After being in the vitamin supplement business for almost 14 years, I’ve come to believe that there are still many misconceptions surrounding their use. In a nutshell, people misunderstand their uses and benefits and take them for the wrong reasons.

The main focus on my business has narrowed over the years to concentrate on products from the beehive – royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and honey. When I started this business in 1999 my focus was actually on generic herbal products like American Ginseng, St. John’s Wort and Ginkgo Biloba. Through an affiliation with a company in Green Bay WI called ‘Ancient Herbs’, I was introduced to the world of vitamin supplements and natural herbal remedies.

For a while my business concentrated on standard herbs, I sold American Ginseng produced in the fields of Northern Wisconsin and worked closely with the supplier to understand the importance of raw ingredient quality and the integrity of the manufacturing process.

bee products versus standard herbs

After a year or so I was introduced to bee products by an associate based in Canada. His company at the time specialized in a royal jelly / bee pollen product and had a very small buy loyal customer base. I learned a good deal about these bee products and began using them in my own nutrition regimen.

Being in the industry I had the impetus to research the products and obtain only those which I knew were being well made.

This is one area which I believe many user of nutritional supplements fail to understand. They’re not all created equal. We tend to be sold on packaging, price and the marketing blurb we encounter on the manufacturers website, yet we rarely look beyond the packaging and investigate how these products are made and where they originate from.

I don’t claim this to be the case with everyone. I know from some of the comments we receive at our website that people do take the time to do their research into the benefits of royal jelly and other bee products. It’s interesting that nowadays when you search for a product you tend to find the Wiki sites listed high in the search results, so oftentimes your first encounter with a product can be from a very informative and factual resource like WikiPedia.

Yet when I look at our site stats I see that most of the searched performed on bee products are not related to people looking for manufacturing information, they’re people looking for specific benefits or they’re from people looking to purchase.

For example, one way our website is commonly found online is by people typing  “benefit of royal jelly” or perhaps “health benefit of royal jelly”. And whilst it’s normal for people to want to focus on the benefits and what’s in it for them, we see very few people using searches like “how is royal jelly made”.

The last two search terms would indicate an interest in understanding the processes involved rather than simply looking for the benefits. The point I’m making is that the process combined with the raw materials will ultimately determine the benefits which the product might deliver. [here’s a link to benefits of royal jelly]

In simple terms, it’s possible to take two bottles of any supplement with seemingly identical ingredients, yet for one of the products to be effective and the other not so.

But how can this be?

If you realize where bee products come from and the state they are in when collected you can imagine how the subsequent handling and processing of the products can effect their quality and integrity. The substances are fresh and raw and contain moisture / liquid / water. They can spoil quickly. Different processes are used to try and ‘lock them down’ not all of which are concerned with preserving the nutritional integrity of the products. Bee products are amongst the most difficult to handle, at all stages of the collection process. If you think about something like American Ginseng, which is a root, it has far less potential for abuse by the manufacturing company than something like propolis. Making bee caps from moisture laden ingredients requires special skills, special equipment and very strict handling processes. One of the ways in which royal jelly and bee pollen are converted from the substances we find in the beehive into usable capsules with a shelf-life, is via a process termed ‘lyophilization’. Also known as ‘freeze drying’ this process sees cold air passed over the liquid to remove moisture. But a quicker and more convenient way would be to use hot air, and some people do. But what does that do to the nutritional quality of the product?

Propolis also has a very complex procedure for converting it from the sticky resin that’s removed from the beehive, into something which can be ingested safely. A common process involves the use of food grade alcohol to extract the active ingredient of propolis and discard the debris which is found within the raw propolis.

Understanding how royal jelly is made, how propolis is extracted, what is ‘potentiated bee pollen’ and how honey is commonly pasteurized, will give the end user an understanding of what to look for when buying a product that actually can deliver the benefits one might expect.

So you might say there should be two stages to the research. The first is to understand and learn about the potential benefits. This might involve using searches like ‘royal jelly fertility’, ‘royal jelly for skin’ etc, the second stage should be to find suppliers who can demonstrate how their products are made and how the ingredients are processed. That’s generally not too easy, but it is possible if you know the right questions to ask.