What comes to mind when you think of propolis? It may conjure up thoughts of honey, or bee pollen and there may be confusion over what it is.
Propolis is part of all things honey and connected to bees. Most people have heard about it but are not clear on how, or why, it may help improve health. This article will look at what propolis is, what the health benefits are, and what the science has to say about it.
Propolis is like a protective layer. You can think of it as a sealant, and it’s a natural resin made by bees. The bees make it because it serves a structural function.
The propolis is a protective thermal layer that surrounds a beehive.
It’s similar in function to insulation on the house, or even a layer of bricks. Without propolis, the hive wouldn’t last through the extreme cold variations that happen throughout the year.
Propolis can be thought of like caulking, and the bees will use it to fill in any cracks that occur in the hive.
Propolis is impressive, the bees make this natural resin and not only does it protect the hive; it protects the bees too. Besides keeping the hive at the ideal temperature to keep the bees alive, it keeps out the wind.
It also is water-resistant and keeps out the rain. Propolis has some antibacterial and antimicrobial properties too and keeps fungus and bacteria out of the hive.
Propolis is made up of:
- 45-55% plant resin
- 23-35% wax
- 5-10% essential and aromatic oil
- 5% pollen
- 5% of other natural products
Honey has been a part of mankind for eons, and the use of propolis is no different. The ancient Egyptians would use it as a natural antiseptic.
They would use it to disinfect wounds and treat infections and rashes. Propolis would also serve as one of the first embalming fluids.
The Egyptians would use it to conserve the bodies of their dead. They would also use propolis to treat things like ulcers and even sunburn.
The fantastic thing about bee products such as honey, propolis, and honeycomb is that they can last for thousands of years.
Because of its acidity, lack of water, and natural hydrogen peroxide, these things have an eternal shelf life.
Propolis can be found in most health and nutrition stores. We may also find it in pharmacies and health food shops.
Propolis comes in many forms, including topical solutions, tablets, capsules, and liquid extracts. It is inexpensive, and the liquid extracts last a long time as you only use a few drops at a time.
Many varieties and different brands can also be found on Amazon. When researching on Amazon, it helps to take some time and read the reviews. This will give you the best idea of what to expect.
When researching any product on Amazon, focus on the 3-star reviews. These provide more of an objective opinion and tend to reveal both pros and cons.
At the current time, there aren’t any FDA recommendations for how much you should take a day. Research continues, but some suggest that 70 milligrams per day may be beneficial.
People turn to propolis to booth their health, wellness, and vitality. The first significant feature of using it is to improve the immune system. With a stronger immune system, your body is better able to fight off diseases and infection. This feature is another reason people have been using it for centuries; it’s always been recognized as an immunomodulatory agent. (1)
Propolis can benefit your immune system as it is full of flavonoids and polyphenols. These properties have substantial antioxidant benefits along with anti-cancer benefits. In the bees themselves, the propolis in their system boosts their own immunity. This allows them to fight off any forms of bacteria. It’s the perfect combination as the organic propolis of the hive keeps out bacteria while the bees can also fight it. (2) (3)
In humans, the propolis can boost the immune system naturally because it’s full of bioactive compounds. These bioactive compounds help to increase the production and activity of your immune cells. (4)
Seeing how propolis benefits the immune system, what other health issues can it help with?
It can treat infections
Just like propolis can fight off bacteria in bees, it does the same in humans. It can destroy different bacteria – especially ones harmful to humans. It can do this as there have been over 100 different phytochemicals identified in it. Propolis helps to fight off diseases like (5) :
- Dental abscess
- Sore throats
Besides all the main compounds, propolis contains many secondary metabolites. These metabolites are responsible for different bioactivities, such as being antibacterial. If a condition has the term “itis” on end, there’s a good chance propolis can help combat it including (6) :
Possible anti-cancer benefits of propolis
Research has been conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute regarding the use of propolis in cancer patients. Their findings are encouraging as propolis may able to prevent cancer cell growth. It also shows promise in destroying existing cancer cells. This research is not yet confirmed but shows some hope and exciting promise. (7)
Bee products (honey, propolis, royal jelly) are found to have anti-cancer activity. This research has been done in vitro on a range of tumor cell lines. These lines include renal, prostate, bladder, lung, melanoma, mammary, and lymphoid. The bee products may be able to inhibit tumor growth through apoptosis and cell-cycle arrest. It’s these two functions that intrigue researches and will lead to future research. (8)
Healing and tissue regeneration
The ancient Egyptians had been using propolis to treat wounds and ulcers and turned out they were on to something. They weren’t sure why it could do this but turns out it’s because of the high flavonoid and amino acid content. Propolis is also great at curing dermatitis and can be used on burns. (9)
Propolis can do this as it also contains high amounts of pinocembrin. Pinocembrin is what helps make propolis such a great wound healer. One study found that using topical propolis can help burns heal faster in people who have suffered traumatic ones. It can do this as it speeds up new healthy cell growth. (10)
Other ways that propolis can heal:
- For healing things like a sore throat, you can make a natural mixture: add 4 to 5 drops of propolis extract to a cup of lukewarm water. Gargle this several times a day to help with the sore throat.
- To treat pimples, cuts, or skin blemishes, add 1 to 2 drops of the extract on to a bandage. Do this every time you change the bandage to get a new dosage. For direct pimple usage, apply 1 to 2 drops directly to the skin 4 to 5 times a day.
- Propolis can be made into a tea to help deal with coughs or phlegm. You’ll simply make your favorite type of tea and add 3 to 4 drops in. You can have a few cups through the day, and this may work best with green tea. Green tea also contains a high amount of polyphenols and antioxidants to help with healing. Green tea also contains a large amount of vitamin C to help get over the sickness.
- To deal with respiratory problems, boil some water, add a few drops of the extract, and breath in the vapor. This method can provide quick relief from any symptoms and improve breathing.
Before using propolis, it’s essential to test it for possible allergies. Like anything, the extract can cause some allergic issues. Use of it may lead to itching, swelling, redness, or even hives. If you’re unsure of where you stand when it comes to allergies, it’s best to first consult with your doctor. Doing a sensitivity test can allow you to see how you may respond to propolis. (11) (12)
To conduct a sensitivity test, apply two drops of propolis extract on your forearm and wait for 20 to 30 minutes. If nothing has happened to your skin, it shows that there isn’t a sensitivity. Any redness or itching that appears will reveal that it may be something to stay away from.
If you regularly consume honey, you would be exposed to some propolis. If you have an allergy to it, it might not be apparent since there is a small amount of it present in honey.
In case of a severe allergy to bees or honey, it is not advised to use it. Long term usage of propolis may also lead to allergies, so it’s something to monitor.
Conditions like asthma, or existing allergies, maybe a sign to not use propolis. The usual allergic reaction to it resembles a breakout similar to eczema. Again, checking with your doctor is paramount before using propolis, or any new supplement. (13) (14)
Propolis is the perfect example of using a natural supplement over a synthetic one. Instead of using pharmaceutical antifungals, or antimicrobials, why not use a native version without side effects?
Propolis shows a lot of potential for being an ideal way to improve your health and wellness.
We have used it for thousands of years and looks like science is finally catching up.