Bee product enthusiasts have long touted the health benefits of honey, pollen, royal jelly, and propolis. Bee propolis is sometimes called “bee glue,” and it is a health balm. Research shows it even has anti-cancer properties.
San Diego State University professor, Dr. Seema Patel of the Bioinformatics and Medical Informatics Research Center, completed a review of scientific literature on propolis and cancer. She found animal and laboratory studies that demonstrated that propolis is effective against brain, pancreas, head and neck, kidney and bladder, skin, prostate, breast, colon, liver and blood cancers.
With 300 active compounds, propolis fights cancer in a number of ways. It has anti-angiogenesis properties that inhibit the growth of new blood vessels to supply malignant cells. It inhibits the metatasis of tumors, suppresses the division of malignant cells, and induces apoptosis (programmed cell death). Propolis also supports cancer patients by mitigating the toxic side effects of chemotherapy drugs.
Bees produce propolis from resin they take from pine and other conifer evergreen trees. They combine the resin with flakes of wax and pollen, and carry it back to the hive. With this sticky substance, they patch holes, seal cracks, and construct panels in the hive.
In addition to serving as building material, propolis provides an antiseptic barrier that guards the hive from contamination and from outside attacks from mice, snakes and lizards. The origin of the word propolis is actually from the Greek, for “defense of the city.” Because of its microbial properties, propolis also protects the hive from bacterial and viruses.
Folk medicine practitioners have used propolis for millenia, to heal abscesses, treat wounds, and combat infection. The London pharmacopoeias of the 17th century lists propolis as an official drug.
Contemporary scientific research confirms the health benefits of propolis. There have been more than 2,000 studies on bee propolis, demonstrating the following benefits:
1. Anti-Microbial Action
Propolis fights bacteria, fungi and viruses. In one study, a propolis solution was applied to diabetic rats, and was shown to speed healing.
Propolis is an effective treatment in children to ward off respiratory tract infections, fight symptoms of the common cold, and prevent ear infections.
2. Healing of Burns
A 2002 study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine determined that propolis may facilitate the healing of minor burns. The researchers performed a comparison of a propolis skin cream with silver sulfadiazine, a standard drug for treatment of burns. Propolis proved as effective as the drug in treating second degree burns.
3. Prevention of Dental Caries
Greek and Roman physicians recommended propolis as a mouth disinfectant. Modern research shows it can be effective in the treatment of periodontitis and gingivitis. Extracts from propolis also limit bacterial plaque and reduce tooth decay. Other studies indicate propolis may support regeneration of dental pulp, bone tissue and cartilage.
4. Treatment for Parasites
Early studies show propolis may eliminate parasite infestations. In one study, subjects had a 52 to 60 percent success rate in eliminating giadiarsis.
5. Wart Removal
One study of 135 subjects with two distinct types of warts were given oral propolis, echinacea, or a placebo. Results appeared in the International Journal Dermatology. The cure rates were 75 percent for plane warts and 73 percent for common warts, far above cure rates for echinacea or placebo.