Propolis: properties, benefits and uses

Bees, as we know, have a direct positive impact on the environment. They contribute to the perpetual renewal of the flora thanks to pollination. But that's not all, they produce beekeeping products whose therapeutic properties have been known and recognized for a very long time. Among them, we find Propolis, a more or less solid resin that protects the buds and young shoots of certain trees. Real barrier against pathogens, the bees recover it in order to bring it back to the hive, and use it to protect the latter from microbial diseases. And if it is good for the hives, it is good for us. Indeed, Propolis has very good anti-infectious and immunostimulating properties, it will be particularly effective in winter, in support of the ORL and pulmonary sphere but also against the cutaneous affections according to the form of Propolis used.

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What is Propolis used for?

Main properties

Immunostimulant: the phenethyl ester of caffeic acid promotes the stimulation of the body's defenses by increasing the production of antibodies and lymphocytes to defend against external aggressions such as bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Antimicrobial : flavonoids, galangin, pinocembrin, benzoic, caffeic acid and their esters are the molecules that give Propolis its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Gram-positive and acid-resistant bacilli and gram-positive coccis are the most sensitive to Propolis. It is thus effective against pharyngitis, pneumonia, bronchitis, colds but also asthma. It is an active antibiotic on multi-resistant staphylococci, streptococci, Helicobacter pylori (responsible for stomach ulcer), Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease bacteria), and Propionibacterium acnes (the bacteria responsible for acne). It is an antifungal active on Candida albicans and Aspergillus trichophyton. Propolis helps fight skin infections such as warts and fungus.

Antiviral : flavonoids also help fight viruses because they inhibit the enzyme that allows viruses to release pathogenic viral material into the body, preventing their spread. They then remain nicely in their capsule and do not attack the cells. Caffeic acid and its derivatives have been shown to be potent antivirals and help against herpes type 1 or 2 and Varicella-Zoster virus. It is an antiviral active on the herpes virus (cold sores, chicken pox, shingles, infectious mononucleosis, etc.), hepatitis viruses, influenza, gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, and finally the viruses responsible for warts.

Anti-inflammatory, cough suppressant: Propolis helps reduce inflammation caused by infections of the respiratory system and ENT sphere thanks to flavonoids, caffeic acids, ferulic acid and salicylic acid. It also allows to calm the cough. The salicylic acid, also called "aspirin" allows to fight against the fever.

Antiseptic, disinfectant: used dermally, Propolis helps to disinfect wounds and injuries. It is the flavonoids and benzoic acid that confer these properties, promoting the body's defenses.

Antispasmodic : quercetin and kaemperid, have a powerful antispasmodic action, superior to papaverine.

Powerful anesthetic : Propolis is a powerful anesthetic, superior to cocaine. This property is conferred by caffeic acid and pinocembrin, hence the tingling sensation in the mouth when taking Propolis to chew.

Regenerative, healing : Propolis, more specifically ferulic acid, has the ability to stimulate the regeneration and growth of skin cells for better healing. It helps in the regeneration of cells and delays their aging by activating the synthesis of collagen and elastin. The alcoholic extract and ointments of Propolis accelerate the healing of burns.

Detoxifying, hepatoprotective: Propolis protects the liver from chemotherapy, alcohol and drugs. In addition, artepillin C protects against methylmethane sulfonate genotoxicity.

Anticancerous : according to tests carried out in vitro and on animals, Propolis could be an interesting adjuvant to current treatments against certain forms of cancer. Propolis would have anti-carcinogenic properties to slow the growth of cancer cells. Moreover, it would allow to better support chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. Further research is needed to validate these hypotheses on humans.


Thanks to its richness in nutritive compounds, propolis is ideal in the following cases

  • Respiratory conditions (strep throat, cold, sinusitis, flu, etc.).
  • Immunity boost
  • Oral and dental conditions (canker sores, gingivitis, stomatitis, cavities, etc.)
  • Skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis, acne, wound, burns, herpes, wart, etc.).
  • Accompanying heavy chemo and/or radiation treatments.
  • Hair loss, baldness

Propolis can be found in different forms and therefore used differently:

  • in hydroalcoholic extract or mother tincture (around 5 to 20% pure propolis extract), especially for viral or bacterial infections affecting the ENT sphere, to strengthen immunity, for skin ailments but also as a mouthwash ;
  • brute, in chewing gum, especially to sanitize, soothe the respiratory sphere, mouth, throat, but also in support of the digestive system ;
  • In capsule, especially in support of the immune system;
  • in syrup, more specifically for the ENT sphere and sore throats, in candy, in spray oral or nasal, in creams for skin conditions, etc.

In all cases, it is important to ensure the quality of Propolis used, 100% natural, raw, and harvested in France if possible.

The way Propolis is used depends on the form of the product used, as well as its Propolis content. In the case of the hydroalcoholic extract, the intake is generally done in a 3-week cure, by diluting 15 drops twice a day in a glass of water, at a distance from meals. For children over 6 years old, reduce the dose by two. It can also be taken as a gargle for mouthwash or throat.

Precautions for use

Hydroalcoholic propolis extract is not recommended for children under 6 years of age, pregnant women, and in cases of allergy to hive products.

Do not use for more than 3 consecutive weeks, as there is a risk of developing an allergic reaction.

What is Propolis made of?

Propolis is composed of about 300 compounds including:

  • resins and balsams: 50-55%.
  • wax: 30-40%.
  • essential oils: 5-10%.
  • pollen: 5
  • mineral and organic matter: 5
  • organic acids: benzoic acid, gallic acid
  • phenolic acids: caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, isoferulic acid, p-coumarinic acid, artepillin C
  • aromatic aldehydes: vanillin, isovanillin
  • flavonoids: chrysin, pinocembrin, galangin, quercetin, acetin, pectolinarigerin, tectochrysin, izalpinin, kaemperid, rhamnocitrin, pinotrobin, sarkyranetin, pinobanksin
  • trace elements
  • vitamins: provitamin A, vitamin B3 (or PP) and other B vitamins

Depending on the plants used by the bees but also on the geographical origin, the composition will be somewhat variable. Propolis from temperate zones will be richer in polyphenolic compounds, i.e. flavonoids, phenolic acids and their sesquiterpene esters. Propolis from intertropical areas will be richer in prenylated derivatives (artepillin C), coumaric acids and flavonoids.

How is Propolis made?

Propolis, a resinous substance produced by certain plants, is also the term used to designate this complex substance made by bees from this resin and wax. The bees use it in particular to seal the holes of the hive but not only. Possessing very good antimicrobial properties, Propolis keeps diseases away from the hive to keep it healthy. For these reasons, bees collect it from trees and man has long noticed the properties of this substance and has learned to collect and use it.

Propolis and bees

Harvesting and manufacturing of Propolis by bees

Propolis is a resinous, gummy, balsamic substance that bees, specifically foragers (older and experienced) collect from trees. This substance is then very viscous and sticky. Upon returning to the hive, the workers will take over. They take useful amounts andincorporate wax into the mixture to obtain a stiff, malleable, non-sticky texture. It is once this transformation process is complete that Propolis is obtained. Depending on the species of bees and the size of the colony, a hive can produce between 0.1 and 1 kg of Propolis per year.

Role of Propolis for bees

In the hive, Propolis serves several purposes. It is essential to the life of the hive. First of all, it allows to plug the holes to ensure the waterproofing of the hive, it also allows a better thermal sealing. The bees will also use it to reduce the entrance to the hive depending on the weather conditions and to protect themselves from enemies. Inside the hive, Propolis helps to strengthen whatever the bees feel is necessary to reinforce for better hive performance. Propolis prevents microbial growth, the bees coat the inside of the hive with it to asepticize it, creating a healthy, disease-free environment. This also applies to dead bees or other animals that may have had the unfortunate idea of intruding into the hive. By decomposing, the bodies could bring diseases. They are then covered with Propolis by the bees, blocking putrefaction. Propolis is also found in the cells containing the eggs, creating a sterile environment for the proper development of future bees. For all these roles, the beekeeper should not collect all the Propolis at the risk of weakening the colony.

Propolis and Man

Harvesting and preparation of Propolis by the beekeeper

The beekeeper collects the Propolis grids and/or the supers and frames of the hive. The Propolis present on the "soft" Propolis grids are put in the freezer. It then becomes brittle, which facilitates its extraction. The supers and frames are scraped off. At this stage, the Propolis is brute and contains many impurities: corpses, plant residues, wood debris, sand, etc. It is then analyzed to ensure its quality, before being purified. There are several methods of purifying Propolis. The quickest method is to immerse the Propolis in water heated to around 65°C, although it would be best not to heat it above 40°C to avoid its alteration. With the heat, the wax will melt and separate from the Propolis, accompanied by other impurities. One then obtains the wax on the surface of water and the Propolis at the bottom of water. Another method consists in making a mother tincture by macerating Propolis in ethanol titrated at 70 or 80°, protected from the light, during two weeks and by stirring regularly. The mixture is then filtered to keep only the liquid part but some wax may be dissolved. Other more sophisticated methods such as centrifugation, ultrasound or microwave are used by laboratories.

Propolis has always been used by Man

Propolis was already used by the Egyptians for ointments and mummification rituals. It prevented the putrefaction of corpses, which is why mummies are intact today. During Antiquity, it was specifically appreciated for its antiseptic and healing properties, it was entirely part of the first-aid pharmacy of the time and even in the Middle Ages when it was used to heal wounds. In the last two centuries, Propolis has been replaced by medicines despite all the benefits it can have. It was used against oral inflammation and tooth decay in Georgia (Former USSR). InRussia, it was used as an ointment to treat certain diseases. In France it was used toheal wounds. The Germans made Propolis remedies to probably heal cancers, ulcers, eczema or even rashes. During the Boer War (war between South African settlers from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, owner of South Africa) it was the reference for healing wounds. The Soviets used it in hospitals to treat the wounded and sick. Propolis was even used in veterinary medicine.

Green, red, brown propolis, what are the different types of propolis?

There are several types of Propolis depending on its geographical origin. The most known in Europe is the brown Propolis but there are also red and green Propolis. The color of Propolis is influenced by its flavonoid content, substances present in the plants that give them their color. Thus according to the plants used by the bees, Propolis will be different, from a point of view of its color but also and especially at the level of its properties.

Brown Propolis

Brown Propolis is produced mainly in Europe and comes mostly from poplar trees but it is also harvested from other species such as: birch, ash, willow, elm, spruce, fir, pine, etc. Propolis is the one most often found because it is produced in larger quantities and especially because it is local.

Its main properties correspond to those mentioned above, anti-infectious, immune stimulating, healing and skin regenerating but also anti-inflammatory, among others.

Green Propolis

Green Propolis is produced in the state of Paraná in Brazil, a region with an exceptional natural environment, free of any pollution, a quality necessary for the production of organic Green Propolis. It comes mostly from the leaves of the field broom (Baccharis dracunculifolia) growing abundantly in this region and belonging to the Asteraceae family.

Green Propolis contains between 6 and 8 % of artepillin C while brown Propolis contains 2 or even 3 times less. This higher concentration of polyphenols gives it more antioxidant properties, in the context of skin aging for example, but also in the protection of the liver and kidneys following heavy treatments. It will be the Propolis to be favored in accompaniment of anti-cancer treatments. Green Propolis is also the most effective against baldness. It would be also very effective in case of gastro-intestinal ulcers. It is recommended for the treatment of peptic ulcer in many books of natural medicine in Brazil.

Red Propolis

Red Propolis is produced along the coasts of northeastern Brazil, in areas of mangroves. This Propolis is recovered from mangrove trees named Dalbergia Escastaphyllum, long-rooted tropical trees found in mangroves, belonging to the Fabaceae family. The beetle larvae make holes in the stems of these trees, through which red resinous exudates are secreted, hence the color of Propolis. This Propolis has superior antimicrobial activity to brown Propolis. Some even say it is the most potent Propolis.

In addition to the properties previously mentioned, Red Propolis has a high percentage of isoflavones such as formononetin and biochanin A, which are phytoestrogens. Red Propolis would act on menopausal problems such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness or osteoporosis. Formononetin would specifically fight against bone demineralization.

Propolis extracted... Products of the hive

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