5 Health Benefits From Bees, and 5 That Call for Caution

Studies support claims honey soothes burns. Some other bee products are unproven.

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You have arthritis pain. Even for stoic types, the pain from this inflammatory disease can be excruciating. And since the widely used arthritis drug Vioxx tumbled off the market in 2004, many people have been forced to find new ways to control arthritic pain. How about rolling up your sleeves and having scores of bees sting away, putting a surge of bee venom into your body? Some people actually do this, but you won't find many medical associations touting bee venom therapy just yet.

You have chronic sinusitis. Some 30 million to 40 million Americans have chronic sinusitis, an exasperating condition that leaves people with near-constant headaches, endlessly sniveling noses, and yellowish discharge in the back of the throat. In September, word emerged at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation's annual meeting that honey is better at destroying the biofilms produced by the offending bacteria than traditional antibiotics. The next step: making sure these Petri dish findings apply inside the human body.

You want to live longer. When worker bee larvae are fed only royal jelly—a clear, nutrient-laden type of bee food—they grow and morph into long-lived queens. Might it also make humans bigger, stronger, and longer living? Many people believe so, and royal jelly has become a pricy supplement that's a regular offering at natural health stores. Few medical researchers, however, are convinced it does much more than the jelly we slap on our toast in the morning.

You have earwax. Would you hold a beeswax-coated tube that's on fire up to your ear in an effort to vacuum out earwax? It sounds like a recipe for disaster, yet "ear candling" has become a popular therapy that proponents claim relieves everything from sinusitis to postnasal drip. However, scientific study has shown that lit candles don't produce enough suction to draw wax out. They've also demonstrated that gunk that's supposedly exhumed earwax is actually debris produced by the candle. If you're still tempted by the allure of ear candling, be aware that a generous layer of earwax actually keeps our ears healthy and shouldn't be removed at all, according to recently released medical guidelines. Plus, doctors say that if hot wax gets accidentally dripped into the ear canal, it can do real harm.