The amazing benefits of beeswax candles
The amazing benefits of beeswax candles
Beeswax (cera alba) is a natural wax produced by honey bees of the genus Apis. The wax is formed into scales by eight wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments of worker bees, which discard it in or at the hive. The hive workers collect and use it to form cells for honey storage and larval and pupal protection within the beehive.
Honeybees are social insects, living in colonies of up to about 60,000 individuals. The colony is highly complex, and each bee works for the good of the entire hive. The colony centres around its queen, a fertilised female capable of laying around a thousand eggs every day. In addition, there are up to 60,000 worker bees (non-reproductive females), and up to 1,000 male bees, or drones. Female honeybees are equipped with a venomous sting.
Beeswax has been used since prehistory as the first plastic, as a lubricant and waterproofing agent, in lost wax casting of metals and glass, as a polish for wood and leather, for making candles, as an ingredient in cosmetics and as an artistic medium in encaustic painting.
Beeswax is edible, having similarly negligible toxicity to plant waxes, and is approved for food use in most countries and in the European Union under the E number E901.
HOW IS BEESWAX MADE?
It’s estimated that one out of every three bites of food is made possible because of bees and their ability to pollinate crops. This by itself makes bees some of the most incredible creatures on our planet! Surprisingly, they do even more for us. They also provide us with food in the form of delicious raw honey, which has tons of excellent health benefits, and also creates beeswax.
Worker bees that are younger than 18 days old are the best wax producers. During this time, a bee secretes beeswax from eight special glands located on its abdomen. The wax comes out colourless and quite brittle.
After young bees have secreted liquid wax from their abdomens, in contact with the air, it solidifies into small scale shapes that that other worker bees then gather, and model with their 'mandibles (jaws)' to build the honeycombs (adding pollen and propolis).
Wax is used by honey bees to construct the individual cells that compose the honeycomb as well as the cells where eggs are laid for rearing young bees.
Most candles on the market these days are made of petroleum-based paraffin and scented with artificial fragrances created in a laboratory. While the benefits of beeswax candles is that they are made of one ingredient; beeswax, pure and simple. Beeswax is one of the most desirable waxes for candles. It’s heartening to see that many people are beginning to turn to this natural alternative.
When beekeepers extract the honey, they cut off the wax caps from each honeycomb cell with an uncapping knife or machine.
Beeswax may arise from such cappings, or from an old comb that is scrapped, or from the beekeeper removing unwanted burr comb and brace comb and such. Its color varies from nearly white to brownish, but most often is a shade of yellow, depending on purity, the region, and the type of flowers gathered by the bees. The wax from the brood comb of the honey bee hive tends to be darker than wax from the honeycomb because impurities accumulate more quickly in the brood comb. Due to the impurities, the wax must be rendered before further use. The leftovers are called slumgum, and is derived from old breeding rubbish (pupa casings, cocoons, shed larva skins, etc), bee droppings, propolis, and general rubbish.
The wax may be clarified further by heating in water. As with petroleum waxes, it may be softened by dilution with mineral oil or vegetable oil to make it more workable at room temperature.
Beeswax was among the first plastics to be used, For thousands of years, beeswax has had a wide variety of applications; it has been found in the tombs of Egypt, in wrecked Viking ships, and in Roman ruins. Beeswax never goes bad and can be heated and reused. Historically, it has been used:
As candles - the oldest intact beeswax candles north of the Alps were found in the Alamannic graveyard of Oberflacht, Germany, dating to 6th/7th century AD
In the manufacture of cosmetics
In bow making
To strengthen and preserve sewing thread, cordage, shoe laces, etc.
As an ancient form of dental tooth filling
As the joint filler in the slate bed of pool and billiard tables.
Most early Western cultures relied primarily on candles rendered from animal fat (tallow). A major improvement came in the Middle Ages, when beeswax candles were introduced in Europe. Unlike animal-based tallow, beeswax burned pure and cleanly, without producing a smoky flame. It also emitted a pleasant sweet smell rather than the foul, acrid odor of tallow. Beeswax candles were widely used for church ceremonies, but because they were expensive, few individuals other than the wealthy could afford to burn them in the home.
Beeswax candles in religion
For mystical reasons the Church prescribes that the candles used at Mass and at other liturgical functions be made of beeswax (luminaria cerea. — Missale Rom., De Defectibus, X, I; Cong. Sac. Rites, 4 September, 1875). The pure wax extracted by bees from flowers symbolizes the pure flesh of Christ received from His Virgin Mother, the wick signifies the soul of Christ, and the flame represents His divinity. Although the two latter properties are found in all kinds of candles, the first is proper of beeswax candles only. It is, however, not necessary that they be made of beeswax without any admixture. The paschal candle and the two candles used at Mass should be made ex cera apum saltem in maxima parte, but the other candles in majori vel notabili quantitate ex eadem cera (Cong. Sac. Rit., 14 December, 1904). As a rule they should be of white bleached wax, but at funerals, at the office of Tenebrae in Holy Week, and at the Mass of the Presanctified, on Good Friday, they should be of yellow unbleached wax (Caerem. Episc.). De Herdt (I, no. 183, Resp. 2) says that unbleached wax candles should be used during Advent and Lent except on feasts, solemnities, and especially during the exposition and procession of the Blessed Sacrament. Candles made wholly of any other material, such as tallow (Cong. Sac. Rit., 10 December, 1857) stearine (Cong. Sac. Rit., 4 September, 1875), paraffin, etc., are forbidden.
Benefits of beeswax candles
About one in five people reports reacting to candles with symptoms that include sneezing, a runny or stuffed-up nose, itchy eyes, sinus problems, head pain, hives or other skin rashes, coughing or wheezing. Unlike paraffin candles, beeswax candles’ benefits include them being hypo-allergenic. This makes great for people with allergies or other sensitivities.
With a high melting point (in fact the highest among all known waxes), beeswax candles have significantly longer (2-5 times) burn time and drip very little, if any at all. This offsets their higher cost. Paraffin candles on the other hand, are not as efficient. They are short burning and drip excessively, which means that they may not be that economical after all.
That smell after a spring rain is the negative ions doing their job. Beeswax emits negative ions when it burns. Negative ions clean the air of odors and bacteria. Falling water, like waterfalls, rain, and snow, also gives off negative ions. In a similar way, bees wax candles clean the indoor air.
Candles have come a long way since their initial use. While they are no longer used as a major source of light, they continue to grow in popularity and use. Today, candles serve to symbolize a celebration, ignite romance, soothe the senses, honor a ceremony, and accent home decors — casting a warm and lovely glow for all to enjoy.
Try a beeswax candle today with one of the BEE Zero Waste pure beeswax candles