With all the talk of the current devastation to the honeybee community, and the possible repercussions to humanity in general, it makes the small, buzzing creatures a rather important feature in our ecosystem. Honey, much like cannabis, provides all kinds of benefits to health and nutrition, and with a growing interest in cannabis honey, the two are coming together to create some of the best products on the market. If you were unaware of how cannabis and honey go together, read on.
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A little bit about bees
The first thing to know about bees, is that they’re not all the same. When whizzing past your face, they may look the same, but a wasp, a yellowjacket, and a honeybee are all very different species of flying bug. We are most interested in honeybees. There are several types of honeybees, with the most common being Apis mellifera. This specific honeybee is also referred to as the European honeybee, or the Western Honeybee.
As social insects, honeybees reside together in hives, and actually have a pretty intricate communication system between them consisting of dancing movements, which can go in depth enough to explain to other bees exact locations of food sources, their size, and even quality. Each honeybee community has a queen bee, worker bees, and drone bees. Worker bees are female bees that never reach sexual maturity, with the queens being females that are bigger in size. Male bees are called drones.
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I could go on talking about the particulars of honeybees, but it’s not terribly important. Here are a few things that are. Bees require two kinds of food. The first is honey, which is made from nectar from flowers. The second is pollen, which comes from the anthers of a flower. This nectar and pollen is individual to each species of flower, and each flower within the species. Most bees will only collect one or the other, pollen or nectar. While collecting, nectar gets stored in a stomach specifically for nectar, from which it is transferred to other bees in the hive to use for honey production. This is separate from the bee’s own regular stomach, however, a valve exists between the two so that the bee can use some of the nectar for energy if needed.
The honey is produced by the bees passing the nectar from mouth to mouth until the water in it has evaporated out – going from approximately 70% to 20%. The result is a concentrated syrup, honey. The honey is then stored within the cells of the honeycomb with a layer of beeswax on top. Pollen has a different purpose. Pollen is mixed with the pre-honey nectar to create ‘bee bread’. This high protein food is then fed to larvae, which require such high protein levels to survive and grow. When looking at the difference between pollen and nectar, pollen is high in protein and also contains fats and other nutrients for growth, whereas nectar contains sugars, salts, oils, and vitamins.
In terms of honey, I could write a whole article on the health benefits. When dealing with natural medicine (which cannabis is), honey is a main and powerful constituent, with just as many positive benefits as a plant like cannabis. It can be used as an antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory agent, for diabetes, cancer, asthma, neurological disorders, burns and wounds, and gastrointestinal issues to name just a few. Honey alone is a fantastic treatment for a myriad of problems, which makes the idea of combining it with cannabis, that much more of a benefit.
It’s been known for quite some time, that honey varies depending on the location its from, and the kinds of flowers that the bees which made it, were taking nectar and pollen from. So, when dealing with real cannabis honey, this means honey made by bees which have ingested cannabinoids in some way.
If you’re wondering how bees would know to do this, they don’t. In most cases where cannabis honey has been made, it’s been done by the bees being fed cannabinoids, or hives being placed in a place with cannabis plants. The former is the case for PhytoPharma, and its Cannabeez honey. As bees don’t have an endocannabinoid system, there isn’t a fear of the cannabinoids causing a reaction in the bees, they are merely a means of extraction. The cannabis that is made by bees that have been fed cannabinoids has a very low concentration of cannabinoids, way less than other products, particularly concentrates. In fact, the quantity of cannabinoids can be as low as .3% of the honey.
However, even with this low concentration, the cannabinoids in cannabis honey have shown to be very bioavailable, meaning the body can absorb them well. And since the cannabis isn’t heated in this process, the effects are solely medicinal, giving no psychoactive high. If all of this sounds weird because cannabis plants don’t produce nectar, and are wind-pollinators – meaning they don’t rely on, or attract, insects to move their pollen around, there are ways around this.
Cannabis honey products are becoming bigger, though many are simply infused, meaning cannabinoids are put into honey, that otherwise has nothing to do with cannabinoids. But this is a different product. Real cannabis honey is made by bees directly. The practice started in 2016 when Nicholas Trainer, a French beekeeper with a penchant for marijuana, began looking into cannabis honey at the behest of his friends. In the end, Trainer did not feed the bees cannabinoids, but put them with cannabis plants where they could collect the resin. He found through practice that all different kinds of honey can be made, from all different kinds of marijuana plants. It has also been found that bees can collect both the resin and the pollen of cannabis plants, with the pollen being made into bee propolis.
Research into cannabis and bees
While cannabis honey is still not well studied or understood, there isn’t a total absence in the research world. In 2019, a study was conducted that investigated what kind of bees the pollen in cannabis sativa plants, attract. The study did not investigate cannabis honey, but rather pollen as a nutritional food source for bees. However, in conducting this research, one of the findings was that particularly during a period of floral dearth, cannabis plants produce a lot of pollen, and bees do, in fact, eat it. The study used nets to sweep the area of hemp farms in New York to establish just which insects were being attracted to the plants. This included different fields with different cannabis phenotypic traits.
The study found that of the bees which visited these plants, there were 16 different species. It was also found that taller plants attracted more bee species. One of the important findings of the study was that this pollen can be used as a nutritional source for bees, especially at times of food scarcity. But it also inadvertently backed up that bees will eat the pollen of plants, giving more credence to the idea that cannabis honey can easily be made.
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In 2020, yet another study was done, this time by Nick J. French, owner of Frangiosa Farms entitled Industrial Hemp As Forage For Honey Bees. The purpose of the study was actually to find ways to increase the value of industrial hemp, and started in 2015. His method was to set up 12 hives in 70 acres of hemp plants in Colorado. At the time of placement, the number of bees was estimated at 800,000. For two months the hives were inspected about two times a week.
When hives were removed two months later, they were noticeably light, implying not enough honey in reserves to feed all the bees through winter months, with only six hives showing signs of being able to survive winter. Not enough honey was actually made to collect for sampling, but pollen and propolis were both collected and sent to a lab. Samples were sent to ProVerde Laboratories in Massachusetts. The propolis samples were found to have .93% cannabinoids by weight, and the pollen was found to have .09% cannabinoids by weight. Study conductor French did not see cannabis honey as being very possible, however the resulting propolis and pollen were cannabinoid positive. He did not rule out the ability to produce more honey in future research.
Cannabis honey products
In the world of cannabis honey, there’s honey which is sourced from bees which have ingested either resin or pollen from the cannabis plant, and then there’s cannabis-infused honey. The latter is significantly easier to find, and still does give a good blend of all the good stuff related to honey and all the good stuff related to cannabis. If this is all a person is looking for, they can check out the following brands like Colorado Hemp Honey, Honey Pot Products, Florida Honey Pot Farms, Bee Delightful, Cannabee, and Bumble B. Well Hemp Products. None of these companies actually make real cannabis honey, however.
The field of real cannabis honey is just growing, but there are a couple options to try it for yourself. One of the best options for the real deal is the company mentioned before, PhytoPharma. This Israeli-based company has a patent-protected method for feeding bees cannabinoids and creating cannabis honey. According to its site, the company states that its cannabis honey has been shown to be effective with insomnia and pain relief, with absolutely no psychoactive effect present.
Another company that does the real deal, and in the good old-fashioned way, is Cannahoney. Cannahoney offers three different varieties of honey, all of which are originally sourced from bee hives placed strategically by cannabis fields. All fields are in Ventura, California. The original Cannahoney is simply the natural honey from the hives, while the company also offers CannaHoney Plus and MariHoney, which each have infusions of cannabinoids as well. The company states it does not technically test for cannabinoids in the standard Cannahoney, relying on the bees to do their thing.
If you simply want the benefit of cannabis and honey together, there are tons of infused honey products to try. For those who want to go a step further and get a product directly from the bees, there are a couple options available, with more surely to come. As cannabis and honey are two major powerhouses in the natural medicine world, and as honey can be manufactured based on the specific plants in the area, the combination of the two might just produce some of the best medicinal products out there.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.