Propolis is a resin that bees create. It contains a mixture of bee saliva, beeswax, and substances from plants and trees. Propolis may have some health benefits for humans, but more large-scale studies are necessary.
Bees use propolis, or “bee glue,” as a sealant. Historically, humans have used it topically or as an oral supplement. However, it may not be suitable for everyone.
This article will look at what propolis is, what the research says about its potential benefits, and how to use it.
Propolis is a resinous, waxy substance that bees create by mixing their saliva with beeswax, along with compounds from various plants and trees. Bees use it to seal gaps in the hive to keep out intruders. Propolis also has antimicrobial properties and may protect bees from pathogens.
The substances that make up propolis can be complex. Scientists have identified more than
As a rough guideline, propolis typically consists of:
- tree and vegetable resins: 50%
- beeswax: 30%
- pollen: 5%
- essential and aromatic oils: 10%
Propolis also contains polyphenols, such as flavonoids, which are a type of antioxidant.
One 2019 review suggests that people have used propolis as a medicine since the year
The same 2019 review suggests that it may have the following properties:
- antiprotozoal, which means that it works against parasitic illnesses, such as giardiasis
Some of the substances present in propolis may also have anticancer properties.
However, although laboratory and animal studies into the properties of propolis and its components are promising, few high quality studies have proven its effectiveness as a treatment for specific conditions in humans.
Modern research suggests that propolis may be useful for:
- minor wounds
- oral hygiene
- cold sores
The following sections will look at some of this research in more detail.
Because people with diabetes can experience slow wound healing, this suggests that propolis could be beneficial for helping the skin heal more quickly. As propolis also kills some types of bacteria, it may also help prevent infection.
According to the same
Propolis and honey are also antibacterial, which may make them useful as ingredients in dental care products.
According to one small study in the review, propolis significantly decreased the amount of bacteria in the saliva of people with periodontitis.
The antioxidants in propolis may work to reduce inflammation, such as the inflammation that arthritis causes.
Scientists believe that propolis may regulate inflammatory substances in the body, such as prostaglandins.
A systematic review in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine suggests that propolis may work as an alternative treatment for genital or oral herpes.
Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV-1 typically causes oral herpes, which can result in cold sores. HSV-2 is sexually transmitted, and it causes an infection that can result in painful blisters on the genitals.
In the review, researchers analyzed several trials into honey and propolis, comparing their effects with those of acyclovir, which is a common HSV medication. In 4 out of 6 trials, propolis was more effective than acyclovir for treating HSV skin lesions — particularly cold sores.
However, the researchers did not include a large number of trials in this review.
Although people have used propolis for many health conditions in the past, there is not strong scientific evidence to support all of them.
The following sections will look at some of these health conditions in more detail.
According to the
Some in vivo tests have shown that flavonoids from propolis can inhibit the development of oral cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, breast cancer, and more.
However, much of the research in this field has involved isolated cells or animal models.
One 2020 study in the journal
Previous laboratory studies have shown that propolis exhibits antiviral activity against other types of virus, including:
- influenza (flu)
- respiratory syncytial virus
Propolis also appears to help stimulate the immune system. For these reasons, the researchers suggest that propolis may help with preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection.
However, while clinical trials on propolis’s ability to prevent COVID-19 are underway, there is currently no evidence to suggest that it is effective for this purpose.
One study in the journal
Some people may feel a benefit from using propolis for this purpose. However, there is not much scientific evidence to prove that propolis can help reduce allergy symptoms.
However, because propolis can contain a wide variety of compounds depending on where it came from, it is not always possible to be sure of its contents.
When looking for propolis products, check that the manufacturer has carried out third party testing to verify that the propolis is pure and safe to use.
Always speak with a doctor before trying new supplements.
People can use propolis in several ways, including:
- as an oral supplement
- diluted in water as a mouthwash
- topically on the skin
Before using propolis, it is best to seek the advice of a doctor to check that it will be safe for an individual to use. Then, the person should patch test some propolis to make sure that they do not have an allergy to it.
For use on the skin, apply pure propolis or a skin product that contains propolis as an active ingredient.
For use in the mouth, dilute a small amount of propolis in water. Rinse the mouth or gargle the mixture for a while before spitting it out.
Many premade products contain propolis as an active ingredient. In these cases, use the product as instructed on the label.
Research suggests that propolis has a number of properties that could benefit human health. People can use it on the skin, as a mouthwash, and as a supplement for a variety of minor health concerns.
However, there is not much high quality evidence to suggest that propolis is an effective treatment for specific conditions in humans. As a result, anyone with persistent symptoms should speak with a doctor about the best treatment options.