Benefits of Natural Beeswax Candles

The Benefits of Natural Beeswax Candles

Barbara Thompson, Pualani Bee Farm

June 2, 2020

As a newcomer to beekeeping, I have wondered what can be done with leftover beeswax. I learned it is used to make soaps, lip balms, cosmetics, candles, wood polishes, door and window lubricants, book binding threads, and moustache waxes. I decided that candle making sounded like the simplest to learn. For my sensibilities, it also sounded like the most enjoyable of the various possibilities.

Bees visit approximately 33 million flowers and fly about 150,000 miles to collect enough nectar to produce ten pounds of honey and secrete just one pound of wax. Hence, beeswax is a precious commodity! Since at least 1550 BCE, ancient Egyptians have used beeswax for its many therapeutic properties. Beeswax has been gaining traction in alternative medicine modalities in recent times.[1] As a by-product of nature’s bounty and the productivity of honeybees beeswax candles offer significant benefits over the much cheaper and widely available paraffin candles.

Paraffin Candles Can Be Toxic

To my surprise, I learned that the paraffin-based scented candles, which I had bought for decades, are, in fact, noxious! Paraffin is a non-renewable waxy solid and is derived from petroleum, coal, or shale oil. Burning paraffin candles releases highly toxic, carcinogenic benzene and toluene fumes. Diesel fuel releases these same fumes![2] The fumes and black soot that burning paraffin candles release can also aggravate asthma, cause allergy-like symptoms, or irritate the respiratory tract.

Candles made from beeswax, on the other hand, are a natural, healthy, and sustainable alternative to paraffin candles, which make up 95% of the world’s candle production. Beeswax is denser than other waxes that typically are used in candle making. It also has the highest melting point among all known waxes. Therefore, candles made from beeswax burn slower and last about 2-5 times longer than candles made from other fuels. This fact alone, offsets the higher cost of beeswax candles! Moreover, beeswax candles seldom drip—if at all. As long as the wick is appropriately trimmed, they do not release smoke or soot. Candles made from pure beeswax, which is a renewable fuel source, are chemical free, biodegradable, and non-toxic. 

Health Benefits of Burning Beeswax Candles

Burning beeswax candles helps to purify and cleanse the air. Releasing negative ions into the air, they bind with and remove dust, allergens, pollen, airborne bacteria and viruses, pet dander, mold spores, and other toxins. Like bee pollen, locally sourced beeswax candles are hypo-allergenic when burned. Thus, they help reduce the effects of environmental allergies, sensitivities, or asthma for those suffering from such conditions.

Consider natural environments with high levels of detected negative ions: the ocean, powerful waterfalls, and wide expanses of nature’s greenery. Burning beeswax candles brings a piece of these great outdoors to the indoors, improving the air quality within a home. Thus, beeswax candles benefit the respiratory system, invigorate the body, and strengthen overall health. This is an unexpected benefit in these times of the Covid-19 pandemic!

When lit, beeswax candles naturally impart a warm, bright and energizing light of the same spectrum as the sun. The comforting effects of candlelight relieves stress, helps meditation, and relaxes the mind, body and soul. The aroma of beeswax candles enhances this aspect. The sweet and floral scent of honey, naturally contained within the beeswax, enables the safe neutralization of lingering household odors.

Making Artisan Beeswax Candles

Here in Hawai’i, beekeeping has been increasing in popularity. Purchasing 100% natural pure beeswax from a reliable, local source ensures that your candles emanate the unique floral accents of the islands’ flowers and blossoming trees. Raw Hawaiian Honey Company, for example, sells 5-pound blocks of bright, golden beeswax. This unbleached, unfiltered, unprocessed, pure raw beeswax exudes the luscious perfume of Hawaiian honey. It also evokes the brilliant colors of the Hawaii’s yellow hibiscus flowers, including Pua Aloalo, the official state flower.

The versatility of beeswax candles makes them particularly enticing, as they reflect the local and temporal environment. Each candle embodies the seasonal fragrances of blossoming plants, which bees forage for nectar and pollen to make honeycomb wax cappings. The result is a seductively sweet, floral scent with slight honey tones. The natural, scented nature of beeswax makes candle making an enjoyable project that completed in just a handful of simple steps.

Using medium heat, slowly melt the beeswax to about 155-160° Fahrenheit in a small pot, large Pyrex measuring cup, or candle pitcher that sits inside a larger pot with water, double-boiler style. Keep an eye on the water in this double boiler style pot, not let it or the beeswax boil, which burns it! Meanwhile, insert a wick into a candle container. Beeswax requires wicks that are 2-3 times thicker than those used in paraffin candles. So, it is best to test various sized wicks in correlation with the diameter of the candle container you intend to use to determine the right wick size needed. Once the wax is fully melted allow it to cool just until a thin coat of wax develops on the pouring vessel’s wall. With a steady hand, pour the molten wax evenly into the candle container. Center the wick and let the wax cool and harden before using.

Scenting Beeswax Candles

The alluring aroma of pure beeswax is highly amenable to combinations with natural essential oils to create scented candles. Essential oils from citrus, such as grapefruit, orange, lemon, bergamot, lemon grass, or lemon balm, greatly complement the natural honey scent of beeswax. Other classic additives include vanilla, rosemary, lavender, cocoa, and pine. Here in Hawaii, we can take advantage of locally available tropical essential oils. For example, Pikake, ʻIliahi (Hawaiian Sandalwood), Puakenikeni, Pakalana, Plumeria, Gardenia, Ylang Ylang, and Ginger, among others, can be found at local farmer’s markets across the islands.

My husband comes from Tanzania, where exotic spices grow on the island of Zanzibar. When in Tanzania, we visit this “Spice Island” regularly to buy freshly harvested spices. I have begun to experiment also with accenting the natural beeswax aroma with anise, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, and cardamom. Some of these spices have visually interesting natural shapes, which when embedded into the molten wax adds visual appeal. On the other hand, mixing ground up spices into the liquid wax enhances the natural color of the beeswax. For example, turmeric can highlight the yellows while clove brings out the amber tones. The use of powdered spices also endows the body of the candle with a slightly speckled look.

Bees take a particular liking to flowering herbs from the family Lamiaceae (mints and sages). These plants benefit the bees’ health, so I grow them in my garden. Next time I make candles, I will try sprinkling fresh and dried herbs, such as basil, thyme, sage, marjoram, and oregano, into the beeswax.  I suspect that as these leaves heat up in the burning candle wax, they will give off a subtle herbal accent. For a more intense scenting, though, I most likely will need to use essential oils derived from these herbs.

Last but not least, adding coconut oil to the molten beeswax endows the candles with the essence of a tropical cocktail. However, the use of coconut oil serves a greater purpose than merely the infusion of an additional scent. Blending coconut oil with beeswax during the melting process helps to resolve some of the common problems associated with pure beeswax candle making. The coconut oil/beeswax blend helps the candle to burn more consistently and more slowly. It reduces the likelihood of the molten wax cracking[3] or separating from the container walls when the wax initially cools down. It also helps to avoid tunneling, that is, narrowly burning down the wick and leaving a hollowed-out candle.

Bee Creative and Bee Sustainable

The more advanced “purist” might stick to 100% beeswax for candle making. However, this can be challenging for the beginner. To avoid the frustrations of failed beeswax candles, I am happy to use a blend of coconut oil and beeswax. I also really enjoy the blend of honey and coconut scents.

The internet is full of how-to videos for making beeswax candles. Many websites provide recipes of beeswax to oil blends. Perusing online resources and blogs about beeswax candle making yields an abundance of ideas as well as providing tips and tricks for troubleshooting. Most importantly, it is great fun to make and then burn your own healthy, all natural, hand-made beeswax candles!

[1 ]For a scientific introduction to the therapeutic properties of beeswax, see https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1995764516301407

[2] http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2016/ph240/lee-m2/

[3] Cracking can also occur when ambient temperatures accelerate the cooling of the molten wax.

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