The remarkable health benefits of propolis may not be known to some people, but bee propolis benefits have actually been discovered and used in the field of medicine by the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans. In fact, Hippocrates also recognized the quality of propolis in wound healing. Propolis was also established as an official drug in London during the 1600s.
What is Propolis?
Bee propolis, or also known as “bee glue” is the sticky brownish substance with a sweet-smelling aroma that the bees gather from the buds or bark of various plants and trees. Therefore the chemical compositions in propolis may also be different if they come from different places. The amount and type of components also can be different depending on the season and geographical sources.
Propolis is sticky and has a soft texture in warm weather, but it hardens and becomes brittle in cool weather. Bees use propolis as a filler to fill the gaps and holes in the hive by gluing the frames and cover firmly together, strengthening the comb as well as to keep the hive clean by coating the interior part of the hive and its entrance with propolis. This ensures that the hive is sterilized and free of germs. Propolis is also used to cover foreign creatures – such as carcasses of snails, mice, etc – that are too difficult to be removed from the hive.
Although it is a valuable product, is it not edible in its pure forms like honey and royal jelly. It can, however, be part of the ingredients in other products and processed as food supplements. Today, it is very common to find propolis contained in products such as cough syrups, toothpaste and other cosmetics.
Health benefits of propolis to humans include guarding against bacteria and fungi when applied externally in the form of a cream. At the time of the Boer war, propolis was used for this purpose. It is also believed to increase the body’s resistance to infection and boost the immunity system by stimulating the thymus gland.
The antibiotic properties of propolis can also avoid the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria that can cause serious infections. Propolis ointment is also claimed to be an excellent wound dressing. Other bee propolis benefits include lowering high blood pressure and coronary heart disease.
In addition to that, taking bee propolis has been found to reduce colds and coughing, as well as healing scars and bruises due to the high amount of flavonoids and vitamin B. Propolis also has anti-inflammatory effects due to one of its component, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), and may prevent the growth of a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori which is often associated with peptic ulcer.
Bee propolis products are also available in gel dry powder form. Propolis gel is often used topically to treat cuts and burns, and propolis powder can be used to relieve mouth sores when sprinkled on them.
Besides the numerous great health benefits of propolis, another well-known use of this powerful substance is as a wood varnish. It has been reputedly used as a varnish for Stradivarius violins – what was considered as the finest string instruments.