Immune System Boosts and Other Impressive Propolis Benefits

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  • Propolis is a bee product that contains impressive amounts of active compounds that help in promoting good health
  • As a supplement, it may help strengthen the body’s defenses against bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing microorganisms

Bees may be one of the most underappreciated organisms on the planet, with their colonies providing humans with impressive amounts of products, not just honey. One example of this is propolis, a resin-like substance harvested from beehives. Numerous studies have examined the possible benefits of propolis as a supplement for promoting human health.

Propolis is also used as a supplement for various animals to bolster their immune function and promote growth.1 To learn more about what propolis is and its benefits and uses, continue reading this article.

What Is Propolis?

Propolis is used by bees to close openings in their beehives, which is why it is also referred to as "bee glue." The materials are usually taken from leaves, bark, flower buds and other plant parts. These are then combined with bee saliva, wax and pollen, which are then adhered to the hive holes.

However, propolis' function in the beehive is not limited to being a hole sealant. Studies suggest that it also protects the bees from bacterial infections and possible external elements that may endanger the whole colony. In some cases, propolis may also be used to encase the carcasses of hive intruders to stop bacteria from spreading.2

Because of the variations in flora depending on the geography, the composition of propolis is not consistent, which is also one of the reasons why propolis may come in different colors, usually in the shades of red, yellow, brown and green.3

Propolis has been used for years in folk medicine because of its proposed effect on various body systems, dating back to the time of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. In fact, Hippocrates notes that propolis is beneficial for promoting wound healing, both internal and external, while Pliny the Elder documents that propolis may be used to treat tumors, muscle pain and ulcers.

This bee product was also documented in the Persian manuscripts as a remedy for various conditions, including eczema and rheumatism.4 Today, propolis is used in a wide variety of skin care products, including creams and extracts. It is also available as a supplement, with people taking it on a regular basis to boost their immune system function.5

Propolis Benefits You Can Get From Supplements

Propolis is composed of numerous active compounds, including flavonoids, aromatic acids, diterpenoid acids, triterpenoids and phenols. These components are deemed to be the key to why propolis is such a useful substance in human health. Propolis has been found to contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal properties. As an impressive bee product, propolis may offer the following benefits:6

  • May assist in recovery from giardia infection — Giardia is an intestinal infection caused by microscopic parasites. A 2006 study showed that propolis helped in stopping giardia growth and intestinal adherence, increasing the rate of recovery by 12 to 20 percent.7,8
  • Aids in gynecological health — A 2005 study shows that propolis may be used as an alternative option for chronic vaginitis. The patients were instructed to use a 5-percent propolis solution as a douche, with 79.5 percent of the patients improving after seven days.9
  • Promotes oral health — Propolis contains antibacterial properties, which may be beneficial for combating gingivitis and other oral problems stemming from the abundance of bacteria in the mouth. In a 2011 study, patients were asked to use an alcohol-free propolis mouthwash after brushing. They showed significantly reduced plaque and gingival index after 45 days of using the mouthwash.10
  • Supports skin health — Propolis is typically used in dermatological products due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It also assists in wound healing by reducing free radical activity in the skin and promoting collagen production.11

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Other Ways to Use Propolis

Because of its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, propolis may be utilized in a variety of ways, such as:12

  • Mouthwash — There are numerous mouthwashes available in the market today that contain propolis. The added antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties may help promote better oral health and speed up healing of mouth sores and other oral infections. It may also speed up the recovery of patients who have undergone mouth surgery.
  • Topical ointment — Propolis ointments may be used to promote healing of cold sores, genital herpes and minor burns.
  • Extract — Propolis extracts may be taken to aid in recovering from giardiasis, H. pylori infection and oral thrush.

Propolis Studies Prove Its Impressive Characteristics

Propolis is loaded with numerous active compounds, which is why it's been the subject of numerous scientific studies, in the hopes that it might help in the treatment of certain body conditions. The good news is that many of these studies yielded successful results. Propolis has been used to promote wound healing, combat neurodegeneration and ease various types of infections.

In a 2017 study, different propolis samples were tested to find out which variant expresses the strongest antioxidant properties. Red propolis was determined to contain the highest activity, beating out green and brown propolis variants. It was also found to have the ability to inhibit tumor cell growth and gram-positive bacteria proliferation.13

Propolis' antimicrobial properties were also tested in a 2012 study, where it was found that propolis may help contain the spread of Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Candida albicans, both in isolated and polymicrobial states.14

Another 2017 study discusses how propolis' ability to stop biofilm formation in wounds may help in accelerated wound healing. However, the study failed to determine the specific dosage, clinical effectivity and potential side effects, which may warrant additional studies on this area.15

Propolis may also have certain neurodegenerative properties, as reported in a 2016 scientific study. The administration of green propolis was found to reduce reactive oxygen species, mitigate hydrogen peroxide-induced cytotoxicity, and protect neurons from neurodegenerative damage.16

Contraindications and Possible Side Effects of Propolis

As a natural supplement, propolis is relatively safe for most people and does not cause any toxicity. However, there are certain contraindications stemming from insufficient studies and preexisting allergies. If you fall under any of the categories below, it would be best that you avoid the use of this supplement as much as possible:17

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women — Because of insufficient studies that prove propolis is safe during pregnancy and while nursing, it would be best that you veer away from this substance to avoid possible complications.
  • Asthmatic patients — There are certain compounds present in propolis that may make asthma worse. If you have asthma, avoid the use of propolis supplements and/or products.
  • Patients with bleeding disorders — Patients with blood clotting problems should not use propolis as it may slow blood clotting, increasing your risk of excessive bleeding. Patients who will undergo surgery should also stop taking propolis a few weeks before their scheduled procedure.
  • People with allergies to bee byproducts — People with allergies to bee products such as honey should avoid propolis, as it may contain the same materials that trigger allergic reactions.

Propolis May Help Ease Infections and Promote Overall Health

Propolis is undoubtedly an impressive product that bees produce. Its effects on the human body, including protection from viruses and bacteria or relief from skin conditions, make it a deserving addition to your diet. The active compounds that it contains will aid you in your journey to better health.

However, make sure that you're aware of the handful of contraindications to avoid inadvertently causing harm to yourself or your loved ones. In addition, make sure that you take propolis as a conjunctive supplement and not as the sole method to promote better health.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Propolis

Q: Is propolis an effective treatment for herpes?

A: There are certain studies that show propolis may help in the treatment of herpes, including a 2011 study that showed propolis works by inhibiting HSV-1 activity and promoting immune function against the virus. This shows that propolis may be considered a safe and natural therapy option for herpes patients.18

Q: Where can you buy propolis?

A: You can buy propolis supplements from numerous health food stores and online shops. However, make sure that you vet your sources well so you can rest assured that you're getting only high-quality propolis.

Q: Is bee propolis safe during pregnancy?

A: There are not enough studies done on propolis during pregnancy to properly conclude whether it is safe. To be sure, it would be best that you avoid the use of propolis while pregnant or breastfeeding to avoid possible complications.

Q: How do you take propolis?

A: There are numerous propolis supplements and extracts available in the market. You can either take propolis orally or apply its extract topically when you're trying to solve external ailments.19 However, it would be best that you consult a healthcare professional for the recommended dose.

Q: Is propolis safe?

A: Yes. Propolis is safe for consumption and for use. However, there are certain contraindications, like allergies, bleeding disorders and asthma.

Q: Does Manuka honey contain propolis?

A: Manuka refers to a type of honey produced by bees that sustain themselves solely with the Manuka tree.20 While some products available in the market add propolis to Manuka honey, it does not naturally contain propolis.

Q: What is propolis good for?

A: Because of the active compounds of propolis, this compound can help ease bacterial and parasitic infections, such as giardia. It is also used to promote oral and skin health.21

Q: Does propolis lower blood sugar?

A: Studies suggest that propolis has positive effects on the regulation of blood sugar by modulating blood lipid metabolism and scavenging for free radicals. This makes propolis a possible alternative for diabetes management.22

Q: Is propolis good for diabetes?

A: Propolis may aid in blood sugar regulation, which may be beneficial for diabetes patients. However, it may also pose some dangers, especially when taken in conjunction with diabetes medications, as it may magnify their effect.23

Q: Is bee propolis in bee pollen?

A: While bee pollen and propolis are both bee products, they occur in different parts of the hive. They are rarely found together, unless they are mixed post-production.24