Bees and trees could hold the key to healing

Healing wounds could mean a whole new strategy if a USC PhD student’s research into Australian Native Bees proves a connection.
Biomedical Science researcher Karina Hamilton, 21, received a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council to conduct Australian studies into whether Native Australian (Trigona carbonaria) bees or Australia’s natural flora give Bee Propolis wound healing, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
“The big picture is wound healing,” she said.
“We want to see if the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that we may or may not find contribute to the accelerated wound healing process.”
Karina’s research project will focus on two major factors: firstly to discover the role the bees and the environment play in the properties of Bee Propolis, and secondly to isolate the compounds that are responsible for the healing qualities.
Karina said that Propolis is more a plant product than a bee product, and she thinks that it is a combination of the natural habitat, the fauna and flora as well as the native bee and the trees and resins the bees collect from makes Australian Propolis unique.
Propolis is a very complex substance and varies depending on what trees the bees are foraging on, the season and climate make it quite a variable substance.
“I guess it’s about the synergy aspect to it, because Propolis is made up of up to 300 different compounds so it might not be just one compound that’s doing all the good, it might be several compounds, so it’s the synergy of all the components,”  Karina said.
Karina’s research will also look at whether the resin from the Corymbia torelliana (also known as the Cadagi gum) is similar in medicinal properties to the stingless bee Propolis.
Acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, Francis Peters of Kings Beach, uses natural herbs in her busy practice and believes the body assimilates natural products more easily than chemical preparations.
“I’m a big believer in natural medicine because it heals the body and puts the body in a state where it heals itself,” she said.
“Drugs mask symptoms.”
Ms Peters said that natural medicine and Bioscience working together was a “synergistic relationship, the body cannot be taken in isolation, it is  the whole being that must be treated, not just the individual parts”.
Queensland Beekeeper Association state president Trevor Weatherhead said he was unaware of any studies done on Australian Propolis, but there had been many studies on the medicinal properties of honey.
“The study would be very valuable because there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence out there that Propolis works,” he said.
There are about 10 stingless species of social native bees (genera Trigona and Austroplebeia) and it is the Australian Trigona carbonaria bee that interests Karina Hamilton.
Ms Hamilton’s research will take some years to complete and human trials will not be commenced for about three years, however, she hopes the medicinal applications for the use of Propolis will be wide and varied.
By James Clifton

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