Skip to main content

She's Investigating the Miracle of Bees

Prof. Dr. Etil Arıburnu Güzelmeriç is conducting research in the national and international field about the bee products which are miraculous and highly beneficial for human health. Güzelmeriç receives the support of TÜBITAK with these researches.

She Conducts Research in Turkey and Slovenia

Assoc. Prof. of the Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Yeditepe University, Turkey, Etil Güzelmeric, started her career at Yeditepe University, a university which was ‘’her dream’’, with her Bachelor's in 2004. Güzelmeriç, who has focused her research on the active substances of natural origin since her doctoral studies, is working as an executive in two TUBITAK projects in the field of bee products.

With her comparative analyses of bee products in Turkey and Slovenia, she sheds light on a large number of unknown things while trying to decipher the contribution of these products to human health.

Let's hear Assoc. Prof. Güzelmeriç, who says “What we are advocating is that if a product containing propolis is to be released to the market for health purposes, not only the botanical source and chemical profile of propolis should be determined, but also the amounts of chemical components in it should also be determined and a standard should be established.'' from her own words.

Can we get to know you a little bit?

I started to pursue my dream of Yeditepe University Faculty of Pharmacy in 2004 and graduated as the third of my class in 2009. In 2015, I completed my doctorate at Yeditepe University, Department of Pharmacognosy with the support of “TÜBITAK 2211 - The General Domestic Doctoral Scholarship Program”. In addition to the experiences I gained here, I increased these experiences in question by working in the laboratory of the National Institute of Chemistry, Department of Food Chemistry in Slovenia at different times during my doctoral years. I have been working as a lecturer in the Department of Pharmacognosy at the Faculty of Pharmacy of Yeditepe University since 2016.

What was your reason for choosing Yeditepe University for an academic career?

The reason for choosing Yeditepe University is that our university is an educational institution that values science and people, it is an institution which aims at innovative and continuous development. I have been trying to do my best for my university and department for about 17 years since the first day of my undergraduate education.

This year, Yeditepe University is celebrating its 25th year. What would you like to say about this?

Yeditepe University is a place that has me saying ''I am glad to be here!'' from the moment I stepped in from its doors thanks to the fact that it has a staff of academics who are specialists in their field, it can closely monitor the rapidly advancing developments in technology and most importantly, its campus stated in the bosom of Nature. Therefore not only I celebrate its 25th year, but also I earnestly wish that its existence may prevail for many years

“My Parents Have Always Inspired Me”

Who inspires you?

My parents have always inspired me. Their characteristics regarding diligence, problem solving, creating the best with what you have are indispensable for them and I have always looked up to these characteristics.

What was the reason for your choice regarding the field of pharmacy?

My grandpa and my mother were the reason why I chose the pharmacy profession as my sole option.

What has been effective in starting the studies related to the projects that have received TUBITAK support?

My mother's teacher and also my teacher, Prof. Dr. Erdem Yeşilada's contributions to the world of science, his worldview and his skeptic approach have always set an example for me. After reading his book called ''Aphitherapy'', I acquired more detailed information regarding honey, propolis, bee pollen and other bee products which they produce by plants. Then, when I read the national/international scientific articles about this, I realized that there are still many issues about bee products in our country that need to be clarified and studied. Our country has a very large vegetation area due to its geographical location, a location which I found to be reflected in bee products. Then our work on this subject was crowned with TUBITAK projects.

What are your projects receiving TUBITAK support?

Currently, I am working as an executive in 2 TUBITAK-supported projects, one national and the other international. In addition to these projects, I continue to work on 6 projects as a researcher and consultant in TUBITAK-supported projects and others.

What was your reason for choosing bee products as a field of study?

The famous Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein has a saying:

“Humanity can live only for 4 years if there are no bees. If there are no bees, there'd be no pollination, there'd be no plants, no animals, and eventually, no people.” Bees offer us miraculous food products that are extremely useful for our health. The chemical components and pharmacological effects of these products should be clarified with the use of scientific data. In other words, my reason for choosing these projects is to make the contribution of bee products to human health quantifiable by the use of scientifically proven methods.

Etil Güzelmeriç

Can you share details about your projects?

The first of these projects is called “Comparative Study of the Chemical Compositions, Botanical Sources and Some Biological Activities of Various Propolis Samples.” It's a national project. There are many studies conducted on propolis in Turkey, but we see that there are many parts of this which remain unknown to us. There are different types of propolis in the world due to the differences in the botanical sources of propolis. This difference is also reflected in its chemical components. For example, the type of propolis you'd buy from Brazil and the botanical source of propolis you'd buy from Europe would be different because their chemical components are different. Therefore they also have different pharmacological effects. Therefore, it is extremely important to determine the type of propolis. There was no research on the clarification of poplar-type propolis in Turkey, so it was necessary to conduct content analyses and then clarify its pharmacological activity. We have started our research on this issue.

“Black Poplar Propolis is More Beneficial''

What did you find out?

There are, as we know, 7 main types of propolis in the world. When it is investigated, it is seen that there are also subtypes. There are also sub-types of propolis in Turkey. As you know, bees go to many plants, and the component of propolis that they produce contains the resin of many plants. In this study, we name propolis according to which plant it derives its resources the most. For example, if it derived it most often from the resin of the black-poplar, we call it a black-poplar propolis. This gives us the opportunity to tell what both the basic chemical components of the black-poplar propolis and the pharmacological activity of propolis are. Currently, there is no analyses of the botanical origin of propolis which are for sale. Therefore, people use it without knowing which type of propolis is used, what and in what quantity its chemical components are, or what its pharmacological activity exactly is.

What we are advocating for is that if a product containing propolis is to be released to the market for health purposes, not only the botanical source and chemical profile of propolis should be determined, but also the amounts of chemical components in it should also be determined and a standard should be established.''

Our first aim in this study was to illuminate the types of propolis that were unknown in Turkey. Then we were to determine their chemical content and find out which one was more beneficial by looking at its activity from a pharmacological point of view. In our study, we analyzed the bees of different cities in Turkey, these bees feed in places with different vegetation. We also took samples from different hives. In this analysis, it turned out that the propolis that bees make from the black poplar tree is more active and beneficial. We found that there were higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. The main component that it contains is the caffeic acid phenethyl ester. It has an anti cancerous activity. Thus, we can say that the best propolis is the black poplar propolis.

Turkey has a very rich soil, and therefore there is a lot of diversity. Our next goal is to make comparisons by taking samples from Brazil, Europe or all 7 known types of propolis that are known to us.

Etil Güzelmeriç

“People can survive by solely consuming pollen.”

We think you also have an international project about bee products.

Yes. My project is titled ”Chemical Analysis and Pharmacological Effect Profiles of Bee Pollen Collected from Turkey and Slovenia.'' During my doctoral studies in Slovenia, I met Dr. Irena Vovk. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to work together and this gave me a different perspective. I started this project thanks to the work I did with her.

The only ''complete food'' in nature is the bee pollen. People can survive solely by eating pollen, without the need for another source. Because pollen contains carbohydrates, fats and proteins which is at a rat close to our needs. Therefore, it is a very valuable and effective bee product. 

In this study, we conducted a comparative analysis of various pollens in terms of pharmacological activity, taken from different hives in Turkey and Slovenia. As a result of the analyses, we try to determine which one is more useful, and try to create a standard. So that people can know which pollen is useful based on the ratio they use it.

What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had on your workfield? What measures have been taken for sustainability in this process?

In the first place, Covid-19 created a short-term anxiety and uncertainty for academics and students but despite that we have managed to adapt quickly to the technological communication tools required by our digital age. We have not disrupted the education of our students, and thanks to technological facilities we have, we have been able to reach all over Turkey and the world and communicate with a wider audience. Thanks to this, the Faculty of Pharmacy of Yeditepe University has had the opportunity to reach a wider audience.

What do you think are the most important problems in the world today? What solutions can be provided for these problems

Year by year, the growing population and rapid industrialization are causing the resources of our world to be drained much faster. Although I cannot find a joint solution proposal on a global scale, we should be able to take measures individually and strive to raise awareness in our personal circles by talking about the measures we are taking.

What are your predictions about the future of your field of study?

From the point of view of history, at first people used medicines and treatments which were made natural resources, and then they discovered synthetic medicines. Due to the ease of use provided by these drugs and their rapid pharmacological effect, people have given up drugs of natural origin for a while. However, taking into account the side effects that synthetic drugs cause when used for a long time, people began to look into nature again. When it comes to natural remedies, you are faced with a very wide field of science as a subject of research.

What do you recommend for young people who want to move towards becoming researchers?

I would recommend that they love and embrace the work they are to do.