Since prehistoric times, humans have benefited from bees and the nourishing superfoods that they produce. Carly Stein is the founder of Beekeeper’s Natural, a line of superfoods from the hive that brings the ancient power of bees into the 21st century. Their all-natural, health-boosting products, made with honey, bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly, are sourced from sustainable apiaries full of healthy bees.
Their mission is not only to bring the highest quality products from the hive, but also to nurture a greater awareness for saving bees, and promote sustainable beekeeping.
In this interview, Carly and I discuss what sparked her passion for bees, the amazing benefits hive superfoods have to offer, why beehives in North American are disappearing, and how we can help!
What sparked your passion for bees?
I’ve always been obsessed with nature, insects, and animals, but I really developed my love for bees after falling for all the amazing products they make.
As a college student, I struggled with recurring tonsillitis. On my semester abroad in Europe it got particularly bad. I am allergic to most antibiotics so, without a cure in sight, I was on the cusp of cutting my trip short and flying home for surgery. Desperate for a natural cure, I was given a bottle of propolis by an Italian pharmacist. I really had no idea what it was and I was skeptical, especially after years of buying in to the latest and greatest superfood fads only to wind up disappointed by a lack of results. But, desperate to solve my health problem, I gave it a shot.
After one week of propolis, I was amazed that it actually worked! The propolis had taken down the inflammation and soothed the soreness, and I was on the path to recovery—sans side effects. I was able to fully recuperate and complete my time in Europe feeling healthier than ever.
When I returned home, I couldn’t find this magical healer at the local health food store, so I began beekeeping to ensure I never had to go propolis-free again (years of strep, tonsillitis, and a weak immune system will do that to you.) Once I started spending time around hives, I was hooked. I began learning about the unique benefits of the different bee products, using royal jelly for a mental boost or fresh bee pollen to get my vitamins.
Even more, I started exploring and understanding the integral role the bees play on our planet. I was fascinated with the fact that they make up the pillars of our ecosystem and blown away by the intricate societies they form. Today that fascination has developed into a serious love affair.
What are the benefits of honey? Is it considered a superfood?
Yes! The bees are superfood connoisseurs. Raw honey contains about 27 minerals and 5,000 enzymes that make it the healthiest sweetener on the market. Raw honey is also an amazing beauty food. Naturally antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and full of beneficial enzymes and probiotics, raw honey promotes beauty and wellness from the inside out. I do raw honey face masks with our B.Powered superfood honey once a week.
Beyond beauty, my favorite honey hack is using it optimize my sleep. Honey works on two levels to give you a killer night of shut-eye. First, a small teaspoon before bed stimulates the release of tryptophan in the brain—you know, the amino acid that promotes sleep after Thanksgiving turkey. There, it is converted into serotonin, which, in the darkness, is then converted to melatonin, a well-known sleep aid. Raw honey also helps to stock glycogen levels in the liver, which prevents your body from waking up before your alarm clock in a crisis search for fuel. These days, I do a teaspoon of our B.Chill hemp honey every night before bed and sleep like a baby.
Honey isn’t the only thing that comes from beehives. What else do bees have to offer, and what are their benefits?
Bees make much more than honey! At BKN, we like to go beyond honey, working with powerful hive superfoods like propolis, bee pollen, and royal jelly. Most people in North America are only familiar with honey, but cultures around the world have used these ingredients for their beneficial properties for centuries.
First, propolis, which is generally associated with immunity. Propolis has been termed “nature’s antibiotic” across countless cultures for thousands of years. It is collected by bees from plant and tree resins. In the hive, propolis functions as the bees’ immune system. It lines the inside of the hive and is used to protect the hive from bacteria, parasites, and viruses. For example, if a mouse gets inside the hive, the bees will sting it to death, then actually mummify it with propolis to prevent any viruses or bacteria on the decaying mouse from infecting the rest of the hive (gross, but also amazing!). In our bodies, propolis has a similar effect of boosting immune function and keeping unwelcomed viruses and bacteria at bay. Propolis is my favorite way to get an immune boost and speed up my recovery time if I’m feeling sick. It contains over 300 beneficial compounds. Plus, it’s anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and loaded with antioxidants. As someone who grew with up constant sore throats and colds, propolis has been a game-changer for my overall health and quality of life.
Bees also make royal jelly, which I like to think of as a brain-boosting longevity elixir. As the ultimate hive superfood, it’s used to feed all baby bees and is the exclusive food source of the queen. Royal jelly contains high amounts of protein, lipids, vitamins, enzymes, and minerals—and its nutrient density has not been replicated by science. For humans, nutrient-rich royal jelly is great for naturally supporting improved memory, concentration, and focus, which is why we use royal jelly in our natural nootropic, B.LXR.
Bee pollen is an excellent protein source for both humans and bees. If you can believe it, bee pollen contains more protein per gram than most animal sources! And because it’s full of free-forming amino acids, it’s a protein source that is really easy for your body to digest and absorb, making it great for athletes fueling up both pre- and post-workout. We blend bee pollen into our Bee Powered raw honey, along with royal jelly and propolis, so you can reap the benefits of the full spectrum of hive superfoods in one sweet spoonful!
Can you share some of the ways that humans have been benefiting from bees since ancient times?
Humans have been relying on bees to help produce our food for centuries. And our relationship with the bees goes back further than most people realize. Now when I say we have a history with the bees, I mean we go way back. Archaeological evidence has shown that humans have been working with bees for almost 9,000 years. Thanks to rock art found in Africa, India and Spain we know early civilizations would take part in honey hunting and work with bees to gain access to their superfoods.
Ancient societies in Egypt, Greece, Italy and Israel developed organized beekeeping centers, which were around until the Roman Empire dissolved. Honeybees eventually made their way over to North America with the help of human migration during the 17th century and have grown to play a major role in our environment. The bees have been a part of our ecosystem and food supply since the dawn of time and right now they are in danger.
Honey bee colonies in North America have been disappearing at a drastic rate. Why is this happening, how does it affect us, and how can we help?
Today bees are facing some serious issues. With a sickness called colony collapse disorder popping up in 2006, we have seen a steady decline in international bee populations over the past few years.
There are a few reasons for this devastating decline but one of the most damaging reasons is our modern society frequent use of pesticides. Specifically a popular class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are a neuroactive substance that can affect a creature’s spatial reasoning and processing. This is particularly harmful to the bees who rely on their spatial reasoning to gather food and find their way home. Despite these harmful effects these pesticides are currently being used on our fruits and veggies and in fact are often sprayed on the seeds and left to grow and move through the plants vascular system, meaning you can’t necessarily wash it off.
Another issue contributing to the bees decline has to do with our modern agricultural practices. Farm used to hold a variety of rich plant life providing a healthy, varied diet for the bees. Today most farms specialize in one crop type which leaves them susceptible to any parasites and diseases and means that they will have to use pesticides to protect the crops they have. Aside from the fact that the need for pesticides is damaging this monoculture does not provide the bees with a varied diet that they need. Having only a single crop also means that there is only a single bloom period. So the nearby bees could go periods of the year with very little to eat.
Bees are some of the most important pollinators of our fruits, vegetable and flowers. And its not just plant based foods we rely on bees for, bees pollinate crops such as clover and alfalfa that many animals feed on. More than one third of the world’s crop production is dependent on bee pollination making bees some of the worlds most effective pollinators. With these issues harming our bees and the steady decline we continue to see, it has never been more important start the conversation about the bees, what they do, what they make and the critical roles they play.
It’s quite easy for individuals to help save the bees without too much effort. You can plant a simple garden wherever space permits, bees will fly almost anywhere for the right plant. Or you could go as far as starting a hive of your own in your backyard, it doesn’t take much space just careful attention. If you want less responsibility you could build a bee hotel for solitary bees such as the mason bee or leafcutter bee.
But the best and most often way to help the bees is to plant flowers for them and only buy sustainably sourced honey and make sure the food you eat isn’t a monocrop such as almonds. Monocropping is where the bees are forced to feed on an endless field of almond trees until they are finished where they are then loaded up and shipped to a new location with a new monocrop that needs pollination.
How do you source your products?
We take beekeeping very seriously at Beekeepers Naturals. We ensure that the bees making our products are healthy, have access to clean food sources and are well cared for by experienced beekeepers. We practice sustainable beekeeping, which to us means that the bees come first.
In order to do so, we need to get as faraway from pesticide covered areas. We work with apiaries across North America that meet our standards of sustainability and quality. As the company grows, we continue our hunt for clean apiaries and regions across the globe. Our commitment is to deliver a pure, clean, pesticide-free products made with love.
Unfortunately as consumption increases and mass agriculture practices spread, finding clean grounds for our bees to forage is a constant challenge. Our mission is to make sure our bees are happy, healthy, and have access to plenty of clean food and forage. Happy bees make the best honey!