Propolis: benefits, side effects, dosage and interactions

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Propolis is a resinous substance that bees produce from materials collected from the buds of trees. Rich in flavonoids, a class of antioxidants, propolis has long been used as a natural remedy for a number of health problems.

Research shows that propolis has a variety of medicinal properties , including antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor properties.

Propolis is found in small amounts in honey and is widely available in supplement form. Propolis is also used as an ingredient in some medications that are applied directly to the skin, such as ointments and creams. Additionally, propolis is sometimes found in nasal and throat sprays, as well as in mouthwashes and toothpaste.

Propolis is touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems and conditions:

Additionally, propolis is believed to boost the immune system and prevent tooth decay.

Health benefits

While several clinical trials have tested the health effects of propolis, there is some evidence that propolis may have specific benefits. Here are some of the main findings of the available research:

Herpes treatment

Preliminary research suggests that topical application of propolis can help cure herpes. For example, in a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2010, scientists found that propolis extracts had antiviral effects that could help neutralize herpes simplex virus type 1, the virus that causes herpes .

Treatment of genital herpes

According to a study published in Phytomedicine , applying a propolis ointment can help treat ulcers associated with genital herpes. In a 10-day study, 90 men and women with genital herpes used an ointment containing flavonoids derived from propolis, an ointment containing acyclovir (a drug used to reduce pain and speed healing of sores associated with herpes ) or a placebo ointment.

By the end of the study, 24 of 30 participants in the propolis group had recovered (compared to 14 of 30 in the acyclovir group and 12 of 30 in the placebo group). Given this finding, the study authors concluded that an ointment containing propolis-derived flavonoids may be more effective than acyclovir and placebo ointments in curing sores associated with genital herpes.

Treatment of burns

Propolis can help heal minor burns , according to research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine . As part of the study, the researchers compared propolis-based skin cream with silver sulfadiazine, a drug commonly used to treat second- and third-degree burns in patients with second-degree burns.

The results of the study showed that propolis and silver sulfadiazine were equally effective in treating burns. Also, propolis has stronger anti-inflammatory properties than silver sulfadiazine.

Gastrointestinal disorders

Research shows that propolis can help treat gastrointestinal disorders, including ulcerative colitis, gastrointestinal cancer, and ulcers. Propolis components, including caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), artepilin C, kaempferol, and galangin, have been shown to effectively kill pathogens, including H. pylori . However, research is limited to cell culture and animal studies.

Cavity control

Propolis may help fight tooth decay, according to a study by the Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin . In laboratory studies, scientists have found that propolis compounds help inhibit the growth of Streptococcus mutans, an oral bacteria known to promote tooth decay.

Research suggests that propolis may also help prevent Streptococcus mutans from sticking to teeth.

Diabetes management

Animal studies show that propolis can help treat diabetes. For example, in a 2005 study published in Pharmacological Research , tests in diabetic rats showed that propolis treatment helped lower blood sugar and cholesterol . However, these results have not been replicated in human studies.

Possible side effects.

Do not use propolis if you have asthma or are allergic to beekeeping by-products (including honey), conifers, poplars, Peruvian balsam, and salicylates. Propolis can slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders or during surgery.

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Dosage and drugs

Propolis is available in many forms, including tablets, capsules, powder, extract, and lozenge. When applied topically, it is found in ointments, creams, lotions, and other personal care products.

There is no RDA for propolis and there is not enough human research to determine how much propolis to take to maintain health.

What to look for

When choosing a supplement brand, look for products that are certified by Consumer Labs, USP, or NSF International.

Other questions

Is propolis the same as beeswax?

Bees produce propolis from collected beeswax, saliva, and plant materials. In the hive, propolis is used as a glue to close small cracks and beeswax is used to fill larger holes. Although propolis is made from beeswax, they are not the same.

Is propolis in honey?

Some types of honey contain a small amount of propolis. Since heat can destroy the healing properties of propolis, stick with raw, unfiltered, and unpasteurized honey.

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