There are a number of various products that come from beehives which have been studied, including propolis, the resinous substance the insects use to glue the materials of their hives together by combining beeswax and other secretions with resins from the buds of poplar and conifer trees.
This substance has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for healing wounds and relieving a host of ailments ranging from itching and acne to tuberculosis, osteoporosis and even cancer. Recent findings have confirmed its powerful abilities against many harmful pathogens as well as multiple healing benefits, thanks to its proven antiseptic and antibiotic effects, along with potent anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.
It can be purchased at health food stores, on Amazon or even from the beekeepers themselves. But heed caution if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to a bee sting or any bee products like honey, as there’s a good chance you’ll develop a reaction to propolis as well, which in certain people can cause redness, burning, swelling and/or fever.
1. A natural antibiotic:
Author Ray Hill writes in his book Propolis – The Natural Antibiotic, that it “offers the same immediate action as laboratory produced antibiotics, but without toxic or other side effects.”
Antibiotic resistance is an increasingly growing problem in today’s world, in large part due to the overuse of antibiotic drugs. It’s a significant concern across the globe that the World Health Organization has cautioned that if major changes aren’t made soon, the world just might be headed to a “post-antibiotic era” in which diseases that were once controlled by modern medicine could become a threat once again. People have been advised to limit their use of antibiotics and look to alternatives unless facing a dire emergency.
Researchers have found that propolis may be one of the better alternatives due to its potent antibiotic properties that have been shown to be effective against many types of bacteria, including staph. According to herbalist James Green, “These properties work to raise the body’s natural resistance to disease by stimulating and rejuvenating the body’s own immune system. The saliva becomes activated by the resins, and as the saliva is continually swallowed it efficiently distributes the antimicrobial components of the propolis throughout the throat and adjacent areas.”
Research conducted out of the University of Heidelberg in Germany tested propolis extract against a variety of disease causing bacteria, including the very stubborn MRSA, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), Candida albicans, and Streptococcus pyogenes. Within six hours of taking the extract, propolis was able to stop the activity of pyogenes, the bacteria that causes strep throat and skin infections that are difficult to treat. The study also discovered that propolis had a high degree of antibacterial activity against all tested MRSA strains, and was also able to inhibit Candida. The researchers concluded that propolis may “be used in the development of alternative products for therapy of microbial infections.”
2. Supporting oral health:
During ancient times, Roman and Greek physicians were said to have used propolis as a mouth disinfectant, and modern scientific studies today have shown that it offers beneficial properties for oral health. Due to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral and analgesic properties, it’s been found to be effective for treating gingivitis and periodontitis, as well as for reducing cavities and limiting bacterial plaque. And, it may even be a good natural alternative to fluoride.
A 2012 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine concluded that “propolis-based preparations have a wide range of applications in various specialities of dentistry. Thanks to the richness of natural components in it.” The researchers were also careful to note that while it “offers many benefits, one should remember that its use many bring in the risk of an allergy.”
There have been multiple other studies too, with some research also indicating that propolis may be able to regenerate dental pulp, bone tissue, and cartilage, which would have a significant effect when it comes to improving oral health.
3. Boosting the immune system:
The immune system plays a crucial role in sustaining one’s health and vitality. It helps to protect the body from disease and infection and has a key part in longevity and the aging process in general. A weak immune system makes one more susceptible to contracting disease and illness, some of which can develop into serious, or even life-threatening conditions like cancer.
In a deteriorating immune system, cell degeneration results, but we may be able to slow that process by introducing certain compounds like propolis which are rich in flavonoids. Propolis is believed to work by promoting cellular regeneration while supporting the immune system through its cell building compounds thanks to its range of flavonoids.
This has been shown in a number of studies. Just one example includes research from Brazil conducted in 2012. In the ongoing quest to find an effective remedy for candida albicans, a fungus characterized by yeast overgrowth, the researchers analyzed propolis and found that it not only may inhibit Candida from growing, but it has the potential for stimulating a healthy immune response to the infestation.
Ancient cultures that used propolis like the Egyptians, found that it was able to accelerate the healing of cuts, bruises and other minor wounds. Science has proven those effects as well. A study published in 2009 in Wound Repair and Regeneration showed that applying propolis topically on rodents with diabetes-based wounds significantly accelerate the healing response.
Yet another astounding example is a study that found propolis to be even more effective than a common genital herpes drug treatment. The researched published in Phytomedicine, treated 90 men and women who had been diagnosed with genital herpes with either an ointment containing propolis flavonoids, a drug used to treat herpes sores known as acyclovir, or a placebo ointment. At the end of a 10-day period, 24 of the 30 patients who received propolis had healed, while less than half (14) of those who received the medication, and just 12 of 30 who took the placebo, had healed.
4. Lowering blood pressure:
As the inner lining of the blood vessels need nitric oxide for signaling the smooth muscles that surround them to relax and ultimately increase blood flow, it’s a very important substance for a healthy heart. When bioavailability of nitric oxide is reduced, it plays a significant part in the development of high blood pressure – in fact, without it, a heart attack results. Because the enzyme known as TH (tyrosine hydroxylase) limits the amount of nitric oxide the body can produce, researchers believed that decreasing this enzyme could in turn lower blood pressure.
The scientists from Nigde University in Nigde, Turkey, fed rats who suffered from high blood pressure propolis for a period of five days, and determined that it was able to decrease TH activity. They concluded that it did indeed have the ability to help control blood pressure.
5. Treating allergies:
While people sensitive or allergic to bee stings and/or bee products could develop a reaction to propolis, in others it can be used to actually treat allergies, particularly calming the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
One interesting study found that Brazilian propolis clearly demonstrated that it may be effective in the “relief of allergic rhinitis symptoms through inhibition of histamine release.”: Researchers gave propolis to rats for a period of two weeks and discovered that it was able to significantly inhibit histamine release from the animals’ mast cells. Histamine is the substance responsible for causing you to sneeze, and it also gives you a running nose and watery eyes. While antihistamines are the main type of allergy medication sold over the counter, it seems that propolis may be just as effective, without all of those annoying side effects.
6. Combating the effects of food poisoning:
A 2012 study out of Falavarjan, Iran’s Islamic Azad University, analyzed the antimicrobial activity of propolis against germs that cause what’s most commonly known as food poisoning, such as C. jejuni, Staphylococcus aureus and Enterobacter faecalis, which are all seen frequently in food poisoning cases.
The researchers concluded that propolis may be used to support traditional therapies for infection, particularly when antibiotics don’t have an effect against the micro-organisms. Although the strength of propolis can vary depending on geographic location, its protective benefits remain constant. Part of the reason for this is believed to be due to its high level of various flavonoids, as mentioned previously.
7. Get rid of warts:
If you’ve ever had one, you know how hard warts can be to get rid of, even with some type of prescription medication. Fortunately, eliminating warts is yet another one of the many benefits of propolis. As reported in the November 2009 issue of International Journal of Dermatology, a single-blind, randomized, three-month trial conducted on 135 patients with various types of warts were given either oral propolis, echinacea, or a placebo. The scientists discovered the powerful substance managed to cure 75% of patients, significant better than the results achieved with either the placebo or echinacea.
8. Fighting ear infections:
Ear infections are common in children especially, with millions suffering from them every year, though many adults get them occasionally too. Serious ear infections can even lead to temporary hearing loss.
Many parents have been at a loss as to what to do after their children suffered from recurring painful ear infections, and some, have found relief from propolis when nothing else has worked. Their experiences have been backed by science too.
An Italian study published in the April 201 issue of Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol, conducted on 122 children aged 1 through 5 years old who had a documented history of recurrent ear infections, found that the use of a propolis and zinc solution was able to significantly lessen the risk of new ear infections as well as the need to turn to antibiotic treatment.
9. Improving skin health:
For skin care use, the antiviral and antimicrobial action that propolis provides offers fantastic benefits. It’s particularly beneficial for those suffering from acne as well as people who are living in polluted environments, which includes most people living on our planet today. Propolis forms a barrier, similar to the ways the bees use it, in addition to containing lots of important nutrients to nourish the skin. In fact, you’ve probably seen it listed as an ingredient in many skin care products that are on store shelves.
As noted earlier, the ancient Egyptians were known to use propolis, and that includes the legendary Queen Cleopatra – she used it to help achieve her beautiful complexion. Reportedly, after enjoying the effects of a honey and camel’s milk bath, she wanted to find the “next big thing.” That’s when she discovered propolis, which was being used during the embalming process. In addition to offering restorative, antiseptic and healing abilities, it can help to balance and soothe problem skin, while accelerating cell growth and decongesting pores.
Studies have confirmed the efficiency of propolis against epidermophytosis, skin tuberculosis alopecia, psoriasis, a variety of microbial and chronic eczemas, cutaneous conditions of cold regions, pyoderma, Trichophyton skin inflammation, and burns.
10. Preventing respiratory infections:
A 2004 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the March issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, discovered some evidence that propolis, when combined with vitamin C and echinacea, may help prevent respiratory tract infections in children.
11. Healing cold sores:
Propolis may be effective for battling the common cold sore, or Herpes Simplex 1 and 2, according to a study conducted by Sirinad Musiaek and Yimanee Tragoolpua from the Biology Department at Chaing Mai University. Researchers found that aqueous and ethanolic propolis extracts were able to alter the virus population on vitro cells after virus attachment in both Herpes Simplex 1 and 2 cases. Scientists noted that “curiously,” high dosages of propolis performed better than a commonly prescribed cold sore medication, eliminating HSV-1 in just an hour, and the HSV-2 strain in a little over six hours.
When used in a topical solution, they concluded, that propolis causes cold sores to heal quickly and reduces some of the pain as well.