Some trees and conifers produce sticky resins as part of their immune system to defend themselves against disease. Honey bees collect these substances that ooze from the buds of these plants. (Research found out that honeybees make discrete choices among resinous plant species. PLOS ONE Journal, Oct 2013) After chewing them and mixing them with their saliva and other substances, propolis is formed. This nutrient-rich substance is of vital importance for the survival of the honey bees in the beehive. It is created to sterilize the hive and protect it against diseases and infection. Interestingly, "propolis" means "in defence of the city" in Greek. Not only does it help to inhibit the spread of bacteria, virus, and fungi that would otherwise pose a significant threat in the closely-knit quarters, it also helps fight against climatic changes, such as wind and cold.
Propolis contains approximately 50-70% resins, 30% wax, 10% etheric oils and 5% pollen. It is especially rich in amino acids which are vital for healthy immune system function. It has a high vitamin content (Vitamin A (carotene), Vitamin B1, B2, B3, biotin) and is extremely rich in bioflavonoids (Vitamin P) which are natural pigments in fruits and vegetables believed to have numerous immune building properties and health benefits. Bee glue contains almost 500 times more bioflavonoids than is found in oranges! It also contains an array of albumin, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Like Royal Jelly and Bee Pollen, it contains a number of unidentified compounds which work together synergistically to create a balanced, nutritive substance.
Propolis can be purchased completely raw and unprocessed, but it in its natural state is a sticky substance and is very difficult to handle. Some beekeepers will package it raw and freeze it in small portions. It can then be added to a coffee grinder in its frozen state and ground for easy consumption. Most producers utilize a process where the active ingredients are ‘leached' into water or alcohol, then either packaged in liquid form or dried and capsulated. Because of its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, this precious substance has been used as a natural cure and healing agent for many centuries. It has the ability to provide protection against infectious invaders, promote healing and regeneration of tissue, and provides a superior source of energy and stamina. Touted as an outstanding ointment for healing cuts and wounds and treatment for tonsillitis, mouth ulcers and intestinal infections, propolis contains an active component, Caffeic Acid Phenethyl Ester known to be effective in treating many other inflammatory disorders that lead to cell damage/death.
Many other propolis' health and medicinal benefits touted include the following:
1. Correct chronic constipation
2. Lower cholesterol level
3. Regulate blood sugar. Studies have shown that propolis can inhibit enzymes that increase blood sugar and its antioxidant compounds have blood sugar-stabilizing benefits. (Can J Microbiol. 2013 Mar;59(3):197-203, Mutat Res. 2013 Sep 18;757(1):36-44).
4. Combat cancerous cells
5. Boost and strengthen body immunity system
6. Heal skin infections
Note of Caution: Propolis is generally non-toxic, though allergic reactions such as skin rashes, swelling, redness, eczema or fever have been reported. As the effects of this bee substance during pregnancy and breast-feeding have not been sufficiently evaluated, women should not use it during these times unless directed to do so by a physician.
The truth is, raw propolis-extract is horrible-tasting. It is bitter and sour, and not the most pleasant-smelling thing on earth. So, the best way to ingest it is in the capsule form. If you are located in Singapore, you can check it out at Bee Healthy!
1. Propolis toothpaste helps fight bacteria, prevent tooth decay, heal bleeding gums, and prevent receding gums. Details in: Propolis Toothpaste - Nature's Answer to Oral Diseases.
2. For propolis products such as propolis capsules and candies, check out Bee Healthy.