sokolski, 2000109, Asafova et al. 20017 and Krylov et al. 2007108. Many of
the clinical applications described here are taken from these monographs, the original citations could not
consulted as they are not accessible to the author. The majority of the cited studies are old and do not stand
the criteria for modern clinical tests, i.e. double blind studies or with necessary controls. However they are
carried out with a considerable number of patients and in some of the studies control treatments have been
carried out.
Table 3: Medicinal effects of royal jelly in humans
Use

References

Pediatry: in premature babies or with nutritional deficiencies: improvement of


general conditions, increase in weight, appetite, red blood cells and
haemoglobin

32, 109, 131, 143, 171, 172, 176, 183

Geriatry: improves general condition and weakness of old people relief of


menopausal problems,

36, 109, 125, 183, 194, 216

Against stenocardia and after heart infarct; arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis;


hypertension, hypotension

50, 63, 109, 161, 183, 216

Against respiratory diseases, asthma

109, 114, 183, 190

Against eye diseases, e.g. blepharitis, conjuctivitis and corneal burn, disturbed
eye blood circulation;

109, 167, 198

Bio-stimulatory, improves physical performance of humans and resistance to


hypoxia

109, 183

Improvement of memory, neuro- vegatative activation

109, 183

Against diabetes

109, 145, 174

Against cancer

89, 226

Against gastric, gastric and duodenal ulcer

83, 109

Improves regeneration of skin in wounds

56

Against degenerative rheumatism

54

Against warts, acne, ulcers, seborhoe, neurodermitis

114

Against renal disfunction

Pediatry, nursing and geriatry


RJ activates a number of physiological processes and has a stimulating effect on biological growth. Thus its
main medicinal use is in pediatry, nursing and geriatry (see tables below). It has a proven effect on the
increase of weight of different animals supposes its use in young infants for the same purpose. In the
references cited in the table, beneficial effects have been observed in infants with nutritional deficiencies and
premature babies or: improvement of general conditions, increase in weight, appetite, red blood cells and
haemoglobin.

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Table 4 : Royal jelly in pediatry and nursing

Author, clinical test, disease

RJ intake, recommendation, results

Lebedeva, 1959, increase of weight


and apetite of 1 year old children 116
Fateeva and Rochal, 46
hypertrophy and lacking appetite of 4
month to 3 years old children

Intrarectal intake of 5 mg lyophylized RJ, 3 times a day

Iliash81, Vasileva211
Zweer231

Zweer232

Magdalena, 1965127. treatment of


maldevelopment of breast infants
Popova, 1960169
Destekina, Iliash 1974, after 108
Dmitrieva et al. 1994 after 108
Gyuzikina 1993, 1998 64, 65

Mahmoud 1997128

Intrarectal intake of 5 mg lyophylized RJ by smaller children and twice


10 mg sublingual intake by the older ones. 35 children were treated
successfully: After 2-3rd day the children began eating, after 15 days
the average weight increase was 200 g per day
Similar results for similar symptoms as above
Similar experiments but with a control group. 25 premature-born
children, 30-60 mg RJ was given to the nursing mothers. 76 % of the
children recovered, while in the control group the recovery was 46%.
The lactation of the 61 % of the nursing mothers (n=93) was improved,
while in the control group (n=100) the success rate was 16 %.
30 mg of dry RJ per day was given sublingually to nursing mothers
having big blood losses during the birth. Within 8-9 days their blood
haemoglobin was normalized.
Comparing the effectivity of different RJ preparations to treat (fresh,
lyophilised, RJ in honey) it was concluded that best results were
achieved with fresh RJ
RJ was also successfully used in the treatment of Herters intestinal
infantilism (disturbance of nutrition in infants)
Successful use of Apilac in new born children with brain trauma
Use of royal jelly in new born; positive development of the bactericide
properties of the skin and elimination of bacterial infections
In a trial with premature born children with Candidas infections Apilac
(contains 10 mg dry RJ) was given for 3 weeks the infections
decreased, together with a good weight increase.
RJ was given to premature babies in doses of 1 gr per day for 5 days.
The babies had a higher weight gain and a higher blood glucose
concentration (within limits) than the controls. The authors presume
that RJ, and also honey, cause an increased appetite, and thus a higher
assimilation of food.

Table 5 : Royal jelly in geriatry

Author, clinical test, disease

RJ intake, recommendation, results

Different authors, treatment of


different geriatric diseases 36, 125, 216

Effective in the treatment of arteriosclerosis, weakness and menopause

Vitek and Janci, 1968183 treatment of


poor blood circulation in the brain,
local brain damages, Parkinson,
astenic and chronic neurosis.

Summary of the experience of several authors treating with RJ


different diseases typical for aged persons: 113 patients were
examined. 71% of the cases had an improved condition while 13 %
experienced complete healing. Best results were achieved in treating
weakness while Parkinson was at least influenced.

Valiukiene et al. 1997210, weakness

Intake by 23 volunteers 45 to 89 years old of Apilac tablets containing


70 mg lyophilised RJ, 2 times a day for 25 days: disappearance of
dizziness and weakness, improvement of sleep etc. 74 % of the persons
had a decreased cholesterol and triglyceride content, increased blood
counts of immunoreactivity factors

RJ has been successfully used to improve the general condition and weakness due to old age. As sclerosis,
weakness, menopause etc. In these treatments, the cardio-protective, anti- atherosclerosis and antiarteriosclerosis effects of RJ should also play a role. Fujii hypnotises that RJ gamma globulin and gelatine
collagen are responsible for the anti-geriatric skin activating action of RJ51

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Heart and blood circulation diseases


According to Krylov and Sokolsky and Krylov et al.108, 109:
Nemanov (1959) and Mistenko (1960) used RJ for a successfull treatment of stenocardia by sublingual
ingestion of 10 mg dry RJ, 3 times a day for 2-4 weeks. The effect of RJ was gradual, complete healing was
after 4 week, the effects are not immediate like that of nitroglycerine.
Nisov and Lupachev (1962) treat successfully stenocardia by treatment with Apilac, the effects are not
immediate like nitroglycerine, they are explained the effect by the normalisation of the blood protein pattern.
Kadiseva (1962) report on a successful treatment of arteriosclerosis by treatments of 20-30 mg RJ daily for
40 days.
Zaitzeva and Poryadina (1962) report on the use of Apilac (10 mg dry RJ) twice a day for one month in
arteriosclerosis patients. Best results were achieved in patients with initial forms of the disease. Kadiseva
(1962) treated successfully arteriosclerosis patients by using 10 day Apilac treatments: initially increasing
from 10-20mg, then from 20 to 30 mg, the final two periods decreasing 30-20 and 20-10.
Lupachev (1965) used 3 to 6 pills of Apilac per day to treat 80 persons more than 40 year old myocardial
infarct patients, some of them with hypertension. Contrary to the action of nitroglycerine the heart pain was
not extinguished, but its duration and intensity decreased. The author presumes an anti-spasmolytic action ,
increase of coronary blood flow and the positive neuro-vegetative effects of RJ to be the cause of the RJ
action. The blood tension normalized and the blood parameters improved126.
Okorokova and Fomina (1993) was used sublingually 200 dry RJ for 20 days, alone or in combination with
anti-stenocardia agents like nitroglycerine. After 2-3 weeks the intake of nitroglycerine could be interrupted
or the dose decreased by a factor of 2. The heart dynamic factors as arterial blood pressure and normalisation
of EKG improved too.
Okorkov et al. (1993) report in two clinical studies: a) on stenocardia patients and b) of 42-55 years old
women with neuro-vegetative-hormonal based myocardial dystrophy using RJ in combination with bee
venom. The authors from the cardiology department of the university of Ryazan, Russia, explain the positive
effects by the positive hormone-like effects and by the improved nutritional and functional supply of the
myocard.
Lyusov and Meshteryakov (1994) compared the effect of RJ with other anti-stenocardia agents. 300 mg RJ
per day was given to all patients with ischemic heart disease (first group) and stenocardia (second grop. As
whole 76 % of the RJ treated patients had an improvement of the symptoms, best results with 86% success
rate was in the group with stenocardia of the second functional class.
Fomina et al. (1998) report on a positive effect of RJ in the treatment of hypotony. 60 patients with blood
pressures of 100/60 or less all improved their readings to values of 110/70 to 120/75.
According to Asafova et al.7:
Margavichene et al. 1988 tested the use of RJ (Apilac, 0.07 g ) against ischemic heart disease (including
angina pectoris) in 25 men, decrease of cholesterol was achieved only after 5 months.
Dudaev, Ljusov (1988) used RJ against the same disease (0.5 g RJ per day sublingually), resulted in decrease
of cholesterol.
Ohotskyi and Kovrigonoi (1984) tested RJ (1-2 tablets of Apilac) in 2141 patients, 412 p. with coronary
sclerosis 243 p with stenocardia, 49 p. after myocardial infarct, 384 p. with vegetative vascular dystonia and
384 p. with hypertension climacterium syndrome (men and women). The conclusion of the authors: the
general conditions of patients with athero- and coronary cardial sclerosis with tendency towards vascular
spasms improved, stenocardia attacks disappeared, the blood circulation in the limbs improved.
Ogorkov and Fomina (1994) used 10 g honey-royal jelly (2%) for 25 days to treat 20 women with vegetative
myocardial distrophy of women in climacterium. Results: improvement of general condition, blood pressure
stabilized.
Positive results on the blood arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis parameters , cholesterol and triglycerides,
were found by Kaczor et al. (1962)88 and Vittek (1995)214, in the latter studies cholesterol was lowered by 14
% in people with moderately high cholesterol levels.

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A trial by Muenstedt et al. in 2009 failed to detect immediate changes of blood lipids after RJ intake146.

Other diseases
Respiration diseases
According to Shkenderov and Ivanov183:
Vitek and Janci (1968) have reviewed 10 publications on the use of RJ against bronchial asthma: RJ was
used sublingually in doses of 50 to 500 mg per day. Out of 311 patients 75 % showed improvement and the
symptoms stopped for a longer time.
Matushevski et al. (1972) treated patients with bronchial asthma with 3 times a day 100-150 mg dry RJ
sublingually, for one month. The condition of the patients improved, the eosinophil cell values were back to
normal.
Petrov (1971) treated successfully 170 children with spastic bronchitis by aerosol inhalations with honey and
RJ.
Diabetes
In 1956 a work on the antidiabetic effect of RJ was published174
RJ contains substances with anti-diabetes activity like 10 HDA and other fatty acids156 and improves insulin
resistence in fructose drinking rats230
Muenstedt et al. (2009) confirmed the RJ antidiabetic effects: twenty volunteers underwent the standardized
oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) and afterwards a second OGTT after ingestion of 20 g of native royal
jelly. Serum glucose levels after 2 hours and the area under the curve for glucose were significantly lower (P
= .041) after royal jelly administration. Substances originating from the pharyngeal glands of the honey bee
with insulin-like activity are likely to have caused this effect and may thus be, at least partially, responsible
for the lowering impact of honey on blood glucose levels 145
Cancer
The anti-tumor effect being tested in children with accute leukaemia, lypmpoma and hepablastoma. RJ
showed some positive results: gain of weight and improvement of the general condition of the chidren,
together with increase of white blood cells, neutrophils and leukocytes. The authors concludes that although
RJ can influence positevely cancer growth, it is not a drug and patients should not rely on RJ only for
treatment of cancers 89
In another test RJ stimulated the immunoglobuline production by lymphocytes and increased the anti-cancer
factors IgM and IgG in patients with breast cancer 226.
A Russian study by Oveckin in 2004 reported on the successful palliative use of the preparation Apitonus (3
times a 100 mg RJ dose), alone or in combination with chemotherapy and radiation in patients with
malignant duodenal ulcers, kidney and glandular cancers. RJ improved the life quality of the patients: their
appetite improved and the pains decreased, reported in108
Gastroentorology
Mishtenko (1974) treated patients with gastric and duodenal ulcers and gastritis by 20-25 mg dry RJ 3 times
per day for one month, patients being on a diet, a 1. control group on diet only 2. group with a diet and RJ 3.
traditional medication and RJ. In group 1 (diet only) 41 % (40 patients) improved, 66 % of the group 2
patients (n=40) improved while in group three 88 % (130 patients) improved, cited by109.
Wounds and cosmetics
RJ has wound healing properties. Its major protein activates keratinocytes, involved in wound healing130. It
inhibits the production of proinflammatory cytokinines, thought to play a role in skin inflammation101 and
promotes he healing in diabetic mice94.
The antimicrobial properties, together with the proteins and fatty acids makes it appropriate for skin
applications. In cosmetic preparations RJ prevents spots and wrinkles and moisturises the skin199 A RJ
extract increases the natural moisturizing factor (NMF) by promoting the expression of profilaggrin in the
skin, as well as by having a moisturizing effect on the stratum corneum157.

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According to Krylov et al. 108 :


Somov and Abramova (1962) used a 5 % RJ aerosol, 2-3 times a day, against seborrhoea and other eczemalike skin inflammations. Many skin creams and lotions contain RJ. Malay et al. (1965) have used of GR
against: warts (cream containing 1 % RJ). Smirnova (1960) has used 0.6 % RJ emulsion to counteract face
dryness, to improve elasticity of the skin and to diminish pigmentation, to diminish fatty seborrhoea, to clean
the oil glands. Omarov (1990) uses creams with RJ to tonify the face skin, to moisture its dry skin and to
make it fresher.
Ophthalmology
According to Krylov et al. 108:
RJ has been applied also: in ophthalmology: Maximenko (1975) has used a RJ preparation for the treatment
of retina diseases connected with the disturbance of the eye microcirculation.
Nedelka et al. (1987-1990) used RJ, 1 % in methylcellulose glycerol) successfully against traumatic keratitis
and lesions of the conjunctiva and the cornea. Nedelka et al. developed different preparations: drops, creams
and soluble films. These results were confirmed by Takrovski (1974) and Tanev and Peitshev (1974).
The experience in Ludyanskis hospital:

The table below table summarises the different medical uses of RJ while in table the results of treatments
with RJ against different diseases in Ludyanskis hospital125
Table 6: Uses of royal jelly in a Russian hospital
Treated disease

Cases
Very good and good improvement

Cases with
no improvement

Arteriosclerosis

27

Cerebral insufficiency

46

12

Climacterium

39

Hypertonia

21

Hypotony

16

Pediatric diseases

12

Poor blood circulation

35

11

Sexual disfunction (men)

26

Royal jelly for sexual disfunctions and good fertility?


RJ makes fertile queens out of infertile worker bees. Are there similar effects in vertebrates?
In Russian apitherapy RJ has been successfully used in women with climacterium and sexual
disfunction, as mentioned by Ludyanski (see table above).
Zweer (1974) reported also on the the successful treatment of 100 women from 40 to 62 years with
climacterium problems. After an intake of twice 20 mg RJ for 2 to 4 weeks the symptoms
disappeared in the majority of the patients: hot flashes, sleeplessness and irritability disappeared,
work capacity improved 233.
In a study on the use of RJ against sheep infertility 107 a study was cited, that RJ is used to increase
the fertility of men and women4. In a book about infertility by R. Lewis, it is claimed that said to
improve fertility in both men and women, in men by increasing the quality of their sperm, and in
women by increasing the quality of their eggs122.
An intravaginal application of mixture of honey and royal jelly was successful for treating male
factor infertility (asthenozoospermia)3, and also of treating female infertility by a collagen-like
promoting action on fetal membranes2.

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173

As RJ has estrogenic and proven effects to increase animal fertility (see table 2) it could also
influence positively human fertility.

TOXICITY, COUNTER-INDICATIONS AND PRECAUTIONS


Chronic toxicity
Krylov et al. 108 describes experiments of Vassiliva (1962) and Lupachev (1962, 1976) with animals: doses
from 1 to 10 mg/kg per day cause a progressive weight increase stimulation, in a dose of 100 mg/kg the
weight increase begins to become smaller and at doses of 1000 mg/kg there is a weight decrease in
comparison to controls. The toxic effect at higher dose is abnormal morphology of the brain tissue of the
animals. Spiridonov et al. found no cytotoxic effects for RJ on rat lymphoblast cells189.
An injection of 1ml RJ per mice (about 50 g/kg) seem to be toxic, while a dose of 5 g/kg was not toxic and
induced an increase of the weight of the lymphatic tissue60.
The chronic toxicity of RJ upon ingestion should be further studied, while it seems that RJ ingestion might
be toxic in relatively low doses
A good therapeutic index means that the safety factor between the therapeutical and the toxic dose is at least
500 (for most synthetic drugs the TD lies between 3 and 100). In humans a safe dose with a therapeutic index
of 500 corresponds to 2 mg RJ per kg, and a therapeutic index for a 75 kg individual this being 150 mg RJ
per day. Increasing of this dose to 750 mg per day, RJ will still have an acceptable therapeutical index of
100.

Allergy
During the last 10 years there are several publications, reporting cases of allergy following the applications
of RJ. Asthma and anaphylaxis have been reported in rare cases 38, 59, 162-164, 201, as well as one case of skin
contact dermatitis 195. These reports are mostly from East Asia, where RJ is consumed more often, while
allergy cases in Europe are much less frequently reported. According to an epidemiological study in Hong
Kong with 1471 normal persons the allergy prevalence is 6.1 per 1000120. Patients with a risk of RJ allergy
have often an allergy towards bee venom and are atopic (show immediate allergy reactions)121. On the other
hand, an epidemiological study in Russia with 640 no cases of RJ were encountered188.
RJ should be used as a food-ingredient or medicine only after an allergy test. In persons with a history of
allergies or with asthma, taking royal jelly has caused bronchial spasms, acute asthma and anaphylactic
shock. It is therefore imperative that anyone who is considering supplementing with royal jelly consults with
a physician before its use, especially those who are allergic to bee stings, honey, or who have asthma. People
with bee venom allergy, asthma and with a high incidence of allergy should avoid RJ intake. A special
caution should be noted for pregnant and/or lactating women as well as for pregnant and/or lactating women
as well as for small children.

HEALTH CLAIMS FOR ROYAL JELLY


According to the EU Regulation 1924/2006 44 different health claims can be made.
1. Diet-related cardiovascular disease
Long term ingestion of royal jelly can improve cardiovascular health, concerning the drop of the blood
cardiovasuclar disease risk factors blood lipids and cholesterol
2. Physical performance and fitness
Intake of royal jelly can improve the performance and fitness, especially of elderly people (anti-aging)
3. Diet-related cancer
Intake of royal jelly can reduce the risk for cancer
4. Mental state and performance
Intake of royal jelly can improve the mental state and physical performance. These effects are especially
significant in older people (anti-aging effect).

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174

INTAKE AND APPLICATION FORMS


Royal jelly is used in different forms: as raw royal jelly (alone or in combination with honey and other bee
products, as alcohol extracts in ampules), in lyophylised form or as pills. Most of the natural RJ is stored in
frozen state before selling. It is packed often in small, closed, dark coloured bottles, containing 10, 15 or 20
g. Spoilage due to sun light and oxidation is thus prevented. Royal jelly is consumed together with honey or
as pills. RJ can be ingested sublingually or directly ingested. Injections are no longer used because of
allergy problems.
The daily ingestions dose for adults used in the different studies varies between 10 and 500 mg of fresh royal
jelly per day, most human studies are carried out with doses of 20 to 200 mg daily
For apitherapy higher doses are recommended: children 20-100 mg/day; adults: 200-500 mg/day
All apitherapy applications of royal jelly should be carried only after consulting a doctor and testing for
an eventual allergy People with bee venom allergy, asthma or with a high incidence of allergy should
avoid RJ intake. A special caution should be noted for pregnant and/or lactating women as well as for
pregnant and/or lactating women as well as for small children.

Royal jelly in honey


For mixing fresh RJ consider honey with a low humidity, lower than 16 % water, in order to prevent spoilage
by fermentation. If freeze-dried RJ is added to honey to achieve a higher RJ concentration, crystallised honey
with low water content should be used, in order to prevent rising of RJ to the surface. The RJ honey should
be stored at lower temperature. One table spoon of about 20 g 1 % RJ in honey of it will contain 200 mg
fresh RJ, which equals the recommended dosage per day. It has been reported that HDA content of RJ-honey
products decreases upon storage 43. Thus these products should be stored also at cool temperatures or frozen
for optimum activity. In Asia RJ is often an ingredient of beverages.
Higher doses can be achieved my mixing directly freeze dried RJ in honey. Until 5 % of FDRJ in honey can
be achieved with an acceptable sour taste of the mixture.

Royal jelly bound in lactose-glucose pills


According to Burimistrova, the storability of fresh RJ can be improved, similarly to the one of FDB by
binding RJ to a glucose-lactose adsorbent according to the following manner: 6 parts of FRJ are added to one
part of dried glucose-lactose (1:1), the mixture containing 50 mg/kg L-ascorbic acid as an antixodant, the
mixture is dried until 4 % humidity. This product is stable at 4 to 8 0C for 2 years25, 26.

Fresh frozen royal jelly

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175

Royal jelly in honey


(1-2%)

Royal jelly pills

The Russian preparation Apilac, where RJ


is bound toglucose-lactose mixture for
better durability and stability

Royal jelly ampules

Freeze dried royal jelly is a stable form of


royal jelly

Cosmetics
RJ is often used as an ingredient of cosmetics or for skin application for treatment of burns and other
wounds. It is usually included in small dosages (up to 1 %) but it deteriorates quickly. The freeze-dried form
should be used because it is easier to handle and is more stable.
Facelifting cream with RJ (found in www.royalbeejelly.net ):
80 grams of blended oil; 45 grams of cocoa butter; 15 grams of beeswax; 1,5 dcl of water; 10 grams of
fresh royal jelly

Melt the oils and wax at low heat, stir for 12 minutes, remove the melted liquid from the stove
and add water, mix with a mixer (handy one) until it gets creamy like smooth, poar into a
glass, cover and store on a dark place. See recipes for other RJ cosmetic products in Krell104

Cleopatra bath with royal jelly

Night cream with royal jelly

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

176

Royal jelly soap

Royal jelly body lotion and moistering cream

Different cosmetic products

Royal jelly mask

BEE BROOD FOR NUTRITION AND HEALTH


Composition and nutritional requirements
The composition of fresh bee larvae has been studied only by Finke47, while the composition of powedered
bee larvae is studied by Narumi151. There is quite a good agreement for the bee larvae composition between
these two studies excepting for biotin content. Bee larvae could be used in bigger quantities as a part of the
food diet, especially as a protein source, especially rich in essential amino acids (tables 7 and 8). The fatty
acids are mostly saturated (52 %), monoansatturated acids being 46 % and poly-unsatturated acids only 2 %
three primary fatty acids are oleic, palmitic and stearic acids. Indeed, the greater part of the protein is
composed of amino acids. Of all amino acids only sulphur amino acids methionine and cysteine are lacking.
If consumed in a quantitiy of 50 to 100 g daily, it can be a good source of vitamine C, choline, inositol, and
most of the B vitamins, while it contains no detectable levels of fat-soluble vitamins. It is also a good source
of minerals, from all trace elements the content of Selenium being most noteworthy.
Budnikova (2009) found that fresh drone brood contains 2.73 % 10-HDA 8 nMoles/l testosterone and 2745
nMoles/l estradiol24.

Table 7: Composition of bee brood compare to that of beef and soybean, after 104
larvae

pupae

beef

soybean

Water

77

70.2

74.1

70.0

Protein

15.4

18.2

17.7

12.9

Fat

3.7

2.4

2.8

5.9

Glycogen*

0.4

0.8

0.1-0.7

2.4

Component

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177

*- glycogen (a carbohydrate polymer) was determined instead of sugar, contained as 9 % of total, which
originates from honey rests.
Besides a possibility to be used as food for its protein content, it could also have similar effects as RJ.
However, there are very few published works. Italian psychiatrists observed improvements in respect to the
appetite, body weight, hepatic activity, digestion and haemopholetic functions of 15 female psychiatric
patients who were suffering from loss of weight and appetite 142.
Drone brood, after addition of a little propolis, was desiccated under vacuum until 99 % dry matter
concentration. The product kept the original biological properties, measured by its immunomodulating,
spleen and T-cell stimulating properties170.
Table 8: Main components of fresh 26, 47 and powedered bee brood151
Component
Water
Proteins total
(Amino acids)
Lipids
Fatty acids
10-HDA
Carbohydrates
Fiber content
Ash content

Fresh
g/100 g
76.8
9.4
7.9
4.7
4.0
3.3
8
0.5
0.8

Powedered
g/100 g
4.5
52.3
57.7
21.9

17.8

RDI
g
48-56

300-340

3.5

Table 9: Secondary components of fresh 26, 47 and powedered bee brood151


Component
Vitamins
Vitamin A (IU/kg)
-Carotene
Vitamine E (IU/kg)
Vitamine C
Vitamine B1 Thiamine
B2; Riboflavin
B3; Niacin
Folic acid
B5; Pantothenic acid
B6; Pyridoxin
B12:Cobalamine
H; Biotin (g/kg)
Choline (g/kg)
Inositol (g/kg)
Minerals
Sodium
Potassium
Magnesium
Calcium
Phosphorus
Iron
Manganese
Copper
Selenium

Fresh
mg/kg
< 1000
< 0.2
<5
38
4.1
9.1
36.7
11.9
1.2
< 1.2
0.23
1.68
mg/kg
128
2690
211
138
1790
16
0.6
4
0.06

Powedered
mg/kg

RDI
mg

16.9
31.2

1.4
1.6
18
0.4
6
2
6 g
30 g
0.5
30 mg

0.93
51.5
1.8
0.31
776
6.9
10.5
mg/kg
423
10400
816
446
8040
63.2
3.3
16.9
0.12

2400
3500
350
1000
1000
15
5
2
35 g

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178

Table 10: Hormones in fresh royal jelly and fresh drone brood26

Fresh royal jelly

Fresh drone brood

nmoles /100 g
nmoles /100 g
Testosterone
0.20 0.03
0.31 0,015
Progesterone
4.61 0.26
51.32 8.69
Prolactine
70.8 20,0
410.0 65,4
Estradiol
52.0 6,0
677.6 170,3
Besides these hormones Burismistrova reports on Chinese studies by Li et al. (1982) and Pan Jian-Guo
(1995) that DB contains also the typical bee hormones prothoracicotropic hormone (PTTH), juvenile
hormone and ecdyson.
Osintzeva et al. (2009) tested a drone brood (DB) homogenate by feeding 15 mg per kg to 2 years old dogs
20 min. before the regular feeding. The dogs ate voluntarily the DB. Blood was tested before and 30 days
after intake. : Thyroxin and Tri-iodothyronine concentrations increased by 40 %, while thyreotropic
hormone (Th) concentration decreased by 37 %, increase was measured in total blood proteins increased by
12 %, triglycerides by 99 %, high density lipoproteins by 12 % and low density lipoproteins by 94 %. The
weight increase was 92 % higher than that of the controls160.

Bee brood for human consumption after Krell104


Gather larvae by cutting them out from the combs. Refrigerate or freeze or eat immediately. If larvae are
refrigerated immediately, freezing, drying, boiling or frying should be completed less than 24 hours after
collection of larvae to avoid any spoilage since insect proteins decay much faster than those of beef, chicken,
lamb or pork. Where no refrigeration is available, processing will have to be started immediately after
collection. If there is no freezer or refrigerator, the boiled larvae should be consumed within a day. Fried
larvae will keep a little longer.
See more information on bee brood in Krell104

Bee brood in lactose-glucose pills


According to Burimistrova, the storability of fresh bee brood can be improved, by binding fresh BB to a
glucose-lactose adsorbent according to the following manner: 6 parts of BB are added to one part of dried
glucose-lactose (1:1), the mixture containing 50 mg/kg L-ascorbic acid as an antixodant, the mixture is dried
until 4 % humidity. This product is stable at 4 to 8 0C for 2 years26.

Eating bee brood, from

Krell104

Apilarnil a DB product from


Romania

Drone brood lactose-glucose


tablets

Biological action
Burimistrova carried a series of biological experiments. DB shows antibacterial activity, but it is weaker than
that of RJ. Mice were fed with: normal feeding without additives (control), with and 10 and 20 mg/kg DB or

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

179

RJ and were subjected to daily swimming. The animal size of the DB fed mice and the swimming
capabilities were less pronounced than after the feeding of the same quantities of RJ, but bigger than the
controls. The author concludes that DB has a less pronounced activating and autoprotective activity than RJ,
but these activities are more pronounced than the control non treated animals. On the other DB has a more
pronounced gonadotropic activity than RJ, allowing the rehabilitation of blood concentration of testosterone
and fructose26.
Belyaev and Sofonkaya (2009) tested a liquid drone brood by feeding rabbits by intraoral intake of 0.6 ml/kg
every 48 hours (controls treated with gelatine). The thiobarbituric reactive substances ( a mass for lipid
peroxidation and oxidative stress) decreased by 26 %, while that of the controls increased by 25 %, serum
sialic acid concentration (a mass of the cardiovascular mortality risk) decreased in the treated groups
decreased by 20 % while the controls it increased by 24 %. The experiments showed a decrease of oxidated
reaction products in blood and increase of the cell resistance of the DB treated rabbits. In a second series of
experience the endurance of the animals under stress condition was tested by giving 0.015 ml per mouse
(controls fed with gelatine) and testing the animals for active swimming after 10 days intake. The endurance
of the controls increased by 9 %, that of the DB treated group by 35 % in comparison with the beginning of
the test9.

Apitherapy
In Romania a drone brood preparation Apilarnil based on drone brood has been developed and used. It is
based on freeze dried drone brood. A Romanian book by N. Iliesu: Apilarnil health, power and long life
was published in 1990. Apilarnil is used as a biostimulator for similar conditions as royal jelly: for
rehabilitation and activation of the aged people, against neuro-vegetative and sexual problems.
In the Russian book Theory and agents in apitherapy, written by a group of Russian scientists, applications
against chronic gastric ulcers and liver insufficiency are mentioned, mainly Apilarnil use in Romania. Also
Romanian studies of the use of Apilarnil are cited: Ardelianu et al. 1983, reporting on successful use in
elderly people with psycho-neurotic sympoms and climacterium related symptoms 108.

Allergy
In a study in Russia the incidence of allergy towards DB application was 2.4 % (n=41)188

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Chapter 4: Propolis

Other bees, like soldiers, armed in their stings,


Make boot upon the summer's velvet buds,
Which pillage they with merry march bring home.
Shakespeare, King Henry

It seems that Shakespeare also knew that specialized bees gather propolis in the buds.
The word propolis originates from Greek: pro = in front, polis = city. The meaning in front of the
city suits well the protecting role of propolis for the bee colony. The Greek world propolis means also to
glue and describes also the role of propolis to cement openings of the bee hive. Another name of propolis is
bee glue.

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Propolis: Origin, Production, Compostion


With the collaboration of Vassya Bankova, Bulgaria
PROPOLIS IN HISTORY
The word propolis originates from Greek: pro = in front, polis = city. The meaning in front of the city
suits well the protecting role of propolis for the bee colony. The Greek world propolis means also to glue and
describes also the role of propolis to cement openings of the bee hive. Another name of propolis is bee glue.
Propolis was already known in ancient Egypt, where it was probably used as an adhesive. Propolis was
mentioned by the Greek philosopher Aristoteles. In his Historia animalium it was reffered to a substance
which the bees smeared at the hive entrance and used as cure for bruises and sores, Crane, p. 550 of 13.
The Greeks used propolis as the principal ingredient of an exquisite perfume called polyanthus, which
combined propolis, olibanum styrax and aromatic herbs, while the ancient Jews considered tsori or
propolis as a medicine.
The Roman scholar Plinius (23-79 A.D) postulated, that it originates in the buds of different trees like
willow, poplar, elm, reed and other plants. He knew of the use of propolis as a glue in the hive and about its
medicinal properties and described them in his 35 volumes Natural History. He says Current physicians use
propolis as a medicine because it extracts stings and all substances embedded in the flesh, reduces swelling,
softens indurations, soothes pain of sinews and heals sores when it appears hopeless for them to mend. 55.
The Greek doctor Discorides, 1st century AD, thought that it came from Styrax: the yellow bee glue that is of
a sweet scent and resembling styrax is to be chosen and which is soft and easy to spread after the fashion of
mastic. It is extremely warm and attractive and is good for the drawing out of thorns and splinters. And
being suffimigated it doth help old coughs and being applied it doth take away the lichens 19.
The Arabs knew probably also about propolis. Doctor Avicenna speaks of two different kinds of wax: clean
wax and black wax, the latter being probably propolis. He says: by its strong smell it makes you sneeze and
has the characteristics to eliminating the spikes of the bolts and the stakes. It also rarefies cleans and soaks.
19
.
In Europe it is mentioned in the herbal literatures. Other healers in the many centuries that followed also
praised the use of bee products for healing. In John Gerard's famous herbal book, The History of Plants
(1597), reference is also made to the use of "the resin or clammy substance of the black poplar tree buds" for
healing ointments 19. Nicholas Culpepper's famous Complete Herbal (1653), under the heading of "The
Poplar Tree" states that "the ointment called propolis is singularly good for all heat and inflammations in
many parts of the body and cools the heat of the wounds" 19. In Green's Universal Herbal (1824), under
Populus nigra (Black Poplar Tree), it is said that "the young leaves are an excellent ingredient for poultices
for hard and painful swellings. The buds of both this and the white poplar smell very pleasantly in the spring.
Being pressed between the fingers, yield a balsamic resinous substance (propolis), which smells like storax.
A drachma of this tincture in broth is administered in internal ulcers and excoriations and is said to have
removed obstinate or abnormal discharges from the intestines"
Although the main use of propolis was medical, it was used as a constituent of violin varnish. Violin builders
like Stradivari, Amati and others used propolis as a constituent of their violin varnish p. 550 of 14,
Georgie is the origin of the propolis gathering Caucasian bees. In the medicine book The Carbadini,
published in the 13th century, the author suggests that propolis is good against dental decay19.
At the beginning of the 20th century a hypothesis was prevailing, that propolis is a digestion product of bee
pollen 30. In 1928 the German scientist Rsch, on the ground of meticolous observations, confirmed the
hypothesis of Plinius that propolis originates from the buds of plants 56. In the 1960s the Russian researcher
Popravko proved this theory by comparing the composition of buds resin and the propolis 51, 52.

BEES COLLECT PROPOLIS


Bees gather resinous exudates originating mainly from buds, but also from leaves, branches and barks.
Recently, this topic, especially the role of propolis in bee health has been reviewed61. Indeed the principal
role of propolis is to maintain an antiseptic environment in the bee hive and to enable the bee colony health.

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195

It promotes the social immunity of bees and helps them to fight infections. At present research is carried out
to investigate the possible role of propolis constituents for maintaining bee colony health36.
Propolis is gathered mostly from Apis mellifica bees. A .mellifica Caucasica is most industrious from all A.
mellifica races. The Asian bees Apis florea and Apis cerana do not gather propolis. The tropical stingless bee
species also gather propolis and incorporate it in wax to make cerumen. In temperate zones propolis is
gathered in late summer and in autumn, when bees prepare for wintering.
Meyer (1956) 35 and Morse (1974) 37 described in detail how bees gather propolis. According to these
researchers only a few of the workers, not older than 15 days old, are specialised in propolis foraging. Bees
gather propolis during the warm time of the day, when the glue is soft. Bees grab the soft glue from the bud
and pull it out. Propolis is carrried to the hive like pollen in the form of a load, which contains also secretion
products from the mandibular gland. One forager gathers into the hive about 10 mg propolis per flight. If it is
assumed that an average bee colony gathers about 100 g propolis per year, then about 100000 foraging
flights are needed for this purpose.
On the average, one colony gathers about 50-150 g propolis per year but the propolis specialists, the
Caucasian bees can gather 250 to 1000 g propolis per year 60
Bees cover the walls of the hive and mix it with wax for the comb construction to increase its strength. Killed
intruders like snails, mice etc. are mummified with propolis. As propolis has strong antibacterial and
fungicide properties they create a highly hygienic environment. Also, bees make a propolis door matt on
the hive entrance, so that every bee has to step on propolis before entering and leaving the hive. Bees use
propolis for the disinfection of the hive as. Although propolis has different advantages for the bees, it has a
practical disadvantage for beekeepers: Because of the gluey nature the frames often stick together and can be
pulled out of the hive with difficulty.

Bee gathers propolis from poplar bud


Photo: courtesy Gilles Ratia

Bee gathers propolis from Baccharis


Unknown source from Internet

PROPOLIS ORIGIN
Propolis sources in the temperate zone
Popravko (1970) from Russia was the first to present chemical evidence of the propolis botanical
origin, analyzed flavonoid composition of propolis and comparing it with that of poplar and birch bud
exudates. Many other publications followed and now it is generally accepted and chemically proved
that in temperate zones the bud exudates of Populus species and their hybrids are the main source of
bee glue. This is true for Europe, North America and the temperate part of Asia 2, 5, 20, 23, 48 In Russia
however, and especially in its northern parts, birch buds (Betula verrucosa, Betula pubescens) supply
bees with the propolis 53 In China besides the main source poplar bees also use pines, cypress, willow
and sumacs31

Plant sources of tropical propolis


In tropical regions there are no poplars and birches and obviously bees have to find new plant sources
of bee glue.

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The most popular tropical propolis type, the green Brazilian propolis, originates from the leaves of
Baccharis dracunculifolia 9, 64
The so called red propolis is gathered by bees in Cuba, Mexico and Brazil from Dalbergia species is
characterized by the presence of isoflavonoids.18, 67
Another tropical propolis type is the one originating from resin exuded by the flowers of different
Clusia species found in Cuba and Venezuela. Its main constituents are prenylated benzophenones. 21, 68
In tropical islands in the Pacific Ocean (Taiwan, Okinawa, Indonesia), there is a specific propolis type,
designated sometimes as Pacific propolis. It contains prenylated flavanones (propolins) as major
constituents 12, 22, 28 and its plant source is the rein on the fruits of the tropical tree Macaranga tanarius 29
Bees in Venezuela gather propolis also on the poplar species of Aigeiros (Salicaceae) 7

Propolis plant sources in the Subtropics


One of the most important Subtropical propolis types turned out to be the so called Mediterranean
propolis, which is characterized by the high concentration of diterpenics 46, 47, 50. Its source is most
probably a coniferous plant of the genus Cupressaceae (Cupressus sepmervirens).
In Tunisia, where poplars are not always available, leaf exudates of some Cistus spp. act as propolis
source33, while in the Sonoran desert Ambrosia deltoidea and Encelia farinosa played this role 70. In
Iran, Ferula species have been found to contribute to propolis as a secondary plant source, next to
Populus spp. 69 .

Importance of the knowledge of plant sources


The knowledge about plant sources of propolis is not only of academic interest. It could be useful as a
basis for the chemical standardization of propolis. Bee glue could be easily characterized using its
plant source, which might be established by simple TLC 51.
The knowledge about propolis plant sources is important to beekeepers to be sure that their bees have the
proper plants in their flight range. It is known that colonies suffer when they cannot collect propolis, bees are
even said to use "propolis substituents" like paints, asphalt and mineral oils which could severely threaten
pharmaceutical uses of bee glue 26 .

Propolis from stingless bees


Until now, the investigations on tropical propolis concentrated almost only on Apis mellifera bee glue.
In tropical South America there are indigenous stingless bee species (Meliponinae) Some of them
collect resinous material from plants and mix it with beeswax and soil to form the so called
geopropolis 25. Others mix the plant resins with was to form the so-called cerumen, the building
material for their nests (analogous to beeswax in A. mellifera hives). A few investigations have been
published on this type of propolis which appears to become the subject of an increasing interest3. In
Venezuelan propolis of stingless bees, prenylated benzophenones predominated, while the
composition of geopropolis from three Brazilian stingless bee species was different from this in
Venezuela. The main components of these samples were diterpenic acids and triterpenes (alcohols and
ketones). Obviously this is an interesting field for future research activities, especially with respect of
the information that stingless bee propolis possesses biological activity similar to that of honey bee
propolis.

Poplar propolis

Baccharis or
green propolis

Red Dalbergia propolis

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Hermandia nimphaefolia
in the Pacific Taiwan, Japan

Dalbergia (Indian rosewood),


India, Nepal, Brazi

Platanus acerifolia, Greece

Stem of the mango tree

Flower resin of the Clusia tree


Birch trees in Russia
in Latin America
Besides from poplar and Baccharis, propolis bees gather the glue also in other plants

Table 1: The most widespread propolis types: plant origin and major constituents
Propolis
type
Poplar

Geographic origin

Green

Europe,
North
America,
non-tropic
regions of Asia, New
Zealand
Brazil

Birch

Russia

Red propolis

Cuba, Brazil, Mexico

Mediterranean

Sicily, Greece, Crete,


Malta,

Clusia

Cuba, Venezuela

Pacific

Pacific region
Okinawa, Taiwan,
Indonesia)

Plant source
Populus spp. of
section Aigeiros,
most often P.
nigra L.
Baccharis spp.,
predominantly B.
dracunculifolia
Betula verrucosa
Ehrh.
Dalbergia spp.
Cupressaceae
(species
unidentified)
Clusia spp.
Macaranga
tanarius

Main
constituents

References

Flavones,
flavanones,
cinnamic acids and their
esters

2, 5, 20, 23, 48

Prenylated p-coumaric acids,


diterpenic acids

57

Flavones and flavonols (not


the same as in Poplar type)
Isoflavonoids
(isovlavans,
pterocarpans)
Diterpenes (mainly acids of
labdane type)

53

Polyprenylated
benzophenones
C-prenyl-flavanones

21, 68

18, 67

46, 47, 50

12, 22, 28, 29

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HARVESTING

Gathering of propolis with a plastic net, placed on the top of the hive
photos courtesy P. Patrice du Sert
In the temperate zones propolis is gathered during summer until the beginning of autumn. Generally,
beekeepers collect propolis by scratching off propolis present on the comb frames and in the bee hive box.
However, this propolis is not of good quality for medicinal uses. Pure and good quality propolis can be
collected with different collection modes.
Bees try always to seal cracks in their hive. This behaviour is used by beekeepers for gathering propolis. For
that purpose plastic nets or grids or nets are placed on top of the beehive and the bees seal them.
In temperate climate zones the plastic net is placed on the beehive at the end of the bee season when the bees
prepare for overwintering. The net filled out with propolis is taken out and is placed in the freezer. After
rolling the net the propolis falls and can be easily harvested. Light, and air circultation stimulate the bees to
collect more propolis. That is why, the cover of the hive is opened slightly to allow air circulation and bring
light into the hive.
A frequent contact with propolis can cause skin rash. That is why it is safer to use gloves when harvesting
and having intensive contact with propolis.
Propolis should be stored closed in dry, dark places. In the frozen state it can be pulverised in mortar to a fine
powder.

PROPOLIS STORAGE, SHELF LIFE AND PREPARATIONS


Storage
In general, propolis is fairly stable, but proper storage is important. Propolis and its extracts should be stored
in airtight containers in a dark place, away from excessive and direct heat. Over 12 months of proper storage,
propolis will lose very little or none of its antibacterial activities. It was shown that propolis ethanol extracts
exhibited unchanged antimicrobial activity after 15 years of storage34. This stability is probably due to the
stability of the phenolic substances, mainly responsible for the antibacterial properties of propolis.
On the other hand, propolis contains aromatic and heterocyclic compounds and flavones and anthraquinones
that are sensible to photo-oxdation66. Thus propolis should be stored in the dark, ethanol solutions should be
made out of brown glass. The freshness of propolis can be determined by measuring the activity of alphaglucosidase, the activity of which decreases exponentially at room temperatures71.
Lyophilization (freeze drying) of extracts has been described as a method which preserves the antibacterial
characteristics, but nothing has been written about effects of long-term storage of such materials. This
method may gain importance for larger scale use and certain formulations, but it is possible that some of the
synergistic characteristics of propolis may be lost during lyophilisation. On the whole, lyophilisation cannot
be recommended as a method for propolis preservation as it seems that propolis is quite stable.
The shelf-life of propolis containing products depends very much on their composition and has to be
determined for each case. The more some components of a product are susceptible to decomposition, the
shorter will be the shelf-life of that product. This is the reason for compromises that are necessary in the
selection of artificial and/or natural and traditional ingredients, preservatives and larger production for
extended markets. However, propolis and its extracts function as a mild preservative due to their antioxidant
and antimicrobial activities and thus may actually prolong the shelf life of some products.

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Labelling and shelf life


Approximate figures, estimated from the qualitative data from the literature:
Proteins: max.1 g/100 g
Carbohydrates: max. 1 g/100 g
Fat: max. 1 g/100 g
Shelf life:
Ethanol extract: three years after packing or the ready product.
Honey-propolis mixtures: two years after packing of the product.
Raw propolis can be stored frozen for several years in an air-tight container.

Raw propolis
Unprocessed, pure propolis can be frozen and broken down to pieces or ground to fine powder.
Large pieces of propolis can be chewed, but it should be consumed in small quantities. Powder can
be made into capsules or mixed with food or drinks. A special form of raw propolis, the so called
water soluble whole propolis has been developed by Glenn Perry, www.glennperry.com

Whole dry water soluble propolis

A patent described by Sosnowski62, based on the extraction of poplar propolis


The following examples are set forth in order to fully describe the method for extracting and purifying
propolis as well as the resulting dry propolis powder and its uses. About 500 grams of clean raw propolis
was placed in an amber glass container and covered with about 1 liter of absolute ethanol. This mixture was
allowed to sit for ten days at room temperature with periodic agitation several times each day. At the end of
ten days, the mixture was filtered through Whatman No. 1 filter paper.The resulting propolis-containing
filtrate was then incubated at about 70 degrees C until a dry propolis powder was obtained.

Ethanol tinctures
For human use only non-toxic solvents should be used, ethanol of Pharmacopeia quality is the best
choice.
Propolis should be pure, remove coarse debris and excessive wax.
Place propolis in freezer and break it in small pieces or mill it to powder for a better solubility
60-80 % aqueous ethanol solutions have a higher biological activity than tinctures, prepared with
more or less water41, 42 70 % Propolis is most widely used.
Add 100 ground propolis to 400 g 70 % ethanol (for 20 % tincture)
Store vessel in the dark for at least two days, better one or two weeks, shaking occasionally (the longer
the extraction time, the greater the concentration of active ingredients, but more than 2 weeks does not
bring more benefit
Filter through a paper filter (coffee filter will do) and store tincture closed in a clean dark vessel. If
vessel is not brown or reddish, store in the dark, or pack vessel in aluminium foil.
Ethanol-free propolis can be made by evaporating the ethanol in a water bath. The remaining
pure balsam can be mixed to honey or other materials where ethanol-free material is required.

Propolis pills
Grind finely deeply frozen pure whole propolis with a cold mill. Mix propolis poweder with lactose, e.g. 1: 1
and press into pills.

COMPOSITION
Propolis is composed mainly by the plant resins and exudates that bees gather. Bees add wax, and also some
secretions and pollen to it. The composition of propolis depends on its botanical and thus also on its
geographical origin.
Several hundred different compounds have been characterised in the different propolis types. The typical
components of poplar propolis are the phenolics: flavonoid aglycones, (flavones and flavanones), phenolic
acids and their esters. The typical compounds of Brazilian propolis are prenylated derivatives of p-coumaric
acid and of acetophenone, as well as diterpenes and lignans. The flavonoids are different from those found in
poplar type propolis.

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200

The overall content of this propolis type is similar to the poplar propolis, basically containing balsamic and
non balsamic components. It contains a main part of plant derived substances and minor part of bee and
pollen derived substances. The chemical composition is, however very different.
The balsam part of poplar propolis originates from the collected glue, while the non-balsamic constituents
are added by the bees (wax, minerals, carbohydrates etc.)
The non-ethanol soluble part of the Baccharis propolis originating partly from the plant, besides a part of
minor constituents originating partly from the plants and from the bees and from pollen.

Table 2 A: Composition of raw poplar propolis after 4, 6, 16, 27, 45, 54, 65
Substances
BALSAM
40 - 70 %
Ethanol soluble
Poplar origin

Essential oils
3-5%
ethanol soluble
poplar origin
NON-BALSAM
Ethanol insoluble
Wax: 20 - 35 %
Beeswax origin
Others: ca. 5 %
partly ethanol soluble
bee and pollen origin

Phenolics
Phenols, phenolic acids, esters, flavanons, dihydroflavanons, flavons,
flavonols, chalkones, phenolic glycerides ;
Others:
Aliphatics: acids, alcohols, esters, aldehydes, ketones, benzoic
acid and its esters,
Mono-, and sesquiterpenes

Beeswax components

Mainly minerals average ash content 2.1 %


Polysaccharides:2 %
Proteins, amino acids, amines and amides: 0. 7 %
Traces of carbohydrates, lactones, quinones, steroids, vitamins

Table 2 B: Composition of raw Baccharis propolis after 11, 15, 32, 43, 44, 59
Substances
BALSAM
45 - 70 %
Ethanol soluble
Baccharis origin

Mainly cinnamic acid and derivatives, coumaric acid, prenylated


compounds, artepillin C
Minor quantities of phenolics as flavonoids, benzoic acid, aliphatic acids
and esters

NON BALSAM
10 - 15 %
Ethanol insoluble
Baccharis origin
15 - 25 %
Ethanol insoluble
Beeswax origin
ca. 5 %
partly ethanol soluble
Bee and pollen origin

prenylated compounds, alkanes and terpenoids

Beeswax

2.5 4.5 % minerals


1-2 % of carbohydrates: fructose, mannose, inositol, erythrose
1-2 %: glycerol, lower aliphatic acids, amino acids, amines

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201

QUALITY TESTING AND STANDARD


Propolils has a different status in different countries. In some European countries (Germany, Switzerland) it
is considered a medicine while in many others (Austria, France, Spain, USA, Japan, Brazil) it is considered a
food supplement. There are good arguments that, similarly to another beehive product royal jelly, it can be
considered as food supplement (see report on Propolis and Health). Here the requirements of the food law
and the respective quality testing will be considered.
Poplar propolis can be tested by first evaluating its sensory and physico-chemical properties. Poplar propolis
can be tested according to the scheme given in the table below.
Sensory, physical und chemical properties of poplar propolis
Sensory properties
Consistence: at temperatures higher than 30o C propolis is soft and sticky., below 15o C it is hard and
brittle.
odour: pleasant resinous
taste: bitter, acrid.
colour: varies depending on the botanical origin: brown-yellow, brown -green or brown red to dark-red
Physico-chemical properties
density: 1.11-1.14.
melting point: 80-105 C
Slightly soluble in water
solubility in ethanol : low molecular components soluble, waxes are insoluble
solubility increases in mixtures of different solvents, e.g. ethanol-chloroform, ethanol-toluene

Propolis standard and quality


Some attempts have been made for the establishment of quality criteria of propolis. The purity and the wax
content of propolis have been used as quality parameters of most researchers and these should remain a part
of a future propolis standard. In the Bulgarian standard and also some other Eastern European standards
(1983) the saponification-, ester and iodisation numbers are used 60. However, these quality parameters relate
only to the wax and resin content in propolis. These components play only a minor role in the biological
activity of propolis.
As mentioned above, the composition of propolis differs greatly depending on its botanical origin. The
measured compounds should be important from biological points of view. Standards for poplar and green
propolis have been proposed. The poplar propolis is based on the quantification of the main biologically
active substances, balsam (the ethanol extractable fraction), phenolics and flavonoids.
Table 3: Standard proposal for poplar propolis49 and the Brazilian standard for green propolis 32.
Component

Poplar Propolis
min Values, g/100 g

Green Propolis
Min Values g/100 g

1. Balsam

45

35

2. Total phenolics

21

3. Total flavones and flavonols

4. Total flavanones and


dihydroflavonols

5. Total flavonoids (3+4)

9*

6. Beeswax

Max. 25

Max 25

Insoluble matter

Max. 5

Max. 5

Non specified

Max 5

Ash content

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Good propolis quality means


low content of mechanical matter (wood, dead bees, etc.)
no or minimal contamination by pesticides and heavy metals (best quality organic one)
high balsam content
high content of biologically active compounds (according to the chemical type)
low wax content
Other propolis types have different sensory properties. Birch and Brazilian Baccharis propolis have greenish
colour, while the red propolis from the tropics is redish.

Propolis quality and harvesting method


In 2010 Italian researchers characterised chemically propolis harvested with different methods: by scraping,
with plastic matts or with wooden wedges. The propolis harvested with wooden wedges had the highest
content of balsam, thus the best quality40. An Argentinian research paper recommends plastic matts as the
better harvesting method than scraping, as it has lower Pb contamination58.
In France it is recommended that collection is from Spring to Autumn. Propolis that has been in the bee hive
during winter is much darker and is of lesser quality (Percie du Sert, personal communication).

Contaminants
This topic is reviewed by Bogdanov. Most important contaminants are heavy metals and lipophylic synthetic
acaricides used for varroa mite control. 8.
Minimal contamination can be guaranteed by tested certified organic propolis.

USES AND TRADE


Uses
Propolis is mostly used in natural medicine as a health enhancing food supplement, in medicine, dental and
veterinary medicine, in cosmetics, as food preservative or antioxidant or as a phytoinhibitor in agriculture
(see Chapter 2). It has been also used as air disinfectant39.
Propolis posseses interesting physical properties that make it a suitable component of wood varnishes 10.
Propolis probably has been more commonly used in wood preservatives or varnishes and it is claimed that
the famous violins of Stradivarius contained propolis24. The propolis of the stingless bees called geopropolis
was used by Amazon Indians as arrow cement63.
Because of its acaricide and antibiotic activity propolis been proposed to be used against varroa17 or
American foul brood1

The famous violins of Stradivarius contained propolis, now propolis is an ingredient of violin garnishes.

Trade
There is no official information on crude propolis trade.

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203

According to Crane, p.551 of 13 in 1984 following export figures are reported:


China: 35 tons, Romania 19 tons, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay: 7, 8 tons; Canada: 3-4 tons.
Brazil produced in 2004 250 tons per year38, while in 2009 propolis production in China was 300 tons per
year31.
After a personal communication of Hartmuth Schreiter following unofficial and unconfirmed figures are
given for other producers: Argentina and Uruguay: 5-10 tons; Baltic states: ca. 2 tons; Poland: ca. 2 tons.
Presently the world propolis price varies according to origin and quality: Chinese propolis is offered at prices
of about 25-50 euros per kg, while Brazilian propolis has higher prices, between 100 and 150 euros per kg.
Customers should be cautious when buying propolis from the Internet. It is better to buy propolis from
companies with experience with trading with propolis, e.g. www.allwex.de , www.beevitalpropolis.com
It is important to demand analysis of quality criteria, including compliency to residue standards. Organic
propolis is a natural choice for a product with a minimal contamination and optimal biological activity.

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397-401.
53. POPRAVKO, S A; SOKOLOV, M V (1980) Plant sources of propolis. Pchelovodstvo: 28-29.
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Biological properties and medical applications


COMPOSITION AND NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENTS
The composition of propolis varies greatly depending on its geographic and botanical origin. Approximate
figures for the main nutrients estimated from the qualitative data from the literature are:
Proteins: max 1 g/100 g; Carbohydrates: max 1 g/100 g; Fat: max: 1 g/100 g
Considering the low suggested intake of 200 mg per day propolis has an insignificant contribution to the
daily requirements regarding the basic nutrients.

HEALTH ENHANCING EFFECTS


Hundreds of publications have appeared in the last 40 years describing the biological and health enhancing
properties of propolis. The different biological and health enhancing effects, as tested in cell experiments and
animals are summarised on table 2. The effects described here were achieved in cell and animal
experiments. A number of reviews have summarised the knowledge on propolis: 21, 32, 118, 146. The health
enhancing effects are divided into main and secondary. This division has been made taking into
consideration the number of publications and the health significance of the effect.
Most studies have been carried out with poplar and Brazilian baccharis propolis, while in some of them the
propolis type was not determined. It is astonishing, that while the composition of the different type of
propolis differs greatly depending on its botanical origin, the biological effects of the different propolis types
are very similar. The active ingredients for these effects are different in the different types of propolis (table
1).
The main propolis types on the market are poplar and baccharis propolis. These two types of propolis have
similar biological properties but the active ingredients are different (table 3).
The health enhancing effects are found in the ethanol extractable part of propolis is called balsam. The
biological activity of ethanol extracts is generally tested with 70 to 100 % ethanol extracts. 60-80 % aqueous
ethanol solutions have a higher biological activity than tinctures, prepared with more or less water158, 159
Table 1 Biological effects of propolis components
Component, propolis type

Biological Activity

Reference

Polyphenols and flavonoids


Mostly poplar, but present in most
propolis types

Antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, antiaging,


antiulcer, antitumor, antiallergic, antiinflammatory,
antiosterporotic, antitrombogenic, antiatherosclerosis,
cardioprotective, immunomodulating, hepatoprotective, sicatrising
Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antibacterial, antiviral,
fungicide, immunomodulatory, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective,
antiosteoporosis
Antiviral, Antioxidant, antiulcer, antitumor

5, 21, 32, 65,

Antioxidant, antiinflammatory, antitumor

13, 16

Antioxidant, antiinflammatory, antitumor, apoptosis inducing

13, 16

Antioxidant, anticancer, apoptosis inducing,

13, 16

Antibacterial, antifungal

14, 15, 28, 123,

Antibacterial

17, 42, 230

Antibacterial

40

Caffeic acid phenethyl ester


(CAPE) and other caffeates
Mostly poplar
Caffeic acid (CA)
Poplar, Baccharis
Polyprenylated benzophenones
Cuba, Venezuela and Brazil
Artepillin C
Baccharis
Prenylated flavanones (propolins)
Taiwan
Terpenes
Greece, Crete, Croatia, Brazil
Essential oils
Brazil, Poland
Furfuran lignans
Canary islands

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74, 76, 116,


118, 140, 162,
172, 188
13, 16 8, 57

57

123, 169

209

Table 2: Biological and health enhancing properties of propolis as tested in cell cultures and animal
experiments

Effect

Tested propolis type


Main functional effects
All propolis types
All propolis types
All propolis types
Poplar, Baccharis, Cuba
Baccharis, India
All propolis types
Poplar, Baccharis
All propolis types
Poplar, Baccharis, Cuba, Taiwan,

Antibacterial
Antiviral
Antifungal
Against parasites
Antiulcer (stomach, skin, buccal)
Antioxidant
Radiation protective
Hepatoprotective
Antitumor, antimutagenic
Cyto- and chemopreventive
Antiinflammatory
Immunomodulation (immunostimulating)
Muscle contracting at small concentration
Muscle relaxant at higher concentration
Antidiabetes
Cardioprotective: antimyocard, antithrombogenic,
antihypertensive, antiarhythmic
Local anaesthetic
Improves regeneration of cartilagnious and bone
tissue, dental pulp, cicatrising

Reference
21, 32, 57, 109, 118, 189
21, 32, 57, 109, 118, 189
21, 32, 57, 109, 118, 189
45, 51, 150, 167, 216
22, 35, 43, 44, 81, 154, 165, 189
21, 32, 57, 57, 118
26, 27, 61, 146, 206
19-21, 57
21, 32, 47, 84, 118, 146, 168, 224
26, 27, 146, 210

Poplar, Baccharis, Cuba, Egypt


Poplar, Baccharis
Poplar, Baccharis

5, 21, 100, 157, 160, 172, 176, 202

Poplar, Baccharis
Poplar, Bacharis, Asia,

2, 95, 122, 189, 226, 229

Poplar, Bacharis
Poplar, Baccharis

156, 215, 218 192

Secondary effects
Anti-ostheoporose
Poplar, Egypt
Against scratching behaviour in mice
Baccharis
Estrogenic
Poplar
Against experimental rhinitis in mice
Baccharis
Against experimental colitis in rats
Popplar, Turkey
Against rat colon anastomosis in rats
Popplar, Turkey
Angiostatic effect in human umbilical vein endothelial Baccharis
cells
Anti-allergenic
Poplar, Bacharis
Poplar, Baccharis
No effect on basic blood parameters, protects
erythrocytes against radiation, anti-aggregation effect;
Protects sperm membrane from the deleterious action Chile
of oxidative attack
Neurotrophic effects Artepillin C in PC12m3 cells
Baccharis
Poplar
Inhibits cell growth of higher plants and animals
inhibits germination of wheat seedlings
Poplar
Water-soluble propolis derivative relieves
scopolamine-induced amnesia in mice
Enhancement of the hyperthermal tolerance in immune Poplar
mononuclear cells of competitive cyclists
Antiaging, increases life span of mice
Poplar
Cardioprotective during chemotherapy
Algeria, probably poplar
Food preservative
Poplar, Baccharis, Argentine, Egypt

21, 57, 146, 188


9, 41, 52, 97, 161, 207

6, 35, 39, 39, 57, 81, 83, 132, 142, 154

70, 186, 187, 209, 215

8, 53
192
201
193
10
101
38, 92

139, 188, 211


9, 190

178

96
9, 203

34

36

25
6
1, 4, 11, 103, 135, 180, 197, 217

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210

Table 3: Biologically active ingredients in Poplar and Baccharis propolis


Biological activity
Antibacterial
Antifungal
Antiviral

Antioxidant
Radiation protective
Hepatoprotective
Anticancer and
antitumor

Immuno modulating
Anti-inflammatory
Cardioprotective
Anti-ulcer

Propolis type,active ingredient


Poplar: different flavonones, flavons, phenolic acids and their esters
Bacharis: prenylated p-coumaric acids, labdane diterpenes
Poplar: pinocembrin, galangin, benzoic acid, salycilic acid, vanillin
Baccharis: mono and sesquiterpenes, Artipellin C
Poplar: Polyphenols, phenyl- carboxylic acids, and esters of substituted
cinnamic acids, caffeic acid, quercetin, luteolin, fisetin, quertecagetin,
Baccharis: activity detected but no substances identified
Poplar: different flavonoids phenolics and their esters
Baccharis: different prenylated p-coumaric acids and flavonoids
Poplar: different flavonoids, CAPE, ferulic acid, caffeic acid
Baccharis: different prenylated p-coumaric acids, flavonoids, lignans
Poplar: CAPE, caffeic acid, caffeic acid phenylethyl ester, apigenin, quercitin,
genistein
Baccharis: artipelline C, baccharin, drupanin, cinamic acid derivatives,
prenylated p-coumaric acids, clerodane diterpenes,benzofuranes
Poplar: CAPE, chriysin, benzylcaffeate, phenethylferrulate, cinamic acid
Baccharis: caffeoylquinic acid derivatives, clerodane diterpenoid, artipelline C
Poplar: flavonons, flavons, phenolic acids and their esters
Baccharis:artipelline C
Poplar: CAPE, acacetin, chrysin, quercetin
Baccharis: caffeoylquinic acid
Poplar: caffeic acid, pinocembrin, galangin, chrysin
Baccharis: ferulic, p-coumaric and cinnamic acids,

Ref.
12, 57, 108
12, 15, 119
59, 127
59
57, 104

31, 109
12, 57, 110
12, 57, 110
12, 57, 110
18, 57
12, 57, 146

12, 57, 146

64, 91, 188


188, 212
12, 57
160
57
132
57, 90
57

Propolis against bacteria, fungi, molds and parasites


Antibacterial activity
Table 4 : Effects of propolis against pathogenic and harmful bacteria funghi, viruses, molds and
parasites after 21, 32, 65, 118, 215
Gram-positive bacteria
Bacillus cereus, Bacillus mesentericus, Corynebacterium spp., Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Diplococcus
pneumonae, Enterococcus spp., Mycobacteria sp., Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Staphylococcus aureus,
Streptococcus: critecus epidermis faecalis mutans, pyogenes, viridans, sobrinus,

Gram negative bacteria


Branhamella catarrhalis, E. coli, Helicobacter pylori, Klebsiella ozaemae, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas
aeruginosa, Salmonella: choleraesuis, dublin, enteritidis, exneri, gallinarum, pullorum, , paratyphi-A,
paratyphi-B, typh;i Shigella: dysinteriae, sonnei

Fungi
Aspergilus sp., Candida: albicans, guiliermondi, parapsilosis, tropicalis; Cryptococcus sp., Cryptococcus
neoformans, Histoplasma encapsulatum, Madurella mycetomi, Microsporum: audoinini, canis, cepleo,
distortum, ferrugeneum, gypseum; Piedra hortae, Phialophora jeanselmei, Saccharomyces sp. ,
Trichophyton: sp., mentagrophytes, rubrum, Trichosporon cutaneum

Viruses
Adenovirus, Coronavirus, Herpes symplex, Influenca A and B virus, Newcastle disease virus, Polio virus,
Vaccinia, Rotavirus; Vesicular Stomatitis Virus, Coronar virus

Parasites
Cholomonas paramecium, Eimeria: magna, media, perforans;
Giardia lambia, Trichomonas vaginalis, Trypanosoma cruzi

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The antimicrobial activity of propolis is by far the most important


biological property of propolis, which has deserved the highest scientific
interest, considering the high number of performed studies. Around 700
hundred papers deal with this aspect. In spite of the big compositional
differences of the different propolis types, they all have antimicrobial
activity. It seems that rather the sum of the propolis antimicrobial
components than individual substances are responsible for the
antimicrobial action109.
The results summarised below show that propolis has antibacterial,
fungicide, antiviral and antiparisitic effects of against harmful and pathogen organisms. These properties
make it a good candidate for its application in therapy (see section apitherapy).
Propolis is the bee product with the highest antimicrobial activity. The antibacterial activity of propolis has
been confirmed by numerous scientific studies. Antibacterial activity has been demonstrated against both
gram positive and gram-posivite, both aerobic and anaerobic types.
Although the composition of propolis differs considerably depending on its botanical origin, all examined
types of propolis revealed a strong antibacterial activity 12, 16 The antibacterial activity of poplar propolis and
other types of propolis of different geographical and botanical origin was similar109.
Poplar propolis gathered by by Apis mellifera caucasica had a higher antibacterial activity than the one
gathered by Apis mellifera anatolica and Apis mellifera carnica198
The antibacterial activity of propolis to pathogenic or harmful bacteria is summarised in the table below 21, 32,
65, 69, 118
It has been proposed that propolis is more active against gram-positive pathogens 69 but many gram
negative bacteria are also inhibited (see table).
More recent research has revealed antibacterial activity against Micrococcus luteus, Salmonella typhimurium
Klesbsiella pneumonae 221. Although in previous studies 69 it was claimed that Listeria monocytogenes is
not sensitive to propolis, recent works revealed significant antibacterial activity 153, 225. In recent study it has
been shown that propolis has a stong antibacterial activity against 13 different plant pathogens 24.

220

With the increasing of antibiotic resistance in the last years there is a considerable interest of hospitals in
propolis as an antibacterial agent. It has been shown that propolis has synergistic effects with antibiotic
action against bacteria 118, 144, 145, 184, 205, 208.
The antibacterial effect of propolis is bactericidal, that means bacteria-killing, 69, 131, 163, by inhibiting their
mobility 131. Each propolis type has different antibacterial substances (see table 5). The antibacterial
substances of the two main propolis types are given in table 6.
Generally biologically activity decreases with increasing storage. However it was found that propolis
solution in ethanol stored for 10-15 years results not in result in a decrease, but in an increase of antibacterial
activity125.
Antifungal activity
Poplar propolis is the bee product with the highest antifungal activity as tested with 40 yeast strains of
Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, Candida krusei, and Trichosporon spp. 102
Poplar propolis gathered by by Apis mellifera caucasica in Turkey had higher antifungal activity than the one
gathered by Apis mellifera anatolica and Apis mellifera carnica 196. On the other hand the antifungal and
mostly antiviral properties of propolis from different botanical and geographical origin was similar 109.
Recent research on the of propolis have shown fungicide effects on juice spoilage fungi Candida famata, C.
glabrata, C. kefyr, C. pelliculosa, C. parapsilosis and Pichia ohmeri 103.
Antivirus activity
Propolis kills the funghi and also the viruses, while the growth of the latter is also inhibited 118. Propolis acts
against many different viruses (table 4). Most notable is its activity against the influenza virus, found in
propolis of different origin 109 and in Brazilian green propolis191

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212

Antiparasite activity
Propolis acts against a number of parasites (table 4). Thus, it could act as an protective agent against
intestinal parasites, e.g. against S. mansoni 89 and against Giardia duodenalis trophozoites62.

Antioxidant and hepatoprotective activity


Antioxidant activity
An antioxidant is a molecule capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other
molecules and so to prevent such changes. The antioxidant effect correlates roughly
with the anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective activity.
Although the phenolic content seems to vary according to the botanical origin,
antioxidant effects for most propolis types have been reported.
Compared to pollen and royal jelly, propolis extracts exhibited the highest
antioxidant activity138.
In a study with propolis of different geographical and botanical origin it was found
that the antioxidant activity correlates well with its total concentration of polyphenols110, 126. Poplar propolis
with relatively higher polyphenol content has a higher antioxidant activity than Brazilian propolis, which
contains less polyphenols106, 110, 111.
The antioxidant activity differs on the type of the polyphenols. CAPE, a typical constituent of poplar
propolis, seems to be one of the most powerful antioxidant substances of propolis57.
The antioxidant activity is measured in different units. The antioxidant activity of different foods is
compared mostly the so called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) index. According to a 2007
US Patent a 50/50 water/acetone extract of poplar propolis scored 2459 ORAC units, while a
hexane/ethylacetetate (75:25) scored 7215 ORAC units. Pure propolis resin scored 9674 ORAC units
(mole TE/g) 85. The ORAC value of Uruguay poplar propolis was similarly high: 8000 mol TE/g propolis
199
Thus propolis is one of the strongest natural antioxidants.
10 % ethanol poplar propolis extract from Croatia had about 70 % of the FRAP antioxidant activity of
known antioxidants as vitamin C and trilox. Propolis modulated antioxidant enzymes (AOE) and
significantly decreased lipid peroxidation processes (LPO) in plasma, liver, lungs, and brain of mice. The
effect was dose- and tissue-dependent. The highest vulnerability to oxidative stress was observed in lungs
where hyperoxia was not associated with augmentation of AOE. Propolis protected lungs from hyperoxia by
increased catalase (CAT) activity. This is of special importance for lungs since lungs of adult animals are
highly vulnerable to oxidative stress because of their inability to augment AOE activity. The authors
conclude that because of its strong antioxidant and scavenging abilities, native propolis might be used as a
strong plant-based antioxidant effective not only in physiological conditions but also in cases that require
prolonged high concentration of oxygen200.
Propolis is a powerful antioxidant. This effect is due to the high concentration of phenolics and other
antioxidant compounds. The radical theory in human physiology claims that the active free radicals are
involved in almost all the cellular degradation process and leads to cell death. Oxidative stress is thought
to contribute to the development of chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer, autoimmune
disorders, aging, cataract, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases164.
Propolis can be regarded as a supplement preventing chronic degeneration diseases, e.g. cancer.
Hepatoprotective activity and anti-radiation activity
The liver is perhaps the hardest working organ of the body. It has hundreds of tasks to perform, including
detoxification of the blood. A sluggish liver means fatigue and toxemia and a high risk of various chronic
diseases. Phenolics are known to have a hepatoprotective function. Hepatoproctive activity for different
types of propolis has been reported, which correlated to the antioxidant activity19-21. Propolis counteracts
hepatoxic effects of alcohol liver injury in mice114, 173 and also of paracetamol induced liver damage of mice68
and carbon tetrachloride induced liver damages in rats67.
The anti-radiation effect of propolis have been reviewed by Orsolic in 2010. As an antioxidant propolis has a
powerful effect to counteract radiation as tested in tumor cells or animals. Propolis act also in apoptosis of
cancer cells thus improving the anti-cancer effect of radiation 146

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213

Propolis supplementation is prophylactic for liver health and for counteracting the damaging effect of
tumor irradiation.

Immunomodulating effects

The immunomodulating effect has been reviewed in 2007 by Sforcin188. All propolis types have
immunostimulating activity (see table 3). However the active substances of the various types of propolis are
different (table 5 and 6).
Action on microphages
In vitro and in vivo assays demonstrated the modulatory action of propolis on murine peritoneal
macrophages, increasing their microbicidal activity and stimulating the lytic activity of natural killer cells
against tumor cells by enhancing antibody production. The best immunostimulating results were observed
when propolis was administered over a short-term to animals. Both poplar and baccharis propolis increase
the microphage activity 188
Action on lymphocytes and antibody production
Both poplar and baccharis propolis can have an immunostimulalting effect by increasing antibody production
and by activating B and T lymphocytes, an adjuvant like activity of propolis 188. The propolis compounds
chrysine, quercetin, and galangin have a antiparasitic activity175
Propolis can be regarded as a supplement for the stimulation of the immune system.

Antitumor effects
The antitumor activity of propolis was reviewed by Orsolic in 2010: The
chemopreventive activity of propolis in animal models and cell cultures are likely to be
the result of their ability to inhibit DNA synthesis in tumour cells, their capability to
induce apoptosis of tumour cells, and their property to activate macrophages to produce
factors capable of regulating the function of B-, T- and NK-cells, respectively.
Especially interesting is the synergy between propolis and anticancer agents. Moreover,
flavonoids from propolis play a protective role against the toxicity of the
chemotherapeutic agents or radiation in mice, giving hope that they may have similar
protective action in humans. The combination with an adjuvant antioxidant therapy may
enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy by ameliorating the side effect on
leukocytes, liver and kidneys and consequently enabling dose escalation 146
Although many polyphenols have a anti-metastatic activity, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) from poplar
propolis and Artepillin C from baccharis propolis have been identified as the most potent antitummor agents
3, 13, 16, 147, 148, 188

Regular consumption of propolis food supplements can have a preventive effect against mutation linked
cancers in humans 174

Anti-inflammatory activity
Inflammation (inflammatio, to set on fire) is the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful
stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, irritants and free radicals. Antiinflammatory activity is thus
defined as the primary effect of the host defence system.
The antiiflammatory activity of propolis has been reviewed by Almeida and Menezes. Propolis has inhibitory
effects on mieloperoxidase activity, NADPH-oxidase ornithine decarboxilase, tirosine-protein-kinase, and
hyaluronidase from guinea pig mast cells. This anti-inflammatory activity can be explained by the presence
of active flavonoids and cinnamic acid derivatives. The former includes acacetin, quercetin, and naringenin
the latter includes caffeic acid phenyl ester (CAPE) and caffeic acid (CA)5
CAPE and galangin, both typical poplar propolis constituents exhibited anti-inflammatory activity and
significantly inhibited carrageenan oedema, carrageenan pleurisy and adjuvant arthritis inflammations in
rats29, 48.
An ethanol extract of propolis suppressed prostaglandin and leukotriene generation by mouse peritoneal
macrophages in vitro and during zymosan-induced acute peritoneal inflammation in vivo. Dietary propolis
significantly suppressed the lipoxygenase pathway of arachidonic acid metabolism during inflammation in

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vivo. CAPE was a more potent modulator of arachidonic acid metabolism than caffeic acid, quercetin and
naringenin130.
Propolis can be regarded as food supplement for counteracting body inflammation

APPLICATIONS IN MEDICINE
Table 5: Health enhancing effects tested in human cells or in humans
Study, effect
Propolis type
Cell and tissue experiments
Antiproliferative activity in many different human cancer cells
Antioxidant and antiproliferative activity in human B (human mouth
epidermoid carcinoma cells), Caco-2 (colon adenocarcinoma cells) and DU-145
(androgen-insensitive prostate cancer cells)
Propolis has protective action against oxidative modification of lipids in human
unfractionated serum
Propolis may have a role in protection against male infertility
Propolis extracts and CAPE have protective action of propolis in cartilage
tissue alteration, that appears greater than that elicited by indomethacin,
commonly employed in joint diseases
Dressing of artificially formed losses of the cartilaginous tissue with the
preparation containing ethanol extract of propolis (EEP) caused acceleration of
regenerating processes in the lesioned cartilage. EEP inserted into the joint is
well tolerated
10% propolis was a more effective storage medium for human periodontal
ligament cells than other tested media and is a suitable transport medium for
avulsed teeth
Clinical studies
Successfully applied against the different stomatological pathologic conditions:
stomatitis, paradontosis, gingivitis and caries
Use of combined therapy with propolis and antibiotic against Heliobacter
pillory in humans, better efficiency than antibiotic alone
Propolis was successfully used in patients operated for goitre, patients with
wounds and ulcerations difficult to heal and patients with non-specific rectal
inflammation.
A total of 260 steel workers suffering from bronchitis were successfully treated
for 24 days with an ethanolic extract of propolis (EEP) in a physiological salt
solution.
CAPE-rich water-miscible extract propolis suppressed completely the growth
of a human NF1 cancer called MPNST (malignant peripheral nerve sheath
tumor) and caused an almost complete regression of human NF2 tumor
(Schwannoma), both grafted in nude mice.
Successful treatment of human giardiasis (intestinal parasitism)
In vivo effect in healthy (n=49), Effect gender specific (only in men) For the
men test group after the initial 15 days of propolis treatment, 23.2% (p = 0.005)
decrease in concentration of malondialdehyde was observed. No effects in
women
Clinical study for the treatment of bronchial asthma with 22 patients receiving a
propolis supplement and 24 with a placebo control: a substantial improvement
of conditions in treatment group, accompanied by drop of proimflammatory
cytokinines
It was found that propolis decreases the erythrocytes membrane fragility of
patients with hereditary spherocytosis red blood cells. The results obtained in
vitro suggest that the membrane fragility increases under oxidative stress
conditions for the patient RBC's and the protection effect of propolis is due to
its antioxidant properties.

Reference

All propolis types


Chile (poplar)

146, 188

Argentine

88

Chile (poplar)
Italy (poplar)

178

Poland (poplar)

187

Turkey (poplar)

149

Poplar and Baccharis

7, 78, 105, 115, 115,

Italy, Poland (poplar)

141, 166

Poland (poplar)

75

Poland (poplar)

185

New Zealand (poplar)

46

Cuba
Croatia (poplar)

133

Egypt

99

Two Braslian propolis


types

137

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177

33

121, 143, 181, 215

93

215

The main medical application of propolis are based on its antimicrobial, antiiinflammatory and immunomodulating effects: e.g. ins stomatology, otorhinolaryngologic diseases, gastroenterology, gynecology,
pediatric, urological and chirurgical diseases. It has also potential in other medical fields such as cancerolgy,
dermatology, endocrinology, where the other biological effects of propolis also play a role.
The medicinal effects of propolis are summarised in table 5, as available in original publications.

Stomatology and odontology


The application of propolis in stomatology is probably the most well scientifically documented and now
practically applied in many countries, mostly the developing ones.
Propolis is very widely used in dentistry 143. Propolis inhibits in the mouth different pathogenic microbes
such as bacteria, fungi and viruses 78, 182, 183, 195 and can be successfully applied against the different
stomatological pathologic conditions: stomatitis, paradontosis, gingivitis and caries7, 78, 105, 115, 115, 121, 143, 181, 215.
For this purose propolis is applied in form of spray, mouthwashs (both with or without alcohol), toothpastes.

Propolis toothpaste

Propolis mouthwash

Propolis oral spray without alcohol

Otorhinolaryngologic and respiration diseases (ear, nose, throat, and head and neck
disorders)
This topic has been reviewed by Marcucci118, Asavova9, Shkenderov-Ivanov194 and Tichonov215
Following diseases have been treated, indicated is also the number of cited studies:
Chronic and acute inflammation of the inner ear: 10
Common acute cold, acute and chronic inflammation of the upper
respiration path:13
Synositis:3
Laryngitis (larynx inflammation): 2
Tonisillitis (infections of the tonsils): 4
Pulmonary tuberculosis: 5 (sometimes together with antibiobics and
together in complex of anti-tuberculosis measures)
Bronchial asthma:3
A total of 260 steel workers suffering from bronchitis were treated for 24 days by various methods including
local and systemic regulation of the immune system and local treatment with an ethanolic extract of propolis
(EEP) in a physiological salt solution. The best results were obtained in patients treated with EEP
inhalations185
For the otorhinolaryngologic (ear, nose, throat) treatments following application forms have been used:
Common acute cold, acute and chronic inflammation of the upper respiration path, synositis,
bronchial asthma: aerosol inhalation combined with EEP intake
Inflammation of the inner ear: tampons and washing with propolis extracts
Tonsilitis: aerosol inhalation, application of propolis ointments
Application forms
Propolis inhalation 3 to 5 times a day
Drops (10-15 drops of 20 % propolis, 3 times a day) or

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Tablets: 4-6 times daily of tablets containing 50 mg propolis


Cream and ointments containing 5-10 % propolis

Gastroentorology
From the different effects reported in table 5 and 6 the most widely mentioned are the ones concerning the
effects of propolis in gastroenterology. Propolis is known as a powerful inhibitor of Helocobacter pylori, the
causative agent of gastric, duodenal ulcers and gastritis19, 49, 90, 228 and it was used alone115, 215 or in
combination with antibiotics for in the prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers19, 49, 228.
Due to its antiinflmmatory and antimicrobial properties propolis supplements can be used for the
prevention of bacterial infection and of inflammation of the stomach and duodenum.

Propolis against cancer


This promising area has been reviewed by Galvao et al.63 and in 2010 by Orsolic146. There are many cell
culture and animals demonstrating antitumor effects in different cancers. Thus regular propolis consumption
could have a preventive anticancer effect174.
On the other hand, there are very few human studies. One major threat for women is the human papilloma
virus (HPV) infection which can lead to cervical cancer, which is the most frequent cancer in women,
especially in the developing world. But even in Western countries there are many HPV-associated dysplasias
which require surgery by means of conisation or even hysterectomy. Two studies have shown that propoliscontaining local therapy can eradicate HPV infections within six months. In a randomised trial, HPV
infections were present after three months of treatment in 28% of patients treated with propolis compared to
90% in the control group 86. Similarly, another study described an improvement in PAP smears of 76% with
the use of propolis 87 . Here, treatment with bee products offers an interesting approach which could avoid
invasive surgery.
CAPE-rich water-miscible extract propolis suppressed completely the growth of a human NF1 cancer called
MPNST (malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor) and caused an almost complete regression of human NF2
Schwannoma tumor, both grafted in nude mice. The same preparation is currently tested on patients 46, 128
Regular consumption of propolis food supplements can have a preventive effect against mutation linked
cancers in humans 174

The experience of Ludyanski


Ludyansky, a chief doctor in a big Russian hospital, with life-long practice in apitherapy, has summarised
the apitherapy knowledge in his monograph Apitherapia (in Russian)115. He summarises the medical uses
of propolis in his hospital in the following table:
Table 6. Applications of propolis in a big Russian hospital
Treated disease
Alopecia
Geriatry
Impotency
Inflammation of the vagina
Pediatrics
Prostatitis
Radicultis, polyradiculoneuritis
Stomach ulcer
Stomatology

Very good and good improvement


69
22
20
26
100
13
39
23
16

No improvement
10
10
2
9
5
2
5
3

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EXTERNAL APPLICATIONS: SKIN LESIONS, SURGERY, WOUNDS,


BURNS, ULCERS, SKIN AND EYE DISEASES, GYNECOLOGY
Skin lesions, surgery, wounds, burns, ulcers
Propolis applications in this area are known since ancient
times and are based on itsantimicrobial and
antiiflammatory properties. This area has been recently
reviewed by Barbosa23, In this review 4 studies on the
successful use of propolis in skin lesions such as ischemic
ulcer, stasis ulcer, venous ulcer, iatrogenic lesion and
ulcer were reported. Applied was 30 % aqueous propolis
extract. After the first week of use already, improvement
of wound odor and patients sensitivity to pain was
observed, as well as a decrease in the number of microorganisms. The authors of this study emphasized that
wound healing efficacy is closely associated with the propolis concentration in the solution. Another study,
which used propolis ointment on 22 chronic wounds, of which 11 were venous ulcers, seven pressure ulcers,
two diabetic ulcers, and two post-trauma injuries, found that necrotic tissue was present in 14 (8.2%) during
tissue assessment process. However, there was no necrotic tissue after therapeutic intervention. Mean
healing time was 13.2 weeks. Considering a 20-week follow-up, 74.1% of ulcers healed before this period. In
addition, regarding pain felt by people with chronic wounds, all of them reported improvement, even though
its level was not assessed by this study.
The applications, citing Eastern European studies has been reviewed by Asavova9. The applications can be
summarised as follows, together with indication of the number of the successful studies:
Ulcers: 5; Burns: 2: Healing of damages due to cancer radiation treatments:2; badly healing wounds: 1
In humans it has been used for treatment of surgical diseases 75, wounds 58 and burns 70, 155. In Cuba a better
success was achieved by mixing honey, propolis and thyme oil
In the Russian centre for the treatment of burns 15 % propolis in animal fat or plant oils was used. The
propolis ointment had a anaesthetic, bactericidal and wound regeneration effect, improving also blood and
lymphatic systen155. More recently the Russian preparation Propolis Geliant, based on a propolis
containing mixture with sunflower oil and heavy fractions of a dark natural wax is successfully used for the
treatment of burns, wounds, skin diseases and in cosmetics37.
Hartiwich et al. tested propolis treatments on patients operated for goitre, patients with wounds and
ulcerations difficult to heal and patients with non-specific rectal inflammation. They also tested the
effectiveness of propolis as supplementary means in eradicating treatment of Helicobacter pylori. It was
found that the drug was tolerated very well, practically had no side-effects and was highly effective75
In another study, the effect of Brazilian propolis skin cream was compared with that of silver sulfadiazene
(SSD) in the treatment of minor burns (superficial second degree) in the ambulatory care setting (less than
20% total body surface area burned). The study was conducted at a burn clinic in Brazil. Patients were
admitted to the study only if their initial presentation for burn care was within 48 hours post-injury and if
bilateral wounds of similar depth and quality were present. Patients had propolis skin cream applied to one
wound and SSD applied to the other selected wound on initial presentation and underwent debridement and
dressings change the following morning. Patients subsequently returned to the clinic every 3 days to have the
wounds checked and dressings changed. At these check-ups, wounds were cultured for microbial growth and
photographed to document inflammation and cicatrisation. Patients were instructed not to disturb their
wounds or change their dressings at home, thus propolis skin cream and SSD were applied to the wounds
only at the specified 3-day intervals. The results do not show any significant difference in microbial
colonization between wounds treated with SSD and propolis skin cream, however, wounds treated with
propolis skin cream consistently showed less inflammation and more rapid cicatrisation then those treated
with SSD. It is concluded that propolis skin cream appears to have a beneficial effects on the healing of
partial thickness burn wounds. More frequent application of propolis should enhance the antimicrobial and
wound healing effects of propolis70.
Application forms: propolis ointments or creams, 10-20 % propolis water tinctures.

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218

Skin diseases
Against epidermophytosis, skin tuberculosis alopecia; psoriasis; different microbial and chronic eczemas,
cutaneous conditions of cold regions, pyoderma; Trichophyton skin inflammation9
Application forms: 10-50 % propolis ointments or creams, 10-20 % propolis water tinctures

Eye diseases
Several successful clinical studes on the treatment of a variety of eye diseases are reported: keratitits,
conjunctivitis and blepharitis9. 0.3 - 1 % aqueous propolis solutions have been applied. Tichonov et al.
developed special propolis preparations, bases on specific propolis fractions, especially adapted for eye
applications215.

Gynocology and urology


The applications of propolis in gynocology and urology are based on the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory
effects of propolis. These applications have been reviewed by Asavova9. Most successful is the treatment of
the inflammation of the vagina and of the female genital area, where 8 successful studies were cited. For this
purpose direct application of 20-30 % EEP and EEP-tampons were used. Two studies with successful
treatments of vagina erosions were cite, alone or in combination with cortisone creams, with application of
15% propolis in fatty cream or intake of EEP.

Other external applications


Propolis ointments have been successfully used against cold sores, Herpes simplex skin lesions and Herpes
zoster lesions66, 79 and also against genital herpes66, 79, 222. Egyptian propolis was successfully used against
different types of warts 227

According to Potschinkova propolis-beeswax warming plasters can be used for the treatment of
arthritis and arthrosis and against sprains, physical injuries, inflammations of muscles, nerves and
filaments170. Propolis ointments are also used for these conditions.
Attention when applying propolis externally: test for propolis contact allergy before application

VETERINARY MEDICINE AND AGRICULTURE


The application of propolis in veterinary medicine is based on its antimicrobial properties. It is
reviewed in the monographs of Zakoff219 and Teterev (1998)214
Uses of propolis in veterinary medicine
Mastitis: application of propolis linement
Gynecological diseases: application of propolis candles
Feeding of weak pigs, prophylactics of gastronentorological and respiration diseases of
pigs; feeding with 0.5 % propolis in milk
Improves weight gain and reduced diarrhoea in mild-fed calves with 5 ml of 20% ethanol
extract
Prophylactics of calf diarrhoea: at to feeding 0.5 ml/kg of 10 % ethanol extract
Prophylactics against paratyphoid fever of ducks: feeding with 50 % propolis aqueous
extract
Wound healing: application of 5% propolis in fish oil or fat
As a local anaesthetic in surgery: 1 to 10 % PEP
Against foot-and-mouth disease induced damages on the utter of cows and pigs
Against enzootic pneumonia of pigs
Stimulant for the growth of underdeveloped lambs, pigs and calves

50, 98, 124, 129, 214


214
214

71

214
214

214
219
219
219
219

Teterev describes several preparations for veterinarian use: Biogel 5: containing 0.5 % propolis and 2 %
carboxymethylcellulose for intake against gastroenterology diseases, for prophylaxis; Biogel 10, similar to
biogel 5 but contains 1 % propolis.

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219

Agriculture

This use has been reviewed by Teterev214. Intake of propolis increases of weight gain, development rate and
productivity of different animals. 1 to 10 % propolis in milk is used, the intake bein about 10 ml/kg.
Following uses have been described.
Weight gain, increased rate of development of animals and productivity
Improvement of meat quality

Increased rates of egg laying of hens


Propolis has been also used:
to control the white rot disease of onions56
against potato viruses55
to inhibit the growth of A. ochraceus NRRL 3174 as well as biosynthesis of ochratoxin in Ras
cheese ripening134
as a natural antioxidant for conservation of plant oils and butter151, 152 and meat72, 73
against soy-bean and sunflower wild diseases73, 179
inhibitory effect on germination and cell division in the root tips of wheat seedlings203

FORMULATION AND APPLICATION FORMS


The application forms shown in this section are adapted after Ludyanski115Pochinkova170,
Tichonov et al.215 and in the online publication of Krell107, where more recipes can be found.
Prof. Tichonov and his team of the Ukranian Kharkov pharmacy faculty, has produced a detailed propolis
monograph describing in detail different propolis preparations (poplar propolis) He compared the extraction
of phenolic substances in 40, 70 and 95 % ethanol for 24 to 144 hours extraction time (maceration). Best
extraction of the phenolics was achieved by 70 % and 95 % ethanol after 144 hours. About 90-95 % of the
maximal extraction was achieved already after 72 hours. He also compared also the dependence of the
extraction efficacy on the size of the propolis particles, best extraction was found with 0.5 - 1 mm particles.
Tichonov developed a fractional-differential extraction method with better efficacy than the traditional
maceration method. The extracted propolis is called Phenolic Hydrophobic Preparation (PHP). The aim was
to produce a water soluble PHP containing a maximal concentration of the phenolic active ingredients, using
detergents. For that purpose he uses Polysobate 20, 40, 60 and 80 (Tween 20) a polysorbate surfactants
whose stability and non-toxicity allows it to be used as detergents and emulsifiers in a number of domestic,
scientific and pharmacological applications. The oral toxicity dose for the Tween substances is 25 g/kg. A
maximal concentration of the phenolic fraction was achieved by mixing 1 part of PHP, 0.3 p Tween 80 and
0.5 p water, a concentration of 55.5 % PHP. Tichonov tested also solubilisation with different non toxic,
synthetic non-ionic surfactants. He chose ethylene oxide / propylene oxide copolymers type surfactants with
a MW of 5500. Tichonov determined the bioavailabilty and the toxicity of water soluble PHP. Based on his
studies different propolis preparations are marketed in the Ukraine215.
A topical formulation of Brazilian propolis was developed, containing Polowax as a stabilizer against UV
damage120.

In Russia and the Ukraine there are many propolis preparations based on the extended research in these
countries

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220

Raw propolis
Unprocessed, pure propolis can be frozen and broken down to pieces or ground to fine powder.
Large pieces of propolis can be chewed, but it should be consumed in small quantities. Powder can
be made into capsules or mixed with food or drinks. A special form of raw propolis, the so called
water soluble whole propolis has been developed by Glenn Perry, www.glennperry.com

Whole dry water soluble propolis

A patent described by Sosnowski204, based on the extraction of poplar propolis


The following examples are set forth in order to fully describe the method for extracting and purifying
propolis as well as the resulting dry propolis powder and its uses. About 500 grams of clean raw propolis
was placed in an amber glass container and covered with about 1 liter of absolute ethanol. This mixture was
allowed to sit for ten days at room temperature with periodic agitation several times each day. At the end of
ten days, the mixture was filtered through Whatman No. 1 filter paper.The resulting propolis-containing
filtrate was then incubated at about 70 degrees C until a dry propolis powder was obtained.
Another method patented by Hajime (1999) uses extraction of Brazilian propolis under conditions of pH
adjustment, the method is available online
Glenn Perry www.wholepropolis.com developed a method for the preparation of whole water soluble
propolis as a water emulsion.

Ethanol tinctures
Practical considerations
For human use only non-toxic solvents should be used, ethanol of Pharmacopeia
quality is the best choice.
Propolis should be pure, remove coarse debris and excessive wax.
Place propolis in freezer and break it in small pieces or mill it to powder for a better
solubility
60-80 % aqueous ethanol solutions have a higher biological activity than tinctures,
prepared with more or less water158, 159
Prepare a 70 % (v/v) aqueous ethanol by adding 700 ml ethanol to 300 ml of water
Calculate necessary quantities of propolis and aqueous ethanol. Solutions are
expressed in weight per weight. 1 L of ethanol weighs ca. 800 g, 1 L of 70 % eth., ca. 860 g
5-30 % propolis solutions are used, do not make more than 30 % solutions in order to prevent
precipitation of active compounds.
Ethanaol tincture intake only after a strong dilution with water (10-30 drops in a glass of water)
Propolis ethanol tincture
Add 100 g propolis to 400 g 70 % ethanol (for 20 % tincture)
Store vessel in the dark for at least two days, better one or two weeks, shaking occasionally (the longer
the extraction time, the greater the concentration of active ingredients, but more than 2 weeks does not
bring more benefit)
Filter through a paper filter (coffee filter will do) and store tincture closed in a clean dark vessel. If
vessel is not brown or reddish, store in the dark, or pack vessel in aluminium foil.

Tincture in 30 % ethanol for uses in dentistry:


26 ml 95 % ethanol, 74 ml distilled water and 33 powdered propolis
Store vessel in the dark for at least two days, better one or two weeks, shaking occasionally (the longer
the extraction time, the greater the concentration of active ingredients, but more than 2 weeks does not
bring more benefit)
Filter through a paper filter (coffee filter will do) and store tincture closed in a clean dark vessel. If
vessel is not brown or reddish, store in the dark, or pack vessel in aluminium foil.

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221

Propolis water extracts


Simple extraction with water
Add 50 g of propolis to 100 ml of water
Boil for 60 minutes
Cool down to room temperature and filter

Water extract after Ludyanski115


300 ml of water is poured in a pan over 30 g propolis, cut in small pieces.
Close pan and boil gently for 40-45 min.
Cool down, collect wax from the surface and decant supernatant (1).
Add a new portion of 30 g propolis pieces to remaining precipitate in the pan and 300 ml of cold water.
Boil gently for 10-15 minutes
Cool down, collect wax from the surface and decant supernatant into vessel with supernatant 1 to give
about 500-600 ml of propolis water extract
According to Ludyanski this water extract has an antifungal, antibacterial effect and also other known
biological effects. This water is ready for drinking. Keep in a dark place.

Mixtures, emulsions, concentrates, creams, ointments


Ethanol-water mixtures
Mix 1 part 30 % propolis ethanol tincture with 5, 10 or 100 parts of water.
Some the propolis constituents will precipitate. The durability of this mixture durability
is limited to 7 days. Store in the dark. Shake before use. Used for stomatology and for
compress.
Ethanol-oil emulsion:
Mix 1 part 30 % prop ethanol tincture with 1 or 2 parts of glycerol or edible oil.
Store in the dark. This emulsion has an indefinite shelf life.

Propolis concentrate
There are propolis concentrates with 25 % liquid (wet concentrate) and 5 % liquid (dry concentrate.
The concentrates are prepared by the ethanol of a 30 % propolis ethanol tincture 1 at 60 oC in water bath
(see above). These concentrates are used for the preparations of creams, pastes and supositoria, or for
mixing it to honey.

Propolis creams and ointments for different uses


Creams on the basis of a propolis concentrate
Use vaseline or vaselin-sunflower (2:1) oil and lanoline as an emulgator. In practice 1,2 and 5 %
propolis are used.
1 and 2 % cream: add 90 g vaseline, 10 g lanoline to 1 or 2 g of a dry propolis concentrate.
5 % cream: add 80 g vaseline, 15 g lanoline to 5 g of a dry propolis concentrate.
While mixing lanoline with a spatula add first propolis concentrate unitil a uniform mass is attained,
then add vaseline and mix well.
For the basis of the cream vaseline and lanoline in proportions 9:1 and 8:2 are used. For 100 g of this basis
10-20 ml of 30 % propolis ethanol extract are used:
warm up basis in a water bath (at about 40-50 oC) and add propolis extract
while stirring, warm to boiling to evaporate ethanol
While still warm sieve cream, containing 3 or 6 % propolis and pack it in a dark cream box, tightly
closed.

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222

Propolis paste
Place propolis in freezer, cut it into small pieces and ground it to a fine powder. Mix it in a vessel with the
basis (honey, margarine, butter etc.), so that 5, 10, 15 and 20 % propolis cream is obtained. Also, the dry
concentrate can be used (5 g dry propolis concentrate for 100 g basis). The dose to be taken is 3 times a day,
take a tea spoonful 0.5-1 hour before meals.

Propolis butter
Boil 1kg of butter and cool down to 80 oC
Add 150 g propolis powder and mix well
Cover with lid and wait 20 min. while stirring from time to time, in order to prevent propolis from
stirring to pan.
Extract propolis into butter by heating mixture at 80-90 oC while energetically stirring
Filter hot mixture through a gaze and keep closed in a cool dark place until consummation.
The dose to be taken is 3 times a day, take a tea spoonful 0.5-1 hour before meals.

Propolis cream for dentistry, ingredients (in parts by weight) after204


10
10
10
2
3
15

Lanolin
Unbleached beeswax
Petrolatum (or Vaseline, the trade name for a petrolatum)
Ethyl aminobenzoate
Clove oil
Propolis (50% EEP)

COSMETICS
Propolis is used as cream or lotions for different cosmetic purposes. The propolis
uses for cosmetics have been investigated 112, 113. Its use is based on the
antibacterial, antifungal, anti-viral anti-acne, anti-inflamatory, antioxidant effects,
epithelial, micro-circulation and topical anaesthetic effects. Low toxicity and good
skin compatablity have been demonstrated, despite the risk for allergic reactions.
For skin lotions and creams for cosmetic use 1-2 % propolis seems to be the
appropiate amount94. However, before use a test on a small skin surface should be
made, if there is a propolis allergy problem. The possible allergising effects should
be marked on the product.
Different uses of propolis in cosmetics after Krell107
Function
Anti-bacterial agent
Anti-dandruff and sebum equalizing agent
Anti-microbial and healing agent
Purifying agent
Preservative

Application
Deodorants and antiperspirants
Shampoos and hair lotions
Anti-acnes and after-shave products
Cleansing creams and lotions
In all of the above

Propolis for skin care


Propolis used in skin care is based on its anti-allergy, anti-inflammation, anti-androgen, anti-lipase, an
antimicrobial and a promotive action on collagen synthesis 213.Thus, the dermatological and cosmetic uses
for propolis and its extracts are very common113 . The skin lesion applications of propolis have been
reviewed by Barbosa et 23
Propolis can be used in skin and mouth cosmetics for mouth prophylactics and for the preventions of
different stomatological pathologic conditions: stomatitis, paradontosis, gingivitis and caries. While use of
Baccharis propolis is without problems, people using poplar propolis allergy should make an allergy test.

ALLERGY AND TOXIC EFFECTS


Most allergy studies are conducted with poplar propolis. There are no reporteds on allergy cases of
other propolis types.

Contact dermatitis
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223

Poplar propolis can cause contact dermatitis. The responsible contact allergen are 3-methyl-2butenyl caffeate and phenylethyl caffeate223
In a 2010 contact dermatitis test in the UK with 2828 normal human subjects 1.9 % were found to
be sensitive to propolis171. In a questionary filled out by 1051 German beekeepers 3.6 % declared
skin sensitivity to propolis. Thus it seems that people that regular contact with poplar propolis
seems to have a skin allergising effect. In another study 4.1 % of 605 dermatitis allergic patients
were allergic to propolis117.
Walgrave reviewed different contact dermatitis studies and concludes that 1.2 to 6.6 % of the
patients undergoing patch testing are sensitive to propolis223.
Individual cases of people allergic to ingested propolis (mouthwash, toothpaste)have been described
30, 60, 77
.
Special hypoallergic propolis preparations have been developed for skin and wound applications80,
136

Allergy after ingestion


Propolis allergy upon ingestion seems to be less frequent than contact allergy, due probably to its antiallergenic and anti-inflammatory properties (see table 4). No data on the allergy frequency of the population
is available. Reports on individual cases of people allergic to propolis ingestion have been published77, 82.

Toxicology
Burdock reviews many animal toxicological studies in animals. He concludes that an intake until
4000 mg/kg per day there are no measurable effects and establishes a No Effect Level (NOEL) at
1400 mg/kg per day7. Generally a safety margin of 100 is assumed for drug and food additives.
This means that a maximum of 14 mg/kg per or 980 mg per day for a human of 70 kg can be
the daily acceptable intake.

HEALTH CLAIMS FOR PROPOLIS


According to the EU Regulation 1924/2006 54 different health claims can be made. According to the
evidence presented in this review following health claims can be made:
1. Diet-related cancer
Intake of propolis can reduce the risk for the immergence of cancer

2. Gut health, digestion and immunity


Intake of propolis can imporove gut health, digestion and immunity

APPLICATION FORMS, INTAKE, AND DOSAGE


Application forms
Tinctures
The most widely used form as 10 or 20 % tinctures in 70 to 100 % ethanol. The percentage of the
propolis tinctures is calculated according to the amount of propolis used. However the actual
concentration of the propolis components is only half of that as the alcohol soluble resin is about 50
% of the total propolis.
An intake of 3 times 20 drops of 20 % tincture a day corresponds to about 1 g tincture (from a
standard 30 ml eye drop bottle) or about 200 mg of propolis per day, far from the maximum of 1400
mg per day. Children: half dose.
Propolis in honey
In many countries propolis is mixed to honey at about 1 g/100 g ratio. 10 g of honey (one full tea
spoon) corresponds to about 100 mg of propolis. An intake of 3 spoons per day is often
recommended, corresponding to a total of 300 mg propolis. Children: half dose
Tablets
Tablet contain generally about 50 mg of propolis, 3 to 6 pills per day are recommended, in total 300
mg of propolis, children: half dose.
It is necessary to supply information on the labels of propolis skin and cosmetic products about
possible allergy reactions in risk individuals. Ingestion of propolis products is without problems.
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224

LEGAL STATUS OF PROPOLIS: FOOD SUPLEMENT OR MEDICINE


In most countries of the world the propolis use is not regulated. In some countries, e.g. Austria, France,
Spain, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, USA and Brasil propolis is considered as food supplement, together as the bee
products bee pollen and royal jelly. In others like Switzerland and Germany it is considered a medicine.
Due to its natural variation and varying properties propolis its application in medicine is problematic. It
should be rather considered a food supplement with functional properties.
The main propolis forms for internal application

Tincture

Propolis in Honey

Propolis pills

References
1. ABDEL, S; SAMIHA, M M (2000) Effect of the addition of propolis extract as natural antioxidant on the
keeping quality of biscuit during storage. Egyptian Journal of Agricultural Research 78 (4): 16591671.
2. ABO-SALEM, O M; EL EDEL, R H; HARISA, G E I; EL HALAWANY, N; GHONAIM, M M (2009)
Experimental Diabetic Nephropathy Can be Prevented by Propolis: Effect on Metabolic Disturbances
and Renal Oxidative Parameters. Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 22 (2): 205-210.
3. AHN, M R; KUNIMASA, K; OHTA, T; KUMAZAWA, S; KAMIHIRA, M; KAJI, K; UTO, Y; HORI, H;
NAGASAWA, H; NAKAYAMA, T (2007) Suppression of tumor-induced angiogenesis by Brazilian
propolis: Major component artepillin C inhibits in vitro tube formation and endothelial cell
proliferation. Cancer Letters 252 (2): 235-243.
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HIDALGO, M M; BERSANI-AMADO, C A (2007) Pharmacological evaluation of Propolis solutions
for endodontic use. Pharmaceutical Biology 45 (9): 721-727.
222. VYNOGRAD, N; VYNOGRAD, I; SOSNOWSKI, Z (2000) A comparative multi-centre study of the efficacy
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Chapter 5: Beeswax

The honeybags steal from the humble-bees


And for wax tappers crop their waxen thighs
And light them at the fiery glow-worms eyes
To have my love to bed, and to arise
William Shakespeare, Midsummer Nights Dream, Act III

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History, Uses and Trade


BEESWAX USE IN THE PAST
History of beeswax use
The old Egyptians used beeswax when embalming, for mummification of their pharaohs and for retaining the
permanency of wig curls, for preserving the papyrus scrolls and to protect paintings. The wrappings of
Egyptian mummies contained beeswax 4 . Beeswax was mentioned in 32 prescriptions, given in a papyrus,
compiled in Egypt about 1550 BC 15
The ancient Persians used wax to embalm the dead, while the ancient Romans modelled death masks and
life-size effigies from beeswax. The world mummy derives from a Persian word meaning wax
In ancient times beeswax was used as an adhesive to join two
surfaces together.
The ancient Greek legend of the Athenian, the architect Daedalus
(Dedalos),is remembered because he and his son Icarus tried to
escape from the island Crete, made themselves wings of bird
feathers, which they fastened to their bodies with beeswax. Flying
too high, Ikaros had the wax which held it's wings to his body,
melt, and he plunged into the Aegean Sea, drowning. His father
flew at a lower height and made it safely to Athens, where he built
a temple to honour Apollo.
The ancient god, Pan, guardian of bees, invented a musical instrument, Pan's Pipes, by joining reeds together
with beeswax, and blowing through them to make music. The great Greek physician, Discorides, wrote of
rolling beeswax into sheets which was then used to make artificial flowers. Ancient jewellers and artisans
knew how to form delicate objects from wax and cast them later in precious metals. Colours of ancient wall
paintings and icons contain beeswax which has remained unchanged for more than 2000 years 6(Birshtein et
al., 1976).
The Greek-Roman doctor Galen, 2nd AC used beeswax in a cooling ointment. The famous Iranian physician
Avicenne, 10th AC, recommended beeswax for medicine.
According to37 in Chinas most famous medicine book The Shen Nong Book of Herbs, 1-2nd BC, beeswax
was recognised as a top medicinal ingredient. It is praised for its beneficial influence on blood and energy
systems and the overall balance of the body. The author attributes beauty enhancement and anti-aging
properties to beeswax. Combined with other ingredients it is applied on the skin for treating wounds and as a
health food for dieting. Many recipes are given is this authoritative source of traditional Chinese medicine.
Ge Hong (about 284-364, Jin dynasty) and Sun Simiao (581-682) recommend 'beeswax therapy1, i.e. a heat
treatment of skin areas with cloths impregnated with molten beeswax. Liu Yuxi in 841 gives a detailed
description of beeswax therapy more than 1000 years earlier than the paraffin wax therapy from the
Frenchman Barthe de Sandford (1909). "The Sages Prescriptions", edited by the Song Dynasty Imperial
Hospital (992), mentions diet therapy, health-improvement and anti-aging prescriptions containing honey,
beeswax and honeycomb.
Candles of beeswax were used already by the ancient Egyptians, ancient Greece, Rome and in old China16 It
was introduced in churches since the beginning of Christianity in Europe. Since 4AC it is required by the
Roman Catholic Church that only beeswax candle should be used in the church. This law is still valid but no
longer 100 % beeswax is required, the percentage varies according to the local Episcopal instruction between
5 and 50 %.

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Beeswax was used for making of figures and cult objects in ancient Egypt. In regions with stingless bees
stingless-beeswax figures were made in different South American countries and in Australia16.
Beeswax was an important ingredient of ancient seals 16. At the beginning pure beeswax was used and only
later resin and colour were added .
In ancient Egypt beeswax was used for writing tablets, the oldest known being from around 1300 BC16. The
use of writing tablets continued until after the Middle Ages in Europe.
The production and selling of beeswax and beeswax candles was a good business until the introduction of
paraffin wax in the 19th century. Nowaday beeswax has lost its exclusiveness, but it remains the most
expensive of all natural waxes.

Theories about the origin of beeswax during the ages


The Greek philosopher Aristoteles wrote between 344 and 342 B.C. that
beeswax originates in the flowers. This theory which was supported by the
Roman apiculturists and writers Varro (116 to 27 B.C.) and Pliny, the Elder (23
to 79 A.D.). This theory predominated until the Renaissance. Swammmerdam
wrote in 1673 that wax was prepared by bees from pollen. In 1684 Martin John
observed for the first time wax scales. In 1744 the German scientist Hornbostel
22
reported that bees themselves produce the wax. This report was not
considered by the scientific community until the publications by Hunter in 1792
24
and in 1814 by Huber23. Hunter noted and that bees secrete wax and build
combs, and also, that newly built combs are white. He observed that bees do not need pollen to make wax.
The views of Hunter were expanded by Huber, who proposed that sugar is needed to produce wax. In 1903
the process of wax synthesis was described in detail by Dreyling 18.
While in early times beeswax was the only available wax, with time man learned to produce other waxes
from plant animal and lately also of synthetic origin.

Beeswax as ingredient of artistic materials


Batik art
Beeswax is used in the batik art . The word " batik " is of Indonesian origin, where batik art
was invented. Evidence of early examples of batik have been found in the Far East, Middle
East, Central Asia and India from over 2000 years ago. It is conceivable that these areas
developed independently, without the influence from trade or cultural exchanges. However,
it is more likely that the craft spread from Asia to the islands of the Malay Archipelago and

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west to the Middle East through the caravan route. Batik was practised in China as early as the Sui Dynasty
(AD 581-618). These were silk batiks and these have also been discovered in Nara, Japan in the form of
screens and ascribed to the Nara period (AD 710-794). It is probable that these were made by Chinese artists.
They are decorated with trees, animals, flute players, hunting scenes and stylised mountains. Indonesia, most
particularly the island of Java, is the area where batik has reached the greatest peak of accomplishment. The
Dutch brought Indonesian craftsmen to teach the craft to Dutch warders in several factories in Holland from
1835. With this method colour is introduced into fabric. Portions of the cloth, covered with wax resist the
dyes. When the dyeing process is complete the wax is removed by heat. Batik is still used all over the world.
Different books on batik can be found on the market.

Ancient Chinese batik

Ancient Indonesian batik

Lost wax casting


Figures containing beeswax survived in royal Egyptian tombs dating from 3400 BC 13 .Throughout history it
has been used in commerce and business as a document seal. One of the most important uses of beeswax was
in cire-perdue, or lost wax casting 12,17. This method is very old and was known in different old high
cultures as the Summerians, India, China, Egypt. Many of the worlds most famous statues were produced
using the lost-wax casting process. The object to be cast in metal is first sculptured in wax. It was then
coated with clay and hardened by heat, thus melting the wax. Molten metal is then poured into the clay
model. This technique requires a lot of metal. Less metal is required if a core of removable material is coated
heavily with wax in which the image is engraved. The whole is then coated with clay, dried, the wax melted
out and the metal poured in.

Ancient India

Ancient Nepal

Africa, 17 C

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Ancient Peru

Charles V

Fountain lion, old Italy

Old lost wax sculptures and figures


Bronze preservation
Bronze statues should be coated twice a year with a solution consisting of 1/3 pound of pure beeswax
dissolved in one quart of pure pine turpentine. This solution is to be brushed over the statue in a swirling
motion, using round semi-stiff hair brushes. Let solution dry for 24 hours, then rub lightly with a felt, velvet
or wool pad, to paint only the high points of the statue so as to leave the depressions with a shadow effect.
Care must be taken to apply the solution to the statue only when the statue is dry.

The sculptures of Madam Tussaud's


The sculptures of Madam Tussaud's in London and now in other countries, too, are widely known and copied
in many countries. In the museum, famous people are copied in wax and dressed as life-sized figures. A
mixture of three parts beeswax and one part of a harder wax are used38 Modelling in wax, or ceroplasty is a
well developed art used also for scientific models in important collections around the world1 During the last
century, wax flower modelling was apparently popular in Europe. A bibliography on wax modellers,
collections and history35 by a handbook on sculpting with wax and plaster33 have been published.

Encaustic painting
Beeswax is used also in encaustic painting. In this painting technique beeswax is a chief ingredient of the
colour, used by the artist. Encaustic painting was very popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Beeswax is melted with a resin and pigment and is then applied by heatable pallet. The colour application
should have been very quick, because dallying would lead to the wax re-solidifying on the brush, making it
impossible to apply as a paint. The finished paintings is durable and does not attract dust. Ancient encaustic
paintings can still be admired in museums, e.g. in the British museum. Encaustic painting was practiced by
Greek artists as far back as the 5th century B. C. Most of our knowledge of this early use comes from the
Roman historian Pliny, who wrote in the 1st century A. D.. Pliny seems to have had very little direct
knowledge about studio methods, so his account of techniques and materials is sketchy. According to Pliny,
encaustic was used in a variety of applications: the painting of portraits and scenes of mythology on panels,
the colouring of marble and terra cotta, and work on ivory (probably the tinting of incised lines).
For more informations, consult www.encausticart.com, http://beetree.se

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Roman encaustic painting 2-4 AC


Further reading: 9, 13, 16, 17, 20

BEESWAX USE AT PRESENT


Application of beeswax for different product categories
after CBI, EU Market Survey, Honey and Beeswax, 2002, www.cbi.eu
Product category

Products

Characteristics

Candles

Candles (poured into moulds or dipped)

Solidity, slow burning, therapeutic effect

Wax foundation
Art

Rolled and poured wax foundation sheets


Wax figures and statues

Sculptures

Metal castings, modelling, jewellery, lost wax


casting
Glass and metal engraving

Production increase of honey


Melting and moulding properties, solidity
and resistance against melting
Plasticity, mouldability, melting properties

Engraving
Processed food
Pharmaceuticals
Physiotherapy
Natural therapy
Cosmetics

Textiles
Handicrafts
Musical instruments
Varnishes and polishes
Industrial products

Protection against etching acid, resist


technique
Confectionery, bakery, packaging, Coating of Separation agent, preservation, antijellied sweets and liquorice
sticking agent
Drugs, pills, capsules, salve and ointments
Consistancy, binding agent, time release
mechanism, carrier of drug
Compresses
Warmth retaining capacity
Ear plugs
Softness, impermeabilty
Creams, lotions, lipstick, mascara, eye shadows, Emollient and emulsifier. Improvement of
deodorants, hair creams, depilatories, hair
appearance, consistency and sensitivity to
conditioners
melting
Batik
Waterproofing, paint resistant, resist
technique
Eco design
Plastering agent for artisans
Flutes, didgeridoo, violins, drums
Softness of mouth parts and reduction of
porosity
Paintings, art restoration, metal, wood and
Protection, impermeability for air,
leather treatment
humidity and pests
Anti-corrosion rust inhibitor, lubricants
Decrease viscosity, drawing agent,
prevention of corrosion

Besides its use for foundations, which is probably the main use, wax is also used for following purposes:
cosmetics 25-30, pharmacy 25-30 %, candles: 20 % and other purposes: 10-20 % 14.

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Beeswax is often preserved in archaeological deposits and thus there are many witnesses for its early use 12.
More details concerning the different uses of beeswax in past and present are given elsewhere 5 10, 11, 14, 17, 20,
21, 27, 30
.
Beeswax has been used in a variety of products and processes from packaging to processing and
preservation. It was used as a component of numerous applications in industrial technology: as components
of insulating materials, but all of the descriptions being published before 1981 41. Many of these applications
could be accomplished with other, cheaper waxes. Since most of these processes involve large scale and
complicated production procedures, they are not described here.

Candles
Candles made of beeswax have been used by mankind in religious ceremonies since a very long time 17.
Beeswax candles can be made by different methods: pouring, dipping, rolling, extruding, drawing and
pressing. The different methods of candle making are described in detail elsewhere 11. Since beeswax has a
higher melting point than most paraffin waxes (most of which melt between 48 and 680C) beeswax candles
remain straight at higher ambient temperatures.. Waxes with a melting point above 880C do not perform well
during burning.
There are three methods of making candles: molding, dipping and rolling. Explanation of these techniques
are found elsewhere 10, 11:

molded candles

rolled candle

dipped candles

molded beeswax figures with a rolled candle in the


middle and molded candles on the sides

Molding
Beeswax is molded in different shapes, modern ones are made of silicon. Many different shapes are supplied
with instructions how to make the candles under home conditions. Candles molded in silicon forms are easily
made. The candles can be taken out of the forms after hardening of the wax. Wax is liquefied easily by

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placing the wax in a pot, situated in a water bath heated at 70 to 80 oC . Making the candles before Christmas
when it is cold, forms can be placed in the open to speed up hardening. An alternative is placing the candles
for about half an hour in a freezer.
Dipping
Dipped candles are very appealing, but the technique is more difficult and labour intensive. It is great fun to
dip candles in a group or within the family.
Rolling
Rolling is a very easy way of making candles. Comb foundations are mostly rolled around a wick.
Foundations should be softened at about 25-30 oC to increase plasticity.
Tips for optimal burning of a candle:
beeswax candles burn significantly longer than paraffin candles 5
For optimal and long duration of burning beeswax should be stored for at least an year in the freezer
Thinner candles (until 24 mm) burn more constantly than thicker ones and build less smoke and
soot.
Thicker candles can begin to soot after a certain time. In this case the wick should be shortened by
cutting it off with scissors. After extinguishing the fire the wick should be carefully placed in the
liquid wax, without damaging the edge of the candle. Before lightning these candles again cut off the
already burned part of the wick. These candles should burn for a longer time in order to prevent
worsening of the ration between the burnt wax and the burnt wick
The first time you line burn your candle for one hour for every 2.5 cm of candle diameter. This will
allow the pool of wax to be extended and will prevent the building of a tunnel in the centre
If wick size is correctly proportioned with respect to the diameter of the candle (information supplied
by the trading company), the beeswaxcandle is less likely to drip than candles made from other
materials.

Homemade beeswax furnishes and polishes

Beeswax furniture furnish

Beeswax floor furnish

Leather furnish
5-6 parts of beeswax, 8 parts tallow and 8 parts neatsfoot oil
This is not a polish. It is a lotion that conditions and waterproofs smooth leather superbly. Heat ingredients
together to 160 degrees F. Mix thoroughly and pour into containers.

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Wood polish (liquid or paste like)


a) 1.5 parts turpentine and 1 part beeswax or b) 4 parts beeswax, 2 parts turpentine, 1 part of orange,
lemon, coconut or lineseed oil. Grate beeswax into the turpentine. Add one of the oils and mix. Store
in labelled tins or bottles with tight fitting lids.
The ratio of solvent to beeswax determines whether this is a paste wax or a liquid polish. Other ingredients
are often added such as pigments, lemon oil, linseed oil, or tung oil. More volatile solvents can be added or
substituted to make a faster-drying, thinner polish Carnauba wax is often added to make a harder, shinier
finish.
Classically, on "raw" wood the paste polish is applied warm, so the turpentine soaks into the pores of the
wood and pulls some beeswax with it. Excess polish is brushed or scraped off. When dry, the resultant wax
film is polished with brisk rubbing.
Artists' varnish
3 parts turpentine and 1 part beeswax. Mix thoroughly. Wax varnish has a beautiful non-glossy sheen. It is
easy to remove from a painting or plaque without damaging the paint, though it yellows a little faster then
most other varnishes so you will have to clean your painting sooner (after ten to fifteen years). However, it
gives a period effect that is hard to duplicate with modern materials.
Detailed discussions and recipes for preparations with synthetic wax are presented by Jones 26 who also lists
reasons such as the formation of soft, easily marred films and a lack of availability, why natural beeswax is
increasingly being replaced by other waxes in polishes.
There is a variation in recipes, thus it is obvious that there are many ways of preparing a wood polish suitable
for particular application. Turpentine is the most commonly available natural solvent for wax, but other oils
may be substituted to avoid the rather strong odour of turpentine. Suitable alternatives are orange, lemon or
linseed oil, or other refined vegetable oils. The wax content can range from 5 to 50% and occasionally even
more. The consistency of the paste or oil may change, but can be corrected with appropriate adjustments in
the proportions of each ingredient, e.g. less oil or more wax if it is too liquid.

FOOD AND HEALTH


Cosmetics
Since ancient times, the basic recipe for creams and ointments has consisted of a mixture of beeswax and oil
in various proportions according to the desired consistency. Beeswax has an irritation potential of zero, and a
comedogenicity rating of 0 - 2, which means that when formulated and used correctly in cosmetic
formulations, beeswax will not cause a problem or clog the pores, but brings a host of very positive
attributes, such as general healing and softening, as an antiseptic, and an emollient to cosmetic products.
Beeswax has unique characteristics, making it an ideal material for cosmetics:
Builds stable immulsions, improves water binding of ointments and creams
gives the skin a protective actin of a non-onclusive type, increasing the protective action of sun
creams, its elasticity and plasticity improve allow thinner films and provide a greater
permanence on skin and lips
Improves soap function, gives a protective film on skin and improves ist elasticity.
Improves protective action of sun creams, does not provoke allergy.
Has antibiotic and thermo-storing roperties
Does not provoke allergic reaction
Desired effect can be achieved often by as little as 1 to 3 % beeswax 11
It not only improves the appearance and consistency of creams and lotions but is also a
preferred ingredient for lipsticks, because it contributes to sheen, consistency and colour
stabilization
It increases the protective action of sunscreens
Other cosmetic applications are found in cold creams (8-12% beeswax content by weight), deodorants (up to
35 %), depilatories (hair removers, up to 50%), hair creams (5-10%), hair conditioners (1-3%), mascara (612%), rouge (10-15%), eye shadows (6-20%) and others.
Traditionally, vegetable oils were used but they become rancid and limit the period for which such creams
can be used. Today, most plant oils have been replaced by mineral oils such as liquid paraffin or
preservatives are added. Selective use of vegetable oils from olives, corn, peanuts, jojoba, cacao, palms,

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coconuts and others still continues, since many of their beneficial effects cannot be provided by synthetic
mineral oils.
In order to mix the otherwise incompatible beeswax and oils with water, all of which are essential
ingredients of any cream or lotion, an emulsifier has to be added. Borax is the classic emulsifier, available in
most pharmacies. Today's "high-chemistry" cosmetics use a large array of other synthetic emulsifiers. The
chemical process on which the emulsification is based is the saponification of the acids in beeswax, i.e. the
result is technically a soap. The associated cleansing effect is exploited in so-called cleansing creams, which
are very much like simple skin creams.
To remove the free acids from beeswax so that it no longer needs an emulsifier and can be easily mixed with
pigments and mineral products, a special process was developed and patented 8

Beeswax cosmetic products

Recipes for home made cosmetics

Skin cold creams


Add 5 parts of beeswax to 3 parts of coconut oil. Melt ingredients in separate heat-resistant
wide-mouth jars in a simmering pan of water, heated at about 70 o C. Mix thoroughly. Place
the mixture jar in a pan of cool water and continue stirring. Transfer the cool cream into final
containers. The cream that is fairly solid when cold but will "melt" onto your hands as you rub
it in Ingredients other than coconut oil may be used. It is in this formula because it melts at skin
temperature. Olive oil is often mixed with beeswax to make a skin lotion.
1 part beeswax, 2 parts water, 3 parts oil, borax (5% to 6% of the beeswax used). Heat
beeswax and oil to 160 degrees F. Heat the borax and water to 70 o C. Mix and stir. Perfumes
or essential oils should be added at 60 o C, and the mixture should be stirred until it is 49
degrees hot when it should be poured in jars and allowed to cool.
The borax emulsifies the beeswax, sort of like making soap. Borax is alkali and it neutralizes
the fatty acids in beeswax when mixed, producing an oil-water emulsion cream-like in
consistency.
Cream against rough skin
Roughly equal parts of beeswax and olive oil melted together is all that has been needed for
centuries to make a salve that helps prevent and heal chapping and rough skin. Olive oil has been
mixed with beeswax for centuries, and is good for dry skin that needs to be softened. In modern times
odourless/colorless mineral oil has been mixed with beeswax to make a soft, flexible coating that is
not absorbed by the skin and repels water yet is removed easily with soap and water.
Lip balm
2 part shredded beeswax, 4 parts of coconut oil, 1 part glycerine (optional)
2 parts liquid honey, 4 drops of essential oil such as almond, peppermint, orange or lemon. Heat the
beeswax, coconut oil and glycerine to 70 degrees o C. Remove from heat. Add the honey and stir until
the mixture starts to thicken (about 60 o C), then evenly add the essential oil while stirring and

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continue to stir the mixture until cool. Pour into final containers (small screw-top balm jars) at
about 49 degrees and let set until completely cool.
Natural lip gloss
1 part of shredded beeswax, 2 parts oil of your choice, natural colouring as needed. Heat the beeswax and
oil to 70 o C. For colour, add a natural vegetable colouring (like beet powder, raspberry or blackberry
juice). You will have to experiment with the right combination of wax oil and colour. Pour into final
containers and let set until completely cool. Package with a lipstick brush.
The part measures are mostly by weight. If mixtures are heated use hot water watch out: hot wax is
inflammable!

Food processing and apitherapy


Food processing
Beeswax is considered safe for human consumption and has been approved as an ingredient in human food
in the USA 40 It is inert, i.e. it does not interact with the human digestive system at all and passes through the
body unaltered. However, substances dissolved or encapsulated in wax are slowly released. This property is
exploited in many medicinal preparations. At the same time these properties can create a problem when wax
is stored near toxic chemicals and pesticides or after treatment with various drugs inside the hive. Any fat
soluble toxins can be absorbed and then released much later when the wax is consumed as food, used in
cosmetics or given to bees in the form of foundation sheets.
Beeswax is an authorised food preservative in the European Union under the name of E 901 19 Consumption
of 1290 g beeswax per person and day are permitted. It is used for the coverage of chocolate candys, for
surface treatments chocolate, fruits, nuts, coffee beans, bakery, amd as a carrier of colours in food
technology. of fruits to prevent them for drying out, A common, simple and small scale application for
beeswax is the protection of containers against the effects of acids from fruit juices or honey. Indeed, steel
drums for storage and shipment of honey have to be treated to prevent corrosion and dissolution of iron. The
treatment may involve an expensive food grade paint, a plastic liner made from a food grade plastic film or a
thin coat of beeswax.

Apitherapy
Beeswax is the least allergenic bee product. There is only one report on skin allergy caused by beeswax 32
Beeswax has antibacterial properties 29 and when applied to the skin improves its elasticity and makes it
look fresh and smooth. It is used for coating of drugs and pills, facilitates ingestion, but retards dissolution.
Beeswax can be mixed with the drug, thus retarding drug releasing. Beeswax can be chewed for
strengthening the gingival and to increasing saliva and stomach juices page 94 from 34.
Warm beeswax has excellent warming properties when applied against inflammations of muscles, nerves and
joints. For this reason the Bulgarian medical doctor Pochinkova suggests that beeswax is the main bee
product to be used for thermo-therapy, see page 140 from 34. For this purpose following application is
suggested applied after muscle, nerve and tendon inflammation due to colds, lumbago, neuritis, mialgitis,
arthosis, arthritis:

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Dip a piece of soft cotton cloth, cut according to the size of the applied body part, into liquid beeswax. Lay
down to cool at an even place. Before use warm up, e.g. at a maximum of 50 o C in an oven, and place on
body part, mostly overnight, cover with an schal for insulatation. The wax cloth can be used many times.
Such wax cloths are available at chemists or drug stores in some countries.

Beeswax packing against small childrens cold are commercially available in some countries (e.g. Germany
and Switzerland)

ECONOMY AND TRADE


Beeswax economy and trade date from very early age Beeswax was traded already in old Greece and Rome.
The Romans demanded beeswax when they conquered Corsica in 181 BC9 . In Medieval European times
wax was a unit of trade for taxes or other.
Different grades of wax are traded. The colour of beeswax will vary from light to medium and dark. Light
yellow beeswax, mild in odour is preferable. Bennet3 devides wax into three grades. The first of these is
crude, bleachable and non-bleachable, available in lumps and blocks. The other two grades are white and
yellow waxes, both of which described in the Pharmacopoe 2. Today, mainly two basic types of beeswax are
traded: pharmaceutical and cosmetic grade and a general application grade. Strahl and Pitch,the leading wax
refiners in the USA trade at present 6 cosmetic/pharmaceutical grades and 5 general use beeswax grades.
Beeswax from different countries has different properties, especially its readiness to bleach 11. . Nearly all
commercial wax produced is by Apis mellifera.
It is difficult to obtain reliable figures on wax production, as the greater part of beeswax is used in
beekeeping for producing comb foundations. Of all bee products the economic importance of beeswax is
second after that of honey. It is estimated that its production is about 1.5 to 2.5 % of that of honey 14. On the
basis of the assumption by FAO Comtrade statistics, that 1.19 million tons of honey were produced in 1991,
between 17,850 to 29,750 tons of wax was produced during the same period 25. The major world producer is
China with an annual production of 6000 tons31
The same source cites following figures on the trade of beeswax: In world trade statistics beeswax is
grouped with other insect waxes. Nevertheless, beeswax is a major component of insect waxes, and the trade
value can be safely assumed to be that of beeswax. Based on the information derived from COMTRADE data
base, total value of the insect waxes traded internationally during 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991 was 23.63,
23.27, 26.08 and 23.35 million US$, respectively. During 1992, major exporting countries were China
(14.9%), United Republic of Tanzania (11.4%), Germany (11.1%), Canada (7.0%), the Netherlands (6.3%),
Brazil (6.1%), Japan (5.7%), USA (4.8%) and Ethiopia (3.7%); collectively accounting for 71% of the total
trade volume in insect waxes. Australia, France, Chile, UK, Dominion Republic and New Zealand were
some of the minor origins

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World trade in beeswax for 2003, after 7


World trade in beeswax

Export tons

Import tons

World

10336

11949

Asia

5213

1995

Africa

795

258

Europe

2167

6873

4814

127

Dominican Republic

39

Ethiopia

402

France

495

1243

Germany

919

2363

Japan

89

713

Mexico

14

71

Portugal

10

32

Spain

113

336

United Kingdom

102

731

1097

2195

Biggest exporters and importers


China

USA
Source: All data FAOSTAT, 2005, unless stated otherwise.

Comtrade statistics have mixed refined/bleached wax and raw wax production data. However, there are no
other statistics sources which do this separation. The major exporting countries of raw beeswax for the same
year, and probably still at present are: China, Tanzania, Canada, Brazil and Ethiopia, together with Australia,
France, Chile, New Zealand and the Central African Republic 36. In the main, beeswax exported from
Germany, the Netherlands, UK and USA is re-exported refined/bleached wax, produced out of the raw wax
of the above exporting countries 36. The USA is a major raw beeswax supplier, consuming most of its own
production, being also a worldwide supplier of refined wax 36.
According to the Comtrade statistics the price per ton beeswax in 1991 was 3,300 to 3600 $ 25 There are no
new figures on wax trade. Other earlier figures on wax production and trade are given elsewhere 14. As a
major part of the commercial beeswax is now contaminated by acaricides 39, there is an increased need on the
market for residue-free beeswax. African beeswax, which is free of acaricides is a good candidate for the
near future.
Further Reading:

9, 11, 28

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251

References
1. ANONYMOUS (1977) Cereplasty in science and the art. Prov. First Int.Congress Florence, Florence, Italy: pp
1-728.
2. ANONYMOUS (2002) European pharmacopoeia. Council of Europe Strassbourg (4. edition)
3. BENNETT, H (1975) Industrial waxes. Natural and synthetic waxes. Compounded waxes and technology.
Chemical Publishing Company XIII New York, USA; 413 pp
4. BENSON, G G; HEMINGWAY, S R; LEACH, F N (1978) Composition of the wrappings of an ancient
Egyptian mummy. J.Pharmacy and Pharmacol. 30: 78.
5. BERTHOLD, R; BARRACLOUGH, M; BOSSOM, M; DUFFIN, E (1993) Beeswax crafting. Wicwas Press
Cheshire, Connecticut; 125 pp
6. BIRSHTEIN, V Y; TUL'CHINSKII, V M; TROITSKII, A V (1976) A study of organic components in ancient
Central Asian and Crimean wall paintings. Vestnik Moskosvkogo Universiteta 31 (3): 33-38.
7. BRADBEAR, N (2009) Bees and their roles in forest livelyhoods. Rome; 194 pp
8. BRAND, H M (1989) Modified beeswax and a process for the modification of beeswax. European Patent
Application (No EP 319 062)
9. BROWN, R (1995) Beeswax. Butler & Tanner Ltd. Frome Frome, GB; 87 pp (3. edition)
10. BROWN, R H (1981) Beeswax. Bee Books New and Old England Burrowbridge, Somerset, GB
11. COGGSHALL, W L; MORSE, R A (1984) Beeswax. Production, harvesting and products. Wicwas Press New
York New York
12. CRANE, E (1983) The Archaeology of Beekeeping. Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. London
13. CRANE, E (1983) The archaeology of beekeeping. Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. London
14. CRANE, E (1990) Bees and beekeeping: Science, practice and world resources. Cornell University Press
Ithaca, New York
15. CRANE, E (1999) Beeswax The world history of beekeeping and honey hunting, Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd;
London; pp 524-537.
16. CRANE, E (1999) History of the use of beeswax The world history of beekeeping and honey hunting, Gerald
Duckworth & Co Ltd; London; pp 524-538.
17. CRANE, E (1999) The world history of beekeeping and honey hunting. Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd London
18. DREYLING, L (1905) Die wachsbereitenden Organe bei den gesellig lebenden Bienen, Dissert. Uni Marburg.
Zool.Jahrbuch 22: 1-42.
19. EFSA (2008) Beeswax (E 901) as a glazing agent and as carrier for flavours. The EFSA Journal 615: 1-3.
20. HEPBURN, H R (1986) Honeybees and wax, an experimental natural history. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Berlin
21. HRANDNER, E; HUTSTEINER, H; MOOSBECKHOFER, R; ZECHA-MACHLY, H (1993) Von Bienen
und Imkern, von Wachs und Honig. Verlag Christian Brandsttter Wien
22. HORNBOSTEL, H C (1744) Neue Entdeckung, wie das Wachs von den Bienen entsteht. Vermis Bibliothek
Hamburg; 62 pp
23. HUBER, F (1814) Nouvelles observations sur les abeilles. Tome 1 et 2. J.J. Paschoud Paris et Genve

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24. HUNTER, J (1792) Observation on bees. Philos.Trans.R.Soc.Lond B Biol.Sci. 82: 128-196.


25. IQBAL, M (1993) International trade in non-wood forest products: An overview. Food and agriculture
organization of the United Nations. FAO Rome; 7 pp
26. JONES, C L (1977) The balance of beeswax retained in synthetics. Chem.Aerosol News 48 (3): 46-50.
27. KRELL, R (1996) Value-added products from beekeeping. FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations Roma; 409 pp
28. KRELL, R (1996) Value-added products from beekeeping
1181. FAO Agricultural Services Bulletin (124): xi + 409.
29. LAVIE, P (1960) Les substances antibactriennes dans la colonie d'abeilles (Apis mellifica L.). Thesis; Facult
des Sciences de l'Universit de Paris Paris; pp 1-190.
30. LEHNHERR, M (2001) Vom tausendfltigen Wachs, In Lehnherr, M; Thomas, H U (eds) Der Schweizerische
Bienenvater. Natur- und Kulturgeschichte der Honigbiene, Fachschriftenverlag VDRB; Winikon,
Switzerland; pp 52-71.
31. LIHONG, C (2009) Advances in propolis research and propolis industry in China. J.Royal Inst Thailand 1:
136-151.
32. LUCENTE, P; CAVALLI, M; VEZZANI, C; ORLANDI, C; VINCENZI, C (1996) Contact cheilitis due to
beeswax. Contact Dermatitis 35 (4): 258.
33. MILLER, R M (1974) Figure sculpture in wax and plaster. David & Charles Newton Abbot, UK; 175 pp
34. POTSCHINKOVA, P (1992) Bienenprodukte in der Medizin. Apitherapie. Ehrenwirth Verlag Mnchen
35. PYKE, E J (1973) A bibliographical dictionary of wax modelling. Oxford University Press, UK; 216 pp
36. REYNOLDS, B (2004) Personal Communication.
37. RIT, T; BEHRER, R (1999) Beeswax through the ages.
38. SARGANT, J (1971) Two hundred years of wax modelling. Central Assoc.Bee Keepers Ilford, UK; 10 pp
39. SCHROEDER, A; WALLNER, K (2003) The actual situation of varroacides in beeswax: An international
comparison. Apidologie 34 (5): 1-3.
40. USA, L A S (1978) Beeswax. Affirmation of GRAS status as a direct human food ingredient. Federal Register
43 (68): 14643-14644.
41. WALKER, P (1983) Beeswax: Uses and commercial aspects. IBRA Bibliography (33): 1-17.

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253

Production, Properties, Composition and Control

BEES PRODUCE WAX


Bees need wax as construction material for their combs. They produce it in their wax glands, which are fully
developed in 12 to 18 days old workers. In older bees the wax glands diminish their activity. However in
emergency situations wax-synthesis can be reactivated. Greatest quantities of wax are produced during the
growth phase of bee colonies, under moderate climate conditions during April to June. A bibliography on
the synthesis of beeswax is given in the monograph of Hepburn 12.
The main raw materials for wax formation are carbohydrates, i.e. the honey sugars fructose, glucose and
sucrose 46. The ratio of sugar to wax can vary from 3 to 30:1, a ratio of around 20:1 being typical for central
Europe 46. The stronger the colony, the smaller the ratio, the more economical the wax production for the
colony. One Langstroth frame, containing only 100 g of wax can hold 2-4 kg of honey.
Wax production and comb construction activity in the bee colony are determined by following factors:
Nectar flow: the greater the flow, the more combs are needed for storage.
Brood rearing (egg laying): the more eggs are layed, the more comb cells are needed.
The presence of a queen: only colonies with a queen build combs.
Temperature: temperatures higher than 15 C favour comb building activity
The presence of pollen as a protein source

Building of swarms is a good way to make bees produce new wax

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254

The wax economy of bees seems to function according to the supply-demand principle: there is no
unnecessary wax production!

Apis mellifera bees produce the wax in their specialized wax glands on the ventral side of the abdomen(right
photo). A bee has four pairs of glands. The liquid wax is delivered by these glands and cools down
immediately to fine, white wax scales (left). These scales are taken by the hind legs and processed with the
mouth tools. A wax scale weighs about 1 mg, so that 1 million of scales are needed to 1 comb. More details
on the biology of beeswax production in the bees are given elsewhere 12.

The comb hexagon an ideal form for the honey combs

A hexagonal shape of the combs cells are optimal regarding spent material
ensuring a maximum strength. One gram of wax will serve for the
construction of 20 cm2. Recently the mechanism of the building of combs has
been elucidated 28. From a mathematical point of view it seems that bees
have also intuitively chosen the best possible form 27. The comb is not only
the place for storage of honey, pollen ands the cradle and house of the larvae,
but it serves also as a communication net for the honey bee colony 37-39.

Honey combs are built with amazing precision. Apis


mellifera worker cells are 5 to 6 millimeters in diameter and
are about 0.25 mm in thick. A singe cell of honey comb has
a hexagonal shape. There are mathematical arguments, why
the bees have chosen to build hexagon combs cells. The
diameter of Apis mellifera cells varies between 5.1 to 5.5
mm. Drone cells have a diameter varying between 6.2 and
6.9 cells. All European races accept foundation wax with
750 to 950 cells/dm2. The diameter of the cells of the
different bee races differs more. The nest of a honey bee
colony with about 30000 workers comprises an area of about
2.5 m2 (double sided), weighing about 1.4 kg and containing
100000 cells 33. A standard Langstroth deep frame can hold
1.8-3.8 kg of honey, the wax necessary to produce these
7100 cells weighing only 100 g 31 An individual beeswax
scale weights only 1.1 mg so that 910,000 are necessary for
1 kg of wax. About 1 billion of scales are necessary for the

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255

construction of the 2.5 m 2 combs surface present in the bee colony nest. The topic of cell building has been
extensively reviewed in chapter 9 of Hepburns book on beeswax 12.

MANAGEMENT OF COMBS
Successful comb management is an important part of the beekeeping practice. Combs used for brood rearing
change in different respects. The comb colour turns from yellow to brown and black. The dark colour of old
combs is caused by larvae excrements, pupae skins and from propolis rests. The properties of the combs
change too: cells become smaller and thicker. These changes result in the production of smaller bees (see
table..). Apart from these changes old combs are sources of infections. Honey, stored in dark combs will also
get dark and dirt particles will contaminate it. Feed will also crystallise more readily in old combs, thus
making hibernating more difficult 23 Old combs contain less wax and more protein and will be more readily
attacked by the wax moth.

Changes in combs with increasing number (n) of bee colony generations , after23
n

comb
colour

cell volume
cm3

comb thickness
mm

cell diameter
mm

bee mass
mg

% wax

0-1

yellow

0.282

0.22

5.42

123

86-100

2-5

brown

0.269

0.40

5.26

120

60

6-10

dark-brown

0.255

0.73

5.24

118

49

13-15

black

0.249

1.08

5.21

106

46

Each year beekeepers should discard old combs out of the hive, thus stimulating bees to build new combs, by
giving at least 2-3 foundations per colony. Brood combs should be exchanged at an interval of about 2-3
years.
The raw products for wax manufacture are old combs and capping. Thus, all old combs and pieces of wax
should be saved for rendering into wax blocks. Old combs should be rendered separately from newer ones
since the newer combs yield a higher quality wax. The price for old combs depends on the age of combs: the
darker the comb, the lower the wax content and the price. Cappings, containing almost exclusively pure wax,
achieve the highest prices. Dark combs contain propolis and cocoons which lower the quality of the wax.
Honey should be preferably removed from the stored combs, this will prevent eventual fermentation and
moulds. Old combs, free of sugar feed and honey should be packed in plastic bags and be given to wax
manufactures for recycling into pure wax as soon as possible. Thus the beekeeper can avoid problems with
the wax moth and with moulds, which arise often when storing combs. It is safer to recycle combs into raw
wax by a sun wax melter (see figure).

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256

Control of wax moths in stored combs, after 9.

Method
Technical

Physical

Details, remarks
Sort comb
Immediately melt old wax
Storage in a cool, light and airy
place
Cool storage (<15C)
cellar or cool place, good air
circulation in comb stack
Frost treatment
2 hours at -15C or
3 hours at -12C or
4.5 hours at - 7C
Heat treatment
80 minutes at 46C
40 minutes at 49C

Biological

Bacillus thuringiensis:
Melonex, B-401

Chemical

Sulphur

Acetic acid

Formic acid

Simple, no residues

Effective, needs infrastructure; a long term method.


Effective, kills all moth stages, needs expensive
infrastructure

good air circulation and accurate temperature control


necessary effective, kills all stages
needs infrastructure (warm air blower);risk of wax
melting
Observe instructions and sell-by-date and
storage conditions:
No residues, long-term effect (2-3 months),
affects also the lesser wax
labour intensive
Burning
1 sulphur strip per 100 litres (about 3 DB supers); treat
every four weeks from above (SO2 heavier than air);
do not breathe in vapours (respiratory and eye irritant).
controls moulds at pollen conservation
regular repeats necessary; ineffective against eggs;- fire
danger
spray SO2 from spray can
1 second (=2.5g SO2) per honey super or
3-4 seconds per 100 litres hive volume
Treatment from above with 200ml acetic acid (6080%) per 100 litres per hive volume (vapours
heavier than air); in summer repeat treatment 2
times with an interval of 2 weeks;
effective, no problematic residues; kills all moth
stages; kills Nosema spores; attacks metal parts,
regular repeating necessary.
do not breathe in vapours, avoid contact with skin
caution when handling.
Treatment from above with 80ml formic acid (85%)
per 100 litres hive volume, in summer, treatment
repeated 1-2 times with an interval of 2 weeks;
regular repeats necessary
Effective; no problem residues, kills all moth
stages , attacks metal parts, caution when handling,
do not breathe in vapours, avoid contact with skin

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Storage of combs at warm temperatures results in damage by the wax moth (left)

Control of the wax moth


Combs but not pure beeswax, are highly susceptible to damage by the Greater wax moth Galleria
melonella L. In order to control it effectively, different measures can be used. Pesticide control, e.g.
with p-dichlorobenzene or naphthalene, should not be used because it leaves toxic residues in honey
and wax 5. The different control measures are summarised in the table above

MANUFACTURE OF BEESWAX
Industrial wax production began in the 19th century. In 1857 Mehring from Germany started industrial
productions of comb foundations 10.The industrial production, is extensively described elsewhere 10. Here
we will show the principles of smaller scale productions units, as used in many European countries.
World-wide, beeswax is produced mainly by specialized beeswax manufacturers. Beekeepers provide either
old combs or crude wax.
The good quality of beeswax depends greatly on the production methods. There are two wax extraction
methods: melting and chemical extraction. Melting is the most frequently used procedure. Wax can be
melted by boiling water, by steam, or by electrical or solar power. Chemical extraction by solvents is feasible
only in a laboratory, where small scale wax production is needed. Good wax solvents are gasoline and
xylene. The disadvantage of this method is that all organic wax contaminants and constituents of the pupae,
propolis and pollen are dissolved. Thus the quality of wax can be impaired. This method is feasible only in a
laboratory, where small scale wax production is needed.
The wax recovery depends on the combs and on the method used. Generally, recovery from old combs are
around 50 %. If more cappings and new combs are used it could be higher. The comb debris or comb cake
left after separation of pure wax contains still some wax (about 30 %). This rest can be removed by solvents,
but this wax will not have the best quality. According to Temnov40 beeswax in combs is in a free and bound
state. When heating combs in sun melters and at temperatures below 100 oC only the free wax will be
liberated. The bound wax can be liberated only by pressing or extracted by solvents.
During the manufacturing of wax formation water emulsions can be often built. There are two emulsion
types: in the first one water particles are dispersed into wax, in the second one wax particles are dispersed
into water 36. These emulsions are built with the help of emulsifiers. Emulsifiers for the first type of
emulsions are proteins and dextrines, contained in honey, pollen and salts of wax fatty acids with sodium and
potassium. The second type of emulsion is caused by the salts of wax fatty acids with calcium, copper and
iron cations. Cations are contained in hard water, or diffuse out of the vessels, used for wax production. That
is why soft water should be used, together with vessels from stainless steel. If emulsions are formed, they can
be destroyed by letting wax for a longer time remain in the water bath at a temperature of 75-80C.
Wax, produced by the comb cappings has the best quality, as far as general quality criteria are concerned.
However, this wax does not have less pesticide residues than normal beeswax4

Beekeepers can produce raw beeswax in a simple and cheap way. Combs are placed on the sun melter and
are melted directly by the sun heat. The melter should be directly towards the sun 2-3 times a day. This

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258

method is efficient and the energy is free of charge. This method is preferable for the production of raw
wax, as comb storage can avoided.

Manufacturing methods for beeswax


Hot water extraction using forced immersion
The combs are placed in a tightly tied jute sack. Place sacks in a recipient with water and boil. As wax
is lighter than water, it will filter through the jute and rise to the surface. After all combs have all
melted, let the pot cool down. The wax solidifies as it cools, forming a block on the water surface.
Throw out waste left in the sack.
Extraction with boiling water and a wax press
The combs placed into a 120 litre container with 20 to 30 litres of boiling water and left to melt. When
all the wax has melted, remove the wiring and tip the contents into a jute-lined press, then start
pressing.
Combined steam and press extraction
A metal basket of old combs is plunged into a tank of boiling water, closed with a watertight cover. A
piston, capable of exerting up to 15 T of pressure presses the combs, then tank is kept simmering for
about one hour. Wax runs to the top of the tank.
Steam extraction
Combs with frames are placed into a container where vapour is introduced. The trester is sieved, wax
flows into the lower part of the container and can be collected. There are different commercial devices
Centrifugal extraction
Combs are meted in boiling water and boiling mixture is poured into baskets of a centrifugal wax
extractor, spinning at more than 1500 rpm, kept at temperatures over 65C to prevent the wax from
setting. Pure wax runs out of through an opening from the extractor. Method used for bigger
manufacturing units, due to expensive installation.
Heat extraction with electric elements
Press combs or frames between two electrically heated metal plates. Plates are pushed together, the wax
melting into a recipient.

Old combs are melted into wax blocks by a sun melter, an effective way of avoiding wax moth losses.
The melted wax must be then further purified by specialized wax producers.

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259

Wax defects and how to prevent them


Wax darkening
- Do not heat at too high temperatures and for a too long time may damage the wax and darken its
colour.
- Wax should not be heated in containers made of iron, zinc brass or copper vessels because these
metals make the wax turn dark. Do not use lead containers because of contamination. Stainless steel
or aluminium, is suitable, but can be attacked by oxalic acid. Wooden containers can be suitable, if
acid treatment is involved.
Wax off odour
Do not melt combs containing fermented honey
Contamination by Paenibacillus larvae larvae
heat-resistant spores of Paenibacillus larvae larvae are not killed by boiling of wax in water. Only
heating under pressure (1400 hPa) at 120C for 30 minutes kills all spores 25.
Water-wax emulsions
1. the wax-water appears milky, due to the presence of calcium or iron in the water
Use 2-3 g of oxalic acid per kg wax and 1 l of water to bind calcium, prevent emulsion and to
brighten wax at the same time.
2. wax absorbs a greater amount of water: heat wax at 105 oC to remove water.
Wax has a crummy structure
This is due to saponification of wax. The process can be reverted by boiling wax with sulfuric or
oxalic acid. Use soft water to prevent this, e.g. rain water. Water with a low mineral content should
be used if such problems arise. However, in some cases, water/wax emulsions can occur, even with
soft water. In such cases, raw molten wax in contact with water should be kept below 90C.
Incorporation of water.
Water is often incorporated in the process of wax manufacture. Surplus water can be removed by
heating at about 105 oC. Prevent foam building by defoaming agents (e.g. silicon). When no more
bubbles rise, the wax is free of water.
Impure wax
After melting the wax is not pure enough. For additional cleaning heatable water tanks from highgrade steel are suitable. The wax should remain for longer time in the water bath at a temperature of
75-80C (best over night). Since wax is lighter than water, it floats. The dirt sinking at the lower
part of the wax must be scraped off after cooling. Under industrial conditions liquid wax can be
cleaned by filtration with heated chamber filters. Wax can also be purified by hot filtration.
ATTENTION: When using chemicals of the kind described above, use protecting gloves and goggles,
as well as protective clothing.

Dark wax (right) which was bleached by boiling the wax with diluted oxalic acid: boil 1 kg wax, 1 l water
and 2-3 g of oxalic acid anhydride

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260

Wax brightening and bleaching


Acids
Acids will bind a part of the iron which is responsible for wax darkening. Also they help breaking of
emulsions and help the settling of impurities.
e.g. add 2-3 g concentrated citric acid or oxalic acid, or 1 ml concentrated sulfuric acid to 1 l of water per
kg wax and (add acid to water and not vice-versa!).
Hydrogen peroxide solution
Add concentrated hydrogen peroxide solution (about 35 % in basic milieu) to hot wax (100 oC). It is
essential that the peroxide is used up in the bleaching process. Excess peroxide could cause problems in the
manufacture of creams and ointments
Sun bleaching
Bleaching in a solar extractor will lighten the colour of the wax. In order to achieve bleaching, the wax
should be exposed to the sun for several days.
Potassium permanganate
Heat wax at about 90 oC for 30 minutes in 0.01 % potassium permanganate in slightly acidic milieu.
Exchange solution with water.
Do not use complexing agents because they are problematic from ecological point of view

Small scale wax producing units:


Combs with frames are placed into a container where vapour is introduced.
The trester is sieved, wax flows into the lower part of the container and can be
collected. In this device up to 36 combs with frames can be melted within 20
minutes. The generator already produces steam after 30 seconds steam.

Industrial purification
For industrial purposes beeswax will be purified by filtration and centrifugation. A plate and frame press is
suitable. Tightly woven cotton cloth, canvas or paper filters can be used. Paper filters can be disposed of
after usage. Filtration is carried out under pressure. Filtration is extensively described elsewhere10.

Wax purification in small scale production


After melting the wax is not pure enough. For additional cleaning heatable water tanks from high-grade steel
are suitable. The wax should remain for longer time in the water bath at a temperature of 75-80C (best over
night). Since wax is lighter than water, it floats. The dirt sinking at the lower part of the wax must be
scraped off after cooling and only the pure upper layer of wax should be kept. Let the wax cool down as
slowly as possible and to avoid all movement of the container during cooling.

Storage of pure wax blocks


Wax blocks are dried and stored in a dark and cool place. They can be stored in wrapping paper, placed on
shelves or in containers made of stainless steel, glass or plastic, for best preservation of colour and aroma.
This will keep of building of dust, which is supposed to be a salt of wax fatty acids40. This dust will be
eliminated by liquefying the beeswax or storage in a warm room.

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261

Production of comb foundations


Combs are produced basically by two methods: by sheeting and by casting (milling).

Sheeting of beeswax was the first method used in


production of foundations. In a first stage wax
sheets are produced and in a second the
foundations are produced by calendering. The
wax sheet is run through a foundation mill, which
will print the foundations. Foundations produced
by sheeting and milling is today the preferred
method world-wide.

Casting or Milling of wax will produce foundations that


are more brittle in the cold than milled sheets. Cast
foundations are produced mainly by beekeepers, as this
method is easy to perform in small beekeeping units.

Photos courtesy G. Ratia

PROPERTIES AND COMPOSITION


The wax produced by different species of Apis mellifera, and also of African adansoni wax, have the same
composition but some components are in a different proportion 3, 7. The waxes of Asian bees Apis florae,
Apis dorsata and Apis cerana, are called Ghedda. The composition of wax from Asian honeybee species is
much simpler and contains fewer compounds in different proportions 22 The different Ghedda waxes
resemble each other much more, than any of them od the Mellifera waxes 42. Thus, Ghedda waxes cannot be
used as substitutes for Apis mellifera wax. Ghedda waxes from the Asian honeybee species are described as
softer and more plastic, but do not have a significantly different melting point 45.
Besides beeswax some following waxes. the most frequent are Jojoba, produced from the jojoba plant;
Carnauba: made from the leaves of the carnauba plant; lanolin, made of lamb wool. Beeswax has generally a
melting point which is about 10-20 0C lower than other waxes. According to Tulloch this difference is due to
the large number of different compounds found in beeswax 42. This property permits the bees to use a
softened material in the beehive and is also very useful in the uses in different crafts.
The colour of the freshly produced beeswax is white, later it turns to yellow. The typical yellow colour
originates from propolis and pollen colorants. However, depending on the relative amounts of different
pollen and propolis pigments, wax colour can vary (see for review 10. Beeswax has a typical odour,
originating from bees, honey, propolis and pollen.
The colour of newly made beeswax is white and it changes with the length of use to yellow, dark yellow and
brownish. The yellow colour is due to colourants originating from propolis and pollen, while the brown
colour is due to the pigments of the larval excrements. The taste of beeswax is normally pleasant and is not
specific any unpleasant taste is a sign of quality deterioration due to foreign matter.
The structure of beeswax is crystalline. The crystallisation of beeswax depends on the the storage. The
crystallisation process increases upon storage of wax until 3-4 months, while at the same time, its stiffness
and elasticity increase. The mechanical properties of wax are important in connection with its use as the

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262

house of the bees. Fresh scale wax has a greater strength and extend to greater extent upon strain than and
is less stiff than comb wax, differences are due to the different physical structure and also of the chemical
composition of these two types, see p. 84-88 of Hepburns Wax Book 12. The hardness of beeswax is an
important quality factor the harder the wax, the better the wax quality.
Beeswax is an inert material with high plasticity at a relatively low temperature (around 32 oC). By contrast,
at this temperature most plant waxes are much harder and of crystalline structure. Upon heating the physical
properties of wax change. At 30-35 C it becomes plastic, at 46-47C the structure of a hard body is
destroyed and between 60 to 70C it begins to melt. Heating to 95-105 oC leads to formation of surface foam,
while at 140C the volatile fractions begin to evaporate. After cooling down beeswax shrinks by about 10 %
Heating at 120C for at least 30 minutes causes an increase of hardness due to the removal of the remaining
water. The above information is taken from page 91 of a Bulgarian book on bee products 35.
Beeswax is also insoluble in water and resistant to many acids. It is soluble in most organic solvents such as
acetone, ether, benzene, xylol, toluene, benzene, chloroform, tetrachlormethane. However in at room
temperature it does not fully dissolve in any of these solvents, but upon heating above the wax melting point
it is readily soluble in all of them, and also in ethanol.

Sensory propertes of beeswax:


Colour

yellow to yellow-brown

Odour

heat wax , odour should be pleasant and honey-like.

Chewing test

wax should not stick to teeth

Breakage test

upon breaking should have a fine-granular, blunt, not crystalline structure

Cutting test

wax should not stick to the knife

Splinters test

scratch wax with nail or knife. Splinters should have a spiral form

Kneading test

kneading for 10 minutes, wax should be plastic

Consistency

should not stick upon cutting

Beeswax is an extremely complex material containing over 300 different substances42. It consists mainly of
esters of higher fatty acids and alcohols. Apart from esters, beeswax contains small quantities of
hydrocarbons, acids and other substances. In addition, approx. 50 aroma components have been identified
11
.

Composition of wax, after42

Component
Monoesters
Diesters
Triesters
Hydroxy monoesters
Hydroxy polyesters
Acid esters
Acid polyesters
Hydrocarbons
Free acids
Alcohols
others
total

Quantitity
%
35
14
3
4
8
1
2
14
12
1
6
100

Number of components in
fraction
Major
Minor
10
6
5
6
5
7
5
10
8
5
7
74

10
24
20
20
20
20
20
66
10
?
?
210

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

263

The ratio of ester values to acids, a character used by the various pharmacopoeias to describe pure beeswax
is changed significantly by prolonged or excessive heating. Heating at 100 oC for 24 hours changes the ratio
of ester to acid beyond the limits set for pure beeswax. Longer heating or higher temperatures lead to greater
degradation and loss of esters 42. These changes also influence the physical characteristics of the wax. Thus,
excessive heating during rendering or further processing changes the wax structurally and alters the
beneficial characteristics of many of its minor compounds, not only the aromatic and volatile compounds.
Besides the lipophylic substances of which wax is composed, there are also some proteins, which are added
by the bees 24. However, the ratio is not mentioned in the new 2008 European Pharmacopoeia.

QUALITY CONTROL
With the collaboration of Hansjoachim Roth, www.ceralyse.de
The quality control of beeswax requires a great amount of specific knowledge and experience. The
Ceralyse laboratory in Bremen, Germany, is the only laboratory in the world, speciliazed on the
analysis and quality determination of beeswax.
Beeswax is specified in the Pharmacopoeia of different countries. Two types of wax are mentioned: white
(cera alba) and yellow (cera flava), white beeswax - being defined as bleached yellow wax. Bleached wax
has lost the colourants of normal beeswax and has not its pleasant odour. Beeswax is a natural product and
no additives are permitted.
The quality control can be divided into 4 steps:
Sensory Analysis
Physico-chemical testing after the Pharmacopeia
Analysis of wax components by Gas Chromatography
Analysis of residues

Sensory Testing
The sensory properties, described on p. 10 are tested

Physico-chemical testing after the Pharmacopeia


There are different national Pharmacopeia, which have only small differences. Official wax control is based
mainly on the European and the American Pharmacopeia. The International Honey Commission has
proposed following criteria:
Quality criteria for routine beeswax testing

Quality Criteria
Water content
Refractive index, 75o C
Melting point
Acid Number
Ester Number
Ester/Acid ratio
Saponification Number
Mechanical impurities, additives
Glycerols, polyols, fatty acids fats
Hydrocarbons

Value
< 1%
1.4398-1.4451
61-65o C
17-22
70-90
3.3-4.3
87-102
absent
absent
max. 14.5 %*

Method
DGF-M-V-2*
EP**
EP
EP
EP
EP
DGF-M-V-3
EP
DGF-M-V-6

DGV, V2,3,6 Methods of Deutsche Gesellschaft fr Fettwissenschaft

EP - European Pharmacopoeia 7th - Edition, 2008 47


*- wax from African and Africanized bees: max. 13.8%

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

264

Physical properties of beeswax and artificial waxes, used as adulterants after 21, 26, 40

Beeswax
Artificial waxes
Ceresin
Paraffin
Stearin
Natural waxes
Bayberry-myrtle
Candelilla
Caranday
Carnauba
Castor bean wax
Esparto grass wax
Japan wax
Montan crude wax
Ouricury
Retamo ceri nimbi
Shellac wax
Spermaceti
Sugar cane wax
Wool lanoline

Melting
point oC

Density

Acidic number Saponification


number

61-65

0.950-0.965

17 24

87-100

65-80
45-70
52-55

0.91-0.92
0.88-0.91
0.89

0
0
205-209

0
0
-207-210

48-50
65-69
82-85
.82-86
86
78
50-56
76-86
85
76-78
72-86
45-49
75-79
31-42

-0.875-0.980
0.97-0.99
0.99-1.00
0.99-1.00
0.98-0.99
0.99
0.97-0.99
0.99-1.00
0.97-1.06
0.98-0.99
0.97-0.98
0.94-0.95
0.98-0.99
0.92-0.96

4-30
-1-19
3-10
.2-11
2
24
6-20
25-48
8-20
45-50
2.25
1
6-10
1-40

205--217
45-65
62-80
-78-88
17
70
217.237
88-112
70-100
88
45-85
116-125
25-35
80-140

Hardness
ASTM D-5
15

7.5
1.5
1
1
2
1.5
8
1
2
2
16
3

ASTM D-5 standard penetration test, see www.astm.org/Standards/D5.htm


Bee wax can be classified generally into European and Asian types. The ester/acid ratio is lower (3.3-4.3-)
for European beeswax, and higher (8-9) in Asian beeswax. However, the quantity of Asian beeswax has
decreased in recent years.
Determination of the sensory and physico-chemical characteristics according to the Pharmacopeia is not a
safe adulteration proof but in some cases can give hints on possible adulteration. If the values obtained are
outside the limits, further analysis by gas and column-chromatography, should be carried out.
The ratio of ester values to acids, a parameter determined in the pharmacopoeia gives information whether
pure natural beeswax is changed significantly by prolonged or excessive heating. When heating wax at
100C for 24 hours the ratio of ester to acid is changed beyond the limits set for pure beeswax. Longer
heating or higher temperatures lead to greater degradation and loss of esters 42 . These changes also influence
the physical characteristics of the wax. Thus, excessive heating during rendering or further wax processing
changes the structure of wax and alters the beneficial characteristics of many of its minor compounds, not
only the aromatic and volatile compounds.
Determining the saponification cloud point is an easy, sensitive method for determining adulteration with
hydrocarbons 47 The method is limited to detecting quantities greater than 1 % of high melting (80-85 C)
paraffin waxes, or more than 4-5 % of low melting (50-55 C) paraffins. If the solution becomes clear at or
below 650 C, the wax is probably unadulterated with paraffin. If it is adulterated, the solution will turn clear
only at a higher temperature. Some of the details of this test are described by Tulloch 41. The saponification
cloud point is not suited to detect adulteration with carnauba wax, but gas liquid chromatography (GLC) can
detect the 6% of free C-32 alcohols (an alcohol with 32 carbon atoms) contained in Carnauba wax. Beeswax
only contains very little of these alcohols 42

Gas Chromatography
The current quality criteria for pure beeswax according the pharmacopoeia i.e. acid value, ester
value, saponification value, drop point, tests for paraffin and other waxes as well as for glycerol and
other polyols, summerised in table 1. are inadequate for its reliable determination but are still used
today because they are easy to carry out 2. Today, adulteration can be detected very sensitively by
gas chromatographic determination of wax components. Unambiguous detection of beeswax
adulteration should be carried out by gas chromatography, best combined with MS detection 1;6, 8;1620, 30, 34
.
All beeswax hydrocarbons are of uneven C-number. The presence of hydrocarbon adulterants, like
paraffin and ceresin, containing even numbered hydrocarbons can thus be easily detected.
Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

265

The most common sources are:


Hydrocarbons from paraffins and microwaxes
Triglycerides from palm, fatt and hardened beef tallow
industrially produced fatty acids (palmitic, stearic acid); long chain alcohols (C16-C18) and
C32-C36 synthetic esters
The Ceralyse laboratory has developed a GC method for the detection of all adulterants.

Contaminants
Beeswax may contain fat-soluble pollutants. Only traces of different enviromental pesticides are
generally detected. Beeswax is contaminated mainly by lipophylic acaricides applied in beekeeping.
Presently residue levels of different acaricides in the range between 0.5 and 10 mg/kg are found in
commercial wax32, 44.
For its use in cosmetics and pharmaceutics, beeswax should contain minimal amounts of
contaminants. For uses as a food additive there are no specific wax specifications the same MRL as
the ones valid for honey should theoretically apply.
Other fat-soluble substances used in beekeeping, such as p-dichlorobenzene, used, against wax
moths can also contaminate beeswax 5, 43.
Another potential problem for the quality of beeswax, used for beekeeping is the content of
Penibacillus larvae spores. Indeed, only heating of wax at 140 oC for 30 minutes will destroy the
spores 25. Heating of pure wax at such high temperatures might cause overheating. Heating under
pressure of water-wax mixtures in pressure pots is another possibility to sterilize wax for small
scale wax production. In practice only very few wax manufacturers sterilise wax by this procedure.
On the other hand, experiments have shown, that only very high contamination with spores might
cause American Foul Brood (AFB). In this work it was concluded, that normal contamination with
spores of commercial beeswax is not likely to cause AFB 29

Preventive measures against contamination


Acaricides cannot be removed from wax by chemical means because of their different chemical
structure. The best strategy to improve wax quality is to use non toxic natural organic acids in
alternative varroa control14. It has been found that residues of synthetic acaricides can be reduced
rapidly below the detection limits by exchanging the old contaminated foundations by residue free
ones 13, 15 The contaminants, used for the control of wax moths (e.g. p-dichlorobenzene and
naphthaline) can be avoided by using alternative control measures (see table on p. 4). Contaminant
free beeswax can be obtained only in organic beekeeping.

Further reading on beeswax: 10, 12, 26, 42

Stefan Bogdanov, Bee Product Science, June 2011, www.bee-hexagon.net

266

References
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chromatography and high-temperature gas chromatography-chemical ionization mass spectrometry,
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JOURNAL OF LIPID SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 107 (3): 158-166.
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321-329.
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