Propolis is a resin that is collected by bees from various parts of plants including buds and exudates. It is mixed with enzymes, wax, and pollen and it also contains essential oils, as well as other organic compounds including flavonoids and fatty acids. It is rich in minerals and contains magnesium, copper, zinc and iron, as well as B vitamins, and fat soluble vitamins A, D and E. However, the exact make-up and composition of propolis will differ depending on its plant sources and where geographically it originated.
Propolis is hard and solid when it is cold, but when warmed, it is soft, flexible and sticky. Bees use propolis on their hives for many reasons, including:
• As a defense mechanism, to defend themselves against potential predators and microorganisms.
• As ‘hive glue’, to repair any damage to their hives.
• As insulation, to maintain a regular internal temperature.
Propolis is not a new discovery to human civilisation, it has been used for centuries, dating back to the Ancient Egyptians. It was used during the mummification process of corpses to prevent the spread of infection. Ancient Greeks and Romans also used propolis as an antiseptic agent during wound care, and for oral hygiene purposes.
Studies have demonstrated the medicinal benefits of various different types propolis, which includes the antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory properties it possesses.
Despite its many therapeutic actions, propolis is most studied as an antimicrobial. It has the ability to enhance the efficacy of certain antibiotics in killing off bacteria. Brazilian propolis is beneficial as an antifungal, as it is effective against strains of Candida spp., including those resistant to antifungal agents (fluconazole). Additionally, it was also shown to inhibit the formation of biofilm by Candida albicans. Biofilm is a matrix that microorganisms form around themselves as a means of protection, they are able to survive within this biofilm matrix.
The uses of propolis vary greatly and include all sorts of ailments and conditions, such as:
• Sore throats, tonsillitis and infections of the oral cavity
• Respiratory infections
• Ear infections
• Sinus infections
• Fungal infections
Propolis is a natural product which has upheld its popularity for a long period of time. It possesses a range of compounds which may be beneficial in various conditions. It has a good safety profile, however if you are allergic or sensitive to any bee products, it should be avoided.
Note that this is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Please seek advice from your healthcare professional if you have any other questions or queries regarding a medical condition.
Silva-Carvalho R, Baltazar F, Almeida-Aguiar C, 2015, ‘Propolis: A Complex Natural Product with a Plethora of Biological Activities That Can Be Explored for Drug Development’, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, pg. 29
Kimberly Kushner BHSc (Nutritional Medicine), BHSc (Naturopathy) is a clinical nutritionist and naturopath who aims to provide you with the finest holistic health care. Her approach in assisting you to optimal health is practical, compassionate, empathic, and scientific. Kimberly treats acute and chronic health conditions and her main areas of expertise include, but are not limited to: reproductive health (women’s and men’s), digestive complaints, food allergies, healthy weight management, detoxification, and more.