What's the buzz about apitherapy?

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This week, I have "8 Apitherapy Questions" for Frank Wiedemann. Frank has been a bee enthusiast for more than 30 years. He has given classes on beekeeping and apitherapy, and is an engaging public speaker with a passion for spreading the good news about bees. He is a member of the American Apitherapy Society and regularly attends courses and conferences with leaders in the field.

Frank is an avid believer in the health properties of bee venom and other natural remedies derived from the hive. He is a practicing apitherapist and is CMACC trained. Frank has experience in commercial beekeeping and currently raises bees on his property in Idaho.

Q: Frank, can you give us a brief understanding of apitherapy?

A: Apitherapy is a holistic medicine where all products from bees are used to promote good health. These products include: honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom. The use of bee products as medicine has been recorded for over 8,000 years. In China, there is evidence that acupuncture had its origins from bee venom therapy.

Q: How would athletes and fitness enthusiasts apply the use of apitherapy to support their exercise programs?

A: People with active lifestyles can improve their energy and endurance levels by using bee products. For maximum benefit it is important to use all or as many different bee products as possible. Bee products have a synergetic effect when used in combination with each other. I suggest taking 1 tablespoon honey and one tablespoon bee pollen twice each day. Also once each day a propolis and royal jelly supplement. Two to three hours before an event or extreme workout, I suggest taking one or two extra tablespoons of pollen for that extra energy boost.

Q: Many mainstream athletes take bee pollen before competitions what is the benefit of the pollen before a workout or event?

A: Despite many athletes consuming bee pollen prior to events or workouts, there is no conclusive evidence which supports that pollen has ergogenic properties. Components in bee pollen vary from region to region but pollen mainly consists of 20 to 40 percent proteins, 55 percent carbohydrates, 1 to 2 percent fats, 3 percent minerals. Bee pollen is close to being a whole food; one teaspoon of bee pollen is equivalent to a hearty serving of vegetables. As to the benefits of taking bee pollen prior to heavy physical exertion, I'm all for it but it does remain a mystery as to how the compounds in bee pollen interact. We do not fully understand the significance of some flavonoids, carotenoids and phytosterols in bee pollen. The full physiological effects of bee pollen on the human body remains to be determined. For now anecdotal information is plenty good for me.

Q: Why use raw honey over processed honey as an energy source of your workouts?

A: It's very simple: Raw, multiflower, unheated, unfiltered and unprocessed honey is loaded with natural sugars, antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids, anti-inflammatories, phytochemicals, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals just to name a few. Natural honey is an instant energy-building powerhouse. Processed honey is generally heated (over 140 degrees F), this will destroy all beneficial qualities in honey and you might as well be using white sugar, also: filtered or otherwise processed honey will jeopardize quality.

Q: Can aspects of apitherapy help you with healing and recovery after exercise?

A: Yes, bee pollen, honey, propolis and venom are all anti-inflammatory and help reduce pain and recovery. Bee pollen mixed half and half with raw honey is good after a hard workout. As far as injuries are concerned, I suggest bee venom therapy as it stimulates various healing responses in our bodies.

Q: Are there dangers to using bee products and what should people watch for when using bee products?

A: There can be dangers when using any bee products, especially for those with a history of allergies and bee allergies in particular. If you have a history of allergies, always consult with your doctor prior to beginning a regimen of using bee products. Chills, swelling, redness, itching and difficulty breathing are all signs of anaphylactic shock, the severity of the symptoms may vary greatly. If in doubt, keep epinephrine (epi pen) or Benadryl with you while using bee products.

Q: Honey blended with various things like salt, a vinegar and lemon juice have been used for years as a tonic for weight loss, sleep, and even to treat parasites. Is there any truth or science to these claims?

A: There is truth to these claims and many others. One must keep in mind that this is holistic medicine and not recognized as medicine by the FDA. Bee products as tonics, tinctures and infusions have been around for thousands of years and without scientific proof, only testimonials. It is in recent history that we are beginning to unlock the many intricate secrets of bee products and their applications.

Q: During the years you have worked with bees and bee products, what do you believe is the biggest benefit of apitherapy for someone with an active lifestyle?

A: I believe all things derived from the hive are special gifts from God to us. Bees are here to help us stay centered, strong and healthy. For active lifestyles there is no doubt that bee products boost energy and normalize the immune system. This is preventative medicine made for physically active people and all others.

Thank you Frank for your great answers!

Judd Jones is a director with The Hagadone Corporation.

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