Propolis: Overview

Alternative names: Russian penicillin, bee glue.

One of the most well-documented products from the honey bee, propolis is known in countries outside the United States as a powerful, natural antibiotic.  The former Soviet Union performed many scientific studies on the effects of propolis.

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Propolis is a sticky, brown, resinous substance gathered by bees from the leaf buds and bark of trees, especially poplars, birch and conifers.  In the hive bees mix propolis with wax and use it as a multi-purpose cement and varnish for repair and construction in the hive, as well as for insulation and protection.  Propolis also contains small amounts of pollen and other bee materials.  The bees use propolis to protect the hive against bacteria or viral infection and dangerous toxins.  Beehives are a virtually sterile atmosphere due to the use of Propolis by the bees.

Propolis is harvested from the beehive and is made available in various forms to be used internally or externally.  Propolis is available in capsule and tincture form to be taken internally to help fight infections.  Because of its antibacterial and antifungal qualities it is a frequent ingredient in salves, lozenges, chewing gum and toothpastes.

In raw form (hive scrapings) propolis is approximately 50-80% resins, 30-50% wax, 5-10% pollen, and 10% essential oils.  Propolis is a very sticky substance with a sharp almost bitter taste with aroma of honey or vanilla.

Make sure you are getting real propolis. There are many forms of so-called 'propolis' on the market that are white to yellow in color, have high lead content, and claim a 5X or higher concentration.  Propolis should be various shades of brown to dark brown, very sticky and have a distinct propolis flavor and smell.  Even a 2X concentration is difficult to achieve.


Propolis is rich in vitamins.  High in B-complex vitamins, propolis contains notable quantities of vitamin C, E and Provitamin A. It also contains minerals and trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, silica, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, cobalt and copper.

Propolis is extremely high in bioflavonoid content.  Flavonoids are well-known plant compounds that have antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Other properties of propolis include acting as a local anesthetic, reducing spasms, healing gastric ulcers, and strengthening capillaries.


Propolis can be used by humans internally or externally.  Exact dosing recommendations cannot be made due to differences between various products.  Capsules of 500mg are often recommended from 1 to 4 times daily.  Follow product directions or your doctors instructions.

Counter-Indicators and Warnings

While the claim is seen that propolis has proven safe for human use, caution is advised for people sensitive to bee stings.  Some of those allergic to bee stings have allergic reactions to propolis as well.  Furthermore, people suffering from bronchial asthma and eczema may be more sensitive to bee products.  It is not yet proven whether propolis itself or protein residues left by bees in propolis cause these allergic reactions.  Another bee product, royal jelly, is associated with a higher risk of serious allergic reactions.  Most such reports regarding royal jelly have been in asthma sufferers.

There have been concerns that propolis has high lead content.  Laboratory tests indicate that ethanol extraction results in pure propolis and leaves lead and any other contaminants behind.  The lead content of raw propolis ranges from very low to very high depending on the geographic location of the hive.

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Propolis can help with the following:


Pharyngitis ("Strep Throat")

Propolis has proven effective in helping to deal with a wide variety of infections including sore throat. [Doroshenko, P. N. (1978, 1981, 1990) (U.S.S.R.)]

Tumors, Malignant

Cancer, General

Bee propolis, a sticky resin collected by bees from trees, is a COX-2 inhibitor, according to Dr. Gaynor.  Dr. Rao has found bee propolis very effective for cancer prevention in animals, noting "You can use it in lower doses than curcumin because it is highly absorbable."  It is typically sold in 500mg capsules.

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