Beeswax

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Lipids

Beeswax is the purified wax obtained from honeycomb of hive bee, Apis mellifera Linn and other species of Apis, belonging to family Apidae.


BEESWAX

 

 

Synonyms

 

White beeswax, yellow beeswax, cera alba, and cera flava.

 

Biological Source

 

Beeswax is the purified wax obtained from honeycomb of hive bee, Apis mellifera Linn and other species of Apis, belonging to family Apidae.

 

Geographical Source

 

It is mainly found in Jamaica, Egypt, Africa, India, France, Italy, California etc.

 

Preparation

 

The worker bee secretes the wax due to the ability of maintaining a high temperature and the wax is secreted in the last four segments of abdomen on the ventral surface. Just below the sterna it has a smooth layer of cells form the chitinous area that secretes the wax. The chitinous area has small pores through, which the wax exudes out. The wax is passed to the front leg and later to the mouth; in the mouth it gets mixed with the saliva, which is then built on the comb. This wax forms a capping on the honey cells. Wax forms about 1/8th part of the honeycomb. After removal of honey, honeycomb or the capping is melted in boiling water. On cooling the melted wax gets solidified and floats on the surface of water while the impurities settle below and honey leftovers get dissolved in water. The pure wax is then poured into earthen vessels wiped with damp cloth and the wax so obtained is yellow beeswax.

 

White beeswax is obtained from yellow beeswax. The yellow beeswax is runned on a thin stream of spinning wet drum, from which long ribbon like strips are scrapped off. The ribbon strips are placed on cloth in thin layers, rotated from time to time and bleached in sunlight till the outer layer becomes white. White beeswax is obtained by treating yellow beeswax chemically with potassium permanganate, chromic acid or chlorine or charcoal.

 

Characterisitics

 

Yellow wax or Cera flava is yellowish to greyish brown coloured solid, with agreeable, honey-like odour and a faint, characteristic taste. When cold, it is somewhat brittle and when broken, shows presence of a dull, granular, noncrystalline fracture. Yellow wax is insoluble in water and sparingly soluble in cold alcohol. It is completely soluble in chloroform, ether, and in fixed or volatile oils, partly soluble in cold benzene or in carbon disulphide and completely soluble in these liquids at about 30°C.

 

White wax is less unctuous to the touch; it is yellow, soft, and ductile at 35°C and fusible at 65°C. A yellowish-white solid, somewhat translucent in thin layers. It has a faint, characteristic odour which is free from rancidity and tasteless. It is insoluble in water, soluble in chloroform, ether, fixed oil, and volatile oils (hot turpentine oil) and sparingly soluble in alcohol. It is not affected by the acids at ordinary temperatures, but is converted into a black mass when boiled with concentrated sulphuric acid.

 

Chemical Constituents

 

Beeswax contains myricin, which is melissyl palmitate; melting point 64°C, free cerotic acid (C26H52O2), myricyl alcohol (C30H61OH) is liberated when myricyl palmitate is saponified. Melissic acid, some unsaturated acids of the oleic series, ceryl alcohol, and 12 to 13% higher hydrocarbons are present.

 

Uses

 

Beeswax is used in the preparation of ointments, plaster, and polishes.

 

Adulterants

 

Beeswax is adulterated by solid paraffin, ceresin, carnauba wax, or other fats and waxes of animal or mineral origin. Spermaceti and lard render wax softer and less cohesive, of a smoother and less granular fracture and different odour when heated. The melting point and specific gravity are lowered by tallow, suet, lard, and especially by paraffin. Ceresin, a principle obtained from ozokerite is also employed as an adulterant. In yellow wax the iodine value is also of use as a test for detection of adulterants but in white wax the bleaching process has altered the bodies which absorb the iodine.

 

Marketed Products

 

It is one of the ingredients of the preparations known as Saaf Organic Eraser Body Oil and Jatyadi tail (Dabur).

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