Bees ward off microbial infections with propolis

Heal stomach ulcers, use it instead of antibiotics

The meaning and making of bee propolis

honey bee detail

A specialized worker bee gathers balsam from the buds of birch and poplar trees in springtime. We are familiar with Friar's Balsam and the rich medicinal aroma it has. This resin from poplar trees is a medicine in its own right and Friar's Balsam is used for chest infections, as an antiseptic and to treat wounds. It is one of many natural plant-derived ingredients we find in bee propolis. The bees also gather resins from conifer trees and mix them with their own exudates such as saliva, pollen, wax and digestive enzymes. The end result is propolis - a dark, resinous sticky goo with a strong anti-septic smell.

Propolis (Pro-before, Polis-city = defense of the city), is used by a colony of bees to protect their hive. It is sticky in warm weather and hard when cold. So during summer bees seal up all the cracks in their beehive with this fabulous temperature sensitive building material.  The use it to disinfect the beehive because of the strong antimicrobial effects it has due to the tree resins and other ingredients that are added by the bee itself. The warm humid interior of a beehive is prone to developing mold, viral, fungal and bacterial infections. (We are similar inside!)

Ethiopian beehive

What can propolis do for us as a medicine?

We too, can benefit from the antioxidant and anti-microbial action, its activity as a stimulant and its healing, analgesic, anesthetic and anti-inflammatory activity. According to values obtained in testing antioxidant activity of natural substances propolis is the most potent of them all. This is good to know, because propolis is not water of fat soluble as are most of the vitamins we take as antioxidants. Propolis dissolves in  96% ethanol but some components still remain intact and require stronger solvents to extract. Them. Propolis is also rich in vitamins, bioflavonoids, enzymes and trace elements.

The main chemical classes found in propolis are flavonoids, phenolics and terpenes. The flavonoids include quercetin, apegenin, galangin, kaempferol, luteolin, pinocembrin, pinostrobin and pinobanksin. Galangin is one of the most effective antibiotics we have, and it is a natural substance! The phenolic ester (caffeic acid phenethyl ester or CAPE) present in propolis is receiving much attention by medical researchers because of its potential for the treatment of a number of disorders, including spinal cord injury as well as immunomodulatory, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral activities.

Laboratory testing has confirmed that propolis is: antiviral, (including anti HIV-1 activity), antifungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant, antimycoplasmic, antiparasitic, anticarcinogenic and antithrombotic. (Big words for fighting microbes, parasites and for treating cancer and blood clotting!)

 Propolis to treat bee stings and arthritic pain

Propolis also has anaesthetizing properties and instantly stops the pain from a bee sting. It has a powerful anti-inflammatory action and may be helpful for arthritic conditions. This is due to caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) that inhibits the lipoxygenase pathway of arachidonic acid, that causes inflammation. I keep a bottle of propolis tincture in my first aid kit. It instantly stops the excruciating pain from beestings, wasps and bluebottles. Amazing, how well it works. In Homeopathy a rememdy is based on bee stings to alleviate stinging rashes and pain. You can also take these pills to help the side effects of a bee sting if you experience side effects such as swelling, difficulty in breathing and so on. If you are allergic to bees - rush to hospital!

What else can bee propolis be used for?

Topical treatment:  Medical studies have shown that topical application of propolis in tinctures or ointments helps against genital herpes, cold sores, dental caries, periodontal disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, eczemas, scars, psoriasis and fungal infections like ringworm and athlete’s foot. The tincture applied to bee stings gives instant pain relief and reduction of swelling. Propolis remedies are also good for earache or infections of the outer ear. Propolis preparations can be applied to cuts, scratches and surgical wounds. Propolis tincture made from alcohol can be used directly for beestings, or diluted with a little water or hand lotion for other applications. A propolis, beeswax and honey ointment such as Nature Fresh Bee Balm is ideal for external use, especially on dry, scaly skin conditions, psoriasis and scars.

Honey bees

Taking propolis for health and vitality: Several studies suggest that propolis taken as a tincture or in tablet form is useful in treating the common cold, influenza, microbes, parasites, stomach ulcers and respiratory problems.

Respiratory complaints: Very effective if taken as a tincture for: colds, influenza, catarrh, rhinitis, sinusitis, laryngitis and sore throats. Doctors can support therapy for: asthma, chronic pneumonia and tuberculosis with propolis.

Stomach and digestive disorders: Stomach ulcers from helicobacter pylori infections. Effective in large, frequent doses for gastritis, dysentery, diarrhoea, and leaky gut syndrome caused by parasites, worm and fluke infestations.  

How to make your own propolis honey:

This is very convenient and you soon learn to love it! Place 100ml of honey in a jar and stir in the tincture you need:

5ml(1 teaspoon) of tincture = 100 drops: this will mean 1 drop in each 1ml of honey. Thus a teaspoon of honey will contain 5 drops of tincture. Take the honey as is, or add it to rooibos tea or warm water, so that the alcohol is removed.

For 10 drops a day, add 10ml (2 teaspoons) tincture to the 100ml honey and have 1 teaspoon a day. (Or 2 x ½ teaspoon). For very intensive treatment, eg: getting rid of parasites or a stomach ulcer, take 10 drops 3x a day, before meals. Do this for a week and then reduce to 5 drops 3x a day for the second week. Afterwards, take 5 drops a day. 


Side Effects and special precautions

Few side effects, other than allergic reactions, have been reported with propolis. Do not use propolis if you are allergic to bee products, balsam or pine resin. Allergic reactions may cause swelling, redness, eczema or fever and it may irritate the skin, causing burning, peeling lips, irritation, lesions, itching, swelling, psoriasis or eczema. Dilute the propolis and test a small area first.When used in the mouth, propolis may irritate the mucous membranes.

Pregnancy And Breast-Feeding

There is not enough scientific information in this area, but many pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and small babies have been successfully treated with  propolis products as an alternative to antibiotics and other potentially dangerous pharmaceutical drugs. Find a practitioner or health shop who is more experienced in this field so you can take propolis under professional guidance should you be in doubt.