Propolis is a resinous substance that honeybees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax with plant and tree resins, and so the composition and nature of the Propolis is determined by the environmental conditions relative to the hive.
Over 300 compounds have been identified in Propolis, many of which are polyphenols which have antioxidant properties. In particular, Propolis has polyphenol compounds called flavonoids which are antioxidants plants use to protect themselves. Propolis has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties and appears to protect against some bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Research indicates that Propolis has benefits in wound healing, dental and oral care, inflammation of the skin & tissue, and against the herpes virus – it could even be useful in the treatment of Diabetes and Cancer although clinical research is needed to develop this interesting area.
Why is Propolis so important to Bees?
Propolis is key to a healthy hive as it is used to seal and protect the hive from infection and to repair the hive structurally to guard against environmental factors like bad weather, infestations, and predators.
Propolis also has many other key benefits for the bees as it acts as a thermal insulator for the hive, it retains moisture within the hive which is good for the bees, and most importantly, it protects against pathogens with its anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
Propolis, a brief background in history
Also known as bee glue, since its earliest times, Propolis has been known and used to treat many human ailments and is mentioned in many of the earliest folk tales passed down through “aural traditions”.
The Egyptians used it as both a medicine and for embalming whereas the Incas used it as an antipyretic which prevents and reduces fever. Whereas in Europe, the Greeks and the Romans used its antiseptic and healing properties in wound healing. In fact, in Roman legions, when propolis was available, it was distributed evenly amongst the soldiers irrespective of their rank, and failure to distribute this vital medicinal item evenly was considered a disgrace; it was even cited as the final straw in least one Roman army mutiny!
Using Propolis Today
Propolis has many uses in today’s society and yet we seem to have continued using Propolis in the same way as the ancient civilisations. The most frequently used versions of Propolis are a topical cream or balm to help skin & muscle inflammation and irritation, as well as the ever-popular Propolis tablets which help with a wide range of infection & inflammation conditions. A new up and coming area for Propolis is a Propolis Throat Mixture, as its great with helping oral health & sore throats.
With the overuse of current antibiotics for common and easily treatable conditions, which has led to a rise in bacterial antibiotic resistance, perhaps the use of a natural alternative like Propolis for easily treatable conditions may become more and more relevant in the future.