Healthy Friday: Propolis – another reason to keep bees around

Propolis is a natural antibiotic. It boosts the immune system, and has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

Propolis protects the bee hive

Bees make propolis by gathering resin from pine and other cone-producing evergreen trees and combining it with beeswax and pollen. The propolis is used to seal small gaps in the hive. Larger spaces are filled with beeswax.

It also acts as an antiseptic barrier protecting the hive from contamination and external invaders.

The name propolis comes from the Greek word meaning “defense of the city”.

The antimicrobial properties of propolis protect the hive from viruses, fungi and bacteria. Researchers found that bees living in hives coated with propolis have lower bacteria in their body and also ‘quieter’ immune systems.

Propolis in the past

  • Propolis has been used for thousands of years to treat abscesses, burns, wounds and infections.
  • It was listed as an official drug in the London pharmacopoeias of the 17th century.
  • Greek and Roman physicians used propolis as a mouth disinfectant.

Propolis today

Researchers have identified more than 300 compounds in propolis. The majority of them are forms of polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that fight disease and damage in the body.

Specifically, propolis contains the polyphenols called flavonoids. Flavonoids are produced in plants as a form of protection. They’re commonly found in foods thought to have antioxidant properties, including fruit, green tea, vegetables and red wine.

Oral remedy: Modern studies show it may be effective in the treatment of periodontis and gingivitis. Many studies have also found that propolis limits bacterial plaque and reduces tooth caries.

Blood sugar: Studies have shown that propolis may inhibit enzymes that increase blood sugar. It is thought that the antioxidant compounds in propolis are responsible for its blood sugar-stabilizing benefits.



Propolis can be purchased in pharmacies and health food stores. It is available as creams, ointments, lotions, toothpastes, mouth washes, extracts or tinctures as well as tablets and capsules.

People who are allergic to bees may also have a reaction to products containing propolis.


Caxton Central

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