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The therapeutic benefits of honey and beeswax

iakovos caring for his bees
There is more to bees than honey. One locally-based company creates a range of all natural products ranging from sun screen to nappy rash cream

Iakovos Korniotis, now 78, learned beekeeping from his father, who learnt it from his father. And Iakovos’ son is now teaching his own child the craft, making this a multi-generational beekeeping dynasty! But it wasn’t until Erin – a Californian by birth – joined the clan that the family transformed from ancient craft to modern marvel, launching an innovative product line based on their very own bees…

“The family have been in the business of bees for well over half a century,” explains 37-year-old Erin, who married Iakovos’ son and shares the family’s passion. “There’s definitely a strange fascination. It’s probably the hive dynamics. Bees have intricate societies that function like a well-oiled machine: the way they communicate and work together, the sheer distances and amount of flowers they visit, the health benefits of everything they make… bees are endlessly intriguing!”

With more than 150 hives in and around Kato Drys, Lefkara and Choirokitia, the Korniotis family are among the island’s best-known apiarists. For generations, they’ve lived and breathed bees: caring for both creatures and land; ensuring the fields and orchards on which the bees forage are chemical-free, cultivated in harmony with nature.

Much like the insectoid society they admire, each member has their own unique role in the business: “Iakovos is the main beekeeper along with Souba, his assistant,” says Erin. “His wife, Ellie, runs the Bee Museum with her daughter Theodora. And my husband Michalis helps with the bees and handles a lot of the business aspects.”

beekeeper ioakovos korniotis and erin
Iakovos with Erin

But with the arrival of Erin, the family have branched out into a very modern field: the creation of an entire product line based on the therapeutic benefits of honey and beeswax. Known as BeeKind, it’s the result of more than 50 years of sustainable beekeeping within the Natura 2000 reserve: land on which biodiversity is strictly protected, and natural methods of farming are key.

“Our herbs grow wild in the fields where our hives lie; they’re never sprayed with pesticides, and the whole process works in harmony with nature,” Erin reveals. “We maintain the natural balance of wild plants; the bees forage free; and we work in an eco-friendly manner to collect a small amount of their honey and wax to use in our products.”

Known for its healing properties, this honey is produced by the Apis Mellifera Cypria, the Cyprus honeybee. But the BeeKind products are Erin’s brainchild. “My father-in-law grew up using everything from the raw honey to the natural beeswax to cure wounds and mend ailments,” she discloses. “So when he asked me to create something natural to heal his dry hands, I looked to his knowledge of herbs and bees to make a natural, healthy product.”

The result was a healing balm made from natural beeswax. And such was its success, Erin soon began researching further uses for the family’s bee products. “At the time, I was pregnant with my son,” she explains, “and I was looking for natural products I could use on myself that were completely safe. But that sort of thing is very difficult to find – go to a pharmacy or a doctor and they’ll usually recommend lanolin-based creams; but lanolin not only has a rough texture, it often comes laden with chemicals and pesticides.”

Instead, Erin set about creating a range of products that would be totally natural and completely safe. “In many ways, it was need-based,” she continues. “First came the natural nipple cream. Then, when my son developed a diaper rash, I figured out how to make a completely chemical-free diaper cream…”

Erin, who originally trained as a psychologist and later a doula, has always enjoyed being creative with the materials to hand. And as part of the Korniotis beekeeping family, her access to natural products and traditional wisdom is second-to-none.

bees
Natural sunscreen

“I began exploring and experimenting with different materials,” she continues. “Bees are really quite extraordinary insects – almost everything they create has amazing benefits: antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial. So I had a wealth of materials to work with…”

Today, five years on, BeeKind offers a huge range of natural, locally-made, eco-friendly products. As well as the mommy range (which includes Nursing Mama Nipple Cream, Beeswax Diaper Cream, and Moisturising Baby Massage Cream), there’s Beeswax Moisturising Cream with Vanilla Essential Oil, Beeswax Moisturising Cream with Papaya Seed Oil, and Beeswax Furniture Polish.

Erin has also developed a number of thoroughly modern formulations – products you wouldn’t have seen just a decade ago – including a beard wax, tattoo aftercare ointment, non-toxic and fully compostable sandwich wraps, and a natural sunscreen. “The Beeswax Mineral Sunscreen is a bestseller,” she acknowledges. “Made from beeswax, olive oil and zinc oxide mineral powder, it has an SPF of about 30. The beeswax really helps it stay on well in the water. Plus, it’s completely natural so it won’t harm fish or coral.”

But the contemporary creations don’t stop at beeswax. BeeKind offers a number of naturally-infused oils, including helichrysum and calendula oil. “I pride myself on following the latest research,” says Erin. “And over the last few years, it’s been proven that certain essential oils are unsafe for use on babies or young children. So instead, we use infused oils: the herbs and plants are harvested from our chemical-free fields and infused in virgin olive oil from our own orchards.”

Last but not least is the honey. And while the family already produce an award-winning product – “We were quite proud when our honey took home several Gold Awards at the London Honey Awards in 2020!”– Erin has taken things one step further, creating a tantalising selection of naturally-infused honeys made from seasonally available fruits and herbs: Mandarin Honey, Lemon Honey, Ginger Honey, Lavender Honey, Aronia Honey, and the delectably rich Chocolate Honey (which makes Nutella taste like water!).

“Everything at BeeKind,” she concludes, “is created using traditional techniques and ingredients, but with an eye to modern needs and eco-friendly practices. And, of course, to the bees. The world’s food sources depend on bees, so doesn’t it make sense to be kind not just to each other, but also to nature, to the land, and especially to the bees?”

 

For BeeKind Cyprus information and products, visit the Facebook page ‘BeeKind Cyprus’ or https://emwhitlock1.wixsite.com/beekind

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