Propolis: What Is It?
What is propolis and why should you consider using it? The simplest bee propolis definition states that it is a resinous substance made by bees to seal up small cracks and holes in the bee hive. Bees gather resin from trees and combine it with saliva enzymes and beeswax to make propolis. Also known as bee glue, the chemical composition of bee propolis is 50% resin, 30% waxes, 10% essential oils, 5% pollen, and 5% other organic compounds and minerals.1
Raw propolis is brittle and hard, and becomes soft, sticky, and flexible when heated. It ranges in colour from pale yellow-green propolis to red to brown, depending on how old it is and where it’s found. Since ancient times, propolis has been used medicinally to treat many ailments, such as healing wounds and as an antiseptic.2
Research shows that bee propolis has many benefits and today, propolis is used in different forms to treat a variety of health conditions. Propolis is also used as an ingredient in cosmetics and as a food supplement. 1,2,
The top bee propolis benefits include:
- Improve Allergy Symptoms
- Protect and Regenerate Skin
- Help Manage Diabetes
- Defend Against Parasites & Harmful Microbes
- Improve Cold Symptoms
- Fights Candida Infection
- Anti-Cancer Properties
- Prevent Cavities & Gum Disease
- Heal Wounds
Bee propolis is used to treat a variety of health concerns, and is also used in many cosmetic and beauty products. One reason for the wide popularity is that one of the key elements in propolis is flavonoids. Propolis flavonoids are beneficial for their antioxidative, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, Brazilian green propolis is used as an anti-inflammatory in the treatment of infection. Based on scientific studies, the following top health benefits of bee propolis are explained.3,4
1. Propolis Acne Treatment
Bee propolis’ natural antibiotic activity can help in the treatment of acne and other skin diseases. Used as a topical ointment, the anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties found in propolis help to reduce acne lesions.5,6
2. Propolis Herpes Relief
Bee propolis for cold sores is effective as it prohibits the growth of microorganisms found in the herpes virus and can speed up healing. As for bee propolis and herpes, treatment is also shown to be effective against advanced genital herpes infections.2,7
3. Bee Propolis and Endometriosis
This is one of the most interesting benefits of propolis. Of the many things you can use propolis for, fertility may be the most surprising. Research shows that taking a propolis supplement can increase pregnancy results by combating mild endometriosis. Endometriosis has been linked to infertility, and may be treated using the anti-inflammatory properties found in bee propolis.8
4. Bee Propolis for Allergies
People who have allergies could benefit from propolis as it may help to relieve some allergy symptoms. Research results show that propolis may inhibit the release of histamines. Too much histamine produced and stored in your system causes histamine intolerance, and is what makes your nose run and causes you to sneeze.2
5. Bee Propolis Skin Care Benefits
Bee propolis is used in a variety of skin care products. Studies show that it may be able to maintain and restore skin structure. As well, the antioxidant action found in propolis can help to protect the skin from free radicals. Further research indicates that propolis acts as a radioprotector and may help to stimulate the regeneration of skin cells.4
6. Propolis for Diabetes
Oxidative stress can be one of the causes of diabetes, which affects people of all ages. Bee propolis has antioxidant properties that may inhibit those enzymes that cause an increase in blood sugar.1,2
7. Propolis for Parasites
Bee propolis may play a defensive role against parasites, which are often found in the small intestine. Propolis can stimulate anti-protozoan activity which may also protect against malaria and other infections, such as some STDs caused by protozoan parasites.1,9 Using bee propolis for parasites offers an alternative to doing a parasite-cleanse.
8. Improve Cold Symptoms with Propolis
There is evidence that bee propolis can prevent the common cold or shorten the duration. Propolis may also be beneficial in treating flu viruses and upper respiratory tract infections which are typical with colds and flu.2,10
9. Candida Relief with Propolis
Candida can occur when there is an over-growth of yeast. It typically affects the mouth, genitals and intestinal tract. Studies show that propolis may stimulate those cells in the body that work against candida and help to boost the immune system. It may also have anti-fungal effects which can fight candida.10,11
10. Propolis Has Anti-Cancer Properties
Bee propolis may inhibit cancer cell growth. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may protect against cell degradation. As well, research shows that nymphaeol-A, one of the components in propolis, may help prevent the growth of some tumors.4,12
11. Propolis and Dental Care
Using bee propolis in dentistry is becoming more popular, as studies indicate that propolis’ anti-bacterial properties may inhibit the bacteria and enzymes that can cause cavities. Using propolis toothpaste may help to prevent cavities and fight against gingivitis.4,10,13
12. Propolis for Healing Wounds
Propolis has shown to be effective in healing wounds. Research shows that Brazilian propolis proved to have antimicrobial properties, making it a promising natural agent to help speed the healing of wounds.4
Considering how beneficial bee propolis is for a number of different conditions, the next question is how to use propolis? Propolis comes in a variety of forms. If you’re taking propolis internally, your best options are extracts, tinctures, sprays, and capsules. For external treatment, ointments and creams can be applied directly onto the affected area. Propolis eye drops are another way to use propolis. Eye drops are marketed as a way to strengthen your eyes and protect them from the effects of aging. For each form of propolis, refer to individual products for dosage amounts and directions.
How to Use Propolis Ointment
Propolis cream for skin conditions, and propolis ointment for genital herpes, are applied directly to the skin several times a day. Both ointment and cream will help to improve healing time and relieve pain.
How to Use Propolis Extract and Tinctures
Bee propolis extract and propolis tincture are mixed with either alcohol, glycerin, or water. Extracts are made by using 1 part propolis with an equal part of liquid. Tinctures are made of 1 part propolis with 3 parts of liquid. For oral treatment using propolis, extracts and tinctures may be taken right from the dropper or added to any food that is consumed.
How to Use Propolis Spray
Propolis throat spray can be sprayed directly into the mouth to relieve both mouth and throat infections. As well, bee propolis spray is available as a nasal spray to help treat nasal conditions, such as sinusitis.
How to Use Propolis Capsules
Propolis supplement capsules are convenient and easy to take. Each capsule will contain propolis powder of a certain dosage depending on what condition you’re treating. If you’re treating a serious condition, higher doses of propolis are available.
Bee Propolis Side Effects
Numerous studies indicate that bee propolis is safe to use. A propolis allergy may occur and those people with allergies may experience some side effects, particularly those people who are allergic to bees.
People who are taking blood thinners should not use propolis, as it may increase the risk of bleeding. As well, you should stop taking propolis at least two weeks before any scheduled surgery.
Lozenges with propolis may cause some irritation to the throat.
When using any ointment with propolis, be sure to do a patch test on the skin before applying the ointment to the affected area.
As there has been very little research done, bee propolis during pregnancy and breastfeeding should be avoided until after consulting with a doctor.
Propolis is safe for children to take, however propolis for babies should be given with caution and at the advice of a health care professional.
Difference Between Bee Pollen and Bee Propolis
Bee pollen is not manufactured by bees, but rather is collected by bees from flowers and then brought back to the hive. It is high in vitamins, amino acids, proteins and carbohydrates, and has been traditionally used as an energy source and for anti-aging.15 Bees gather resin from trees and combine it with saliva enzymes and beeswax to make propolis. It is typically used for its anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.1,
Where to Buy Propolis
Due to its recent popularity, propolis can be purchased easily online, at most health food stores, and big chain stores including Walgreens, CVS, and Wal-Mart. To get the best propolis product, always buy from a reputable supplier to ensure high quality.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Silva-Carvalho, R. & Baltazar, F. (2015) Propolis: A Complex Natural Product with a Plethora of Biological Activities That Can Be Explored for Drug Development. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015: 206439. doi: 1155/2015/206439
- Wagh, VD. (2013) Propolis: A Wonder Bees Product and Its Pharmacological Potentials. Adv Pharmacol. 2013: 308248. doi: 1155/2013/308249
- Panche, AN. & Diwan, AD. (2016) Flavonoids: an overview. J Nutr Sci. 5: e47. doi: 1017/jns.2016.41
- Krol, W. & Bankova, V. (2013) Propolis: Properties, Application, and Its Potential. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2013, Article ID 807578, 2 pages. Retrieved on December 11, 2017 http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/807578
- Mohammad-Ali, BM. & Ghoname, NF. (2015) Significance of topical propolis in the treatment of facial acne vulgaris. Volume 35, Issue 1: pp 39-36. Retrieved on December 11, 2017 from http://www.ejdv.eg.net/article.asp?issn=1110-6530;year=2015;volume=35;issue=1;spage=29;epage=36;aulast=Mohammad
- Sung, SH. & Choi, GH. (2017) External Use of Propolis for Oral, Skin, and Genital Diseases: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. 2017: 8025752. doi: 1155/2017/8025752
- Coelho, GR. & Mendonca, RZ. (2015) Antiviral Action of Hydromethanolic Extract of Geopropolis from Scaptotrigona postica against Antiherpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1). Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015: 296086. doi: 1155/2015/296086
- Ali, FM. & Awadallah, A. (2003) Bee propolis versus placebo in the treatment of infertility associated with minimal or mild endometriosis: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Ain Shams Univ. Volume 80, Supplement 3: p32. Retrieved on December 11, 2017 from http://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(03)01886-7/fulltext
- Coelho, GR. & Mendonca, RZ. (2011) Is propolis safe as an alternative medicine. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 3(4): 479-495. doi: 4103/0975-7406.90101
- Bruno, G. (2005) Bee Pollen, Propolis & Royal Jelly. Huntington College of Health Sciences. Retrieved on December 11, 2017 from – View Reference
- Al-Waili, N. & Al-Ghamdi, A. (2012) Synergistic effects of honey and propolis toward drug multi-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Candida albicans isolates in single and polymicrobial cultures. Int J Med Sci. 9(9): 793-800. Retrieved on December 11, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23136543
- Frozza, C. & Garcia, C, (2012) Chemical characterization, antioxidant and cytotoxic activities of Brazilian red propolis. Food and Chemical Toxicology. Volume 52: pp137-142. Retrieved on December 11, 2017 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512008204?via%3Dihub
- Tanasiewicz, M. & Skucha-Nowak, M. (2012) Influence of hygienic preparations with a 3% content of ethanol extract of Brazilian propolis on the state of the oral cavity. Adv Clin Exp Med. (1): 81-92. Retrieved on December 11, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23214304
- Wang, G., Tokushige, N., Markham, R., & Fraser, I. S. (2009). Rich innervation of deep infiltrating endometriosis. Human Reproduction, 24(4), 827-834. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/den464
- Carpes, S. T., Begnini, R., Alencar, S. M. D., & Masson, M. L. (2007). Study of preparations of bee pollen extracts, antioxidant and antibacterial activity. Ciência e agrotecnologia, 31(6), 1818-1825. Retrieved December 12, 2017 from http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1413-70542007000600032&script=sci_arttext