I want to thank our Guest Blogger Amanda Plunkett author of this post Amazing Facts About Propolis
Honey bees, social insects that live in colonies with thousands of kin, collect various substances to contribute to the health of their society. Female foragers gather flower pollen, flower nectar, plant resins, and leaf guttation fluid.
Flower pollen changes into “bee bread” for storage through enzymatic fermentation with honey bee saliva and nectar. Flower nectar transforms into treasured golden honey through a similar, but much more extensive process.
Foragers enjoy leaf sap, guttation fluid, from the leaves of bushes and trees. Pollen and honey often receive the greatest glory for their uses by humans. Yet, propolis has also been extensively researched.
Propolis, often called “bee glue”, is the sticky material female foraging honey bees collect from leaves, flower buds, sap, resin, and other botanical sources. They mix such material with enzymes in their saliva which ferments the material after which they then blend it with beeswax for storage. Popular sources for propolis include trees such as poplar, pine, eucalyptus, oak, birch, and willow and bushes such as plumeria, rosemary, ragweed, and brittle bush.
The word “propolis” originates from the Greek “pro” (in defense or for) and “polis” (city). Thus, it translates as “in defense for city”, the honeybee city. Propolis protects as a sealant for unwanted gaps and spaces against invaders and aids thermoregulation of the hive.
Even though propolis has been used medicinally by ancient humans, protection of the honeybee city, through self medication with propolis, has only recently been discovered.
This sticky substance can frustrate beekeepers attempting to open a hive. Hoyt (1965) said that propolis “is the bane of a beekeeper’s existence”, and apiculturists have bred honeybee lines with reduced propolis production. Yet, increased honey and pollen stores have been found to be significantly and positively correlated with increased propolis production. In addition, increased propolis positively correlates to honeybee colony health.
Apitherapy, the science and art of prolonging, sustaining, and retaining health by using products obtained from honeybee hives, including propolis, has been extensively studied. Propolis is composed mainly of resin (50%), wax (30%), essential oils (10%), pollen (5%), and other organic compounds (5%). Propolis has been found to have antiseptic, antibacterial, antimycotic, astringent, spasmolytic, anti-inflammatory, anaesthetic, antioxidant, antitumoural, antifungal, antiulcer, anticancer, and immunomodulatory properties. However, its composition varies depending on the colony, season, and region as vegetation changes.
Recorded medicinal use dates back as far as Hippocrates who applied it for internal and external wounds and ulcers. Even sources from the twelfth century wrote of using propolis for oral infections. Recent studies report its use for inflammation, oral surgery, tooth decay, vaginal infections, cancer prevention, canker sores, and Giardiasis. As a matter of fact, in just the last 30 years, researchers around the world, attracted to its biological and pharmacological properties, have published over 2500 articles on Pubmed alone. Some ideas for use include ointments and creams in wound healing, treatment of burns, mouthwash for oral health, throat spray, and so much more.
Propolis has proven to be an effective antiviral in multiple studies. For example, in 2000, a study tested a propolis ointment, an antibiotic ointment, and a placebo ointment. The results showed that the antibiotic ointment and placebo ointment produced similar results in patients with genital herpes. However, the propolis far outperformed both by almost double. Another study in 2002 proved that a 5% propolis extract resulted in a 50% inhibition of HSV infection. In addition, in a single‐blind, randomized, 3‐months trial, 135 patients with different types of warts received oral Propolis, Echinacea, or placebo. In patients with plane and common warts treated with Propolis, cure was achieved in 75% and 73% of patients, respectively.
Topical propolis has also been shown in human studies to be a well-tolerated and successful therapy for diabetic foot ulcers when applied weekly, showing its effectiveness in wound care. It has also been found to be effective against Gram-positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus spp., and Streptococcus spp.
With so many uses for human and honeybee health and tied to increase honey production, what is not to love about this sticky powerhouse substance? Such a super food should not be frowned upon by beekeepers frustrated with opening their hives, but rather, beekeepers should view propolis as another valued product for bee and human health.
"These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."
- Chippenham Hospital Propolis Monograph https://chippenhammed.com/hl/?/21542/propolis
- Historical Aspects of Propolis Research in Modern Times https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3655583/
- Honey bee lines selected for high propolis production also have superior hygienic behavior and increased honey and pollen stores https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259588564_Honey_bee_lines_selected_for_high_propolis_production_also_have_superior_hygienic_behavior_and_increased_honey_and_pollen_stores
- Inside Honeybee Hives: Impact of Natural Propolis on the Ectoparasitic Mite Varroa destructor and Viruses https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5371943/
- Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly: A Comprehensive Review of Their Biological Actions and Health Benefits https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549483/
- VALUE-ADDED PRODUCTS FROM BEEKEEPING http://www.fao.org/docrep/w0076e/w0076e00.htm#con
- Propolis Counteracts Some Threats to Honey Bee Health https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/60500500/PDFFiles/501-600/561-Simone-Finstrom--Propolis%20Insects%20review.pdf
- Propolis and bee health: the natural history and signiﬁcance of resin use by honey bees https://link.springer.com/article/10.1051/apido/2010016
- Review Discusses Biological Properties and Therapeutic Actions of Propolis http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbclip/565/091641-565.html?ts=1530591296&signature=57f59cf8bc4210d316e450acb13b6a17
- A comparative multi-centre study of the efficacy of propolis, acyclovir and placebo in the treatment of genital herpes (HSV). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10782483
- Propolis: A Wonder Bees Product and Its Pharmacological Potentials https://www.hindawi.com/journals/aps/2013/308249/
- Anti-herpes simplex virus effect of an aqueous extract of propolis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12455181
- Topical application of the bee hive protectant propolis is well tolerated and improves human diabetic foot ulcer healing in a prospective feasibility study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25239451/
- Propolis as an alternative treatment for cutaneous warts https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-4632.2009.04184.x
- Propolis: Properties, Application, and Its Potential https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/807578/
- Does Propolis Help to Maintain Oral Health? https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/351062/