Honey Bees are actually considered for their powerful form of healing therapy by many people around the world. This type of therapy is referred to as Apitherapy – the use of beehives and bee products (honey, propolis and venom) to strengthen the immune system and aid in overall health. Apitherapy has been commonplace in Slovenia for many years. As a nation of beekeepers, there are eight hives per square kilometre and the Beekeeping Association of Slovenia has up to 11,000 members.
One facet of Apitherapy is bee venom. Bee venom contains peptides and enzymes which have anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to treat central nervous system diseases. There is research that suggests bee venom can be used to treat a range of ailments such as inflammatory complaints, skin conditions and diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. Bee venom can be used either by extraction and injection or by direct bee stings. This form of therapy of course comes with the consequence of killing the individual bee. Whilst it is not a practice which is widespread enough to be doing any serious damage to the bee population, it is a serious consideration to keep in mind.
Bee Bed therapy Spa
Slovenians believe in the healing power of bees and apiculture plays a huge role in their way of life. There are many spas where you can sleep on beehives, this is known as bee bed therapy, it is reported to induce a meditative state and sense of calm in the recipient. It is a completely immersive experience which activates all of the senses and promotes mental and physical healing. The sound and feeling of the bees buzzing soothes the nervous system and relaxes the mind whilst the inhalation of the beehive air filled with the scent of honey and propolis can help with chest and lung ailments such as asthma or bronchitis.
The average frequency at which a hive of bees will vibrate is 150Hz, this frequency is said to promote relaxation and a state of calm. There aren’t currently any scientific studies to support this but a quick Google search will reveal a plethora of meditation sounds using the 150Hz frequency, some of which are even recordings from within a hive.
Charlotte Blackler has recently brought bee bed therapy to the UK, her business Herb Majesty located in Perthshire, Scotland has launched the first bee therapy experience on the grounds of the Monachyle Mhor Hotel. Customers are invited into the ‘Apipod’, a cosy space under which six beehives sit, these contain 60,000 bees going about the general hustle and bustle of bee life. Blackler discovered bee therapy on a trip to Slovenia and loved the experience so much that she knew she had to bring it to the UK.
She says, “There are three parts (to bee bed therapy), there are the volatile oils and the smells that come off a beehive, those volatile oils have therapeutic properties in themselves. There is also the frequency of the bees buzzing and the micro-vibrations produced by that buzz which have a therapeutic effect as well.”
Blackler talks about the amazing healing properties of propolis, “it’s super antiseptic, and has fantastic antimicrobial and antiviral properties. So when it’s warm, and because of the constant buzzing a beehive is always quite warm, it comes up into the atmosphere and you breathe it in, this has a wonderful anti-inflammatory effect on your respiratory system.” She also talks about the frequency of the bees buzzing, she said, “At the time of building it, I wasn’t aware but there is research being done that suggests PTSD is helped by the buzzing of bees because bees buzz in the key of C, which apparently has some great effect on resetting the nervous system”.
Using the power of beekeeping for mental health
Whilst bee bed therapy might sound like a new health fad the practice of it actually dates as far back as beekeeping itself. The Ancient Egyptians were the first civilisation to keep bees and use Apitherapy in their daily lives. There are many reports linking bee therapy to a decrease in PTSD symptoms. In fact, ever since World War One beekeeping has been considered a brilliant hobby for ex-army veterans suffering from PTSD. It has been reported that symptoms such as anxiety, depression and intrusive thoughts have disappeared for some engaging in beekeeping.
Going back to Slovenia, because they are the centre of all things bee, beekeeping programmes have been implemented in some workplaces and even schools. The stressful nature of a firefighter’s job led to the introduction of beekeeping for the firefighters of Slovenia. They report that working with bees produces a calming effect and that the sound of the bees is very relaxing. In a Slovenian primary school, they have introduced an apiary in which they hold meetings with teachers, parents and psychologists. Children who are restless or misbehaving are often sent there to calm down.
Local beekeeper, Odira, speaks about his experience with beekeeping. He got into it through his father-in-law who had kept bees for many years, through this he fell in love with beekeeping and now owns multiple hives. He talks about how he feels when inspecting the hives saying ‘Once I start inspecting them I’m completely focused on that. It’s really meditative for me, and it’s very calming, it’s the only time that I’m not thinking of anything.’
Given these overwhelmingly positive reports of beekeeping, it is not too much of a leap to believe that bee-bed therapy is likely to have a positive impact on your mental and physical health. Whether you are beekeeping, sleeping on hives or indulging in apitherapy, bee therapy can be utilised in so many different ways. From their buzz to their venom, it seems like bees are nature’s unlikely healer.