Bee Propolis


Bee Propolis Introduction

Commonly referenced as: Bee Propolis and Bee Glue

Propolis is the end result of the mixing of beehive wax with a resinous substance obtained from poplar and conifer buds of various bark trees. In nature, propolis is critical for the construction, health, and structural integrity of beehives. It helps to seal the honey producing insect’s environment from viruses, bacteria, and other harmful organisms.

Realizing this, scientists and other health advocates began to target the possible benefits of propolis on human health. It was only a matter of time until propolis was marketed in lozenges, toothpastes, lipsticks, and even as a wood varnish. Propolis was even classified as a drug in 17th century England. Today, propolis is now seen as a beneficial natural food supplement.

Propolis’s chemical structure is quite complex. Its composition varies and is dependant upon the location and types of plant species used for collection and processing. The unique chemical constituents of propolis include; terpenes, potent flavonoids, and benzoic caffeic, cinnamic, and phenolic acids. Many of the benefits attributed to this natural food supplement are the direct result of its flavonoid conent. [1] Current medical research, however, has targeted another beneficial compound for the treatment of a variety of physical disorders - caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE).

Medicinal properties ascribed to propolis supplementation:

  • antimicrobial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antibacterial
  • antifungal
  • antiviral
  • anticarcinogenic
  • antioxidant properties

Bee Propolis Food Sources

Propolis is available in several different preparations. Its most popular forms of delivery include liquid extracts, capsules, and tablets. Topical products such as creams and ointments are also available. The absorption, potency, and effectiveness of these forms of supplemental propolis are, however, often questioned. Propolis has also been included in many throat lozenge, toothpaste, and cough syrup products with varying success.

Bee Propolis Uses

Propolis originates from the Greek words “pro,” meaning before, and “polis,” meaning city. The Greek civilization believed that bees used this waxy substance to defend their “polis” against harmful microorganisms. The earliest historical record of propolis supplementation dates back to the time of Hippocrates, the professed “father of medicine.” Hippocrates used bee propolis for a variety of ailments, including ulcers and in the treatment of wounds. In fact, it was so effective as a salve that is was standard practice to use propolis to treat wounds during ancient wars.

Today, scientists still marvel at the therapeutic implications of this natural food supplement. In certain mammalian studies, propolis has shown great promise as an effective anticarcinogenic nutrient. Scientists speculate that the caffeic acid esters of propolis may yield anti-tumor activity. One particular study reported that the caffeic acids in propolis prevented precancerous tissues from maturing, while inhibiting azoxymethane-induced colonic tumors. [2] This finding is of great importance, as some 60,000 Americans fall victim to this type of cancer annually.

Despite the continued success of supplemental propolis in cancer research, its most noteworthy property may be its value as a powerful natural antibiotic. [3] Polyisoprenylated benzophenone, galangin, pinobanksin, and pinocembrin are all compounds found in propolis, and each has shown to possess significant antibacterial and antiviral properties. Studies have shown that propolis extracts consisting of sinapic, isoferulic, and caffeic acids, inhibit the growth of the deadly bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, and provided for an increased synergistic effect on the anti-staph activity of two separate antibiotics. [4, 5]

The mechanisms repsonsible for the development of the common cold may also be directly influenced by propolis extracts. [6] Preliminary studies have targeted school children as the medium, to determine the fluctuations in occurrence and duration of upper respiratory infections when supplementing with bee propolis. One particular double-blind study incorporated nearly 50 individuals, all of whom were given either aqueous propolis extract or placebo pills. The test group receiving the extract became symptom-free in far less time compared to persons given placebo. [7]

Propolis has also been shown to exert significant antimicrobial properties, quite possibly reducing the risk of parasitic infections in the gastrointestinal, or GI tract. [8] A Cuban study has concluded that propolis may be as effective, or prove to exhibit greater effectiveness, than the popular anti-parasitic drug tinidazole when used against giardia. [9] Adults in this study exhibited a 60% success rate in the elimination of parasitic infection, in comparison to the 52% success rate of all children in study.

Ongoing studies suggest that the caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) of propolis may also be responsible for certain immunomodulatory, anti-flammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral actions of this supplement. [10-12] Its antiviral properties may be so potent as to suppress the HIV, and HSV 2, or herpes simplex virus. [13-14] Bee propolis may also inhibit the formation of dental plaque by reducing the overall activity of certain enzymes that contribute to dental caries. [15] Nevertheless, more research is needed to support these preliminary findings.

Bee Propolis Dosages

There are no established dosages for propolis because it is considered a nonessential nutrient. The most commonly recommended dosages range from 240 to 1300 milligrams per day and are dependant upon the product and manufacturer’s guidelines. Capsules typically offer dosages from 120 milligrams to 650 milligrams. Tablets are often supplied at a range of 500 milligrams, and lozenges provide some 50 grains of supplementary propolis.

Dosages: Adults and Teenagers Children up to age 12
General Usage: 500 milligrams, twice per day Not applicable

Bee Propolis Toxicities and Deficiencies

Adverse reactions from both oral and topical propolis supplements have been reported. [16] These reactions usually manifest as skin rashes, or dermatitis. Other complications may include bronchospasms, rhinitis, or even conjunctivitis. For this reason, persons who are allergic to bee pollen, honey, conifer and popolar trees, are advised not to use propolis supplements due to a possible allergic reaction.

Bee propolis in considered safe and nontoxic to individuals not suffering from these forms of allergies.


1. Stangaciu S. A guide to the composition and properties of propolis. Constanta, Romania: Dao Publishing House, 1997.

2. Rao CV, Desai D, Simi B, et al. Inhibitory effect of caffeic acid esters on azoxymethane-induced biochemical change and aberrant crypt foci formation in rat colon. Cancer Res. 1993; 53:4182-4188.

3. Grange, JM, Davey RW. Antibacterial properties of propolis (bee glue). J.R Soc Med. 1990; 83:159-160.

4. Qiao, Z. China Journal of Chinese Materi Medica, Aug. 1991; 16:481-2.

5. Krol W, Arzneimittel-Forschung, May 1993; 43:607-9.

6. Dobrowski JW, Vohora SB, Sharma K, et al. Antibacterial, antifungal, antiamoebic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic studies on propolis bee products. J Ethnopharmacol 1991; 35:77-82.

7. Szmeja Z, Kulczynske B, Sosnowski Z, Konopacki K. Therapeutic value of flavonoids in Rhinovirus infections. Otolaryngol Pol 1989; 43(3):180-4[in Polish].

8. Mirzoeva OK, Grishanin RN, Calder PC. Antimicrobial actin of propolis and some of its components: the effects on growth, membrane potential and motility of bacteria. Microbiol Res. 1997; 152:239-246.

9. Miyares C, Hollands I, Castaneda C, et al. Clinical trial with a preparation based on propolis “propolisina” in human giardiasis. Acta Gastroenterol Latinoam 1988; 18:195-201.

10. Bratter C, Tregel M, Liebenthal C, Volk HD. Prophylactic effectiveness of propolis for immunostimulation: a clinical pilot study. Forsch Komplementarmed 1999;6:256-60[in German].

11. Ledon N, Casaco A, Gonzales R, et al. Antipsoriatic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of an extract of red propolis. Chung Kuo Yao Li Hsueh Pao. 1997; 18:274-276.

12. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Jan. 1994; 21:9-13.

13. Harish Z, Rubinstein A, Golodner M, et al. Suppression of HIV-1 replication by propolis and its immunoregulatory effect. Drugs Exp Clin Res. 1997; 23:89-96.

14. Vynograd N, Vynograd I, Sosnowski Z. A comparative muti-centre study of the efficacy of propolis, acyclovir, and placebo in the treatment of genital herpes. Phytomedicine 2000; 7:1-6.

15. Caries Research. September-October, 2000; 34:418-426.

16. Burdock GA. Review of the biological properties and toxicity of bee propolis (propolis). Food Chem Toxicol. 1998; 36:347-363.


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