Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Propolis - Natural Medicine

Propolis, also known as bee glue, bee bread or hive dross, is a sticky dark-coloured resinous material produced by the honeybee from resinous plant materials. The worker bees collect the resins which are secreted from plant wounds such as cracks, or secreted during bud formation.

These resinous materials are produced by the plants by a variety of botanical processes and are mainly secreted as a defence mechanism for young leaves, buds and wounded tissues against mechanical breakages (mostly by harsh weather), bacteria, viruses and fungi. The bees then mix the resin with beeswax and use it in the adaptation of their hive. Propolis can be used by the bees as a draught excluder or to seal and strengthen the hive walls. In fact, the term propolis originates from the Greek word ‘pro’ which means ‘in defence of’ and ‘polis’ which means ‘city’.

Sometimes bees also use propolis to embalm a dead invader (such as a small mouse) which would have entered the hive to eat the honey. The bees are able to kill the small invader (with their stings) but before leaving it to decompose, thus releasing harmful bacteria and pathogens, the bees embalm the body with propolis to prevent this.

Propolis usually has a very strong smell and colouration which results from the beeswax and the resinous plant material. Its colour, which is mainly due to the flavonoids present, varies depending on the plant sources of propolis and its age. In fact propolis is a very complex product. It varies with geographical regions, due to different plant sources (resin sources) available. So it is understandable that propolis from Malta is different from propolis from other parts of the world (such as Brazil), as the bees collect the resins from different plants. Nevertheless, although the chemistry of these different types of propolis is very varied, the biological activity is more or less constant in its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-infective properties.

Its medicinal qualities and uses over time.

Writers in ancient Rome and Greece were already familiar with propolis and knew that bees collected it from plants and used it in the hive. Propolis has been used by humans in folk medicine since ancient times in both Europe and the Middle East. It is still frequently used to treat stomach and mouth ulcers, wounds, burns and other sores. Most of its therapeutic effects are due to the anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Propolis is also normally known to be a very good antioxidant. Antioxidants are intimately involved in the prevention of cellular damage - the common pathway for cancer, aging, and a variety of diseases.

Propolis is most commonly used in folk medicine as a balsam or dissolved in water or ethanol (alcohol) and it is one of the few natural remedies that has maintained its popularity over a long period of time. In ancient times, it was used as a mouth disinfectant, an anti-pyretic agent (an agent which reduces or prevents fever) and an antiseptic for treating wounds. Even as early as in the seventeenth century, propolis was listed as an official drug by pharmacopoeias (a book containing directions for the identification and the preparation of medicines) in London.

Preparations from natural products (also known as phytomedicines) are regaining popularity for treatment of a variety of alignments and their prophylaxis (Greek meaning for ‘to guard’ or ‘prevent beforehand’ - a procedure which prevents, rather than treats the onset of a disease). This is partly due to their wide scope of pharmacological properties and their weaker side effects when compared to synthetic preparation.

Propolis can be seen between the slits of the frames. The honeybees tried to cover the open slits between the frames when the beehive was left partly uncovered as a result of strong winds.


1. Weis R.F, Fintelmann V. (1999) The Treatment of Diseases with the Herbs, 141-7.

2. Langenheim J.H. (2003) Plant resins: chemistry, evolution, ecology, and ethnobotany. Timber Press.

3. Bankova V.S., Marcucci M.C. (2000) Standardization of propolis: present status and perspectives. Bee World, 81: 182-188.

4. Crane E. (1999) The world history of beekeeping and honey hunting. Taylor & Francis.

5. De Castro S.L. (2001) Propolis: Biological and Pharmacological Activities. ARBS Ann Rev Biomed Sci, 3: 49-83.

6. Stefano C., Francesco C. (2002) Propolis and its extract capsules with a relatively simple extraction procedure. Fitoterapia, 73: 51-56.

7. Cao Y.H., Wang Y., Yuan Q. (2004) Analysis of Flavonoids and Phenolic Acid in Propolis by Capillary Electrophoresis. Chromatographia, 59: 135-140.


  1. hello friends I really liked this information, a few days ago I read something similar, I would like to receive updates on this issue, as it is very interesting, thanks!

  2. Thank you. your post very well. Indeed, propolis is very beneficial to our health. I have been using propolis for 3 months and there is one benefit of ulcer disease. Not only that propolis increases our immune system

  3. I have been using green propolis here in Brazil for a year now. Let me tell you: it has cured herpes breakouts I had had for a few months due to stress. I applied the propolis directly on the breakout covering it with a bandaid as soon as it appeared and it dried up completely; it has not yet reappeared. By ingesting twenty to thirty drops disolved in natural fruit juices daily I have not come down with a cold or the flu ever since, and my recurring chronic tonsilitis is GONE! Amazing product. If I bump a body part somewhere the bruise disappears much faster also, I have noted. I recently bought 380 grams of crude green propolis from a beekeeper @ a gourmet festival in the town of Petropolis where I am living, and have been able to make 1 full liter of tincture from it! It should last me for over a year. One word of caution here: choose a glass for your propolis-juices and only use it for that purpose since the product will leave an unremovable milky green stain all over the inside of the glass. I also smuge a dab of propolis on a pimple before going to bed, the next morning the pimple is gone gone gohne! If I do a self-facial (where I tend to squeeze goo out of my facial pores, tweeze, and such) I also finish with a cleansing then propolis on the face, but always before bedtime. The face gets greenish. It´s wonderful.

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