Bee Propolis - 6 Health Benefits of Propolis
Raw honey isn’t just one delicious goop of sweetness. In its natural form, honey exists in a comb in a beehive. It is the comb that holds thick the liquid honey that we all know and a few other elements, including something called bee propolis.
Bee propolis has been used since the middle ages. The ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks were well aware of its healing properties and used it extensively as medicine. However, it has only been in the last century that scientists have been able to identify its antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, anesthetic and healing properties. Advancement in science has enabled us to identify and extract over 200 components of propolis.
Bee propolis has been found to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. Clinical science has proven the effectiveness of bee propolis in the treatment of various ailments and diseases. Nevertheless, advice from the doctor is advisable before one consumes it or uses it for any kind of treatment.
What exactly is bee propolis?
No, it isn’t a bee’s version of a metropolis. The word “propolis” is derived from Greek. “Pro” means defense and “polis” means city or community. Bee propolis is, in fact, the third most important component found in bee products and it should not be confused with royal jelly.
Propolis is actually a kind of resinous substance produced by bees to seal the cracks in their beehive, to smoothen its inner surface and to create an antiseptic environment. Bees obtain resin from the buds of poplar, cone-bearing trees and various other types of plants. Royal jelly, on the other hand, is the “superfood” made specially for the queen bee and queen bee larvae to consume.
Other names that bee propolis goes by are bee glue, beeswax acid, propolis resin, propolis wax and synthetic beeswax. Its more scientific-sounding names are hive dross, russian , propolis balsam, propolis cera, acide de cire d'abeille, baume de propolis, cire d'abeille synthétique, cire de propolis, colle d'abeille, pénicilline russe, propóleos, propolis d'abeille and résine de propolis. Knowing these terms can be helpful for those who are allergic to bee products.
What does propolis contain?
Bee propolis consists mainly of resin (50%), wax (30%), essential oils (10%), pollen (5%) and other organic compounds (5%). What is valuable about bee propolis are the compounds found within, namely a range of flavonoids, phenolic acids and vitamins.
But what are flavonoids? It is just a fancy word for a class of antioxidants found in plants. Phenolics are compounds produced by plants to defend against stress. Both flavonoids and phenolics, found in most fruits and vegetables, have been attributed to many of the health benefits found in plant-based diets.
Vitamins found in bee propolis are B1, B2, B6, C, and E. Bee propolis also contains useful minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, copper, zinc, manganese and iron.
However, the composition of all these properties can vary according to the location where it is derived from because it depends on what trees and flowers bees have access to. For example, propolis from Europe won’t have the same chemical makeup as propolis from Brazil.
Benefits of bee propolis
1. Boosts the immune system
Since bee propolis has natural antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, it inadvertently helps to boost the immune system. This also makes propolis a great first line of defense against any mild illnesses or sore throats that creep up.
2. Helps to heal wounds
It has been known for a long time that bee propolis and its extracts have a positive effect on tissue regeneration. In addition to that, propolis has anti-inflammatory properties which helps wounds to heal faster. That is why bee propolis has been incorporated in some creams for the treatment of burns, sores or cuts.
3. Expedites muscle and bone recovery
In fact, Polish researchers have shown that application of extracts of propolis promotes the healing processes in damaged cartilage as well as reduces inflammatory and degenerative processes. This means faster recovery from injuries and ailments involving bones, muscles or joints.
4. Acts against fungal infections
Bee propolis contains antifungal properties. Small clinical trials have shown that it is useful for the treatment of fungal foot infections.
5. Slows down aging
As mentioned earlier, bee propolis is rich in flavonoids and phenolics. These compounds are powerful antioxidants. Any beauty fanatic would know that antioxidants fight against free radicals which can extensively interfere with normal cell metabolism. They thereby protect lipids and other compounds such as vitamin C from being oxidized or destroyed.
Simply put, the antioxidant properties in propolis helps to delay the aging process. For this reason alone, more and more skin-care products are beginning to include propolis as part of their ingredients.
6. Aids treatment of certain cancers
Bee propolis is not a be-all and end-all for the treatment of all types of cancer. However, pre-clinical studies have shown its positive anti-cancer effects on certain types of cancer. However, it is best to check with your doctor if you are a cancer patient before you douse your body in propolis supplements.
There are many parties touting the miraculous effectiveness of bee propolis on a long list of ailments. These claims, however, are yet to be sufficiently proven by scientific research. In general though, bee propolis undeniably has antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
How often should you eat bee propolis?
Each person’s body is unique with its own tolerance or intolerance to all sorts of things. Therefore, it is important to note that like any bee product, propolis can cause an allergic reaction in anyone with an allergy to bees or bee products. That is why it is always best to check with a doctor before taking bee propolis
Since bee propolis is derived from plant resin, people who are also allergic to conifers, poplars, Peru balsam and salicylates should avoid taking it. Propolis may slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders or during surgery. Those with asthma should also be cautious about ingesting or using bee propolis.
When to Avoid Propolis
Pregnant or nursing mothers should also consult with their doctors before ingesting or using products containing bee propolis. The same goes with those who are taking blood thinners as medication.
Can propolis be found in honey?
Certain kinds of honey, not all honey, contain a small amount of propolis. As with any kind of honey, heat can destroy its healing qualities. Therefore, if you wish to benefit from propolis or any special properties of honey, stick to raw honey which is unfiltered and unpasteurized.When you consume it, make sure not to expose it to heat.
What’s the right dosage of application on the skin?
The doses that have been studied in scientific research are:
- For cold sores – a 3% propolis ointment (Herstat or ColdSore-FX) applied 5 times daily
- For herpes outbreak – a 3% propolis ointment (Herstat or ColdSore-FX) applied to the blisters 4 times daily
- As a mouth rinse after mouth surgery – a solution containing propolis, water, and alcohol
How do you take bee propolis?
Bee propolis comes in a wide range of forms now as a supplement. They can be in their raw, dehydrated form in chunks, powder or granulated form. Some are produced in capsules, some are in the form of sprays while others are in liquid form called tinctures.
There are two types of tinctures on the market - one type mixed with alcohol and another type mixed with water. Since the content is already in a diluted liquid form, you simply squeeze the recommended number of drops into the back of your throat and swallow.
Sprays are now available for the treatment of sore throats, scratchy throats or runny noses. Mothers seem to swear by these especially for treating fussy children who refuse to swallow a pill or thick liquid.
Propolis in its raw form, whether in chunks or granules, is probably the best form since it is unprocessed and 100% pure. However, they are a little harder to consume since you’ll have to chew them. And because propolis is a dark brown substance, it might stain your teeth.
How do I find high quality propolis?
If you are already a beekeeper, you’ll benefit from the entire range of contents in honey, including propolis. However, if you aren’t one, there are now some great natural sources of propolis that taste good and work great. Raw honey naturally contains small amounts of propolis so it is great to have some around the house. But if you want a more concentrated form, you can buy them from a reliable source, like Nature’s Farm but make sure they are approved by the right health authorities.
Healthline. 2020. The Benefits and Uses of Propolis. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/propolis-an-ancient-healer#where-to-buy [Accessed 5 June 2020].
NCBI. 2020. Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly: A Comprehensive Review of Their Biological Actions and Health Benefits. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549483/ [Accessed 5 June 2020].
Hindawi. 2020. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. [online] Available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/964149/ [Accessed 5 June 2020].
Rxlist. 2020. Propolis. [online] Available at: https://www.rxlist.com/propolis/supplements.htm [Accessed 5 June 2020].
BeeBuzz. 2020. How to Take Bee Propolis. [online] Available at: https://www.bee-pollen-buzz.com/how-to-take-bee-propolis.html [Accessed 5 June 2020].
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 2020. Propolis. [online] Available at: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/propolis [Accessed 5 June 2020].
Hyumi is a certified nutritionist under the Singapore Nutrition & Dietetic Association (SNDA), she has 8 years of professional experiences in providing health consultations & advice for clients and corporates alike, all the while researching & developing new functional ingredients for better formulation. Hyumi obtained her Degree in Food Sciences & Nutrition from University Malaysia Sabah
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