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What Is Bee Propolis? Nutrients, Health Benefits, Side Effects And Usages

Bee propolis, also known as 'bee glue' is a sticky resinous (resin-like) substance that is made by honeybees from resins collected from different parts of plants such as buds, leaves, gums, bark, flowers and exudates, to which they add their salivary enzymes, pollen and wax.

Deciduous and cone-bearing trees like poplar, pine, junipers and cottonwood are some of the examples of trees from which bees collect resins and carry them back to their hives, forming bee propolis.

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Bee glue is mainly found around the entrance of the beehive as bees use propolis to narrow the entrance of their hive for protection or fill the cracks before the arrival of winter or sterilise the cavity of their colony. [1]

In this article, we will discuss everything about bee propolis such as its nutrients, health benefits, how it is made, side effects and other details.

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Characteristics Of Bee Propolis

Bee propolis is a hard and brittle substance that gets soft, gummy, elastic and very sticky when heated. It has a pleasant aroma and the colour of propolis varies from yellow to green and from red to dark brown, depending on the tree from which they have accumulated resins. Transparent propolis has also been seen in some cases. Bee propolis is more dissolvable in lipids than in water.

Nutrients In Bee Propolis

Raw propolis contains around 50 per cent resins (that include flavonoids and phenolic acids), 10 per cent essential oils, 30 per cent wax materials, 5 per cent pollen and the remaining 5 per cent various organic compounds. [2]

There are around 12 vital flavonoids in propolis and some of them are luteolin, catechin, kaempferol and quercetin. The two vital phenolic acids are cinnamic and caffeic acid.

Bee propolis contains more than 300 compounds that include, polyphenols, cinnamic acid, benzoic acid, benzaldehyde, tocopherols, diterpenic acids, ketones, terpene, minerals, amino acids, sterols, heteroaromatic compounds and derivatives of these compounds. [3]

Some of the essential minerals include magnesium, sodium, potassium, manganese, iron, zinc and copper while vitamins include vitamin C, E, B1, B2 and B6. Resveratrol, an important polyphenol is also found in bee propolis.

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How Is Bee Propolis Collected?

Beekeepers collect the beehive and clean out the honey during the honey harvest. The hive scrapings are then soaked in the water which allows the propolis to sink to the bottom and other contaminations like wax, dead bees and wood to float. This separates the propolis which is then collected for use.

Some beekeepers also put the beehive scrapings in an oven-proof container along with 2-3 inches of water and bake them at 200 degree-Fahrenheit for around two hours. This allows the contaminations to melt and float while propolis to settle in the bottom of the container. It is then cooled and collected. [4]

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Health Benefits Of Bee Propolis

1. Helps boost immunity

Bee glue has immunomodulating effects that help boost immunity as well as treat many immune-related disorders. It may help increase the count of white blood cells, evoke higher neutralising antibodies, promote multiplication of B and T cells, induce early protection and also provide a protective effect when used as a vaccine ingredient. This could be due to the presence of high phenolic compounds in bee propolis. [5]

2. Helps heal wounds

Bee propolis is an excellent anti-inflammatory substance with wound-healing abilities, especially for people with diabetes and peripheral circulation deficiencies. The chemical compounds in bee glue, especially flavonoids and phenolic acids may induce endothelial cell proliferation that may help fill the damaged tissues and heal wounds at a faster rate. [6]

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3. Prevents viral infections

This superfood has potent antiviral activities against viral infections like herpes, hepatitis, influenza, ebola virus disease, viral respiratory diseases, retrovirus and yellow fever. According to a study, flavonoids, especially flavones and flavonols in bee propolis may act against a range of viral infections, including COVID-19, the recent pandemic. [7]

4. Great skincare product

Bee glue has numerous properties such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antiallergic, antiageing and tonic which can help treat or prevent many skin-related conditions such as fungal infections, intertrigo, thrush, burns, acne and cheilosis. It also makes for a great ingredient in sunscreen products due to the presence of caffeic, ferulic and coumaric acid. Propolis is great antiageing food and also keeps the skin moisturised for longer. [8]

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5. Helps treat bacterial infections

A study has shown that bee propolis is a great antibacterial agent against bacteria strains like Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and multidrug-resistant bacteria. The antibacterial activity is mainly due to the presence of chemical compounds like flavanol, caffeic acid, flavonoid, quercetin, galangin, esters and pinocembrin. Propolis also has antibacterial activities against other bacterial strains like Klebsiella pneumoniae and Listeria monocytogenes. [9]

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6. Good for cold and sore throat

Cold and sore throat are mainly the result of viral and bacterial infections. As aforementioned, propolis has strong anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial actions that may help reduce inflammation of the lungs and treat cold and sore throat. Propolis is also good against other acute respiratory infections such as seasonal flu and chest congestion and related complications like sinusitis. [1]

7. Improves kidney functions

Proteinuria (loss of proteins through urine) is an essential marker of chronic kidney disease, especially in diabetics. According to a study, propolis has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects that may help reduce the loss of proteins from the body. Also, it is considered to be safe and well-tolerated by people. [10]

8. Manages arthritis

The anti-inflammatory capability of propolis is well-known. As arthritis is an inflammatory disease, its consumption can help reduce inflammation related to arthritis and help ease pain in people with the condition. Flavonoids in propolis may also help reduce the risk of arthritis and other bone diseases to a great extent.

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9. Treats mouth ulcers

Aphthous stomatitis is a condition characterised by the recurrent formation of non-contagious and benign mouth ulcers. It could be a painful condition with unknown causes. A study has shown that bee propolis can help reduce the outbreaks of mouth ulcers by 50 per cent. It can also help treat the condition entirely. Bee propolis may help improve the quality of life of people who are exhausted with this ulcerative disorder. [11]

10. May help fight cancer

Bee propolis has potent chemopreventive effects due to the presence of an abundance of phytochemicals. The resins, that make for the 50 per cent of propolis, are mainly flavonoids and phenolic acids. The resins mainly contribute to the anti-cancer activities of propolis and can be effective against cancer types related to skin, pancreas, prostate, liver, lungs gastric, colorectal, breast, oral and many more. [12]

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Side Effects Of Bee Propolis

Bee propolis, though a natural bee product, can have certain side effects. It includes:

  • It may cause allergic reactions in some who have any sort of bee-related allergy. [13]
  • It may aggravate the condition in people with asthma or respiratory problems.
  • It may cause irritation in the mouth when consumed.
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    How To Use

    Propolis is mainly available in the form of solutions, chunks, powder, capsules and creams. It can be added to:

    • Cosmetics, especially dermatological products.
    • Toothpaste
    • Mouthwash
    • Beverages
    • Sunscreen
    • Throat lozenges
    • To Conclude

      Bee propolis is a superfood with many biological functions. Though it is healthy in many ways, experts suggest consulting a medical expert before its consumption.

What is the benefit of bee propolis?

Bee propolis has many health benefits - from treating microbial infections to boosting immunity and from treating mouth ulcers to healing chronic wounds, bee propolis can be a superfood for humans in many ways.

Is propolis better than honey?

Both propolis and honey are bee products and are better in their own ways. Honey is a sweet liquid produced by honeybees while propolis is a resinous substance that they make by collecting resins from different parts of plants such as buds, flowers and exudates and adding their salivary enzymes, pollen and wax to it.

Can you eat propolis raw?

Experts say that raw propolis contains many phytochemicals like flavonoids and phenolic acids. Also, they are less known to cause any side effects. The only concern is one should limit its consumption to a teaspoon a day.

Story first published: Wednesday, September 22, 2021, 10:00 [IST]