Various products derived from the beehive have been studied and propolis has proved to be a product having beneficial results for human health.
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.
Propolis (Pro-before, Polis-city = defense of the city), is the resinous substance that bees gather from the leaf buds of trees and certain vegetables. The bee gathers this and transforms it in order to disinfect the beehive, seal cracks, build panels, as well as using it as a microbiocidal agent, disinfectant and also for embalming intruders otherwise difficult to expel due to their size. The bees’ manufacturing and use of propolis reduces microbial growth on hive walls where combs are attached and controls airflow, maintaining a consistent humidity inside the hive. The antimicrobial properties of propolis protect the hive from viruses and bacteria. Researchers found that bees living in hives coated with propolis have lower bacteria in their body and also ‘quieter’ immune systems.
Like honey, the composition and health benefits of propolis will vary depending on the trees and flowers and the location where it is produced. You can find propolis in its raw form directly from a local beekeeper. It’s also in the “cappings” of honey – a crunchy mixture of pollen, propolis, and bees wax.
Propolis is also available without the honey. Extracts or tinctures of propolis are more convenient to use. They are popular for boosting the immune system, and for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-microbial properties.
You can also find propolis formulations for colds and flu-like symptoms, wound healing, acne, cold sores, genital herpes, and dermatitis. They are available as creams, ointments, lotions, toothpastes, and mouth washes.
However, if you have an allergy to honey or bees, you may also have a reaction to products containing propolis.
Due to the great number of active ingredients present, tincture (alcoholic extract) of propolis is well known and used for its therapeutic properties, principally for its stimulant action on the organism’s defense system. Notable amongst its properties are its antioxidant and anti-microbial action, its activity as a stimulant and its healing, analgesic, anesthetic and anti-inflammatory activity.
1. Anti-Microbial Action
Propolis has a wide range of antibacterial properties. It is also has anti-fungal and anti-viral proerties.
In children, propolis has been found to:
• Prevent respiratory tract infections
• Remedy symptoms of the common cold
• Prevent middle ear infections
2. Prevents Dental Cavities
• Greek and Roman physicians used propolis as mouth disinfectant. Modern studies show it may be effective in the treatment of periodontitis and gingivitis. Many studies have also found that extracts limit bacterial plaque and reduce tooth caries.
3. Treats Parasites
• Preliminary trials show propolis may eliminate parasites. In one study people who took propolis had a 52 to 60% success rate in eliminating the parasite giardiasis
4. Wart Removal
• In a single-blind, randomized, 3-month trial, 135 patients with different types of warts received oral propolis, echinacea, or a placebo. The results were reported in the International Journal of Dermatology. Patients with plane and common warts achieved a cure rate of 75% and 73%, respectively. The results were significantly better than those associated with echinacea or placebo.
• 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.
Studies are now showing that bee propolis has strong anti-influenza activity and you just might want to keep a bottle on hand for any future outbreaks. It might also be wise to take a low dose daily during the cold and flu season to boost immunity and prevent a nasty virus from taking hold.
According to the researchers, the compounds within propolis that demonstrate the anti-flu properties are called caffeoylquinic acids. One of these compounds, Caffeic Acid Phenethyl Ester or CAPE, has been shown in other studies to have many other health benefits related to immunity.