May 18, 2024

The Buzz about Propolis: Enhancing Health Naturally

What is Propolis?

Propolis is a resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax with exudate gathered from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources. Bees use propolis to seal small cracks and holes in their honeycombs and hives. The word propolis comes from Ancient Greek προ (pro) meaning “before,” and πόλις (polis) meaning “city.” So propolis means “protective material for the city” as bees view the beehive as their city. Propolis is sticky and produced by bees to help maintain a sterile environment within the beehive and protect the colony from pathogens. Its components provide antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Composition and Color

The constituents of propolis vary depending on the type of trees and plants available in surrounding areas from which bees gather resins. Propolis is primarily composed of resins (50%), wax (30%), essential oils (10%), pollen (5%) and other organic compounds (5%). Common resins include poplar buds, conifers and exudates from various plants. The essential oils mainly include terpenes such as cafestol, polyprenols and aromatic alcohols which contribute to its strong characteristic smell. Approximately 300 compounds have been identified in propolis. It varies in color from green to dark brown depending on the vegetation present in the area.

Health Benefits of Propolis

Propolis has been used traditionally in natural medicine due to its antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. Some key health benefits of propolis include:

Wound Healing: Propolis promotes wound healing by stimulating cellular repair and tissue regeneration. It helps disinfect wounds and control infection. The antimicrobial compounds in propolis protect against organisms causing wound infections.

Antimicrobial Action: Propolis is a powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal agent. Its ethanolic extracts are particularly effective against Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. Studies show propolis inhibits the growth of tuberculosis, herpes and flu viruses.

Anti-inflammatory Effects: Compounds like caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) in propolis have anti-inflammatory actions. They help reduce inflammation associated with arthritis, gingivitis, allergies etc by inhibiting activation of inflammatory mediators.

Antioxidant Activity: Propolis is a rich source of antioxidant flavonoids, phenolic acids and caffeic acid derivatives which prevent oxidative stress and cellular damage caused by free radicals. Studies show it has higher antioxidant activity than vitamins C and E.

Improves Immunity: Regular consumption of propolis enhances both innate and adaptive immune response. It stimulates macrophage and T cell activity along with immunity- boosting effects.

Dental Health: Propolis kills oral bacteria and prevents dental cavities. Its extracts are often included in mouthwashes and toothpastes for gum disease treatment and strengthening tooth enamel.

Safety and dosages

Propolis is generally well tolerated. But allergic reactions are possible in people sensitive to plant resins, balsams or pollen. Some potential side effects include nausea, diarrhea, stomach upset or skin rashes. It’s advisable to do a patch test before regular use. Therapeutic doses range between 100-300 mg daily. Topical propolis ointments and creams can be directly applied to wounds or inflamed areas as prescribed. Always consult a medical practitioner before using propolis supplements or remedies, especially if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Propolis in Traditional Medicine

Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used propolis for embalming purposes and to treat ulcers, lesions and burns. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses propolis extracts for antiviral, antimicrobial and antitumor therapy. It’s considered a Rasayana herb in Ayurveda to enhance health, memory and rejuvenate tissues. Amazonian tribes have used propolis for centuries to dress wounds, treat infections and heal dental caries.

Other Traditional Uses

Along with therapeutic properties, propolis has many other traditional uses as well:

– Wood finish: It’s mixed with oils to seal and polish wood, marbles and stone. The resulting varnish acts as a protective coat.

– Food preservative: Propolis acts as a natural preservative and is used to extend shelf life of fruits and some baked goods in certain cultures.

– Musical instruments: Instrument makers apply propolis lacquer to woodwind and string instruments for its protective resinous finish.

– Leather goods: Propolis mixtures help condition and waterproof leather goods like boots and saddles improving durability.

– Beekeeping: Beekeepers utilize propolis barrier strips at hive entrances to deter bees from straying and strengthening overall hive defenses.

In conclusion, propolis is a natural resinous compound produced by honeybees with powerful medicinal properties proven by scientific research. It acts as an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory boosting immunity. Propolis has a long history of traditional uses in complementary medicines especially for wound healing, dental care and strengthening non-specific immunity. However as with all supplements, propolis should be used under medical guidance and after ensuring there are no allergies to its constituents. More research is underway to develop standardized propolis extracts for mainstream clinical applications. Integrating propolis in our lifestyle holds promise for boosting health in a natural way.

 

 *Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it