scienceA microbiologist has discovered the microbial ingredients honeybees embed in the nutrient-packed pollen derivative known as bee bread.

Martha A. Gilliam of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Ariz., identified 107 molds, 81 yeasts and 29 bacteria in the bread while she and co-workers sifted through the yellow granules for proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes.

Workers bees newly emerged from the comb must eat bee bread so their glands produce food for the queen and

Bee Bread

Scientific Name: Borage
Other Names: Borago officinalis, Bugloss, Common Borage, Common Bugloss, Ox’s Tongue, Starflower

Uses

Although the aerial or above ground parts (flowers, leaves, and stems) of borage have been used for centuries to treat many different conditions, very little scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of fresh or dried borage aerial parts as an oral drug for treating any condition. In fact, the aerial parts of borage contain small quantities of toxic chemicals known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which have been associated with causing liver injury when they are consumed in large amounts. In some parts of the world, borage leaves are eaten as a vegetable similar to spinach. While eating small portions of borage occasionally as food is not believed to present a risk for most individuals, taking aerial parts of borage for extended periods of time or ingesting a large amount at one time (more than several large servings of a leafy cooked vegetables) is not recommended.

However, oil from the seeds of the borage plant does not contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids. About 20% of borage oil is composed of a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which may help reduce inflammation. Currently, the most promising area of research for borage oil is in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In multiple animal and human studies, taking borage oil or borage oil capsules reduced inflammation, joint damage, and pain from RA. The GLA in borage oil is believed to interrupt the body’s production of chemicals that initiate and maintain the inflammatory process of RA.

Earlier stages of research are testing oral doses of borage oil or GLA for the treatment of asthma, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Results from a small study in humans show that taking borage oil orally may prevent or lessen some of the inflammatory processes involved in asthma. In both animal and human studies, GLA supplementation – taken as borage oil — generally resulted in lower blood pressure. Results for the cholesterol studies were mixed. In some studies, only triglycerides were reduced while other studies showed overall reductions in cholesterol. It is believed that several processes, including the possible relaxation of blood vessel walls, are involved in GLA’s potential use for all these conditions. However, more studies are needed before borage oil can be recommended for treating any of them.

Borage oil has also been tested in both oral and topical forms for treating eczema and other skin conditions. A recent study, however, found no effectiveness for oral borage oil capsules as compared to placebo capsules in relieving the symptoms of atopic dermatitis, a skin condition that involves intense itching. When it is applied to the skin, borage oil has moisturizing and softening effects, so it is often included in cosmetics such as face cream.