Propolis (Bee Propolis)
Propolis, also known as bee glue and bee propolis, is a brownish resinous substance collected by bees, mainly from poplar and conifer buds, and used to seal their hives. Because of antimicrobial properties of propolis, it helps keep hives free of germs. Propolis has a long history of use in folk medicine and was even used as an official drug in London in the 1600s. Over time, propolis has been used for many purposes and marketed as lozenges, cough syrups, toothpastes, mouth rinses, lipsticks, cosmetics and even for the varnishing of Stradivarius violins. It appears to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities.
The composition of propolis is variable, depending on the locale and variety of trees and other plant species used for the collection. For example, unique constituents have been identified in propolis collected in Cuba and Brazil. The main chemical classes found in propolis are flavonoids, phenolics and terpenes. The flavonoids include quercetin, apegenin, galangin, kaempferol, luteolin, pinocembrin, pinostrobin and pinobanksin. The phenolic ester (caffeic acid phenethyl ester or CAPE) present in propolis is receiving much attention in the medical research community because of its potential for the treatment of a number of disorders, including spinal cord injury. Most of the substances in propolis are poorly soluble in water.
Bee propolis is a waxy substance collected by honey bees which contains phytotonizides. Phytotonizides are believed to contain immunity factors, which when used internally, stimulates the body and gives it a natural resistance to diseases (a natural antibiotic). Propolis is gathered from all around the world, and proper temperature control will assure maximum freshness and consistency. As a supplement, Bee Propolis is an excellent aid against bacterial infections. Stimulates 'phagocytosis'; helps white blood cells to destroy bacteria. Good results against inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and the throat, dry cough, halitosis, tonsillitis, ulcers, and acne. Stimulates immune system.
Propolis has antibiotic activities that help the hive block out viruses, bacteria, and other organisms. Commercial preparations of propolis appear to retain these antibiotic properties, according to test tube studies. Test tube and animal studies have also shown that propolis exerts some antioxidant, liver protecting, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties.
Propolis contains protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids. For this reason, some people use propolis as a general nutritional supplement, although it would take large amounts of propolis to supply meaningful amounts of these nutrients. Propolis may stimulate the body’s immune system, according to preliminary human studies, and a controlled trial found propolis-containing mouthwash effective in healing surgical wounds in the mouth. In test tube studies propolis has shown considerable activity against bacteria and yeast associated with dental cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease, but one human study showed that propolis was no better than a placebo in inhibiting dental plaque formation.
Propolis extracts may be helpful in protecting against and shortening the duration of the common cold. A preliminary human study reported propolis extract (amount not stated) reduced upper respiratory infections in children. In one small double-blind study of 50 people with the common cold, the group taking propolis extract (amount not stated) became symptom-free more quickly when compared with the placebo group.
The antimicrobial properties of propolis may also help protect against parasitic infections in the gastrointestinal tract. One preliminary study of children and adults with giardiasis (a common intestinal parasite infection) showed a 52% success rate of parasite elimination in children and a 60% rate in adults in those given propolis extract (amount not stated). However, these results are not as impressive as those achieved with conventional drugs used against giardiasis, so propolis should not be used alone for this condition without first consulting a physician about available medical treatment.
Research shows that propolis offers antiseptic, antibiotic, anti-fungal, and even antiviral properties. It is often called "Russian Penicillin" in acknowledgement of the extensive research that has been done by the Soviets. One of the most valuable properties of all the natural bee hive products is that they exhibit true immunostimulating characteristics. Unlike many modern medical drugs, propolis does not depress the immune system, but instead boosts it. Chemical antibiotics destroy all bacteria in the body including the friendly and necessary flora required for healthy functioning. An individual that takes constantly takes antibiotics for one condition after another soon learns that the drugs no longer work as well as they once did. As the bacteria get "smarter" the drugs become less effective over time. It is a medical fact that some biologically harmful strains of bacteria develop a resistance to antibiotics. Propolis, being a natural antibiotic works against harmful bacteria without destroying the friendly bacteria your body needs. Propolis has been proven effective against some strains of bacteria that resist chemical antibiotics.
The mechanism of the possible actions of propolis may be understood by reviewing research findings on some of the individual compounds found in it. It is difficult to study the mechanism of actions of more than one compound at a time. Therefore, the following descriptions apply only to single compounds. The contribution of any single compound to the possible action of such a complex substance as propolis is difficult to know.
Caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) inhibits the lipoxygenase pathway of arachidonic acid, resulting in anti-inflammatory activity. CAPE is also known to have anticarcinogenic, antimitogenic and immunomodulatory properties. CAPE has been found to completely inhibit the activation of the nuclear transcription factor NF-Kappa B by tumor necrosis factor (TNF), as well as by other pro-inflammatory agents. The inhibition of NF-Kappa B activation may provide the molecular basis for its immunomodulatory, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral activities. It is possible that CAPE exerts its effects by inhibiting reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. ROS are known to play a major role in the activation of NF-Kappa B.