I’ve recently gotten very attached to honey as my sweetener of choice, especially for tea, hot breakfast cereal and homemade bread. But today I want to share some information about another precious honey bee product: beeswax.
Bees use their wax to build honeycomb cells for the raising of young and storing of honey and pollen. For humans, beeswax has had many versatile uses throughout history. The ancient Egyptians used it to seal everything from boats to perfumes to sarcophagi. The ancient Greeks sculpted with it and the Romans used wooden tablets covered with beeswax for easy message writing and erasing. More recently, you consume beeswax every time you indulge in a handful of Jelly Bellies or Haribo Gummy Bears.
The Ancient Greeks used beeswax to make statues.
Photo by Shovelling Son/Courtesy Flickr
Through the ages beeswax has come to be used for a variety of other purposes in both professional and domestic domains. Perhaps the most pervasive and recognizable presence in our lives is in beeswax candles, whether you’re more familiar with the dipped and herb-infused aromatherapy pillars, tiny tea lights or the often uneven hand-rolled sort you can make with a simple craft kit. Beeswax candles are often preferred for their pure light and scents without smoke. Due to the high price, however, many candles are made of a combination of beeswax and other candle waxes such as tallow.
The popularity of beeswax candles aside, this wax can be used in a number of home projects and crafts.
Herbal uses for beeswax include both cosmetic and medicinal applications. In cosmetics, beeswax is used to make lip balms such as this peppermint orange recipe and stains like this beet root coloring. Medicinal salves (try this one with skin-healing calendula), ointments and plasters also use beeswax to give the product texture, form and easy application as well as to moisturize and condition your skin.
In the garden, beeswax can be used to make pest deterrents such as this deer-repelling tonic “stick,” and can also act as a polishing finish for granite, wood and wrought iron either outside or in your home. Beeswax combined with oil-eating microbes can help clean up oil spills.
Do you have heavy clothes or shoes that need to be repaired? Thread coated with beeswax is sturdy and waterproof. Old furniture joints and hinges getting unwieldy? Oiling them with beeswax can provide smooth, quiet motion. Beeswax-based saddle soap can condition and seal leather, and beeswax alone will keep your copper and bronze from oxidizing.
If you’re artistically inclined you might want to try my personal favorites for the use of beeswax in art: batik and Ukranian pysanky, a detailed egg-decoration technique. It takes some special tools and dyes, but it’s a style of art that’s always appealed to me. Besides, the finished eggs would make beautiful gifts.
The art of Ukranian pysanky uses beeswax to create intricately colored designs.
Photo by Kateryna Naumova/Courtesy Flickr
I’m sure there are more uses for this versatile wax out there. What have you used it for or seen it in? What use is your favorite?