The Benefits and Uses of Propolis
What is propolis?
Propolis is a resin-like material made by bees from the buds of poplar and cone-bearing trees. Propolis is rarely available in its pure form. It is usually obtained from beehives and contains bee products. Bees use propolis to build their hives.
Propolis is used for swelling (inflammation) and sores inside the mouth (oral mucositis). It is also used for burns, canker sores, diabetes, genital herpes, cold sores, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
How does it work?
Propolis is thought to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. But scientific research on propolis is limited. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but the bee product appears to provide protection from some bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Propolis has a special compound called pinocembrin, a flavonoid that acts as an antifungal. These anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties make propolis helpful in wound healing. One study found that propolis can help people who have had traumatic burns heal faster by speeding up new healthy cell growth.
Another studyTrusted Source found that a topical propolis alcoholic extract was more effective than a steroid cream in reducing mast cells in oral surgery wounds. Mast cells are associated with inflammation and slowed wound healing.
Cold sores and genital herpes
Ointments that contain 3 percent propolis, such as Herstat or Coldsore-FX, may help speed healing time and reduce symptoms in both cold sores and sores from genital herpes.
One studyTrusted Source found when topical propolis was applied three times a day, it helped to heal cold sores faster than no treatment. The researchers found the propolis cream not only reduced the amount of herpes virus present in a person’s body, but also protected the body against future cold sore breakouts.
Propolis has been suggested to have a role in treating certain cancers as well. According to one study Trusted Source, some of the anti-cancerous effects of the substance include:
- keeping cancerous cells from multiplying
- reducing the likelihood cells will become cancerous
- blocking pathways that keep cancer cells from signaling to each other
The study also suggested that propolis could be a complementary therapy — but not a sole treatment — for cancer. Another study found that taking Chinese propolis could be a helpful complementary therapy in treating breast cancer due to its anti-tumor effects on breast cancer cells.
There is not yet enough evidence to determine whether or not propolis products are safe, but they’re not considered high-risk. People typically take in some propolis when they eat honey. However, if you have an allergy to honey or bees, you will also have a reaction to products containing propolis. Propolis may also cause its own allergic reaction when used for a long time.
Beekeepers are some of the people most likely to have a propolis allergy because they’re around the compound so much. The typical allergic reaction is an eczema-like skin breakout. Talk to your doctor before adding propolis to your treatment plan, especially if you have existing allergies or asthma.