What is propolis?
Did you know that honey isn’t the only thing bees make? Bees also produce a compound called propolis from the sap of conifers or evergreens. When they combine the sap with their own excrement and beeswax, they produce a sticky green-brown product that is used as an architectural paint their hives. This is propolis.
Thousands of years ago, ancient civilizations used propolis for its medicinal properties. The Greeks used it to treat abscesses. The Assyrians applied it to wounds and tumors to fight infection and aid the healing process. Egyptians used it to embalming mummies.
The composition of propolis can vary depending on the location of the bees and the trees and flowers they have access to. For example, propolis from Europe will not have the same chemical composition as propolis from Brazil. This can make it difficult for researchers to draw general conclusions about its health benefits.
Healing compounds in propolis
Researchers have identified more than 300 compounds in propolis. Most of these compounds are in the form of polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that fight disease and damage in the body.
Propolis in particular contains polyphenols called flavonoids. Flavonoids are produced in plants as a form of protection. They are commonly found in foods thought to have antioxidant properties, including:
fruits, green, tea, vegetables
What the research says
Propolis is thought to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. But scientific research on propolis is limited. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why, but bee products appear to offer protection against certain bacterial viruses and fungi.
Propolis contains a special compound called pine lignin, a flavonoid that acts as an antifungal agent. These anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties allow propolis to aid in wound healing. Propolis may help people with traumatic burns heal faster by speeding up new health, a study finds cell growth.
Another study found that topical propolis alcohol extract was more effective than a steroid cream in reducing mast cells in oral surgical wounds. Mast cells are associated with inflammation and slow wound healing.
Cold sores and genital herpes
Ointments with 3% propolis, such as Herstat or Coldsore-FX, may help speed healing time and reduce symptoms of cold sores and genital herpes sores.
One study found that when topical propolis was used 3 times a day, it healed cold sores faster than no treatment. Researchers have found that propolis cream not only reduces the amount of herpes virus in the body, it also protects the body from future cold sores breakthrough.
Propolis is also thought to play a role in the treatment of certain cancers. According to one study, some of the substance’s cancer-fighting effects include:
keeping cancerous cells from multiplying
Reduces the likelihood of cells becoming cancerous
Blocking a pathway that prevents cancer cells from sending signals to each other
The study also suggests that propolis may be a complementary, but not the only, treatment for cancer. Another study found that taking Chinese propolis may be a beneficial complementary therapy for breast cancer because of its anti-tumor effect on breast cancer cells.
There isn’t enough evidence to determine whether propolis products are safe, but they’re not considered high-risk. People usually ingest some propolis when they eat honey. However, if you are allergic to honey or bees, you may also be Propolis. Propolis long-term use may also cause its own allergic reactions.
Beekeepers are the people most likely to be allergic to propolis because they are often around the yard. A typical allergic reaction is eczema-like skin breakdown. Consult your doctor before adding propolis to your treatment plan, especially if you have allergies or asthma.