Sunday, May 24, 2009
As I was watching honeybees foraging in and out of the ligustrum japonicum hedge, a word from the past came into my mind: Propolis. I remember when I was briefly a beekeeper (well, I had a beehive) reading about propolis and its uses in the hive. Bees gather resins from trees and shrubs and create propolis, a dark sticky substance they use to fill small holes and cracks in their hives. It is thought to help protect the hive from infection due to its antimicrobial and antifungal properties, derived from the chemistry of the plant sources. Not surprisingly the composition of propolis varies greatly since the plant sources surrounding and used by any particular hive are a possibly unique mix of appropriate species growing nearby.
An interesting tangent popped up when I was checking whether or not ligustrum is particularly suitable to bees for making propolis. Many health claims are made for propolis including a product called "Setabaid" advertised as a health supplement. It contains propolis (though, given the non-standardized nature of propolis it's hard to say what that is or might do); along with Konjac Glucomanan (a soluble fiber derived from cobra lily bulbs); and Ligustrum Lucidum, described as "a substance you were born with but declines and must be replenished constantly". Of course this claim piqued my interest since I had not known humans to be born with privet, or even essence of privet, in their bodies. Ligustrum lucidum, glossy privet, is an evergreen shrub or medium sized tree similar to L. japonicum except it is larger and potentially more invasive as it grows readily from seeds eaten and spread by birds. Be careful not to eat the seeds; they are toxic and anyway one might sprout inside your stomach and begin constantly replenishing the substance you were born with.