A Brief History Of Propolis– The Benefits Of Adding Propolis In Your Diet – Nutritional Benefits of Propolis– Propolis Effects – Are There Any?
What comes to your mind when you hear the word, “bee?” Most of the time, you will associate it with honey. In fact, honey and bees are always synonymous to each other, isn’t it?
What if we tell you that bees produce another by-product that could put honey to shame? Believe it or not, bees produce something apart from honey and it goes by the name propolis.
Still doesn’t ring a bell? Then stick around to learn more about propolis including nutritional content, health benefits, and side effects.
Propolis, In A Nut Shell
Propolis or bee glue is a type of compound produced by bees. To produce propolis, bees will collect sap from evergreen and other needle-leaved trees and then combine this sap with their own discharge and beeswax. This will create a sticky, greenish-brown product known as propolis.
For bees, propolis is crucial. Because of its wax nature, bees use propolis to construct and repair their hives. Propolis also seals cracks and openings, smooths internal walls, and act as a protective barrier against invaders like lizards and snakes, and weather threats like rain and wind.
This is how the name propolis came about. The name “propolis” came from the Greek words pro, which means “at the entrance to” and polis, which means “city” or “community.” Bees use propolis to defend its hive.
Aside from this, here are the characteristics of propolis:
- Lipophilic in nature, which means it is hard and brittle but becomes soft, pliable, gummy, and sticky when heated.
- Has a pleasant aromatic smell
- Color varies from yellow green to red to dark brown, depending on the age and source of resins
In case you’re interested, you can get propolis in pharmacies and health food stores. You can get it in various forms such as cream, lotion, ointment, capsule, tablet, or liquid extract.
In terms of recommended dosage, unfortunately, there are limited studies as to how much one can take safely. Some recommended 70 milligrams per day although this is not supported by the US Food and Drug Administration.
You will also find recommended dosage in the product label, although this is only prescribed by manufacturers. It is best to consult your doctor regarding your intention to include propolis in your diet.
Propolis has been around for many years. This means people from early civilizations have been using this for various purposes.
Here’s how early people used propolis:
- Egyptians – To embalm cadavers as well as for its putrefactive properties.
- Incas – Used propolis as an antipyretic agent.
- Greeks and Romans – As a mouth disinfectant, antiseptic, and wound treatment. It is also prescribed for cutaneous and mucosal wounds, which must be applied topically.
- Assyrians – Puts on wounds and tumors to fight infection and assist in the healing process.
- Hebrews – Considered tzori, the Hebrew name for propolis, as a medicine
Hippocrates recognized the healing properties of propolis early on. Even Pliny the Elder wrote about the properties of propolis as well as a detailed understanding on the importance of propolis in the beehive.
By 17th century, propolis found its way to pharmacies in London. Thanks to the compound’s antibacterial and healing properties, propolis became popular all over Europe between 17th and 20th century.
Even during the Second World War, propolis was used in Soviet clinics to treat tuberculosis. Experts noticed that after administering propolis, lung problems decreased and there was an improvement in the patient’s appetite.
Fast forward today, propolis is used as a natural remedy that could treat various conditions such as common cold, flu-like symptoms, and upper respiratory tract infection. Propolis is also used dermatologically as a treatment for acne, burns, and neurodermatitis among others.
You can also find propolis in mouthwash and toothpaste to prevent caries or decaying of teeth. It is also used to treat gingivitis and stomatitis.
In other words, since time immemorial, propolis is used for various purposes because of its many health benefits.
Propolis Nutrition Facts
It’s no surprise that bee glue have been used for centuries. It is a mixture of bee-released and plant-derived compounds.
For raw propolis, it has:
- 50 percent resins
- 30 percent wax
- 10 percent essential oils
- 5 percent pollen
- 5 percent organic compounds
Experts were able to identify more than 300 compounds in propolis. So far, experts have uncovered the following substances:
- Polyphenols, which are antioxidants that fight against oxidative stress
- Aromatic acids
- Diterpenic acids
- Benzoic acids and derivatives
- Cinnamic acid and derivatives
- Sesquiterpene and triterpene hydrocarbon
- Benzaldehyde derivatives
- Sugar, although experts believed that it was introduced accidentally by bees when they pass on the resins from plants
- Amino acids
Keep in mind that the nutritional profile of propolis varies, depending on the climatic conditions. For instance, polyphenols are the main bioactive compound in propolis from Europe and North America while there is a high concentration of flavonoids of propolis from Greece and Cyprus.
Aside from the climate, the use of different solvents during extraction could affect the nutritional profile of propolis. Methanol and ethanol are more recommended as a solvent for extraction compared to acetone or water.
These factors are the reason why a universal chemical standardization cannot be done. The differences in the chemical composition due to its origin and method of extraction varies; hence making it impossible to set a universally-accepted standard.
Nonetheless, you are still assured that wherever it came from, propolis is among the healthiest ingredients around.
With that kind of lineup, does this mean propolis can help treat various conditions? The answer is yes.
Below are the many health benefits of propolis:
Antioxidant Activity Of Propolis
Propolis is known for its antioxidant properties, which play a crucial role in its immunomodulatory properties. It has sufficient amounts of flavonoids and polyphenols, which are known to be powerful antioxidants.
Experts examined the water extracts of propolis found in Egypt. They noted that that propolis had strong antioxidant activity because of the presence of both phenols and flavonoids.
Even the propolis found in Algarve, south of Portugal, contains phenolic compounds, thereby indicating high antioxidant capabilities.
Because of this, you are assured that your body is capable of protecting lipids and other compounds like vitamin C from being oxidized. It could also slow down cellular aging and degradation, which could contribute to diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and Alzheimer’s disease among others.
Helps Against Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s biological response to harmful stimuli like damaged cells, pathogens, irritants, and free radicals. To help against inflammation, you need to supply the body with compounds like flavonoids to fight it.
The good news is propolis have tons of this. Thanks to the presence of flavonoids like quercetin and cinnamic acid derivatives such as caffeic acid phenyl ester or CAPE, the body is now more able to fight against inflammation.
When taken properly, bee glue can suppress lipoxygenase pathway of arachidonic acid metabolism, which is on a high during inflammation. This could protect you against developing various diseases, too.
An Effective Treatment For Wounds
For centuries, propolis was used as a treatment for wounds. This is because of a special compound called pinocembrin.
Pinocembrin is a type of flavonoid that acts as an antifungal. Combined with propolis’ antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, pinocembrin becomes more effective in facilitating wound healing.
In research published in Burns and Trauma, propolis was recognized as a helpful treatment against traumatic burns. In fact, traumatic burns heal faster because propolis helped speed up the growth of new healthy cells.
Another study published in Inflammopharmacology recognized propolis’ wound healing abilities. In the said study, experts found out that topical propolis alcoholic extract is more effective than using steroid creams against mast cells on oral surgery wounds. As a result, inflammation is reduced and wound healing sped up.
Cancer is among the top causes of death around the world. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 9.6 million people died from cancer in 2018. The poor healthcare system, inability to detect cancer early, and income are some of the factors that could make or break one’s chances of survival.
Thankfully, there are ways you can do to prevent cancer from taking over your health. One of them is by adding propolis in your daily routine.
According to a study published in Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology, propolis comes with immunomodulatory functions, which is responsible for anti-cancer properties. These anti-tumor properties range from:
- Suppressing the proliferations of cancer cells
- Decreasing the population of cancer stem cells
- Blocking pathways to prevent cancer cells from signaling each other
- Exerting antiangiogenic effects
- Modulating the tumor microenvironment
Another study also showed propolis’ anti-cancer benefit. In a study published in Hindawi, experts examined the anti-tumor effects of Chinese propolis on breast cancer patients. In the said study, Chinese propolis has anti-tumor effects that could work against breast cancer cells. However, experts noted that Chinese propolis can be helpful as a complementary therapy and cannot replace established cancer treatments.
Regardless, it goes to show that when you include propolis in your diet, there is a chance that you can protect yourself against cancer.
Delays The Occurrence Of Diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, 10.5 percent of the American population has diabetes. Worse, there might be millions more who are not properly diagnosed.
Although genes is a big factor, diet and overall lifestyle could also affect your chances of developing this condition.
This is where bee glue comes in. In a study published in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Science, experts noted how bee glue improved body and kidney weight, lipid profile, and serum glucose, and decreased malondialdehyde or MDA. Thanks to the strong antioxidant activities of propolis, there is a chance that diabetes can be delayed.
Another study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed a similar result. In the said study, Chinese and Brazilian propolis significantly inhibited the increase of blood glucose among rats with diabetes. Consequently, there was an 8.4 percent reduction of glycated hemoglobin levels and lowered total cholesterol levels by 16.6 percent.
Despite taking propolis, keep in mind that this is not an excuse to eat tons of sweets and avoid exercise.
An Effective Oral Health Booster
Most people think that oral health is simply brushing teeth three times a day. Apparently, there’s more to it. In fact, the situation of one’s mouth could indicate one’s health status. The mouth is also a breeding ground of all sorts of bacteria, which is why you need to take care of it.
In what way, you might ask. By adding propolis in your daily routine.
Propolis comes with antimicrobial properties. In a study published in Anaerobe, experts examined the effects of bee glue collected in Turkey and Brazil. They noted that propolis contains flavonoids, specifically galangine, pinobanksin, quercetin, chrysin, naringenin, and caffeic acid. These flavonoids increased antimicrobial resistance, which are helpful in treating oral cavity diseases.
Propolis Side Effects
There are limited studies that will prove that propolis is not safe for humans. Still, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry. Side effects are still likely and there are certain medical conditions that cannot tolerate propolis.
One of the most common concern is allergic reaction. If you are allergic to bees or bee products such as honey, poplars, and conifers, then you are most likely allergic to propolis. Make sure to check the label first before taking anything and stay away from products with propolis.
Apart from this, there are special precautions for individuals with the following conditions:
- Asthma – Although there’s not much study to prove the claim, some experts believe that propolis could make asthma worse.
- Bleeding Conditions – Propolis contain chemicals that could slow blood clotting. As a result, there is a higher risk of bleeding for those with bleeding disorders.
- Pregnant And Breastfeeding Mothers – Because of limited information to check the effects of propolis on babies, it is best to stay away from this first.
- Surgery – Propolis could potentially slow blood clotting. This could be a cause of concern in case you will go through an operation because there is a higher risk of bleeding during and after surgery. That being said, it is advisable to stop taking propolis at least two weeks before the scheduled surgery and don’t forget to inform your doctor about propolis intake as well.
Aside from these conditions, blood clotting medications could negatively interact against propolis. Apart from slowing down clotting, there is a higher chance of bleeding and bruising as well.
The bottom line is do not immediately use propolis anytime you want. Ask your healthcare provider first, especially if you have any of the conditions mentioned. This way, you can minimize the possibility of developing any side effects and you won’t compromise your health.
Storage is crucial when it comes to kitchen ingredients. Since most items you can find in the pantry have limited shelf life, it is important to know proper storage techniques to make it last longer. This will prevent you from wasting money as well since you don’t have to throw spoiled products.
The same goes with propolis.
Ideally, propolis will give you a solid five years of healing benefits, especially when stored properly.
Here’s how to store it effectively:
- Roll into balls or sausage. This technique won’t also take too much space and you can easily put it in glass containers.
- You can also wrap it in wax or parchment paper and then place inside plastic or glass container.
- Store inside cool, dry, and dark place, preferably a closet. The temperature in the kitchen is fluctuating as a result of cooking and heating. Fluctuating temperature could adversely affect the quality of the propolis.
Propolis can also be used differently, although it could significantly reduce its storage life. Storage techniques can also vary depending on how you use it, say as an ointment, infused oil, or tincture.
Below are general rules you need to follow for each propolis variant:
- Propolis alcohol tincture must be stored in cool, dry, and dark place or inside the refrigerator. Make sure to use it within two years.
- When you make propolis tincture on water, make sure to store it also in dark, dry, and cool place. Use it within 10 days as well.
- For the propolis oil, it is best to store it inside the refrigerator. Don’t forget to use it within three months.
- If you use propolis ointment, then the door area of the refrigerator is the ideal storage area. Make sure that the ointment is placed in a tightly closed glass container. Use it within three months, too, to enjoy the benefits.
If you prefer longer shelf life, then use propolis as is.
The good news is propolis comes in variety of forms. You can use these variants as a replacement in case you ran out.
If you still want to enjoy the benefits associated with bees, then honey is still your best option. It comes with the same source as propolis without compromising the health benefits that comes with it.
Make sure to go for the raw, unprocessed honey variants. Some honey products sold in the market could have high sugar content, which significantly affects the nutritional component of the product.
Propolis Uses / Recipes
The good news is that propolis comes in many forms, which are readily available in the market. The uses of each variant differs, too.
If you want to use it in the simplest form, then you can get propolis capsules or liquid form and take it according to recommended dosage.
You might also see propolis chunks in health food stores. These are usually pure, raw, and unprocessed; hence the real deal. You can chew or swallow this once or twice a day for an instant health booster. Make it three chunks in case you’re having flu-like symptoms or you feel you’re about to go down with flu. Just be careful in chewing since this is often dark brown in color and could stain your teeth.
When you go for the liquid form, you can drink it as is to help boost your general well-being. Simply add a drop or two on your water, coffee, or tea and you’re good to go.
You can also dilute it in water and use it as a mouthwash to help heal sore throat and to boost overall oral health. Do this once or twice a day.
Did you know that you can also make propolis a part of your skincare routine? You can opt for spray or tincture, which you can apply directly on acne-prone or scarred areas.
Aside from this, propolis can also be used as a varnish ingredient for string instruments like violin and cello. It can also be used to maintain the bores of pan flute tubes. Surprisingly, propolis can also be used as a car wax. Interesting.
Don’t get too excited. Despite the scientific back-ups, make sure to consult your doctor first. Propolis, in whatever form, cannot replace the medicine, rather as a supplement to what you’re currently using.
The Bottom Line
Indeed, bees and its contribution to the world cannot be overlooked. Apart from honey, which is also among the healthiest foods around, propolis or bee glue comes with an impressive nutritional profile and tons of health benefits to keep you protected against free radicals. It can also be a natural remedy and an effective health supplement.
As a result, you are less likely to get sick and the chances of developing serious conditions like diabetes and cancer is reduced.
Nonetheless, take note of the side effects enumerated. Bee glue is generally safe but there are conditions and situations where propolis is not recommended. Remember the storage tips as well because expired products could affect the effects, too.
Overall, inform your health provider about your intention to use propolis. When taken excessively, it could cause adverse effects in your body and you wouldn’t want that.