What is Propolis
Did you know that honey isn’t the only thing that bees make? Bee propolis is defined as a resinous mixture that honey bees produce by combining their own saliva and beeswax with exuded substances they collect from tree buds, sap flows and other botanical sources. Propolis color can vary depending on what the bee collects from nature to create it, but usually bee propolis is a shade of dark brown. Thousands of years ago, ancient civilizations used propolis for its medicinal properties. Greeks used it to treat abscesses. Assyrians put it on wounds and tumors to fight infection and help the healing process. Egyptians used it to embalm mummies.
Healing Compounds in propolis
Researchers have identified more than 300 compounds in propolis, including amino acids, coumarins, phenolic aldehydes, polyphenols, sequiterpene quinines and steroids. In general, raw propolis is made up of approximately 50 percent resins, 30 percent waxes, 10 percent essential oils, 5 percent pollen and 5 percent of various organic compounds. The majority of these compounds are forms of polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that fight disease and damage in the body. Specifically, propolis contains the polyphenols called flavonoids. Flavonoids are produced in plants as a form of protection.
What research says
Propolis is thought to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Propolis has a special compound called pinocembrin, a flavonoid that acts as an antifungal. These anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties make propolis helpful in wound healing. One study found that propolis can help people who have had traumatic burns heal faster by speeding up new healthy cell growth. Another study found that a topical propolis alcoholic extract was more effective than a steroid cream in reducing mast cells in oral surgery wounds. Mast cells are associated with inflammation and slowed wound healing.
Natural antibiotic. Bee propolis is a strong natural antibiotic with anti-inflammatory properties, useful for treating and managing respiratory infections such as colds, sinusitis etc. It is a highly effective immune booster as well, strengthening the body and improving the immune system response against infection and disease. Many people find it effective for preventing flus and colds.
Good for rheumatoid arthritis. Taking propolis can help reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain to a certain extent. Its anti-inflammatory action is a result of a varied content of antioxidants, notably the flavonoids naringenin and quercetin, but also caffeic acid and other derivates of cinnamic acid.
Fights Candida or candidiasis: This is an infection caused by Candida Albicans, a yeast-like fungus. This is the most common type of yeast infection found in the mouth, intestinal tract and vagina, and it may affect skin and other mucous membranes.
Upper respiratory tract infections. There is some early evidence that propolis might help prevent or reduce the duration of common colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.
Natural remedy for pharyngitis (sore throat). A sore throat is often a symptom of pharyngitis, an infection located in the back of the throat. Pharyngitis is extremely common among people of all ages and is caused either by a virus or a bacterium. Taking propolis in advance, when you experience the onset of symptoms can help prevent pharyngitis or better manage the symptoms and hurry recovery. Propolis tincture can help reduce inflammation of the back of the throat and encourage healing. Eating honey with propolis can help treat the pharyngitis altogether, although it is important to first see a doctor for a diagnosis.
Good for white spots on tonsils and throat. Taking propolis can help treat white spots on tonsils and throat because of its strong antibacterial action with reduces bacteria numbers and promotes healing. It can be taken alone, in combination with honey or used as a throat wash and can yield excellent results, clearing an infection in a matter of days.
Promotes oral health — Propolis contains antibacterial properties, which may be beneficial for combating gingivitis and other oral problems stemming from the abundance of bacteria in the mouth. In a 2011 study, patients were asked to use an alcohol-free propolis mouthwash after brushing. They showed significantly reduced plaque and gingival index after 45 days of using the mouthwash.
Canker sores. Early research shows that taking propolis by mouth daily for 6-13 months reduces canker sore outbreaks.
Cold sores. Early research shows that applying 3% propolis ointment five times daily might help improve healing time and reduce pain from cold sores
Supports skin health — Propolis is typically used in dermatological products due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It also assists in wound healing by reducing free radical activity in the skin and promoting collagen production.
Minor burns. Early research shows that applying propolis to the skin every 3 days might help treat minor burns and prevent infections.
Age spots and acne benefits. Topical preparations using the bee product are believed to help improve the appearance of age spots thanks to propolis being rich in potent antioxidants. Moreover, its strong antibacterial action makes it potentially effective for acne, reducing bacteria numbers and thus improving the condition.
Aids in gynecological health — A 2005 study shows that propolis may be used as an alternative option for chronic vaginitis. The patients were instructed to use a 5-percent propolis solution as a douche, with 79.5 percent of the patients improving after seven days.
Improves Fertility for Females with Endometriosis - A pilot randomized controlled trial looked at the effects of propolis supplementation on women with infertility and mild endometriosis.The researchers found that taking bee propolis at a dose of 500 milligrams twice a day for six months resulted in a pregnancy rate of 60 percent compared to only 20 percent in the placebo group
Fights parasites: giardia infection — Giardia is an intestinal infection caused by microscopic parasites. A 2006 study showed that propolis helped in stopping giardia growth and intestinal adherence, The researchers found that the propolis extract resulted in a 52 percent cure rate in children and a 60 percent elimination rate in adults.
Anticancer properties. Studies show propolis extracts have anticancer activity and can effectively stop cancer cell proliferation and tumor growth in mice.
Propolis: The latest weapon in the War on Cancer
Researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center, intrigued by propolis' anti-cancer potential, decided to look at one of its bioactive components, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), and its impact on human prostate cancer cells.
In cells grown in a lab, even small doses of CAPE slowed the growth of tumor cells. And when low oral doses were given to mice with prostate tumors, tumor growth slowed by 50 percent! What's more, feeding CAPE to mice daily caused the tumors to stop growing, although they returned when the CAPE was removed from their diets.
This suggests the propolis compound works by impacting signaling networks that control cancerous cell growth, rather than by killing the cells directly. However, there are at least four studies on propolis' apoptotic properties, indicating that technically it is capable of directly killing cancer cells, including prostate cancer, melanoma and more, as well.
This is not the first time propolis has shown promise in treating cancer. In 2009, propolis was found to suppress the growth of neurofibromatosis-associated tumors (tumors on nerve tissue) by blocking PAK1 signaling. Researchers noted:
"Since more than 70% of human cancers such as breast and prostate cancers require the kinase PAK1 for their growth, it is quite possible that GPE [green propolis extract] could be potentially useful for the treatment of these cancers, as is Bio 30 [a CAPE-based propolis extract].
Bee Propolis Precautions
People who are allergic to honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, conifer or poplar trees should not use propolis unless tested first by an allergy specialist. Propolis may increase the risk of bleeding in people who take blood-thinning medications or who have bleeding disorders. Since propolis may slow blood clotting, you stop taking propolis at least two weeks before any scheduled surgery. When it comes to parasitic infections like giardiasis, propolis should not be used as the only treatment for parasites without first consulting a physician.
If you have asthma, some experts advice avoiding propolis completely since it’s believed that some chemicals in propolis may make asthma worse. However, there has also been research that demonstrates helpful effects of propolis for asthmatics.
If you have asthma, speak with your doctor before taking propolis.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, check with your health care provider before taking propolis. If you have any ongoing health concerns or are taking any medications, check with your doctor before using propolis.