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Propolis: A Wonder Bees Product and Its Health Benefits
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.
There are over 300 natural compounds found 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.
In ancient 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. Also modern medical research confirms propolis actually can speed up wound healing which is attributed to its ability to improve the regeneration of damaged tissue.
Due to its proven anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial properties Propolis can 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.
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.”
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 destroys 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 inducing apoptosis (programmed death of abnormal cells). Two propolis polyphenols in particular (Caffeic acid and 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.”
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 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.
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.”
It was also shown that Propolis can be effective in fighting intestinal parasites; it proved to be effective against Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections (cause of very common cold sores); it improves fertility of females with endometriosis; it has demonstrated antidiabetic activity; and promoted dental health (due to its antibacterial properties).
Written by Slawomir Gromadzki, MPH
- 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.
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