What is Propolis?
As well as giving us delicious and healthy products like honey not to mention royal jelly, bees also produce a less well-known but incredibly healthy product known as propolis. It is effectively a sticky bee glue derived from tree resin and used by bees to bind their hives together and also to keep out unwanted fungi and microbes.
While bees might have a more practical use for propolis, we can also benefit from its amazing health benefits including its remarkable antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. While the health benefits of propolis might be relatively new to many of us, it has been used for thousands of years by a variety of cultures around the world.
The Greeks used it to heal abscesses, the Assyrians used it in wound healing and to prevent infection and the ancient Egyptians used it in the embalmment process. There has been a growing amount of research into the therapeutic activity of propolis and it is becoming increasingly clear that this previously overlooked bee goo is too good to ignore.
Health Benefits of Propolis
1. To prevent infection
Like honey, not all propolis is created equal; the potency of its antimicrobial properties can depend on geography. Manuka propolis grown sourced from bees in New Zealand is thought to be especially therapeutic much like manuka honey which you can read about here.
While there may be some differences based on geography, propolis is believed to be universally beneficial when it comes to preventing infection which seems to be linked to its flavonoid composition.
2. Heals Burns
Researchers have discovered the ability of propolis to help heal damage caused by minor burns. One study examining the effect of Brazilian propolis found that it was equally, if not more effective than commonly prescribed burn creams. Another study published in 2002 demonstrated similar results when comparing propolis to sulfadiazine, a drug commonly prescribed to treat minor burns. (1)
3. Dental Cavities and gingivitis
The connection between good dental health and overall physical and mental wellbeing is very well known and as a person that has suffered his fair share of dental complaints the link is very apparent.
The Greeks and the Romans used propolis as an oral disinfectant and modern research has demonstrated that it may be an effective treatment for periodontitis as well as gingivitis. Other studies also illustrate that propolis might be able to reduce bacterial plaque and tooth cavities. (2) And what is more, propolis might also be able to regenerate dental bone tissue, cartilage and dental pulp. Some natural toothpastes, like Tom’s, make use of Propolis as an ingredient.
4. A natural antibiotic
The overuse of antibiotic medication which is something I see even more in my part of the world in Thailand is a real concern. There is an ever increasing resistance to antibiotics and the search is on for an answer in nature. Researchers have concluded that propolis has effective natural antibiotic ability and acidic compounds isolated from the product have demonstrable effect against a variety of bacteria including staphylococcus. (3)
Anybody who has experienced warts will know how stubborn they can be and with medical treatment often proving invasive, a natural wart removal treatment is certainly desirable. A study published in the International Journal of Dermatology demonstrated that propolis might be just such a natural remedy.
Over a 3 month trial period 135 subjects with various kinds of warts were treated with echinacea, propolis or a placebo and the results were very encouraging. Those treated with propolis demonstrated significantly better healing results than those given Echinacea or the placebo. (4)
6. Genital herpes
Studies have also demonstrated that propolis might be a very effective natural treatment for genital herpes and genital cold sores. According to one recent study which was published by Phytomedicine it is actually more effective than acyclovir, a commonly prescribed genital herpes drug.
Over the 10 day duration of the trial, 90 patients both male and female were separated into 3 groups and treated with a propolis ointment, acyclovir or a placebo. Although the study was on a relatively small scale, the results were promising and by the end of the experiment 24 of the 30 patients treated with propolis had healed. This result compared very favorably with the acyclovir group, 12 of whom had healed by the end. (5)
7. Fungal Infections
Candida albicans is a fungal infection which commonly affects the genitals and oral areas and is characterized by an overgrowth of yeast. Researchers who analyzed the efficacy of treating candida with propolis found that it may inhibit the growth of the infection as well as stimulating immune system response. (6)
Propolis can inhibit the enzymes that cause an increase in blood sugar levels according to research. Type 2 diabetes is a growing problem in many countries which affects millions of people and the early results are promising that propolis offers a natural alternative to insulin injections and other prescription medications. Researchers believe that the antioxidant compounds found in abundance in propolis is the reason that it can stabilize blood sugar levels and we can expect more research in the future.
9. Ear Infections
A compound present in propolis called caffeic acid has been proven effective in treating middle ear infection which can lead to temporary loss of hearing. Propolis eases inflammation within the ear and according to research offers real hope of a natural treatment. (7)
Endometriosis is a condition which causes the tissue lining which lines the uterus to grow into other organs of the body. The resulting symptoms are unpleasant and include fatigue, bowel complaints and even infertility. There is some evidence that propolis can help women suffering from this condition and one study demonstrated that it could even help boost fertility. 60% of subjects treated with propolis became pregnant compared with only 20% in the placebo group. (8)
11. Canker sores
By applying a few drops of propolis tincture to canker sores, you can experience effective and quick pain relief according to many sufferers. This is a safe and effective remedy that you can repeat several times a day.
Assyrians traditionally used propolis to inhibit the growth of tumors and research suggests that there may be some evidence to support this use. Compounds present in propolis have demonstrated an ability to inhibit cancer cell growth in both prostate and cervical cancer. While this research is at an early stage, other studies have found that Brazilian and Cuban propolis can hamper the growth of cancer cells. (9)
13. Recurrent aphtous stomatitis
This is a common and painful ulcerative disorder of the oral cavity with no known medical cure but according to one study there may be hope in the form of propolis. The results of a randomized double blind study demonstrated that those treated with 500 mg of propolis daily experienced significantly reduced RAS outbreaks compared to the placebo group as well as fewer recurrences and improved quality of life. (10)
14. Other Benefits
There are far too many benefits of propolis to go into in too much detail but according to experts it is also good for bones, might help stabilize blood pressure and give you a boost of energy.
Propolis is readily available in a variety of forms.
- It is available in a propolis-raw honey blend and can be eaten direct from the jar or added to your juice or smoothie mixtures. Half a teaspoon twice a day is recommended but there are no known side effects to larger doses.
- It is available as a propolis tincture-you can swallow it by mixing 5 drops into a small quantity of honey 3 times a day.
- Propolis capsules are also available and are very convenient for many people but obviously they cannot be used topically.