Everyone knows that a healthy immune system is paramount to a long, happy and healthy life. Propolis is derived from plants and trees that honey bees take and re-use as a sealant in their hives. The exact chemical compound of Propolis varies from geographical region to region, however the amazing thing is that although the chemical composition varies, the effects are extremely similar and sometimes are even exactly the same.
Propolis has been used for millennia, with its use dating back to 300BCE where the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used it to heal sores and ulcers of the skin.
Propolis has been used for millennia, with its use dating back to 300BCE where the ancient Egyptians,
Greeks and Romans used it to heal sores and ulcers of the skin.
More recently, it had been used in the Boer War (1888-1902CE) as a disinfectant for wounds after being mixed with petroleum jelly. Etymologically, the word “propolis” is a Greek word, made up of; pro meaning defence and polis which means city, making it “defence of the hive”.
Studies1 have found that there are no apparent side effects with continued administration to mice or humans, and it has been suggested that a safe dosage could be approximately 70mg/day. Just like most, if not all substances, rare and isolated cases of allergies to propolis have been reported and to stay safe, individuals with allergies to bee products (such as honey, beeswax) should err on the side of caution to not use it.
There are numerous benefits associated with ingestion of propolis:
1. Antitumour activity – a 2010 study by researchers in Turkey2 found that compounds found in bee propolis can increase cell death of MCF-7 cells, which are a type of breast carcinoma cell. Furthermore a 2004 study found that propolis was found to inhibit a cancer causing endothelial growth factor.
2. Antioxidants – free radicals are extremely dangerous molecules which are highly reactive. They can bind to other molecules that they usually would not bind to, possibly leading to cell damage, cancer and other degenerative diseases. Propolis contains polyphenolic and flavonoid compounds, which are known antioxidants which can prevent, protect and reduce the extent of this oxidative damage.
3. Antiseptic and wound healing – as mentioned earlier, bee propolis has been used for this reason for many years spanning from Ancient Egypt to the Boer War and even modern day traditional remedies. It was found that use of propolis on lab rats, made their diabetes-based wounds and sores heal faster than the others that were not exposed to propolis. Additionally, it has been suggested that it is effective in treating the inflammatory component of skin burns.
5. Vitamins and minerals – propolis contains varying amounts of many important trace minerals including; magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium. It also contains 16 amino acids which are necessary for growth and repair of proteins, vitamin A (which is important for eyesight) and vitamins B1, B2 and B3.
Overall it seems that propolis has many aspects that are beneficial to living a healthy life. It is not a one-stop-shop that instantly makes you healthy and invincible, but its use as a supplement has many important immune effects that aid you in living healthily with less illness.
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1. Sforcin, J. M. (2007). Propolis and the immune system: A review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 113(1), 1-14. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2007.05.012
2. Seda Vatansever H, Seda Vatansever H, Sorkun K, İsmet Deliloğlu Gurhan S, Ozdal-Kurt F. Propolis from Turkey induces apoptosis through activating caspases in human breast carcinoma cell lines. Acta histochemica. Elsevier; 2010;112:546.