Chemically speaking

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The Constituents of Propolis    Chemically speaking, propolis is a very complex mixture. Its chemical elements vary according to its source.  Colors range from golden brown to brownish green to reddish brown to blackish brown.  A broad analysis reveals approximately 55 percent resinous compounds and balsam, 30 percent beeswax, 10 percent ethereal and aromatic oils, and 5 percent bee pollen.  Many flavonols contribute to propolis.  Other components include cinnamic acid, cinnamyl alcohol, vanillin, caffeic acid, tetochrysin, isalpinin, pinocembrin, chrysin, galangin, and ferulic acid.

The Properties of Propolis     Propolis is another medicinal marvel from the beehive.  Research shows it offers antiseptic, antibiotic, antibacterial, antifungal, and even antiviral properties.  Propolis is Nature's premiere preventive.  It is so powerful in action, it is often called Russian penicillin in acknowledgement of the extensive research the Russians have mounted on this wonder worker from the bees.  Propolis demonstrates strong antimicrobial properties against various bacterial and fungal infestations.  Even streptococcus bacteria have been shown sensitive to propolis.

Natures's Preventive Medicine     Propolis has been justly called Nature's premier preventive.  The immune system is supported and strengthened by the ingestion of propolis.  Modern scientific studies indicate that those who take propolis regularly escape winter colds and sore throats and seem to develop a natural immunity to common viruses, including the various strains of flu. Chemical antibiotics destroy all bacteria in the body, both the friendly, (necessary flora required for healthy functioning in the entire gastrointestinal tract) and the bad intestinal flora.  An individual who constantly takes prescribed antibiotics for one condition after another soon learns to his sorrow that the drugs may no longer work as well as they once did.  As invading bacteria get "smarter," the drugs become less and less effective. Propolis, the natural antibiotic, works against harmful bacteria without destroying the friendly bacteria the body needs.  Propolis has also been proven effective against strains of bacteria that resist chemical antibiotics. The field of influence of propolis is extremely broad.  It includes cancer, infection of the urinary tract, swelling of the throat, gout, open wounds, sinus congestion, colds, influenza, bronchitis, gastritis, diseases of the ears, periodontal disease, intestinal infections, ulcers, eczema eruptions, pneumonia, arthritis, lung disease, stomach virus, headaches, Parkinson's disease, bile infections, sclerosis, circulation deficiencies, warts, conjunctivitis, and hoarseness. Propolis helps regulate hormones and is an antibiotic substance that stimulates the natural resistance of the body.  Propolis may be used by everyone, sick or healthy, as a means of protection against microorganisms.  Propolis is also efficient against conditions caused by bacteria, viruses, or different fungi
Propolis Research Update
[Xanthine oxidase inhibitory activity and hypouricemia effect of propolis in rats]
Yakugaku Zasshi. 2005 Mar;125(3):315-21.
Fancl Corporation Central Research Laboratory, Yokohama 244-0806, Japan.
The xanthine oxidase (XOD) inhibitory activity of propolis from China and Brazil was measured. The propolis from both place were seen to have XOD inhibitory activity. These results suggested that a continuous intake of propolis may be effective for the prevention and the treatment of gout and hyperuricemia.

Inhibitory effect of bee pollen and propolis extracts.

Nahrung. 2004 Jun;48(3):188-94.
Bee pollen and propolis were collected from Apis mellifera colonies in five regions of Turkey. The antifungal properties of methanol extracts of pollen and propolis (2% and 5% concentrations) were determined on Alternaria alternata and Fusarium oxysporium f. sp. melonis. The least active concentration towards the tested fungi was 2% concentration of both extracts. The inhibitory effect of all bee propolis extracts on growth of F. oxysporium and A. alternata were generally higher when compared with bee pollen extracts. The growth of A. alternata and F. oxysporium were not affected at both concentrations of pollens. However, F. oxysporium against propolis extracts was more sensitive than A. alternata. None of the bee pollen extracts tested completely inhibited mycelial growth of fungi used in our experiment. Percent inhibition of both pollen concentrations against A. alternata and F. oxysporium was lower than 50%. However, both concentrations of Alanya and BeyÅŸehir bee propolis extracts were 100% effective on mycelial growth of F. oxysporium until the 7th day of incubation. 2% Alanya and BeyÅŸehir bee pollen extracts completely stimulated mycelial growth of F. oxysporium on the 7th day of incubation. Both concentrations of propolis extract showed more than 50% inhibition against E. oxysporium. It is suggested that high concentrations of propolis extract could be used as an antifungal agent against tested fungi. Bee propolis -- a gummy substance that bees collect from plants in order to repair holes in their hives -- contains antioxidant compounds, flavonoids such as chrysin, and animal research has suggested it has anti-tumor properties.

Chemical composition and antibacterial activity of propolis collected by three different races of honeybees in the same region.

J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 May 13;99(1):69-73.
Erciyes University, S.Cikrikcioglu Vocational College, Department of Beekeeping, 38039 Kayseri, Turkey.
The chemical analysis and antibacterial activity of three types of propolis collected three different races of Apis mellifera bee in the same apiary were investigated. Propolis samples were investigated by GC/MS, 48 compounds were identified 32 being new for propolis. The compounds identified indicated that the main plant sources of propolis were Populus alba, Populus tremuloides and Salix alba. Ethanolic extracts of propolis samples showed high antibacterial activity against Gram-positive cocci (Staphylococcus aureus), but had a weak activity against Gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) and yeast (Candida albicans). Propolis sample collected by Apis mellifera caucasica showed a higher antibacterial activity than collected by Apis mellifera anatolica and Apis mellifera carnica.

Cytoprotection by propolis ethanol extract of acute absolute ethanol-induced gastric mucosal lesions.

Am J Chin Med. 2002;30(2-3):245-54.
Acute p.o. administration of absolute ethanol (1.0 ml/kg) to fasted rats produced extensive necrosis of gastric mucosa. Pretreatment with p.o. administration of propolis ethanol extract could effectively and dose-dependently prevent such necrosis. This protective effect is called "cytoprotection. "The maximal cytoprotective effect against absolute ethanol (AE)-induced gastric mucosal lesion was observed 1 hour after propolis extract administration. A gross examination of the gastric mucosa showed a marked improvement in groups receiving PEE. In order to further investigate the gastric protective mechanism of propolis, lipid peroxidation (LPO) levels in vivo and in vitro were estimated. Propolis exhibited dose-dependent superoxide scavenging activity and antioxidant effects on AE-induced LPO in rat gastric mucosal homogenates. It was concluded that the gastric protective mechanism of propolis ethanol extract was due, at least in part, to its ability to inhibit LPO, and hence indirectly protect the gastric mucosa from oxidative stress.

A comparative multi-centre study of the efficacy of propolis, acyclovir and placebo in the treatment of genital herpes (HSV).

Phytomedicine 2000 Mar;7(1):1-6
Ninety men and women with recurrent genital HSV type 2 participated in a randomized, single-blind, masked investigator, controlled multi-centre study comparing the efficacy of ointment of Canadian propolis containing natural flavonoids with ointments of acyclovir and placebo (vehicle) on healing ability and capacity to remedy symptoms. Thirty individuals were randomized to each group. Treatment was intended to start in the blister phase. All participants had HSV type 2 isolated, confirmed by serum immunoglobulin levels. The participants were examined on the 3rd, 7th and 10th days of treatment by gynaecologists, dermatovenerologists or urologists at seven different medical centres. Apart from clinical symptoms the number and size of the herpetic lesions were noted. At each examination the lesions were classified into four stages: vesicular, ulcerated, crusted and healed. The study ointments were applied to affected areas four times daily. In women with vaginal or cervical lesions a tampon with the appropriate ointment was inserted four times daily for 10 days. Endpoint variables were healing time and time until loss of symptoms. RESULTS: On Day 10, 24 out of 30 individuals in the propolis group had healed. In the acyclovir group 14 out of 30 and in the placebo group 12 out of 30 had healed. The healing process appeared to be faster in the propolis group. In the propolis group 15 individuals had crusted lesions on Day 3 compared to 8 individuals in the acyclovir group and none in the placebo group. On Day 7, 10 participants in the propolis group, 4 in the acyclovir group and 3 in the placebo group had healed. At the initial examination all patients had local symptoms and 28% general symptoms. At Day 3, 3 patients in the propolis group had local symptoms compared to 8 and 9 in the acyclovir and placebo groups respectively. Of the women, 66% had vaginal superinfections of microbial pathogens at the initial examination. In the acyclovir and placebo groups no change in the vaginal flora was found following treatment whereas in the propolis group the incidence of superinfection was reduced by 55%. (p = 0.10 n.s.). CONCLUSION: An ointment containing flavonoids appeared to be more effective than both acyclovir and placebo ointments in healing genital herpetic lesions, and in reducing local symptoms.

Prophylactic effectiveness of propolis for immunostimulation: a clinical pilot study
Forsch Komplementarmed 1999 Oct;6(5):256-60
The aim of this pilot investigation was to show the evidence of the prophylactic immunostimulating effectiveness caused by propolis. The immune response was determined by the measurement of the cytokine level in vivo and ex vivo (TNF-alpha, IL-6, IL-8). In an open prospective monocentric study, 10 healthy test persons aged between 18 and 45 years received Propolis XNP. Probands received over 13 days 500 mg Propolis XNP (2 capsules) for peroral application in the morning. Significant changes of the investigated cytokine secretion capacity during and after the treatment of propolis were compared to the situation without medication. Although the cytokine plasma levels did not significantly change during the study, propolis led to a significant increase of both the spontaneous (TNF-alpha, p < 0. 05; IL-6, IL-8,  IL-1beta, not detectable) and LPS(lipopolysaccaride)-induced (TNF-alpha; IL-6; IL-8; IL-1beta) cytokine secretion capacity following short-term ex vivo culture of peripheral blood leukocytes. Whereas the IL-6 secretion capacity further increased during the 13-day application, the IL-8 and TNF-alpha secretion reached a plateau after day 4 and the TNF-alpha secretion even decreased, but the level at day 13 was still significantly higher than at day 0. CONCLUSION: As the cytokine secretion capacity but not the cytokine plasma levels increased significantly during therapy, the prophylactic application of propolis led to a time dependent enhanced immune reactivity without undesired side effects. Propolis honey

Propolis: A natural antibiotic

Propolis is probably best known for its antibiotic properties. Even as early as 1960 French1 research demonstrated the bacteriostatic action on Bacillus subtilis, Proteus vulgaris and Bacillus alvei. The results have been replicated many times and Propolis has even been shown to be effective to MRSA2, the same antibiotic resistant bacteria that has infected up to 70% of our hospitals. A 1997 study by Calder et al.3 at the University of Oxford concurred with these results and found that the cinnaminic acids and flavanoids present in Propolis in particular show bacteriocidal action. This action believed to be as a consequence of Propolis uncoupling the bacterial energy respiratory chain. Interestingly this action may be involved in a synergistic action with antibiotics when used together, boosting the effectiveness of the drugs.

Anti-Viral and immuno-stimulatory

Viruses present a unique dilemma in the quest for good health, they are not affected by antibiotics and mutate so frequently that vaccines are hard to produce. They also cause illness by hijacking cells and using the cells machinery to replicate. Modern drugs aim to slow or stop the virus from the replicating and subsequently because they are attacking host cell machinery they have certain side effects. Viruses perhaps pose the greatest threat to humans' health, we are currently in the middle of a HIV pandemic with "39.4 million" people infected world wide. With a Flu pandemic overdue and certainly on its way and predictions of world wide casualties and chaos, a solution is needed. The bioflavanoids in propolis have a unique approach to combating Viruses, instead of trying to combat them once they have infected a cell, they lock the virus in its protein coat. This means that the dangerous machinery and DNA/RNA of the virus is nullified and the infection stopped. Propolis has been shown to be more effective than the pharmaceutical anti-viral acyclovir in treating genital Herpes in a clinical trial conducted in the Ukraine4 and there is growing evidence that Propolis could help treat people with HIV5.

Propolis also works hard as an immunomodulator which is of interest for all of us. It does this by altering the way cytokine production and release is managed. Cytokines are the chemical messengers that allow immune system cells to communicate. By altering the cytokine system, it primes the immune system to be ready to react to antigens quickly and effectively. As well as this, bioflavanoids within Propolis stimulate the production of interferon which can help people recover from ME, stimulating their immune system. This alteration of the cytokine and interferon systems means that your body is ready to fight off infection and keep you healthy, making a case for using propolis as a supplement for good health, like vitamins. Prevention is better than the cure.

Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergen

A survey of Propolis consumers showed that arthritis was the health problem that Propolis was used to treat the most. This is because of the potent anti-inflammatory properties of the propolis constituents in particular CAPE (Caffeic acid Phenyl ester), CAPE has been shown to suppress T cell activation. A paper by Marquez et al in 20046 evaluated this to mean that since T-cells play a key role in the onset of several inflammatory diseases, CAPE is important because the this phenolic compound is a potent inhibitor of early and late events in T-cell receptor-mediated T-cell activation. Results like this have led other researchers to propose that CAPE is a worthwhile agent for reducing the severity of conditions associated with inflammation.

Many of the experiments performed on CAPE were done so in vitro, however the anti-inflammatory properties of Propolis have been documented in rats when treating rat adjuvant arthritis. A paper by Park et al in 19997 concluding that the ethanolic extract of propolis had profound anti-inflammatory effects on both chronic and acute arthritic inflammations. These anti-inflammation properties extend to other illness and disorders such as asthma and allergies reducing both smooth muscle airway contraction8 and allergic responses. Any disorder or illness related to inflammation could be helped by Propolis.


Propolis and CAPE have been shown to reduce the size of tumours and to selectively destroy and to curb the proliferation of malignant cells of many different types of cancer. As recently as June 10th 2005, cancer researchers have been given a grant of a million dollars to investigate the therapeutic value of Propolis for cancer. Costas Koumenis the lead investigator for the study was quoted as saying, "a very interesting property of these compounds is that they have been shown to cause cell death in tumor cells but not in normal cells." This study along with other current studies promises to propel Propolis into the limelight in the field of cancer treatment.

Current Propolis Research in the UK

BVR (BeeVital Research) recently won a major government Research and Development Award, part of a £250,000 research programme looking at the chemical, biological and clinical properties of propolis. These studies will focus on:

  1. Documenting the regional variances in chemical and biological properties, by HPLS, GC-MS and NMR. (Taking place at Univeristy of Strathclyde.)

  2. Futher investigating the role of Propolis in the Hive. (University of Gloucester)

  3. Dental trials – looking at effectiveness of Propolis for Mouth Ulcers, Pericorinitis, Gingivitis and Sensitive Teeth. (Manchester University Dental school)

  4. HIV/AIDS trials – looking at the effectiveness of Propolis with anti-virals in Zambia and Tanzania.

  5. The effects of standardised propolis on mood, stress, fatigue and cognition at the Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit at University of Newcastle.

  6. Evaluating the use of local and non-local propolis for wound healing and the treatment of skin and other dermatological problems. ( The Regional Teaching Hospital for University of Dar es Salaam)

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