Benefits/historical uses/uses today of Beeswax
In no particular order:
In food preparation, it is used as a coating for cheese; by sealing out the air, protection is given against spoilage (mold growth).
Use of beeswax in skin care and cosmetics has been increasing. A German study found beeswax to be superior to similar barrier creams (usually mineral oil-based creams such as petroleum jelly), when used according to its protocol. Beeswax is used in lip balm, lip gloss,hand creams, and moisturizers; and in cosmetics such as eye shadow, blush, and eye liner.
Beeswax as Neolithic Dental Filling
Beeswax was among the first plastics to be used, alongside other natural polymers such as gutta-percha, horn, tortoiseshell, and shellac. For thousands of years, beeswax has had a wide variety of applications; it has been found in the tombs of Egypt, in wrecked Viking ships, and in Roman ruins. Beeswax never goes bad and can be heated and reused. Historically, it has been used:
- As candles – the oldest intact beeswax candles north of the Alps were found in the Alamannic graveyard of Oberflacht, Germany, dating to 6th/7th century AD
- In the manufacture of cosmetics
- For wax tablets used for a variety of writing purposes
- In bow making
- To strengthen and preserve sewing thread, cordage, shoe laces, etc.
- As a component of sealing wax
- To to strengthen and to forestall splitting and cracking of wind instrument reeds
- To form the mouthpieces of a didgeridoo, and the frets on the Philippine kutiyapi – a type of boat lute
- To stabilize the military explosive Torpex – before being replaced by a petroleum-based product
NATURAL BEESWAX SURF WAX RECIPE
Natural beeswax surfboard wax is easy to make at home by following this simple recipe! To make your own surfboard wax, just mix 3 parts pure beeswax with 1 part coconut oil. If you’re making cold water surfboard wax, add 1 part tree resin (if you can find it) to soften the wax. You can buy tree resin, but you can actually extract this sticky natural substance from a tree yourself in your own backyard. Melt the beeswax slowly in a pot, stirring constantly. While stirring, add your coconut oil, then your tree resin. You might want to tweak your amounts of coconut oil and tree resin, depending on the temperature of the sea water in your location. This homemade beeswax surf wax will also work with surfboards, body boards, and wake boards!
Clinical study suggests that beeswax may be useful for the treatment of skin disorders and skin infections. D-002, a component of beeswax, may be effective in the treatment of some gastrointestinal disturbances caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) and naproxen (Aleve® or Naprosyn®). Compounds in beeswax are being studied for their potential antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering properties.
The waxes obtained from natural sources include animal waxes, vegetable waxes, mineral waxes, and petroleum waxes. Animal waxes are of insect or mammalian origin. The most important commercial animal waxes are beeswax and wool grease. Beeswax, with its unique characteristics, is now being used in the development of new products in various fields such as cosmetics, foods, pharmaceuticals, engineering and industry (Dorset 1999; Koga 2000; Mariya and Nikolay 2002; Al-Waili 2003).
Beeswax is in all sorts of products, from cosmetics to candles. It’s endlessly useful, both in its applications on skin and for the way it works in formulations. Though there’s not a wealth of scientific study on what it could do, we know that beeswax works excellently as an emollient and stabilizer.
Beeswax is a wax ester that has occlusive properties (Skin Therapy Letters). It’s also a gelling agent, film former, plasticizer, and barrier agent (Koster Keunen). Essentially, it’s a natural ingredient that works well to give formulas the right consistency and coats the skin to prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL) in the same way that ingredients like petrolatum do.
Beeswax helps form a non-allergenic, protective barrier over skin.
Beeswax has a slight antioxidant effect, likely due to minor ingredients or propolis, but it’s primarily used because it creates a thin, non-allergenic, protective layer over skin (NC State University).
Reports have shown that beeswax may help in the treatment of psoriasis and eczema. Studies involving participants with both disorders used a mixture of beeswax, honey, and olive oil found that this mixture helped to significantly improve symptoms for both disorders (Bastyr Center).
A moisturizer containing beeswax was found to work better than barrier creams when applied after work for dental laboratory technicians who suffer from contact dermatitis (Journal of the German Society of Dermatology).
Bees give us many of our best cosmetic ingredients.
Beeswax is a safe and effective occlusive moisturizer. It’s an emollient on skin and a stabilizer in formulations, useful for keeping ingredients from separating. Particularly when combined with olive oil and honey, beeswax has been shown to help people with eczema and psoriasis and to have antibacterial properties. It’s considered safe for both topical application and consumption. Beeswax has long been used for many ailments, and while there’s always more research to be done, it’s a great addition to products.
Why we love beeswax? Humans have been using it for everything from as a tool to on our bodies since the ancient times. Egyptians mixed it with pigments and oils to make paintings that have survived til this day, and during Roman times, it was used to soften skin and encourage wound healing. It’s perfect for conditioning and waterproofing wood, leather, and even stone. It discourages bacterial growth, which is how it was originally designed – to keep the beehive healthy and toxin-free. It makes beautiful, clean burning candles and seals. Modern investigation of beeswax includes its potential to lower cholesterol, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and treat digestive ailments. But how can it help human skin?
- Barrier: Beeswax forms a protective barrier when applied to damaged skin that helps it from environmental assault, while also holding in moisture and reducing dryness. Beeswax allows the skin to breathe and expel toxins while keeping harmful elements out.
- Antibacterial: Like all bee products, beeswax has been shown to have antibacterial properties. In a 2005 study in Dubai, researchers combined honey, olive oil and beeswax, then applied the mixture to laboratory plates on which the bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, and the fungus, Candida albicans were growing. The honey/beeswax mixture inhibited the growth of the bacteria and fungus, demonstrating the wisdom of its traditional use as a treatment for bacterial skin conditions.
- Healing: Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, beeswax has been found to help encourage the healing of wounds. It also can have a positive effect on vascular difficulties such as hemorrhoids.
- Humectant: Beeswax attracts water, drawing moisture to the skin and sealing it in to keep skin hydrated over time. This is why it works better at moisturizing than an ingredient like Petroleum (which also happens to be toxic.)
- Vitamin A: A fantastic natural source of this crucial skin vitamin which supports cell turnover and reconstruction.
- Scent: The light honey scent that naturally comes from beeswax is wonderful. It also is completely edible, making it ideal for lip use.
- Dry, Tight Skin: Chronic itching, dermatitis, and eczema sufferers can greatly benefit from beeswax. Studies have shown that oil and beeswax mixtures have been effective for intense itching that occurs when burn victims are in recovery. Because beeswax is anti-allergenic, it works wonderfully for those with sensitive skin.
Beekeeping can contribute to environmental integrity because some beekeepers protect the forest to ensure their harvests, meaning that beekeeping can and has been used to support forest conservation initiatives.
Another tenet of Guiding Hope is to use and learn from indigenous knowledge and traditional practices. This springs from the long history of traditional beekeepers, compared with the short-lived results observed after the implementation of “modern beekeeping” practices. This observation is supported by academic research that has demonstrated the strengths and often efficacy of indigenous and traditional knowledge-based forest practices that have sustained livelihoods, cultures, forest, and agricultural resources of local and indigenous communities throughout Africa for millennia. Such knowledge is tightly interwoven with traditional religious beliefs, customs, folklore, land use practices, and local decision making processes that have historically been dynamic, responding to changing environmental, social, economic, and political conditions to ensure the continued provision of tangible and intangible forest resources. Despite their importance and contribution to rural and urban livelihoods, traditional forest related knowledge and practices are under pressure in most African countries, as elsewhere worldwide. Reasons include imbalanced power relations between the state, local, and indigenous communities whose governance systems are often conflicting or contradictory, and the erosion and decline of traditional knowledge and practices and interest in them, particularly among younger generations. The negative effect of this loss of traditional and indigenous knowledge on livelihoods, cultural and biological diversity, and the capacity of forested landscapes to provide environmental goods and services remains poorly understood, largely unappreciated, and undervalued by policy makers and the general public in most countries (Parrotta et al. 2008, Mala 2009).
This was an (in)famous mission in the beekeeping world, to try to transform beekeepers, who have learned apiculture skills from their grandparents’ grandparents and can produce hundreds of hives from only local materials at little cost, into ‘modern’ and ‘professional’ beekeepers, requiring heavy financial investment and a new set of skills, and transforming needs to be externally focused and driven. She learned that this inevitably resulted in beekeepers hoping and expecting that all solutions come from ‘outside’ and not being locally driven or determined.
Their aim was to sell to regional markets; to diversify products, which is critical to diversify beekeeper incomes and iron out wide price fluctuations; to involve marginalized groups in the communities such as women and youths who have fewer opportunities to earn cash and develop businesses; to increase awareness of the environmental aspects of apiculture and work with the communities on forest protection, regeneration, and sustainable methods of production; and to combine this with a much needed community-led and determined development approach so that beekeeping families guide their own development, and address pressing problems of the lack of potable water, health care, and education (Soukontana et al. 2007). Focusing on more profitable markets means that prices can reflect the true value of forest and products, and stresses the need to protect this source of the value chain. These forests, however, are threatened by a combination of climate change, i.e., increasing desertification and unpredictable climatic events with resulting pests, and human factors, including bush fires created by grazers, agricultural expansion, and felling trees for fuel wood, which is increasingly used to melt beeswax.
This is particularly important because many Cameroonian consumers are unaware that the vast range of different colors, flavors, and consistencies of honey and propolis and their medicinal properties are determined by the origin of bee forage.
Yves’ biochemical scientific background is put to good use as he introduces the concept of testing all the groups’ apiculture products so that the physical, chemical, microbiological, and nutritional qualities can also be used as unique selling points in marketing and to assure consumers, buyers, and government authorities and inspectors of quality.
Logically, there is no risk of contamination by pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemical products in the vast expanses of sparsely populated savannah and montane forests. Bee husbandry is also at the opposite end of the scale from the highly commercial beekeeping carried out in Europe and high volume exporters such as China and Argentina, where the bees are regularly fed with sugar and treated with medicines, which is the reason the residue monitoring standards of the European Commission were developed. However, the challenge is to prove this and to introduce product traceability and internal control in a predominantly illiterate context where almost all commercial transactions are carried out using mental arithmetic and where the ‘client’ and ‘supplier’ are known as Grand frére (big brother) and Petit frére (little brother), an informal and trust-based relationship that mistrusts formalization. The sustainable business philosophy of Guiding Hope also requires changing wax production methods to a more environmentally friendly, low impact system, not based on fuel wood, with the double aim of producing the cleaner yellow wax (Fig. 3) on a large scale. Despite the tropical climate, solar energy is currently too expensive and hi-tech an option to use as an energy source, and yet low-tech methods are inefficient in melting and processing combs. Therefore, a year long investigation and practical trial was started by Guiding Hope on fuel and water efficient production methods, using a scientific approach to evaluate results and compare with practices in other countries. This has been accompanied by a two year program of environmental education, tree planting, regeneration, and community protection of the sources of energy and hive materials.
The story of Guiding Hope shows how only when economic, environmental, and social values are internalized by the value chain, combined with ongoing profits accruing over a sustained period, do beekeepers make changes that positively affect both ecology and society. These range from the practice of actively managing their forests, to changing the way they perceive, use, and process apiculture. Without the economic incentive, the majority of beekeepers take a short-term view to exploiting their seemingly abundant natural forest and environmental resources, threatening the very resource upon which they are dependent. Guiding Hope’s interventions aim to secure long-term product, process, and market sustainability, laying the foundations for ‘wins’ in both livelihoods and conservation. Ethical business orientated interventions that have a multistakeholder and multidimensional focus on market arrangements and encompass the entire value chain (see Appendix 1) with a holistic and ethically based environmental-economic-socio-institutional perspective, appear to have had a greater success in moving toward both livelihood and conservation objectives than the traditional producer, conservation focused development projects.
The amalgamation of a new focus on quality and marketing, adding value by locally processing an increasing range of hive products for the local and national market, and high value, niche export markets both regionally and internationally, plus the attention to ensuring growth in production and sustainability, sets a positive foundation for the continued development of the sector. Small and medium enterprises such as Guiding Hope are driving this, setting their own and their affiliated beekeepers agenda themselves and providing a positive, guiding model for sustainable, small-scale, forest-based businesses.
PS. Photo shows wraps, the day after a dipping, enjoying a sunning. This helps to evaporate the tiniest bits of honey left so the fragrance is pure beeswax. Well, with a little tree resin and jojoba oil added. Very little smell to either of those. Both also really healthy for us.
Note there is a ant hill in the middle. The ants showed no interest at all in the beeswax!!! I like that.