FondsGoetheanum: Bees

Honey and nutrition

Honey is one of the oldest materials used to sweeten foods and can further everyday health in many ways.
• Many people are probably aware of the beneficial effect of warm milk with honey in case of a sore throat or bronchial congestion, and the calming effect of honey in the evening, which may even help you sleep. It is mostly dark honeys like honey forest or pine honey (honeydew honey) that are soothing.
• It is likely that honey bees also incorporate their ‘formative forces’ into their honey. It is important to stimulate the function of building and maintaining the formative forces in elderly people. Regular consumption of honey can help – a teaspoon or tablespoon a day is enough. Such a ‘honey cure’ is recommended for elderly people. The honey can be taken directly without diluting it.
• For young children whose ‘formative forces’ are too weak to strengthen their bones (as in a predisposition to rickets), a daily intake of honey, equivalent to the size of a pea, can also be prescribed (1). This indication of Rudolf Steiner is for children up to the age of about three years, and then again at the time of the change of teeth, seven years (school age), where the ‘formative forces’ that went into tooth formation now give way to forces related to neuro-sensory system and thinking activity. In children, it is good to dissolve the honey in warm milk (about ¼ teaspoon). It is not desirable to give higher amounts to young children.

(1) Health authorities do not recommend giving honey to infants before their first birthday because it may contain seeds of botulinum toxin producing bacteria against which the body of infants cannot yet defend themselves.

Bees make remedies

Bees make extraordinary substances, which have a therapeutic effect. In the medical field, we successfully used honey to treat wounds. Beeswax loosens up blockages and relieves pain, and bee venom proves a very powerful substance against joint pain and chronic inflammation.

There are very deep relationships between bees and human beings. One example is unique in the realm of insects is that in their hive honey bees actively maintain the temperature around the brood very close to that of the human body (1). In this area, so close to that of the human kingdom, honeybees produce such extraordinary substances as honey, wax and propolis.
Anyone who observes without prejudice, the ingenuity of cell and comb formation, the colours of the collected pollen and the subtlety of the different honeys understands, why in ancient cultures the honey bee was always see in link with the light and wisdom filled forces of nature, which human beings also needed to strengthen in themselves. Modern research however shows also that different bee products are very beneficial for the human being.

Honey is one of the best-documented healing remedies

Honey, a healing remedy

On the medical front, honey is one of the most scientifically documented healing remedies, especially in the English-speaking world (2). In particular New Zealand’s Manuka honey has convincingly demonstrated its effectiveness in the medical treatment of wounds (3). There, state-funded research programs have been able to develop special medical dressings that meet all health standards for modern materials used in contact wound care. That has known very accurately the specific honeys and technical development necessary to produce safe and highly effective dressings (4). The enzym activity of honey gently cleanses the wound, is antibacterial and stimulates the granulation phase. However, if honey is exposed to light for too long, it loses its healing power.

Natural thermal pad

Honeycombs are the internal frame and the supporting structure of the hive. From the chemical point of view, beeswax is an extraordinary substance (2). Slightly heated, it softens immediately, becoming malleable, and it holds its heat for a remarkably long time. In medicine, we can use these properties in hot beeswax pads and other beeswax products applied to different parts of the body. The heat transfer takes place at a deeper level, loosening blockages and relieving pain.

The antimicrobial action of propolis

Propolis is particularly interesting from a medical point of view. Bees collect resins from tree buds and turn it into a highly active antimicrobial substance called propolis. This material provides very good protection in the hive against the most common microbes (bacteria, fungi, etc.). These antimicrobial properties of propolis are also very interesting for human medicine. Beeswax also contains propolis in fine dispersion. When the wax has just been secreted by bees, it is white. It is only when brought into contact with propolis that it takes on its characteristic golden colour.

Making candles soothes coughing

When wax melts, it still gives off a bit of propolis. Parents, for example, can watch how a child’s persistent coughing can suddenly subside when making beeswax candles. In steaming hot beeswax, the released propolis can put its antimicrobial properties to use. In the medical field, this natural antibiotic is of interest, as evidenced by a large number of scientific studies worldwide. But since allergic reactions to propolis in some people can be violent, its medical use still requires special care and precautions.

Bee venom, a highly active remedy

The use of venom, the most active substance produced by bees, requires precautions and special care. Scientific analysis of the venom reveals a large number of highly active therapeutic substances (3). In traditional medicine, bee venom is considered a good remedy against joint pain and chronic inflammatory diseases. Meanwhile, medical research has shown that bee stings stimulate the body's own anti-inflammatory substances in clinically significant amounts, making these effects also explicable by conventional medicine (5).
Given that in allergic people, strong reactions to bee venom can occur, these therapies are only used in medical centres. In America, Asia and Eastern Europe, there are a large number of apitherapy services specialising in these treatments.
One can use potentised bee preparations in less delicate applications. In homeopathy, Apis has proved particularly effective in treating cases of acute inflammatory reactions, where the main symptoms of a recent bee sting are extreme redness, an abnormal rise in local temperature, swelling and tenderness (the similarity principle).
In anthroposophically-extended medicine, bee products also play a prominent part. The Ita Wegman Clinic near Basel, for example, developed products such as propolis tincture or balm for use against bacteria and fungi. Also various beeswax poultices are used for respiratory infections or against back pain. Potentised Apis preparations – in dilutions ranging generally between D3 and D30 – are administered in cases of severe inflammatory reactions, to stimulate self-healing and internal structuring forces.
Anthroposophically-extended medicine postulates a qualitative correspondence between the honeybee’s higher formative forces and those at work in human beings. These forces are called on and activated in human beings by the use of remedies carefully developed from bee products. So bees do not just give us sweet honey; they also provide us with valuable remedies.

Dr. Clifford Kunz, Ita Wegman Clinic, Basel, Switzerland

(1) Tautz, J., Der Well, über den Superorganismus Honigbiene. (‘The Bee: about the honey bee and its super-organism.’)
(2) D. Igelbrink / A. Krämer: Dissertation zur mikrobioziden Wirkung von antibakteriellem Honig, 2011. (‘Thesis on the microbicidal action of antibacterial honey.’)
(3) Manuka honey is produced by bees from the nectar of flowers Leptospermum scoparium.
(4) S. Bogdanov,
(5) A. Krauskopf / C. Reiter, Studie zum Einfluss of Bienengiftes auf den Cortisolspiegel des Menschen, 2007. (‘Study of the influence of bee venom on cortisol levels.’)