I have been a hobbyist beekeeper in Sonoma, California for about six years. I became very interested in apitherapy immediately upon becoming a beekeeper. I attended several AAS Charles Mraz conferences and went to Athens, Greece for the first Apimedica in 2006. I first heard about Bee Venom Therapy (BVT) in Chinatown in Boston three decades ago. While overhearing a conversation, I remember thinking that BVT seemed like a very intelligent mode of healing and to keep it in mind for my future.

Professionally, I work in food public relations. Most clients have had a “green” orientation, focused on organic, biodynamic and sustainable practices. However, in the last few years, I feel like the honeybees have summoned me to do a little PR for them! In the United States, people are just becoming more conscious of honey in terms of gastronomy — noting regional differences in honeys and that varietal honeys exist at all. My hope is that we will start to move ahead, past gastronomy, and have an even deeper appreciation of honey from the standpoint of healing. Honey is an original food, and has also been called one of our original medicines. The first “apitherapy message” to circulate widely in the U.S. has been to consume local honey to alleviate pollen allergies. My hope is that we build more apitherapy messages into the popular, self-reliant, healing vernacular and that more people come to understand and respect the venerable powers of all of the hive products, including pollen, propolis and royal jelly.

I started gardening as a small child and have always been interested in natural foods and remedies. My father was a dairy farmer in upstate New York before I was born. Lifelong, he kept a five-pound jar of tupelo honey on the kitchen table and called it his “medicine,” though I recall that I didn’t really like honey as a child. I thought the taste of honey was too strong, and that it was too sticky and messy. My father also relied on herbs for his medicine, and liked to suggest a variety of herbs to his relatives to support their health.  The backdrop of my father’s intense respect and passion for whole foods and natural healing had a deeply formative effect on me. As an adult I have taken many classes on alternative healing, such as in medical herbalism and aromatherapy.

I am involved with a honeybee sanctuary in Northern California, The Melissa Garden (www.themelissagarden.com). The word “sanctuary” was chosen very intentionally – we wanted to give the bees a sacred home where they could live natural lives. Any spot, whether a small backyard garden or a large public garden, can be designated as a sanctuary for bees, and planted with botanicals that provide good nectar and pollen sources for the bees. Being a beekeeper is one of the best things I’ve done in my life. It is a great privilege to have proximity to the honeybees. They are very generous towards us with their honey and other hive products. Someone wrote that we should think of honey as a sacrament, and I agree. I feel that the bees are also very conscious of their role as healers in helping us with BVT. BVT can provide near-miraculous support for our health, often when other healing modalities have been used without the desired improvements.

Apitherapy marries beautifully with botanical medicine, the use of herbs and essential oils. As we become more educated on these topics, we can develop a robust, twenty-first century, “green folk medicine” where we can take charge of our own well-being and also help support the health of family and friends.