Propolis is by product of bee activity of producing honey. It is sticky substance mixed with plant resins and secretions from bee mandibular and wax glands. Propolis is used as sealant for beehive. Propolis is used to close bee hive cavities, provide stability, ward off microbial growth and prevent insects entering the hive. Propolis is dark brown in color and sticky substance.
Earliest records of Propolis use are found 2500 years ago. Ancient cave rock paintings shows that early men gathered honey and Propolis from wild. Tzori in Hebrew means Propolis. Tzori was used by ancient Jews for its medicinal properties and health benefits, as is mentioned in the Old Testament. The Greeks used propolis for making perfume polyanthus, which is combination of Propolis with black styrax and other aromatic herbs. Traditional folk medicines in Eastern Europe considered Propolis as herbal medicine and is the reason why Propolis is often termed as “Russian Penicillin”
Propolis today has wide medicinal and health benefits. Today it is available as dietary supplement and part of cosmetics, tooth pastes, creams and ointments.
Health benefits and medicinal uses of Propolis
Health benefits of Propolis include its use to treat wounds, burns and ulcers. It has antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties. It is recently found use in treatment of diabetes, breast cancer, oral care and other disorders. It would be interesting to read more benefits of this animal byproduct.
Propolis is used in treating wounds
It is known that Russian troops used Propolis to treat battle wounds in second world war. It has been traditionally used in treatment of various wounds and help in regeneration of tissues and quick recovery. Propolis show strong antioxidant activity and removal of free radicals in wounds. A study has found that free radical concentration in Propolis treated wounds were significantly lower than those treated with sulphar containing standard drugs. Another study pointed out its microorganic, regenerative and analgesic property which is helpful in treating burn wounds. Recently collagen based natural Propolis films are considered for its use as new wound dressing and tissue repairing material.
Bee balm for sores and ulcers
It is known that Hippocrates used health benefits of Bee propolis to heal sores and ulcers. Propolis is considered good in treating gastric ulcers. 17th century British pharmacopoeias, mention use of Propolis as ingredient of healing ointments.
Anti-microbial properties of Propolis
Earliest scientific studies on antibacterial property of Propolis are dated 1940. Propolis was found to have strong acitivity against Streptococcus, typhoid causing bacteria and other microbes. A study published in American Bee Journal reveals that Propolis was effective over 25 bacteria out of 39 tested in vitro.
Honey bee Propolis is also anti fungal and anti viral in nature. It finds use in treatment of various infections like urinary tract, bronchitis, gastritis, intestinal infections, skin disease, lung diseases, liver infections, conjunctivitis and others.
Anesthetic Properties of Propolis
Propolis is known to have local anesthetic action. Since 1950, Propolis extract is used in dental practice as local anesthesia.
Propolis boosts Immunity
Studies have found strong immunomodulatory property of Propolis. It boosts immune system and makes body resistant to microbial infections. Some studies show that people consuming Propolis supplements are less prone to common cold and sore throats.
Anti – Cancer properties of Propolis
Various phtyochemcials have been identified in Propolis which has use in prevention and cure of cancers. Especially, some Propolis has compounds which are similar to human sex hormone estrogen. Use of such Propolis can modulate body hormone functions and is considered useful in treatment of breast cancer.
Anti-oxidant properties of Bee balm
Propolis exhibit strong antioxidant property and help in removal of free radical from body which can cause harm to body organs. Animal studies have confirmed antioxidant and anti-inflammatory role for propolis. Antioxidant property of Propolis can be attributed to presence of flavonoids and phenols. These chemicals protect body cells from aging and prevent heart disorders, cancers, diabetes and brain disorders like Alzheimer disease.
Propolis can treat Allergy
While there are claims that Propolis can treat allergies, Propolis itself is known to have caused contact allergy and allergic contact dermatitis in bee keepers. Further research in this area is still needed.
Propolis in treatment of Diabetes
Studies have found that Propolis extract can reduce diabetics and body cholesterol through antioxidative action. Further Propolis can impact immune cells in body which shows its use in treatment of type II diabetes. A study found that supplement comprising of Chromium and Propolis can control blood glucose in diabetic patient and protect liver form diabetic injury. Further a control study found that Propolis can prevent diabetic osteopathy and treat diabetes mellitus. Study found remarkable effect on glucose metabolism and bone mineralization in body due to Propolis supplements.
Propolis for oral care
Initial uses of Propolis had been in oral health care. A 15th century Karabadini (Book of Medical Treatment) suggested benefits of Propolis in dental decay. It has been used in treatment of mouth ulcers. Research has found that antimicrobial property of Propolis can prevent dental caries and other oral diseases. Propolis has been used in treatment of oral inflammation in dental procedures and root canal treatment. Recent oral hygienic formulation include use of Propolis to remove dental plaque. Today Propolis is used as ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash. Propolis with its healing and regenerative property is used in dental pulp regeneration and treating post extraction complication and inflammation.
Propolis is Radioprotector
Studies have found that Propolis is radio protective in nature and reduces impact of radiation in body. An animal study found that rats fed with Propolis showed protection to irradiation better than ones not fed with Propolis. A study suggested that Propolis modulates ultra violate radiation signaling pathways in skin and protect body.
Propolis for women health
Propolis has been known to be estrogenic in nature and works similar to human hormone estrogen. Traditionally, it has been used in controlling milk secretion in women. Antifungal and antibacterial property of Propolis is helpful in treating chronic vaginal infection including vaginitis and cervicitis.
Anti-inflammatory property of propolis
Culpepper’s Complete Herbal refers to ointments of Propolis for inflammation and fever. Propolis is commercially sold in treating rheumatism and sprains. This can be attributed to its anti-inflammatory property in reducing body inflammation. It reduces joint pain and edema. Propolis also proved to be effective in the treatment of fever, common cold and chronic tonsillitis
How is Propolis used?
Propolis is available many forms like Propolis extract, Propolis tablets, Propolis capsules, Propolis ointments, Propolis tincture, Propolis cream, Propolis lotions, Propolis toothpaste, Propolis spray, and other Propolis cosmetics. Propolis is found in small quantities in raw honey. Propolis is used in making chewing gum, automobile wax and waxing wooden musical instrument.
Reference Books on Bee Propolis:
- User’s Guide to Propolis, Royal Jelly, Honey, & Bee Pollen by C. Leigh Broadhurst
Bee Propolis: Natural Healing from the Hive (Nature’s Remedies) by James Fearnley
Bee Pollen, Royal Jelly, Propolis and Honey (Woodland Health Series) by Rita Elkins
- Antibacterial properties of propolis (bee glue), Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine
- Historical Aspects of Propolis Research in Modern Times