Bee Propolis

Propolis is not as known as honey. Indeed, it serves no purpose in human culinary food chain. However, for bees, it plays an essential role in building and maintaining beehives by acting as a glue of sorts. It is also commonly used as an ingredient in many natural cold and flu remedies. I was recently reminded of this during a visit to a number of integrative pharmacies throughout France. But popularity does not necessarily equate to efficacy or safety. One of the questions I sought to answer upon returning to the U.S. was the scientific evidence for the modern and traditional use of bee propolis to support.


There are a few facts about propolis which irrefutable. Propolis has been scientifically documented as having bactericidal properties. Research usually performed in animal models show that selected extracts of these bee-derived resin can, in fact, antagonize viral influenza and several other offenders. In vitro tests using human samples goes on to reveal that propolis also immune enhancing properties that are fueled by causing a temporary inflammation possess. (1,2,3,4,5)

What most researchers and scientists looking for in the assessment of natural remedies are studies in human populations. Several medical publications about propolis and upper respiratory infections are available for evaluation. The only double-blind, placebo-controlled study, I discovered evaluated the preventive effects of supplementation with a combination of echinacea, propolis and vitamin C. The 12-week intervention with 430 young children found that youngsters receiving the supplement were 55% less likely to suffer from “disease episodes”. The biggest problem related to my line of research is that it is impossible to know whether the supposed benefits are due to the echinacea, propolis and vitamin C component of natural medicine in question. It may even be a synergistic effect processes the positive results. (6)

Propolis TypeAntibacterial Activity Anti Inflammatory Activity Antitumor Activity ActivityHepatoprotective Antioxidant Activity

Compounds that modulate the activity of different types of Propolis
European (poplar type) Flavanones, flavones, phenolic acids and their esters Flavanones, flavones, phenolic acids and their esters Caffeic acid phenethyl ester Caffeic acid, ferulic acid, caffeic acid esters Flavonoids, phenolic esters, and their
Brazil (Baccharis type) Prenylated p-coumaric acid, labdane diterpenes Unidentified Prenylated p-coumaric acids, clerodane diterpenes, benzofuranes Prenylated p-coumaric acid, flavonoids, lignans, caffeoyl quinic acids Prenylated p-coumaric acid, flavonoids
Cuban Prenylated benzophenones Not tested Prenylated benzophenones Unidentified Prenylated benzophenones
Taiwanese Not tested Not tested Prenylated flavanones Not tested Prenylated flavanones

Source: Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. March 2005-2 (1): 29-32. (The other studies present new and similar problems in an attempt “> link)

Other studies present new and similar problems when attempting to evaluate. Thus, a trial period from June 2010 reports that a propolis solution actually the need for antibiotic treatment in children aged 1-5 with a chronic ear infection reduction. The product used was well tolerated and lead to a significant reduction of disease recurrence. However, as with the earlier mentioned study, the supplement contained a potentially therapeutic ingredient: zinc. Two other articles published document that propolis do the following: a) safe to stimulate the immune system in healthy young adults- b) shortening of the duration of the common cold symptoms. According to the researchers of the latest study – “In the therapeutic group the symptoms lasted 2.5 times shorter than in the placebo group.” Unfortunately, this special publication provides only a brief summary of the results of the test. Precise details are not included in the summary and the full text is in Polish. (7,8,9)

A recent review in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology gives advice shared by many integrative health authorities. It provides that a considerable amount of preliminary evidence that propolis may affect health in many positive ways, including activity against allergies, cancer, diabetes, infections and ulcers. But at the moment when the largest part of the promise remains in the field of animal studies and test tube. In my opinion, more controlled experiments in humans are needed before a widespread recommendation can be made about the use of propolis in the general population. There are even few reports of mild to severe adverse reactions to be quantified to the long-term safety of this natural remedy to be determined. So for now, I think I rely on other natural options that are capable of employing. And I will, of course, keep your eyes open for any upcoming dates that my thoughts may change. (10,11,12)

Be good!

Posted in Alternative Therapies, nutrition.