The use of Propolis as a natural medicinal and health aid is documented back to ancient Greece and other civilisations. More recently it has re-found popularity as a natural food supplement.
With recent media interest and growing Propolis supplement sales one might think this was something of a fad. However with its documented historical use, active compounds, synergistic action and a growing body of research there is a wealth of information to get excited about the role of Propolis as a natural health aid. But what is it?
Propolis is a sticky resin gathered by honey bees from leaf buds, the bark of trees and other botanical sources. Bees metabolise the Propolis and use it to seal, disinfect and protect their hives. Propolis is used by the bees for a range of protective purposes within the hive due to its natural antibiotic, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
Propolis is a complex food, and over 180 natural compounds have been identified including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids. Propolis is one of nature’s richest sources of bioflavonoids and this is one of the reasons that it is considered to be an excellent and natural antioxidant.
In one of our recent blog articles guest author Dr Peter Mansfield cited Propolis as one of his ‘Baker’s Dozen of Tips for Sustained Health’; Peter’s comment was:
Propolis from beehives is by far nature’s best antiseptic antibiotic. Beehives are more sanitary than operating theatres. Use propolis routinely to ward off other people’s colds, especially on trains and airliners. Try it when your doctor’s antibiotic prescription fails.
Propolis has been referred to in a range of historical medical documents, for example since ancient Arab, Greek and Roman times. The popularity of the substance continued right up until the late nineteenth century. Propolis has accordingly been cited as a natural aid for a variety of health issues including respiratory, joints, colds and infections and skin problems.
Propolis declined in popular use around 100 years ago with the advent of modern synthetic medicines. However its use has remained popular in Eastern Europe where much practical research has been carried out into structure and functions.
In Eastern European countries such as Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, etc. Propolis continued to be used and its scientific basis researched. For example, in Russia a great deal of research has been carried out into the chemical structure and antibiotic functions (etc.) of Propolis since the 1900s onwards.
At this point we should stress that currently there are no permitted health claims for Propolis from the European regulatory authority EFSA (The European Food Safety Authority). Hopefully this situation will change in the near future.
The Actives & Synergy of Propolis
Propolis is a complex food, and over 180 natural compounds have been identified in its composition including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids. Studies into Propolis have demonstrated antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-fungal, antioxidant and antiseptic properties. Studies also seem to indicate the immune supporting properties of Propolis.
The most active and important constituents in Propolis are the flavonoids, phenolics, and aromatics (oils and acids). The flavonoids are considered to account for much of the biologic activity in Propolis. The antimicrobial properties are mainly attributed to the flavanone pinocembrin and the flavonol galangin. In addition research has indicated that the antibacterial properties of Propolis may be supported by its constituent caffeic acid phenethyl ester, with a mechanism of action probably based on the inhibition of bacterial RNA-polymerase.
Various researchers have attempted to ‘isolate’ the specific chemicals in Propolis considered to be the key ‘actives’. However in general researchers consider that it is the synergistic effect of these diverse compounds in Propolis that make the substance so naturally active and effective.
Importantly Propolis is also one of nature’s richest sources of bioflavonoids and this is one of the reasons that it is considered to be an excellent and natural antioxidant.
The Importance of Quality Control
Propolis food supplements are commonly found in capsule form and also liquid, lozenges and sprays. Assessing a range of ‘quality control’ criteria when you are looking to choose a Propolis supplement between a range of suppliers is vital. Here are our recommendations for what you should be looking for:
- Guaranteed free from all contaminants – Propolis as a food supplement must be free of chemical contaminants. For example Acaricides are used to control bee parasites and heavy metals can also accumulate in Propolis
- Does not contain fillers and binders – or other additives which may decrease the effectiveness and increase potential allergens
- The Propolis comes from a completely sustainable source – where the bees are treated with the highest standards of care as part of the collection process
- Free from – Genetically Modified Substances
And of course you should also compare the potency of the supplement (in terms of Propolis extract content) between differing suppliers of Propolis.
Suggested Intake & Contraindications
As an example for the Cyoplan Propolis (150mg of Propolis extract, equivalent to 750mg of Propolis powder per capsule) we suggest 1 capsule daily or to be taken as directed by a health practitioner. During acute situations, 2 capsules daily can be taken.
Do not exceed the recommended intake of any food supplement. Propolis should not be used as a substitute for a varied diet. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult a health care professional before taking Propolis.
Research and Propolis
As we previously noted much practical research has been carried out in regards to the potential health benefits of Propolis. Further below we provide a number of examples from various studies. You can typically find more details for each citation by searching online (for example) using the research paper title.
This article has been written as information for Health Professionals. Hence the inclusion of research references and related text.
If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time. If you want to be alerted by email when a new post is published simply add your email address in the ‘Get The Latest Post By Email’ in the right-hand column.
Amanda Williams, Cytoplan Ltd
firstname.lastname@example.org, 01684 310099
Cytoplan Propolis is pure, active and additive free and comes in gluten-free capsules. One capsule will provide on average 150mg of Propolis Extract (equivalent to 750mg of Propolis powder). Cytoplan Propolis is guaranteed free from all contaminants, does not contain fillers and binders or other additives and comes from a completely sustainable source.
Atac Uzela, Kadri˙ye Sorkunb, Ozant Oncağc, Dilşah Coğuluc, Omur Gencayb, Beki˙r Sali˙hd. 200. Chemical compositions and antimicrobial activities of four different Anatolian propolis samples. Microbiological Research Vol 160, Issue 2, 25 Pg 189–195. Doi:10.1016/j.micres.2005.01.002
A.H. Banskotaa, Y. Tezukaa, I.K. Adnyanaa, E. Ishiib, K. Midorikawaa, K. Matsushigea, S. 2001 KadotaaHepatoprotective and anti-Helicobacter pylori activities of constituents from Brazilian propolis. Phytomedicine Vol 8 : 1 Pg 16–23 . DOI: 10.1078/0944-7113-00004 Nick Kalogeropoulosa, Spyros J. Kontelesb, Elena Troullidoua, Ioannis Mourtzinosa, Vaios T. Karathanosa. 2009 Chemical composition, antioxidant activity and antimicrobial properties of propolis extracts from Greece and Cyprus. Food Chemistry. Vol 116 :2, 15 September Pg 452–461
Mario Juga, Marijana Zovko Končićb, Ivan Kosalecc . 2014 Modulation of antioxidant, chelating and antimicrobial activity of poplar chemo-type propolis by extraction . LWT Food Science & Technology Vol 57:2, Pg 530–537
Minami Kumazakia, b, Haruka Shinoharaa, Kohei Taniguchia, Nami Yamadaa, Shozo
Ohtac, Kenji Ichiharac, Yukihiro Akaoa, 2014 Propolis cinnamic acid derivatives induce apoptosis through both extrinsic and intrinsic apoptosis signaling pathways and modulate of miRNA expression. Phytomedicine Vol21, : 8–9, Pg1070–1077. DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2014.04.006
Coral Omene, Matko Kalac Jing Wu, Enrica Marchi, Krystyna Frenkel and Owen A
O’Connor.2013 Propolis and its Active Component, Caffeic Acid Phenethyl Ester (CAPE), Modulate Breast Cancer Therapeutic Targets via an Epigenetically Mediated Mechanism of Action Volume 5(10) 334-342 – 334 J Cancer Sci Ther
Julia S.S. Reisa, Gedeao B. Oliveiraa, Marta C. Monteiroa, b, Christiane S. Machadoc, Yohandra R. Torresc, Rui D. Predigerd,
Cristiane S.F. Maiaa, e, f, 2014 Antidepressant- and anxiolytic-like activities of an oil extract of propolis in rats. Phytomedicine DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2014.06.001
V. Bankova, A.S. Galabov, D. Antonova, N. Vilhelmova, B. Di Perri2014 Chemical
composition of Propolis Extract ACFR and activity against herpes simplex virus Original Research Article Phytomedicine, DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2014.04.026 Available online 8
Michelle Cristiane Bufaloa, c, Isabel Ferreirab, Gustavo Costac, d, Vera Franciscob, c, d, Joana Liberalb, c, d, Maria Teresa Cruzb, c, Maria Celeste Lopesb, c, Maria Teresa
Batistac, d, Jose Mauricio Sforcina, 2013 Propolis and its constituent caffeic acid
suppress LPS-stimulated pro-inflammatory response by blocking NF-κB and MAPK
activation in macrophages. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 149, Issue 1, 26
August 2013, Pages 84–92