Natural Remedy: Bee Propolis to Treat Cough and Sore Throat

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I didn’t have an upbringing that I would deem as conventional. Don’t get me wrong, my brother and I have all of our vaccinations, we used store bought soap and shampoo, and we ate a lot of pre-packaged Hamburger Helper.

Like, a lot of it.

But we also rubbed tobacco on our bee stings for pain relief, we ate little sugar balls from the asian market to relieve headaches, and we used bee propolis at any hint of a cold. Although I don’t carry on the first two traditions I still use bee propolis. It is a popular remedy in Brazil that, up until a few years ago, I had completely forgot it existed. Sorry, Mom. My mother came over and saw that I was coughing and, being a mom, she began rummaging through my medicine cabinet. “Where’s your propolis?” I don’t have any mom. I don’t use that hippy stuff. Ha. Ha. Man, was THAT a mistake or what!?! I got a nice verbal beating for that one. 

Still totally worth it. 

All jokes aside, bee propolis is a great alternative to sugary cough drops. It gets the job done without having to fill your body with artificial chemicals and dyes, and you get the added benefit of the healing power that only bees can provide. My recommended brand posted is down below or you can check it out here.

 Natural Remedy: Bee Propolis to treat cough and sore throat

What is bee propolis?


Bee propolis is a mixture of honey and propolis extract. Okay, what is propolis extract? It’s a mixture that honeybees create to repair and seal small cracks in their hive by mixing beeswax, saliva, and resin(or sap) from trees. Besides filling in cracks in the hive, bees also use it to embalm any unwanted (recently dead) intruders who may have entered the hive; it effectively stops the decay process which eliminates unwanted bacterial growth that may lead to an infection in the hive. Crazy, huh? It is naturally hard and brittle but when heated becomes soft and gummy-like and its total composition is around 50% plant resin, 30% waxes, 10% essential and aromatic oils, 5% pollen, and 5% various organic compounds.  

Propolis is grown and harvest much like honey is. Bee keepers collect it by using a ‘propolis trap’ which looks like a rubber version of an air vent and fits just under the lid. The bees feel compelled to fill the little vent-like slits with propolis extract and then, come harvest time, the bee keeper removes the propolis traps and scrapes off the propolis. No bees were harmed in the making of propolis…well, at least theoretically.    

Propolis has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. The Egyptians used propolis in embalming its dead, much like when bees embalm its intruders. The Incas used propolis as a fever reducer and the Greeks and Romans used it as a wound antiseptic. As you can see, it has many uses.  

How does it work? 


Ok, this is the part of the post where I get into the science of things. This is my favorite part of all my ‘natural remedy’ posts becuase it’s where I get to separate old wives tales from facts. Let’s get started.    

So propolis is a tricky thing. Bees collect sap(or resin) from plants in their local habitat which creates propolis unique to that habitat. This means that propolis from different regions has different compositions depending on the habitat that the resin was collected from. The principle compounds in propolis are flavonoids, aromatic acids, diterpenic acids and phenolic compounds. But, the composition of these compounds changes depending on geographic region. Despite this, all propolis displays identical biological activity! You guys, this is profound!! Despite evolving in different geographic regions, bees, as a species, have found a way to create a compound that has different compositions but DOES THE SAME THING! That’s cool right!? 

bee-keeper

So how does this affect the propolis that we us? Well, this means that propolis from different regions are better at treating different aliments. For coughs and sore throat, the best propolis, in my opinion, is something called green propolis. This propolis is made from Brazilian bees and has been found to have the highest amount of antioxidants than any other propolis extracts due to the Rosemary field, a native Brazilian plant.

How do I use it?


Propolis naturally comes in a hard brittle form. For cough and sore throat remedy, it is made into liquid form and contained in a spray bottle. Think mouth freshener. I use it first thing in the morning (1 spray) when my throat hurts the most and then use it as needed throughout the day. I find each spray will soothe a sore throat for about an hour or so and each spray will hold off about 3 “cough sessions”.  

My Recommendation 


My personal recommendation is BeeLife Propolis Spray Mint and Pomegranate flavor. This is green propolis from Brazil and it’s the brand that I used as a child and still the brand I use today. One difference is that when I was a child, they didn’t come in flavors like they do today. Propolis with no flavor has a awful aftertaste. Thankfully today they come in 3 flavors; Mint and Pomegranate, Ginger, and Mint and Malva. 

What brand of propolis do you use? Write it in the comment section below so other readers can check out your suggestions!


Academic Studies  
Emerging Roles of Propolis: Antioxidant, Cardioprotective, and Antiangiogenic Actions
How do bees prevent hive infections? The antimicrobial properties of propolis
Flavoniods  by Oregon State University 
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Natural Remedy: Peppermint to treat IBS + why it works

I have suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, for over 20 years now. Almost my entire life. When I was younger I had a hard time dealing with my condition because of the pain, discomfort and anxiety it caused. I missed out on so many opportunities like sleepovers with my friends, vacations with my family, and the drop and go mentality that I yearned for. My life lacked the spontaneity that childhood thrives on. As as got older I began making the connection between food and my IBS, and I started a string of elimination diets via my doctors advice. During my last elimination diet, about 5 months ago, I sat cross legged on my kitchen table and thought about what I was going to make for dinner from my small list of “safe” foods that my doctor gave me. I thought and thought until I broke down in tears. Look, I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard. Those of you out there with this condition know how hard it can get sometimes. When you just want to have a normal, good ole’ American meal but you know that if you do you’ll be hanging out in the bathroom for the next couple of days as punishment. It’s been a long, long road but even when I’m on the verge of tears, I am happy to say that at 25 years old, I have more control of my IBS then I ever have. I generally know what foods are going to ruin my day but some days I experience symptoms for seemingly no reason at all. For days like those, I lean on a hot cup of strong, medicinal peppermint tea. It has been the only thing that has consistently settled my stomach within minutes of an attack. I will drink this until the day I die…or until they find a cure, whichever comes first.

Peppermints widespread use in chewing gum and candies are what it’s most known for but its lesser known use is in medicinal tea for ailments such as indigestion, colds, coughs, muscle aches and tension headaches. Lesser known but not new; Mint has been known to be used during medieval times as a natural cure for stomach ailments. Alright, let’s get started!

naturalremedy_ibs

WHAT IS IBS?


Here are some boring facts!! It is estimated that 11% of the global population suffers from IBS; Thatโ€™s over 800 million people!! It is classified as a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder that is characterized by constipation, diarrhea, urgency, abdominal pain, gas, and bloating {chronic =longterm, functional=impairs normal function but under examination is completely normal}. The cause of IBS is unknown but what we do known is that it is generally triggered by food and stress, although it varies among suffers. Within the disorder there are 3 “subtypes”; IBS-D (Diarrhea) , IBS-C (Constipation), and IBS-M (a mixture of the two).  This is important regarding the what steps you need to take to alleviate your symptoms. I will explain more below.

 WHY PEPPERMINT WORKS


This is where it gets a bit more sciencey. If your not into it then just read the bold parts. You’ll get the gist. 

Peppermint works by relaxing the smooth muscles of the lower GI track. For a person with IBS, these muscles don’t work properly. In IBS-D, the predominately diarrhea variety, these muscles work in overdrive and rush food through the GI system which creates the pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea that patients exhibit. In IBS-C, the predominately constipation variety, the exact opposite happens. The muscles work very slow and move food through the GI system at a snails pace which results in constipation.

Because peppermint works as a calming agent, it is not effective for IBS-C patients. 

Peppermint1
NATURAL BEAUTY

Ready to get technical? This is how it works. Within the smooth muscles of the GI track we have calcium ion channels. If you remember back to high school biology, a calcium ion channel is a “path” that allows the calcium ion to go from one side of a membrane to the other. Now, we also have something called a voltage-dependent calcium ion channel, that are located in our muscles, and it works in the same way except it relies on an electrical current to open and close the channels. These voltage-dependent calcium channels are responsible for muscle contractions. The concentration of calcium outside of the membrane is several thousand times higher than on the inside and, at rest, there is no calcium exchange in and out of the membrane. Because of the large concentration difference, the moment the voltage-dependent channel opens via electrical current, a large amount of calcium rushes into the cell and the drastic influx of calcium causes a muscle contraction. In the case of IBS, it causes muscle spasms of the GI tract.

Peppermint works by decreasing the peak voltage in the channel and, in turn, reduces the calcium influx into the cell thus inducing smooth muscle relaxation.  

Boom. Science.

HOW TO USE: TEA & OIL


Tea:

This is my preferred method. I start every morning with a pipping hot cup of tea. Then I usually forget about it because I have the attention span of a squirrel. It’s been so long that now I just lie to myself. No, I actually like my tea cold. Either way, purchase medicinal peppermint herbs{in tea bags or loose leaf} or grow your own peppermint plant and use its harvest for your tea {Note: If purchasing tea, you need to buy tea for medicinal use, any other form won’t be strong enough because they use much less peppermint}. For example, my peppermint teabags contain 4 grams of pure peppermint! You can also just buy the store bought stuff and double up on teabags per serving. My personal recommendation is below, in the next section.

  1. Pour 1 cup of near boiling water over a teabag or a heaping spoon of dried peppermint leaves.
  2. Steep for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Strain and enjoy.

Feel free to use it 2-3 times a day around meal time. 

Peppermint_TeabagsEnteric-coated Oil Capsule:

Most of the studies I list below use oil capsules. So, if you want to follow exactly what the studies have done then I recommend sticking to enteric-coated oil capsules. The coating allows the oil to release in the right place in you digestive tract. In terms of how often you should take them, just follow the recommended dose listed on the bottle. 

Note: If you suffer from GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) then I recommend looking for an alternative to peppermint. It will cause your acid reflex to worsen.  

MY RECOMMENDATIONS


My top recommendation is Heather’s Peppermint Tummy Tea. This is strong tea. It is guaranteed to make your house smell like candy cane, which I love for obvious reasons. This is the exact product I use. The peppermint is incased in chlorine free teabags, is USDA organic, and is caffeine free.  She also has a loose leaf version.

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CLINICAL TRIALS

This is were the science-based part of my blog really comes into play. Below are scientific studies, written in peer reviewed academic journals, regarding the effectiveness of peppermint at reducing IBS symptoms. 

 

Tell me your story! Do you or a loved one have IBS? Have you tried peppermint to reduce your symptoms? Tell me in the comment section below!

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