Honey and TCM: Singapore brand unites tradition and modern science to market functional products

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

13 Honey’s Bee Venom Honey is one of the company's bestsellers, and its 100% stingless bee green propolis has also proven popular among customers.
13 Honey’s Bee Venom Honey is one of the company's bestsellers, and its 100% stingless bee green propolis has also proven popular among customers.

Related tags Honey Propolis Singapore

Singapore brand 13 Honey is using a TCM-based approach to honey production to develop products it claims can help alleviate a wide range of health conditions.

Its bee venom honey and green propolis, in particular, are touted on its website as beneficial to those suffering from an extensive list of health problems.

The former is said to have "many healing properties, which include but are not limited to"​ treating arthritis, rheumatism, cancerous tumours, and skin diseases.

The latter is said to help with anything from liver, kidney and stomach problems to skin conditions, poor immunity, fatigue, sleeping disorders and more.

Venomous goodness

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia​, director Javier Lau said: "We base our principles on TCM, so we have different types of honey to target different health problems. In certain parts of China and Malaysia, TCM practitioners use the stingers of honeybees to sting their patients to alleviate whatever condition they might have.

"As beekeepers ourselves, bee venom is one of the substances we extract from our beehives, which are located on our own farms in Batu Pahat. We also harvest propolis, beeswax and other raw materials from the hives."

He added that bee venom, which consists mostly of liquid proteins and enzymes, stimulates the body's immune system to fight against certain illnesses when it is present in the blood stream.

13 Honey’s Bee Venom Honey, which comes in 250g, 850g and 1.5kg jars, is one of the company's bestsellers. Its 100% stingless bee green propolis has also proven popular among customers.

"We harvest our propolis from the hives of stingless bees. After we get rid of all the impurities, we are able to produce a pure propolis extract.

"We use green propolis, whereas most other brands use black propolis from honeybees. The difference is that green propolis has a much higher flavonoid content than black propolis. It also has very strong antimicrobial and anti-bacterial properties.

"In fact, there are stingless beehives that are a few hundred years old, whose green propolis preserves the parts of the trees they cover even when the rest of the trees have died."

The brand's Propiolis Ousia, which comes in 30ml dropper bottles, can be consumed directly, but due to its strong taste, adults are advised to add a single dose of two to five drops to their food or drink.

Confidence in claims

When asked why 13 Honey had confidently made so many health claims on its website despite strict regulations on claims surrounding functional foods and dietary supplements, Lau said: "We keep in touch with government agencies such as the AVA (Agri-food and Veterinary Authority) and HSA (Health Sciences Authority), and they've advised me that such claims cannot be listed on our brochures or product labels.

"However, we have more freedom to make these claims online, particularly on our website."

He also revealed that his personal experiences with 13 Honey's green propolis and honey products had been overwhelmingly positive.

According to Lau, his son has never taken antibiotics, yet recovered from HFMD (hand-foot-mouth disease) in three to four days after consuming green propolis; the same product, he said, was responsible for curing his son of hives.

He further said he had eschewed all medication — including Panadol — for his brand's honey and propolis, and had never looked back.

Still, 13 Honey is making an effort to provide scientific evidence of its products' health benefits. While the company lacks the necessary budget to sponsor or run its own clinical trials, it has sent its products to Japanese healthcare specialists and scientists to study.

Several academic papers have already been published in Japanese, and 13 Honey is awaiting their English translations.

Lau said: "We are working with a Japanese immunologist and two scientists, who are testing our products and helping to verify our claims. They are actually writing a book on how to cure diabetes with honey, where these papers will be published."

Prudent when propositioned

Aside from Bee Venom Honey and Propolis Ousia, the brand also carries a range of other types of honey, including Apple Vinegar Honey, Bentong Ginger Honey, Propolis Honey, Multi-floral Honey and Stingless Bee Honey.

These products are sold on the brand's website, as well as in pop-up stores in three to five locations across Singapore daily (usually shopping malls).

The company also sells its products at corporate events and its own private events locally. In Japan, they are sold in clinics, where doctors prescribe them to patients.

Lau has chosen to avoid entering the retail scene, saying: "I think retail is quite a tough market, mainly because of online shopping. In fact, our online sales have been quite decent. Our raw materials are also sold to brands on an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) basis in Singapore and Malaysia."

13 Honey has received enquiries from interested distributors in Malaysia, China, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, but for now, the brand is content to remain in Singapore and Japan.

Lau said, "We need to be very prudent when considering a proposition. This is a long-term arrangement, and we don't want to just jump to where the money is right now."

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