Bees may just be the most useful insects known to man. They are the only bugs we get food from and their work and byproducts are essential to our survival. If it wasn't for their pollination super powers, we'd have no fruit and veggies to eat and our gardens would be a lot less colorful, too.

In addition to honey, pollen, propolis, and royal jelly (two other bee products) may have health benefits. Here's a brief description of their uses and implications for us humans.


Honey is one of the oldest known foods (it was found in King Tut's tomb!) and probably the best studied of the bee medicinal products. Humans historically used honey both topically and orally, but over time its use dwindled as scientists developed antibiotics. Now that antibiotic resistance is proving to be a formidable and widespread problem, scientists are revisiting honey's anti-bacterial value, especially for treating wounds.

There are numerous varieties of honeys and the anti-bacterial action in some species is significantly more powerful than in others. Manuka honey from New Zealand, for example, contains unique properties and is widely used in wound treatment. What makes honey effective is its ability to draw moisture out of the environment and dehydrate bacteria. Its high sugar content hinders the growth of microbes and many different bacterial species that cause wound infection. Another amazing property of never goes bad.

You can use honey at home to treat mild burns, sunburns, and small wounds. It's best to check with your physician first, especially if you have diabetes. Avoid processed, refined honey—the type you typically find in the grocery store—and choose organic raw honey.


According to, pollen (which bees collect from flowers) has nutritional value based on chemical analysis and comparisons with other foods, although a typical human serving is very small. It's rich in protein and contains many vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.

In addition to its nutritional value, some studies suggest pollen mitigates the damaging effects of radiation, which may benefit cancer patients, and reduces prostate swelling and inflammation.


Propolis, also called "bee glue," is a resinous, gummy substance. Bees combine propolis with wax to build and maintain their hives. Propolis also appears to have anti-microbial and anti-tumor properties. Unfortunately, we have few human studies to date, so medical professionals do not yet know propolis's full range of benefits or potential side effects.

Royal Jelly

Worker bees secrete royal jelly—a milk-like secretion from their salivary glands. It's the food of royalty—bee royalty that is. Royal jelly is reserved for the Queen Bee (it's her sole food) and is truly a super food since it's full of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fatty acids. It also contains other nutrients plus it has anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. In laboratory studies, royal jelly appears to help animals live longer. Royal jelly is also associated with improved bone strength, fatigue, energy, and endurance.

According to Ray Sahelian, MD, health practitioners don't know the ideal dosages of royal jelly due to lack of human trials. However, he says, it appears that taking a supplement a few times per week or month would have health benefits.

You can purchase bee products from most reputable health food stores. Use caution, however; bee products can cause allergic reactions, asthma, anaphylaxis, pain, and even death in some individuals.

Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, reviewed this article.




Sahelian, Ray, MD. "Royal Jelly Benefit, Side Effects, Research Information of This Health Supplement." Web.

Scott, Gayle Nicholas, Pharm D. "Is Honey a Sweet Wound Treatment?" Medscape Medical News. Web. 28 August 2012.
"What Is Bee Pollen?" Web.

"The Health Benefits of Bee Pollen: What's the Truth?" Web.

Mercola, Joseph, MD. "This Bee Product Has Enormous Benefits for Your Health." Web. 17 November 2009.

Khan, F.R., Abadin, Z. Ul., Rauf, N. "Honey: Nutritional and Medicinal Value." International Journal of Clinical Practice 61 (10) (2007): 1705-1707. Medscape Medical News. Web.