What Is Propolis
Propolis is a resin-like substance bees make by mixing beeswax with sap from trees and a bit of their own saliva. It is used to seal the hive and protect hive against viruses, bacteria, fungus or parasites. Propolis is renowned worldwide for its wide ranging health benefits.
Propolis was commonly used as a traditional natural remedy since ancient times. Healing and regenerating properties of Propolis were identi?ed by ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek physicians. In Egypt propolis was used to treat various health problems and in the mummification process, while in Assyria and ancient Greece it was famous for its wound- and skin ulcer-healing properties. Propolis was used with great effectiveness for the treatment of injuries and wounds during Anglo-Boer battle or during WWII. It was used as an anti-bacterial agent in 17th and 20th century in Europe. In the history of China, Propolis was recognized as an anti-cancer medicine and was commonly used to treat various infections.
Key Active Ingredients
There are over 300 natural compounds found by now in Propolis, including antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, coumarins, phenolic aldehydes, natural steroids, polyphenols, or sequiterpene quinines. It also contains about 10 percent essential oils, 5 percent bee pollen and other various organic compounds including resins, vegetable balsam, and bee wax.
Wound Healing & Regenerating
Modern medical research confirms propolis actually can speed up wound healing which is attributed to its ability to improve the regeneration of damaged tissue. According to a 2018 research article, reviewing the composition and functional properties of Propolis,
“The presence of bioavonoids, arginine, vitamin C, provitamin A, B complex along with some minerals possesses wound healing property and therefore enhances injury cure. Instead of individual component, there may be combined action, which leads propolis to have diverse biological performance.”
Due to its regenerating and healing properties Propolis is often used internally by people with gastrointestinal ulcers. Belostotskii and his colleagues described the healing gastric effects after administration of honey, royal jelly, and propolis in rats. According to a 2016 research article, Propolis may be effective against Helicobacter pylori regarded as one of the most frequent triggers of peptic ulcers:
“The nuisance of H. pylori resistance to antibiotics is on the increase, constituting a global public health problem… In conclusion, we think that regular consumption of propolis extract, which is rich in phenolic compounds, can contribute to a reduction in several forms of H. pylori-associated disease.”
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Animal studies demonstrated that Propolis may be beneficial in ulcerative colitis (mainly due to its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties), although clinical trials are required to proof the same efficacy and safety on human subjects.
Immune Booster & Modulator
Propolis helps maintain strong immune system also due to the fact that it is notable for its antioxidant properties. According to Vijay D. Wagh, “The antioxidants present in propolis play great role in its immunomodulatory properties. The flavonoids concentrated in propolis are powerful antioxidants.”
Due to its proven anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial properties Propolis can help prevent and shorten the duration of common respiratory diseases such as flu or cold. In one study a regular daily doses of propolis were given to a group of school children during the cold season. As a result the children treated with propolis had significantly fewer colds with acute or chronic symptoms.
According to the results of another trial, the group of adults on propolis extract became free of cold symptoms two and half times faster than the control group. It was reported that Propolis improves the cellular immune response by increasing mRNA for interferon-γ and activating the production of cytokines.
It is also important to emphasise the fact that Propolis contains an “intelligent” antibiotic, which means that unlike synthetic antibiotics, which kill all bacteria, Propolis actually seems to destroy only the bad ones leaving the beneficial probiotic bacteria untouched.
There are hundreds of articles based on medical research dealing with the abilities of Propolis not only to kill cancer cells but also inhibit DNA synthesis in cancer cells and induce apoptosis (programmed death of abnormal cells). Two propolis polyphenols in particular (Caffeic acid & Artepillin C) seem to have most potent anticancer properties. For instance, a 2016 study demonstrated propolis extract was able to significantly extend the survival of animals with tumours. According to the summery of the same study,
“It is evident that propolis extracts can be extremely useful in cancer treatment.”
Candida Albicans Overgrowth
Medical research showed Propolis was able to fight pathogenic yeasts called Candida albicans, effectively reducing their number and contributing to prevention and recovery from various problems and symptoms associated with candida overgrowth. According to a scientific review published in 2011 in the Journal of Medicinal Food, Propolis proved to have stronger antifungal properties than honey, bee pollen or royal jelly, and it was effective against 40 different yeast strains, including Candida.
Glutathione Booster & Liver-protective
Liver-protective activity is another possible benefit of the internal use of Propolis, as it proved to be effective against mercury-induced oxidative stress in mice liver. According to the study,
“Propolis inhibited lipid peroxidation and oxygenation of glutathione whereas increased glutathione level. Activity of antioxidants enzymes, that is, superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione S-transferase, and glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase, was also restored concomitantly toward control after propolis administration. Results suggest that Propolis augments the antioxidant defence against mercury-induced toxicity and provides evidence that it has therapeutic potential as hepatoprotective agent.”
According to a study published in Phytomedicine, Propolis can be more effective than a commonly used drug for treating genital herpes. 90 participants with genital herpes were divided into 3 groups and were on different treatments for 10 days. First group applied a propolis ointment, second used a herpes drug acyclovir, and the third group was applying a placebo ointment. All groups used ointments four times a day. At the end of the experiment, 14 out of 30 participants in the drug group, 24 out of 30 in the propolis group, and 12 out of 30 in the placebo group experienced recovery from genital herpes.
As expected, Propolis is also effective against common cold sores caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV).
A 2005 trial has demonstrated that Propolis may have significant antimicrobial activity in the treatment of periodontitis.
It was also shown that Propolis can be effective in fighting intestinal parasites; it improves fertility of females with endometriosis; it has demonstrated antidiabetic activity; and promoted dental health (due to its antibacterial properties).
Side Effects & Safety
Taken internally or applied to the skin Propolis seems to be safe except sometimes it may cause allergic reactions, particularly in individuals who are allergic to bees or bee products.
Do not use Propolis if you are allergic to bee products.
There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking Propolis by pregnant or breast-feeding women.
Although Propolis extract was studied and proved to be very beneficial in asthma management, yet in some asthmatics Propolis may make symptoms worse, probably due to possible allergic reaction.
Since certain chemical in Propolis may slow blood clotting, it is not recommended to use it internally by people with bleeding disorders as well as before and after surgery as Propolis may possibly increase the risk of bleeding.
Sforcin JM. (2007) Propolis and the immune system: a review. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Aug 15;113(1):1-14.
Vijay D. Wagh (2013) Propolis: A Wonder Bees Product and Its Pharmacological Potentials. Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2013; 2013: 308249. Published online 2013 Dec 9. doi: 10.1155/2013/308249
De Castro SL. (2001) Propolis: biological and pharmacological activities. Therapeutic uses of this bee-product. Annual Review of Biomedical Sciences. 2001;3:49–83.
Bankova VS, De Castro SL, Marcucci MC. (2000) Propolis: recent advances in chemistry and plant origin. Apidologie. 2000;31(1):3–15.
N. I. Belostotskii, V. I. Kasianenko, E. A. Dubtsova, and L. B. Lazebnik, “Influence of honey, royal jelly and propolis on accelerating acetate healing of experimental gastric ulcers in rats,” Experimental and Clinical Gastroenterology, vol. 6, pp. 46–50, 2009. View at Google Scholar
Nimet Baltas, Sengul Alpay Karaoglu, Cemre Tarakci & Sevgi Kolayli (2016) Effect of propolis in gastric disorders: inhibition studies on the growth of Helicobacter pylori and production of its urease. Pages 46-50 | Received 29 Mar 2016, Accepted 02 May 2016, Published online: 27 May 2016
N Vynograd, I Vynograd, Z Sosnowski (2000) A comparative multi-centre study of the efficacy of propolis, acyclovir and placebo in the treatment of genital herpes (HSV). Phytomedicine. 2000 Mar;7(1):1-6. PMID: 10782483
Syed Ishtiaq Anjuma, Amjad Ullaha, Khalid Ali Khan, et al (2018) Composition and functional properties of propolis (bee glue): A review. DOI: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2018.08.013
Magda Feres, Luciene Cristina Figueiredo, Ilizvania Maroly Quinderé Barreto, et al (2005) In vitro antimicrobial activity of plant extracts and propolis in saliva samples of healthy and periodontally-involved subjects. J Int Acad Periodontol. 2005 Jul;7(3):90-6. PMID: 16022025
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