Beekeeper's Apothecary: Medicinal Benefits of Beeswax
A Beekeeper's Approach To Herbalism
Bees are definitely remarkable and to me, Honeycomb proves it. A hexagon is dimensionally the strongest structured shape and requires the least amount of material to construct it. This means less wax that our beautiful winged friends have to make to build their home.
By: Kaylee Richardson
The use of beeswax dates back to ancient Egyptian times and was the main ingredient in
ointments, creams, and salves.I find this fascinating, because today's Pharmaceutical practice and use on beeswax is proven to treat burns and wounds and to soothe the skin. The “father of medicine”, Hippocrates, recommended the use of beeswax in case of purulent tonsillitis. In ancient Rome, many doctors of the time used beeswax and apply a cream known as “cold cream”, which contained olive oil, beeswax and rose water for the treatment of burns, wounds, cuts, bruises and fractures. Today beeswax is widely studied and used for cosmetic and medicinally as well.
How do bees make beeswax?
Throughout the life of a female honey bee, her tasks change with age. Making beeswax is among one of the tasks that a young female worker bee will preform for her colony. Around the time a female worker bee turns 10 days old, she has the uniquecapability of wax-secreting glands on the undersides ofher abdomen. From these glands, she secretes liquified wax, which hardens into thin scales when exposed to the air. As the worker bee ages, these glands atrophy and the task of making wax is left to younger bees. A healthy worker bee can produce about eight scales of wax in a 12 hour period. The Honey bee colony requires about 1,000 wax scales to create a single gram of beeswax for their comb. This is pretty amazing if you figure the shape of a cell is a hexagon and is dimensionally the most effective shape based of space and material. After the soft wax hardens, the female worker bee uses her stiff hairs on her hind legs to scrape the wax from her abdomen. She passes the wax from her legs to her mandible and then she chews the wax until it is pliable. She than and carefully shapes it into the hexagonal cells aka honeycomb and uses her mouth to measure the thickness of the honeycomb as she builds it.
Antimicrobial Properties of beeswax
Honey bees are extremely hygienic and it only makes sense that beeswax shows the antibacterial properties against several bacterial strains;
Gram-positive bacteria, in particular S. aureus, Streptococcus epidermis, Streptococcus pyogenes
Gram-negative bacteria, in particular Bacillus subtitles, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, and a particular inhibitory effect was found against C. albicans.
FUN FACT- In Orthopedic surgery- a sterile mixture of beeswax , isopropyl palmitate (a wax-softening agent) is used to help control bleeding from bone surfaces. This surgical aid is called Bone wax and works remarkably to control bleeding.
How To Make Your Own beeswax Skin Healing Salve
(Yields 16 Ounces)
2 oz Beeswax (Use Cosmetic if purchasing)
1/2 c coconut oil
1 c olive oil
1 Tbsp Vitamin E oil
15 drops of Calendula oil / 10 drops of lavender oil
Containers to store salve
Pyrex measuring cup
Pot or saucepan to make double boiler
Combine beeswax, coconut oil and olive oil in the Pyrex measuring cup. Place the Pyrex in the saucepan filled with water (double boiler) to slowly heat the wax over medium heat. When the beeswax has melted completely, remove from heat and stir vigorously.
Add Vitamin E oil and mix well (the vitamin E works as a moisturizer and extends the shelf life of your salve). Add essential oil of your choice.
Keep an eye out for a youtube video of rendering down beeswax and salve making!!!
The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden , Kim Flottum, Quarry Books, 2010
Beeswax: A epidermis of its antimicrobial activity and its application in medicine