The Vital Role Bees Play in Our Lives
Bees play an essential role in maintaining the web of life as we know it. Without bees a diverse group of human staple foods would simply disappear. Thus it is easily argued that we owe bees applause and perhaps a deep sense of gratitude for providing food security for billions of people around the globe. However, bees not only assure quantities of crops but also the quality of them. As such, access to food and the enjoyment of food greatly depends on keeping our buzzing friends and the natural environment in which they thrive happy and healthy.
Challenges Facing Bees and Their Habitats
However, bees and their hives, as well as much of their natural habitat face significant challenges from man-made activities like climate disasters, deforestation, loss of floral biodiversity, and the overuse of pesticides. In light of these challenges any support we can muster to support a thriving bee community everywhere is not just an act of caring and compassion for bees and nature herself but also literally an act of self-preservation. Enter cannabis.
Cannabis Pollen: A Surprising Ally for Bee Health
While bees do not possess an endocannabinoid system (ECS) and as such cannot get “high” feeding on cannabis pollen has been shown to support bee immunity challenged by the cascading and harmful effects of these man-made assaults. More specifically, these include an increased vulnerability to parasitical, fungal, bacterial, and viral infections and a diminished capacity to process exposure to toxins such as pesticides.
Cannabis Supports Bee Immunity and Extends Lifespan
One of the primary mechanisms of bee physiology responding to mitigate or render harmless the onslaught of microbes or toxins is their antioxidant system (in a way very similar to ours). Researchers found that when bees were fed hemp extract their antioxidant enzymes (i.e., catalase, peroxidase, glutathione, superoxide dismutase) increased significantly fortifying them against free radical damage associated with pathological stressors resulting in a rise of life expectancy by 40%.1
There is No Cannabis Nectar but Lot’s of Other Goodies
Cannabis is wind-pollinated and as such does not depend on bees for pollination. Also, cannabis does not produce nectar, the quintessential ingredient bees require to make honey. As such, naturally occurring cannabis honey does technically not exist. However, male and female cannabis plants produce a significant amount of pollen of great interest to honey bees.
Male cannabis plants have pollen sacks, which they release pollen upon maturing. It turns out that pollen is vital to bee health and well-being because it contains vital nutrients such as amino acids, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and other essential plant constituents in trace amounts that are required by bees to establish and maintain their health and wellbeing.2
Cannabis can produce an abundance of pollen during the period when most industrial fields are void of floral activity
In addition to providing bees with nutrients to sustain a healthy immune system, growing cannabis in areas that have suffered a significant loss of flower biodiversity, or during the period when most industrial agricultural fields are void of pollen, may be an effective temporary measure to sustain a more diverse and healthier bee population until floral abundance or diversity is re-established. This can be of great benefit to other insect pollinators and the industrial crops they visit and depend upon.3
When it comes to talking about cannabis and bees we would be remiss to not explore, albeit briefly, how both, alone or in combination, may benefit human health.
Exploring the Intersection of Cannabis, Honey, and Human Health
Individually, honey and cannabis share a number of clinically proven therapeutic effects (see endnotes for honey studies, links for cannabis trials). Both speed the healing of wounds,4 both are anti-inflammatory,5 both have significant antioxidant effects,6 both have potent antibacterial properties,7 both are antitussive,8 and both may prevent cognitive decline9 for example. However, the complex question of potential additive or synergistic effects remains subject of ongoing scientific explorations.
Researchers Are Examining Possible Additive & Synergistic Effects
Several hypotheses are currently being explored: honey may speed the process for a cannabinoid to cross the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) and thus speed the time it takes for their effect to be realized or to potentially create the desired effects at significantly lower dosages.
Be Discerning When Examining Claims of Proof
Amid the buzz surrounding cannabis honey, it’s essential to exercise caution. Social media is ripe with claims as to the effects associated with cannabis honey or search terms such as THC honey or CBD honey. While any potential combined medicinal effects are certainly possible, the currently available scientific literature has not crossed the threshold from pre-clinical trials, i.e., trials conducted in a Petrie dish or on animals, to that of clinical trials i.e., those conducted on humans. As such, using the highest academic standard possible their efficacy and safety parameters remain, for the time being, unproven.
The More You Understand the More Powerful Your Choice Will Be
To create context, or to better understand the state of science, for the use of cannabis honey, especially when it comes to specific medicinal application, it would be ideal to look at all studies conducted on the subject. By doing so you are better able to separate fact from mere fiction. For instance, while most studies have shown positive wound healing effects, a trial conducted on horses using a 1% solution of CBD of Manuka honey failed to produce any difference in healing.10 Now, it may simply be that 1% wasn’t potent enough or that other studies used higher concentration of THC. In the process of comparing these narratives you’ll be equipped to form your own educated and evidence-based position.
Either way, since cannabis infused honey products are easily made and readily available, and since there are a number of positive anecdotal reports in the recreational and medicinal cannabis landscape alike we wanted to present the gentle reader with a brief overview of what’s commonly referred to as cannabis honey, THC honey, or CBD honey.
Two Primary Methods to Combine Cannabis With Honey
Generally speaking there are two approaches to making cannabis or cannabinoid and honey combination products: One is based on infusing cannabis-constituents into honey similar to making an herbal infusion. Secondly, a more recent development, the explorations of methods mimicking the bees process of making honey from nectar. In other words, trick nature into getting bees to incorporate cannabis constituents into apiary products i.e., honey, royal jelly, propolis, honeycomb, wax, venom, and bee bread.
To differentiate the two honey combination versions we will refer to the first method as cannabis-infused honey and the second as cannabis-integrated honey.
Cannabinoids are fat soluble. They do not dissolve readily into water nor into honey. However, honey has a thickness or viscosity that makes it possible to mix and suspend previously processed cannabis extracts or oils containing its biologically active compounds such as THC, CBD, THCA, CBDA, or ensemble terpenes like beta-caryophyllene. The process often involves mechanical mixing or the application of low heat or both to achieve the most even distribution and subsequent suspension of all cannabis constituents as possible. This creates a unique product that can be used in various ways. Recreationally it is used as a sweetener adding it to tea, drizzling it over desserts, or simply consuming it on its own. Medicinally, it can be applied topically as well as internally.
Be mindful that concentrations of psychoactive THC can vary greatly between products. Until recently this concern was amplified by the lack of readily available technology able to test cannabinoid content in honey. However, in 2019 Italian researchers effectively analyzed the specific presence and amount of cannabinoids in honey by means of high-performance liquid chromatography that is coupled with electrospray ionisation-tandem mass spectrometry detection. With this new method the Italian team provided us with a method to accurately measure cannabinoids in honey samples getting us a step closer to novel application in the clinical setting that require precision dosing.11
Cannabis-integrated honey is based on the development of methods that allows bees to uptake cannabis constituents, even in a specific combination, and then to directly incorporate them into their products. There has been a US patent applications focusing on the ideal feeding composition, feeding process, and resulting end products.12
Bees as Compound Pharmacists
One of the working ideas here is to feed bees a bioavailable form of a specific ratio of THC:CBD that has been shown to efficiently relieve signs and symptoms of MS or fibromyalgia for instance, and have the final bee end product sustain the same ratios. In that sense bees would cooperate to become compound pharmacists producing concierge style cannabinoid-based medicines specific to an individual or a specific patient population.
Producing Novel Combination Drugs to Serve Chronic Patient Populations Poorly Served by Pharmaceutical-Only Approaches
With a constantly growing body of pre- and clinical evidence of the therapeutic efficacy of apiary products, cannabinoid-based therapeutics, and both in combination we are getting closer to novel applications that could quickly become a lifeline for a number of chronic patient populations otherwise poorly served by orthodox approaches including those challenged by diabetic ulcers, poorly healing wounds, burns, respiratory illnesses with cough, cognitive decline, or bacterial infection to name but a few.
Nature’s Harmony and Cooperative Solution
The intricate relationship between cannabis, bees, and humans highlights the importance of fostering harmony with nature. Growing cannabis fields not only supports a thriving bee population but also ensures the availability of sufficient staple foods, supports the taste and quality of these foods, and provides the raw materials to produce novel combination cannabis and honey products that have the potential to generate synergistic therapeutic effects that go beyond the already clinically proven properties of each. Embracing nature’s cooperative solutions is key to our collective well-being.
- Cannabis is wind-pollinated and does not require bees for pollination
- Bees cannot get “high” because they lack an endocannabinoid system
- Cannabis does not produce nectar (all honey is made from nectar)
- Cannabis produces pollen vital for bee health
- Improving their immune function
- Extending their life expectancy
- Cannabis pollen can sustain and support biodiversity of pollinators during times of flower scarcity
- Cannabis and honey share a great number of diverse, clinically proven therapeutic effects
- Two primary methods to combine cannabis and honey
- Cannabis-infused honey
- Cannabis-integrated honey
This article is published by CannaKeys where Evidence-Based Data Meets the Power of Nature.
- Skowronek P, Wójcik Ł, Strachecka A. Impressive Impact of Hemp Extract on Antioxidant System in Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Organism. Antioxidants (Basel). 2022 Apr 2;11(4):707. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9028666/
- Dingha BN, Jackai LE. Chemical Composition of Four Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) Pollen and Bee Preference. Insects. 2023 Jul 26;14(8):668. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10455179/
- Flicker NR, Poveda K, Grab H. The Bee Community of Cannabis sativa and Corresponding Effects of Landscape Composition. Environ Entomol. 2020 Feb 17;49(1):197-202. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31789341/
- McLoone P, Tabys D, Fyfe L. Honey Combination Therapies for Skin and Wound Infections: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020 Nov 24;13:875-888. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7700082/
- For a summary on studies examining the wound healing properties of various cannabis constituents click this link entitled Wound Healing: https://cannakeys.com/thc-cbd-for-Wound-Healing/
- Al Jaouni SK, Al Muhayawi MS, Hussein A, Elfiki I, Al-Raddadi R, Al Muhayawi SM, Almasaudi S, Kamal MA, Harakeh S. Effects of Honey on Oral Mucositis among Pediatric Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemo/Radiotherapy Treatment at King Abdulaziz University Hospital in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:5861024. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5320070/
- For a summary on studies examining the anti-inflammatory properties of various cannabis constituents click this link entitled Inflammation: https://cannakeys.com/thc-cbd-for-Inflammation/
- Usman AN, Ahmad M. The positive effects and mechanisms of honey against breast cancer. Breast Dis. 2023;42(1):261-269. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37599514/
- For a summary on studies examining the antioxidant properties of various cannabis constituents click this link entitled Severe Stress Reaction/Oxidative Stress: https://cannakeys.com/thc-cbd-for-Severe-Stress-Reaction-Oxidative-Stress/
- Mahasin Ahmed Wadi, “In Vitro Antibacterial Activity of Different Honey Samples against Clinical Isolates”, BioMed Research International, vol. 2022, Article ID 1560050, 8 pages, 2022. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2022/1560050/#
- For a summary on studies examining the antibacterial properties of various cannabis constituents click this link entitled Bacterial Infections: https://cannakeys.com/thc-cbd-for-Bacterial-Infections/
- Oduwole O, Meremikwu MM, Oyo-Ita A, Udoh EE. Honey for acute cough in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Dec 23;(12):CD007094. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25536086/
- For a summary on studies examining the antitussive properties of various cannabis constituents click this link entitled Cough: https://cannakeys.com/thc-cbd-for-Cough/
- Azman KF, Zakaria R. Honey as an antioxidant therapy to reduce cognitive ageing. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2019 Dec;22(12):1368-1377. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7043876/
- For a summary on studies examining the neuroprotective properties of various cannabis constituents click this link entitled Neurodegenerative Conditions: https://cannakeys.com/thc-cbd-for-Neurodegenerative-Disorders/
- McIver VC, Tsang AS, Symonds NE, Perkins NR, Uquillas E, Dart CM, Jeffcott LB, Dart AJ. Effects of topical treatment of cannabidiol extract in a unique manuka factor 5 manuka honey carrier on second intention wound healing on equine distal limb wounds: a preliminary study. Aust Vet J. 2020 Jun;98(6):250-255. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32096215/
- Brighenti V, Licata M, Pedrazzi T, Maran D, Bertelli D, Pellati F, Benvenuti S. Development of a new method for the analysis of cannabinoids in honey by means of high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray ionisation-tandem mass spectrometry detection. J Chromatogr A. 2019 Jul 19;1597:179-186. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31006529/
- Aharon M. Eyal. Honey-cannabinoid therapeutic composition. US Patent application: US10617722B2.