Monica Obando might never have gotten into the honey business if not for her arthritis. With arthritis normally found in much older patients, Obando sought treatment for her aching joints but was against taking medication with harmful side effects. When she saw a program on TV discussing bee venom therapy (BVT), in which patients are stung periodically to manage their painful symptoms, she had to see for herself and attended an American Apitherapy Society conference in New Orleans.
“That’s when I had my first sting,” says Obando, an occupational hypnotherapist based in Wesley Chapel. “The pain was very strong, but I felt fine. It was like a whole new world opening.”
The primary goal of BVT is to stimulate the body’s immune system by forcing a flu-like reaction to the venom and the stinger; it works like a combination of acupuncture and antibiotics to ultimately relieve chronic pain. After learning how to care for the bees like one would a regular pet with her husband, Obando started regular stinging treatments every other day. Soon, her mother and sister were also treating each other for their own chronic conditions during a seven-month cycle.
“Those were the worst months because we had to suffer before it got better,” says Obando. “But we started noticing the healing immediately. The pain receded, the swelling stopped, and we were amazed at the improvement. It seemed like medieval therapy, but it worked.”
Under the guidance of professional beekeepers, the Obandos decided to maintain their own beehives for easier access to treatment. The bees created more honey than the family could eat, which prompted Obando to start her “educational side business.” She opened Santa Monica Florida Raw Honey in 2011, named partially for herself and partially after miraculous healer Saint Monica.
They continue to sell their hand-packaged glass bottles of honey online and at local markets, but Obando says her goal from the beginning was to educate people on honey’s healing power, which has proven to help with allergies, skin care and even improve memory. She also stresses the importance of protecting bees from further extinction and connects customers with professionals who can safely remove unwanted beehives to a better location.
“It’s something that we had in mind from the beginning: how to honor the honey for what it is,” says Obando. “It’s pretty much liquid gold.”