Propolis, Manuka Honey and Royal Jelly: How Healthy Are Bee Products?

Royal jelly and propolis are said to boost the immune system, and manuka honey can heal inflammation. Such statements are not proven. Still, many people are willing to spend a lot of money on it.

Manuka honey comes from the mountainous regions of New Zealand. The South Sea myrtle grows there, and the Maori used its leaves and bark to heal wounds. When the bees collect the nectar of this plant, the coveted Manuka honey is produced. The special feature: is the high methylglyoxal content (MGO), which is produced during the transformation of the nectar in the bee’s intestines. This sugar breakdown product is said to have a high antibacterial effect – it is said to help with inflammation, gastrointestinal problems, or colds.

Methylglyoxal – the coveted ingredient in Manuka honey

Regular honey also contains methylglyoxal but in much smaller amounts. While ordinary honey has around 5 milligrams per kilogram, Manuka honey has 650 milligrams per kilogram and more. The higher the methylglyoxal content, the more expensive the honey: a 250-gram jar can quickly cost 50 euros.

The antibacterial effect only confirmed in laboratory tests

To what extent Manuka honey can really counteract inflammation or other complaints when used internally, there is still no evidence of this. So far, the antibacterial effect of honey against certain germs could only be proven in cell culture experiments in the laboratory. Only the antibacterial effect of Manuka honey, when used externally for wound healing, is well documented. However, Manuka honey sold as food is not suitable for this, only medicinal Manuka honey.

Fake Manuka honey on the market

In New Zealand, the discovery of the antibacterial methylglyoxal in honey triggered a veritable boom, which manufacturers paid dearly for. However, the substance can also be produced artificially and honey counterfeiters take advantage of this. Around 2,000 tons of Manuka honey are harvested in New Zealand every year. However, more than 10,000 tons are sold worldwide – apparently, a profitable business that is not always easy to unmask.

Not all manipulations can be detected via laboratory tests. If the honey is available at a bargain price, the methylglyoxal content is usually low and the probability of a counterfeit is all the higher.

Royal jelly – the food of the queen bee

Only the queen bee is fed the special diet of royal jelly. It lives about 40 times longer than ordinary worker bees and lays up to 3,000 eggs a day. Manufacturers of dietary supplements like to try to transfer the effect of royal jelly to humans and offer the queen’s feed juice in drinking ampoules or capsules. However, claims that consuming royal jelly can boost the immune system, increase life expectancy, or increase fertility have no scientific basis. It is therefore also forbidden to advertise with such statements on the packaging.

Dubious health claims on products

Manufacturers, therefore, like to use a popular trick: they add vitamins for which certain health claims are permitted on the packaging. It is not always made clear to consumers at first glance that the statements do not refer to the royal jelly contained, but rather to the added vitamin C.

Pesticide residues in royal jelly

The extraction of royal jelly is very labor-intensive and hardly worth it in Europe. The substance is mainly obtained in Asia, but bee products from there have repeatedly attracted attention due to the residues of pharmaceuticals or pesticides. So there is a risk that a cocktail of unwanted residues will be found in royal jelly.

In addition, the extraction of royal jelly puts the bee colony in an extremely stressful situation. For beekeepers who work close to nature in this country, the production of this substance is out of the question.

Beware of allergies

Sensitive people suffering from atopy or bronchial asthma should be extremely careful with products containing royal jelly, as it can lead to severe allergic reactions. Anyone who is allergic to bee or wasp stings should also avoid the products.

Propolis: Antibacterial effect in the hive

To seal drafty cracks and crevices in the hive, bees produce propolis, a substance made from various tree resins, pollen, wax, and essential oils. As a kind of wallpaper, propolis is also used by bees to line their honeycomb. Propolis has an antibacterial effect against bacteria and fungi in the hive.

Health-related advertising claims for propolis are not permitted

Because of these properties, alternative medicine has discovered propolis for itself. Also manufacturers of dietary supplements, medicines, sprays, or ointments si

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