Our friends the bees produce many items useful for natural hair and body care products, including beeswax and honey, but also including lesser-known ingredients, as well. In fact, bees produce an amazing array of substances that benefit our health. This article explores the holistic health benefits of various bee products and the natural products we make from them.
Beeswax is used to thicken creams, salves, balms, pomades and soap.
Since I wear my curls loced (what some call dread locks), I get to hear plenty about the benefits of beeswax for the hair. Some people feel that beeswax is an excellent substance for beginning to lock the hair permanently; indeed it is stiff and very sticky. The problem is that locs should be allowed to form naturally. There needs to be a core of air inside each loc and the hair wraps around this (see my earlier NaturallyCurly.com article Locs: A Journey of Personal Transformation). This approach leads to a light, airy loc without foreign matter detracting from its natural beauty—that’s the detraction of the stickiness of beeswax; it attracts lint, dirt and more.
Still, there are great benefits to beeswax—thus natural haircare and body care formulators, even those who create in their own kitchens, like me, frequently use it in moderation. We utilize it because beeswax is a dependable emulsifier. It is easily available from online suppliers, health food stores, and art and craft supply shops. The pastilles (small beads of beeswax) are especially easy to handle when adding small amount of wax to other botanical ingredients.
Beeswax is also a wonderful stiffening agent when added to hair pomades and hair balms. The issue is proportion. I like to keep the proportion of beeswax low, leaning more heavily on wholesome herbal infusions, oils and bee substances like honey for their beneficial properties instead.
Honey* is derived from various flowers and herbs. The medicinal content varies with the flower that is its source. You will probably come across the types of substances made by bees listed below when looking over ingredients of botanical shampoos, conditioners, balms, salves or pomades.
Honey is a part of our healing story. Various cultures incorporate it into song, dance, ritual, medicines and economic opportunity. It is also a tasty way to sweeten teas and baked goods allowing us to cut down on sugar consumption. Honey is sensual, it smells wonderful and it is useful in lovemaking rites as an edible body balm. It is also an excellent addition to natural cosmetics, making an instant astringent facial that controls oily skin, a soothing lip balm, and a softening hair conditioner—go easy though (you should dilute one part honey to 3 parts water); rinse hair well to avoid residual stickiness! Here are some of the other ways to use honey:
- Apply to cracked lips as healing balm.
- Apply to cuts as anti-microbial, antiseptic
- Add to tea or drinks for an energy boost
- Take orally with lemon as a sore throat soother for cold, coughs
- Take when you have a hangover; honey helps with liver oxidation
- Honey is an antioxidant
- Heart benefits are suggested from some tests that indicate increased antioxidants in blood, softened arteries; lower cholesterol
- Apply direct to eyelids to treat inflammation and conjunctivitis
- Apply direct to foot ulcers (diabetic); a dressing and post-secondary dressings to keep honey from seeping
- Apply directly to burns for soothing and to speed healing
- Similarly to burns apply to wounds to speed healing and provide a slight antiseptic action
- Used diluted with distilled water as a douche for vaginal yeast infection
- Apply to meat to soften texture while cooking (marinade) and to fight food borne pathogens. It is thought that honey traps free radicals within meat as it cooks.
Honey is consumed as a stress and anxiety-reducing elixir. Like sugar, it is a mild tranquilizer. It is the preferred additive to enhance relaxing herbal teas like chamomile, catnip and skullcap for that reason.
The chemical constituents of honey are as delicious as the elixir itself:
- Antioxidants: flavonoids, ascorbic acid, alkaloids
- Antimicrobials; enzymatic, glucose oxidation reactor
- Boron is an especially important constituent of honey. Boron increases blood levels of estrogen and other compounds that prevent calcium loss and consequential bone demineralization. Boron increases steroids in the blood.
Propolis is used by bees to seal the hive. Propolis is a bee medicine, protecting them from bacteria, viruses and fungi; people use it for the same health benefits.
Royal Honey comes straight from the beehive, and though it may be strained, no heating is involved.
As its name suggests royal jelly is fed to the young larvae that eventually grows up to become Queen Bee. Royal jelly contains an antibacterial protein, which Japanese researchers named roylisin. Royalisn is rich in amino acids and is an effective deterrent for staph and strep species of bacteria . Royal jelly shows potential as an anti-tumor substance. In the Japanese research, royal jelly had a significant effect on treating sarcoma cells but no effect on leukemia cells.
Whipped honey is a naturally occurring glucose that spontaneously crystallizes; the crystallization is controlled, yielding a creamy honey. Whipped honey is a dense, rich product that makes a wonderful addition to sugar (body) scrubs, face and hair masks.
Commercial Raw Honey
This is honey with a minimum amount of processing.
A final thought
Our friends the bees produce many helpful substances for us that accentuate natural beauty. There are numerous health benefits to the bee products mentioned, primarily moisturizing various types of curly or wavy hair and cuddling sensitive skin. It is a good idea to respect bees, treating them as true friends rather than foes, giving them their space, while appreciating their numerous gifts.
*It is important to take note of the fact that honey is a serious allergen for some individuals; honey is contraindicated for nursing mothers and babies who are not yet immune to some of the bacteria it contains.
Beeswax and Honey Products
And more! Body Shop—Sells many products containing beeswax or honey. This summer I’ve been enjoying the benefits of Honey Moisturizing Shampoo and Honey Moisturizing Conditioner. The two have kept my hair soft and supple even though I swim almost every day in an outdoor pool. I have also found Spa Wisdom Africa Honey Butter to give intense moisturizing and softening to tough skin of the heels, elbows and knees.
Burt’s Bees—a natural body care company that creates many products for the hair, lips and body that contain beeswax or honey. Products are dependable, high quality and widely available although somewhat expensive. Still, I wouldn’t be caught without Honey Lip Balm or Burt’s Bees Lip Balm in my purse, especially not during the windy months of fall and winter.
L’Occitane—Creates a lavishly sensual line called Honey Harvest. Best in the line for combined hair and skin care is Honey Foaming Jelly for Body and Hair. Honey Foaming Jelly is a blend of bee ingredients discussed in this article including propolis, royal jelly and honey. It is designed to soothe and soften the skin and hair, while leaving behind hits of its delightful honey fragrance. The honey comes from Zambia and helps bring economic opportunities to local Zambians.
Murray’s Beeswax—Some like this for starting (dread) locs; I don’t recommend it for that purpose. It contains petroleum oil (not good for the hair) and is very sticky which attracts dirt and lint. I have used this successfully on very coarse, tightly curled hair as a pressing oil since it creates a good barrier between hot comb, curling wand or flat iron and the hair. It conducts heat well without sizzling or popping. It can also be used to hold tightly curled hair in place for up-dos.