What is it?
Bee propolis, often referred to as “bee glue”, is a resinous substance made by bees when they accumulate products from different plants. The word “propolis” is derived from the Greek word for defense (pro) and city (polis) (1). Bees produce this by mixing their saliva with beeswax and exudate (secretions) gathered from plants, flowers, and trees. It is the substance that bees use to seal holes and cracks in the reconstruction of the beehive. It functions in the integrity of the beehive, maintaining the hive internal temperature and preventing weathering and invasion by predators (2,3). It also has antiseptic qualities in protecting the hive. Bee propolis has numerous applications in treating diseases in humans due to its properties.
Features of Bee Propolis
Propolis is considered the third most important component of bee products. It is composed of resin (50%), wax (30%), essential oils (10%), pollen (5%) and other organic compounds (5%) (4). The organic compounds can be broken down into components including phenolic compounds, esters, flavonoids, terpenes, beta-steroids, aromatic aldehydes, and alcohols (5). Propolis also contains some key vitamins such as vitamins B1, B2, B6, C and E and a variety of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, copper, zinc, manganese and iron. There can also be some enzymes or active proteins found in propolis which help with sugar and DNA metabolism (6). According to literature, more than 300 different compounds can be found in propolis (2). The compounds depend on the bees, their plant sources and other factors.
Bee propolis is rich in bioactive compounds. Phenolic compounds which are present as flavonoids are considered bioactive (7). These give bee propolis its antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, wound healing and cardioprotective activities (8). The range of flavonoids present depends again on the bees and their plant sources.
Bee propolis can be used as an antibacterial, antifungal and anti-parasitic agent. Propolis has been used to treat people with giardiasis, which is an infection with Giardia duodenalis (9). This shows its anti-parasitic ability. It may also be effective in treating ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori (10).
Bee propolis extract solutions have been shown to have antifungal properties which can be beneficial for people suffering from yeast infections (11). It has the potential to be used in the future as a therapy against fungal infections.
Oral health and infections
Bee propolis may restrict mouth bacterial plaque because of its antibacterial properties (12). There is potential in it being used in mouthwashes and to disinfect toothbrushes (13, 14). An extract of propolis toothpaste may even be effective against gingivitis (15).
There is a promise for bee propolis being used in anticancer treatment against breast cancer because of its ability to target cancer cells (16). An extract of propolis was shown to kill cancer cells in the lab via a process called apoptosis (17). Propolis has also shown potential in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells (18). More research needs to be done to see if it can be used in cancer therapy.
Skin care and wound healing
Bee propolis is widely used in skin care products. It may be effective in treating acne vulgaris in individuals suffering from acne (19). It has also been shown to increase the collagen content in tissues for wound healing purposes (20). Bee propolis is effective in wound healing because of its antifungal and antibacterial properties in addition to adding collagen to the site. Propolis also has antioxidant properties which protect the skin from free radical damage. Drops of bee propolis can be added directly to the wound site in order to see the benefits.
Antioxidant activity and cardioprotective effects
Fifteen drops of bee propolis taken twice daily have been shown to have high antioxidant activity (21). This was tested by looking for signals in the body indicating low free radicals. The patients in this study also saw an improvement in the HDL cholesterol in this case showing it might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It might be more effective in men in some cases in comparison to women (22). Some skin products also use bee propolis to inhibit free radical damage on the skin. Free radical damage on the skin through UV rays etc. can cause the skin to age prematurely.
Bee propolis has been shown to have neuroprotective effects in mice in a stroke model (23) and in cells in the lab (24). Bee propolis also reversed the neural impairment in an Alzheimer’s disease rat model (25). There is more research needed to be done to see whether this would be effective in humans.
Bee propolis usage directions
Bee propolis in supplements is available in capsules or drops. The drops can be used to drink or gargle. Drops of bee propolis can be added to a half a glass of warm water and ingested. The number of drops depends on what is suggested by your health practitioner or the label on the product. Bee propolis can also be applied to the skin using a cotton bud or a piece of linen. Skin applications are for wound healing, acne, or creating a skin product to prevent UV damage. Please be warned that this product may stain clothing.
Precaution and dosage
People who are allergic to bees or bee products should not use bee propolis. Aside from allergies, propolis has been deemed safe to be taken by mouth or applied to the skin as long as the dosage on the labels are followed. More research is needed to find the most effective dose for helping with the conditions discussed in this article. Use as recommended on the label or by a health practitioner. There is not enough evidence to know the effect of this on pregnant or breastfeeding women. If you have an adverse reaction to bee propolis, please stop taking it and seek advice from a doctor.
MapleLife Bee Propolis
MapleLife is known in Canada for their supplements. They are the best place to get high quality for a great price. They have bee propolis available as drops as well as in capsules depending on what your need is. Their products come highly recommended. If you are thinking about bee propolis, you have to try MapleLife drops or capsules.
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