How much do we know about propolis?

The name propolis consists of two parts that include pro (before) and polis (city). Propolis is one of honeybee product produced by bees from various compounds collected from plants and processed by bees. Propolis is resinous, collected by bees from leaf buds and exudates of trees and conifers.
This product is very important for bee and mostly use for hive protection. Propolis protects bees against diseases and also against climatic changes, such as wind and cold. The quality of this product depends on the bee environment and its processing conditions. Propolis is a complex resinous bee product with different physical chemical properties. You can see the propolis with different colors like cream, yellow, green, light or dark brown. Bees eat pollen for food, but not propolis.

Propolis history

  • The first known users of propolis were the Egyptians. There is different report of propolis use by The Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians. The first manuscript about propolis was wrote by Aristotle. The Greek physician, Hippocrates (460-377 BC), found the healing properties of propolis for prevention and treatment of diseases.The Romans further developed beekeeping and expanded on the knowledge and benefits of propolis. Pliny (23 – 79 A.D.) wrote in his Historia Naturalists, that Propolis “disposed tumors, moderated nerve illnesses, and healed ulcers…“.
  • And since the 12th century in Europe propolis was used more frequently for external use. There are number of reports that, in 1900, propolis is used to treat wounded soldiers in the Boer War campaign.
  • However, it has only been in the last fifty years that scientists have proved that Propolis is as active and important medical substance.

Propolis composition

  • There are number of research for identification of propolis compounds. It can be concluded that propolis has more than 250 substances. In most papers and reports, propolis compounds are classified for resin and balsam (50-55%), wax (30%), Greases, amino acids, organic acids, microelements such as iron, copper manganese, zinc, polyphenols, flavonoids, antibiotics, vitamins B, E, C, H and P, pro-vitamin A (5-6%) and pollens (4-10%).
  • Bee Propolis is rich in vitamins and minerals such as : Vitamin A (carotene), Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, biotin, an array of bioflavonoids (Propolis contains 500 more bioflavonoids (vitamin P) than is found in oranges), calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, silica, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, cobalt and copper.
  • Propolis contains a number of unidentified compounds which work together synergistically to create a perfectly balanced, nutritive substance. Isolation and chemical identification were shown that sixteen-eighteen amino acids have been identified in Propolis.
  • Also, propolis contains medicinal terpenes (Menthol and Taxol), caffeic acid (a cancer fighter).Propolis contains many of the same polyphenols found in bee pollen, but in much higher quantities, Polyphenols as most important compound provide pharmacological and very powerful antioxidant properties.

Polyphenols and Flavonoids in propolis

  • The main chemical classes found in propolis are flavonoids, phenolics and terpenes. Flavonoids in propolis are responsible for biological activities. Also, they are responsible for the colors and are antioxidants which protect hives from harmful free radicals.
  • Propolis includes a number of substances which belong to the flavonoid family including betulene and isovanillin. Flavonoids have special quality in controlling microorganism, especially fungi, virus and bacteria both gram-positive and gram-negative types. Some of the flavonoids which are reported include quercetin (antihistamine), apegenin (apoptosis), galangin , kaempferol (prevent oxidative damage of our cells, lipids and DNA, breast cancer), luteolin (anti-inflammatory anti-allergic, anticancer), pinocembrin (antibacterial properties), pinostrobin and pinobanksin.
  • Polyphenols are very interesting compounds in propolis. One of these polyphenols is the phenolic ester (caffeic acid phenethyl ester or CAPE) with much attention in the medical research. Artepillin C has attracted great attention, not only for its antimicrobial but also for its toxicity to tumor cells.
  • The analysis of flavonoids in propolis has been done by colorimetric methods, thin layer chromatography, gas chromatography, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and high performance liquid chromatography.

Propolis medicinal application

Propolis has been justly called Nature’s premier preventive, but it is as one of the oldest and successful medicines of the world. In one of the very simple but interesting research, Thichonov and Salo after 17 years reseach work of effect of propolis antibacterial effect found that “…Propolis enhances the bacteriostatic activity of tetracycline, neomycin, plymycin, streptomycin, penicillin, neomycin, plymycin, and tetracycline….“.
Propolis as a natural medicine with high performance has been the attention of doctors and researchers throughout the history of mankind. There are many reports and clinical studies for prophylactic and therapeutic effects of propolis, including colds and sore throats, stomach ulcers, burns, hemorrhoids, joint inflammation, strengthening muscles and the immune system. The active ingredients in propolis are antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory.
The healing effects of propolis in skin repair and skin diseases are of interest in the world. According to scientific texts and American FDA documents, propolis can be used to strengthen the immune system and increase the body’s resistance to microorganisms, as well as to prevent and treat diseases.Because of all these propolis activity such as antioxidant, antimicrobial and antifungal, anticancer and others, propolis also offer opportunities in food technology, cosmetics and pharmaceutical use.

Summary table of clinical research on the prevention and treatment of diseases by propolis.

Stomach ulcersHair lossHay-feverAcne
ToothachesInsect bitesCornsAsthma
Inflammation of the nasal passageFluArthritisEczema
WartsInflammation of the gumsDiarrheaBurns
MolesInflammation of the earsBleeding gumsBoils
Inflammation of the prostate glandCallused feetGastritisGout
Tennis elbowDiaper rashBedsores and BlistersPrevent wound contamination
PsoriasisFemale complaintsBurning tonguesIncrease immunity
Sore throatsCommon coldWound healingCanker sores (aphtha)
Reduction of joint painsHelp cure cancerfight viral diseasesskin inflammation
Swollen glandsPrevent sunburn and UV effectCanker sores (aphtha)Regulator of glands and blood factors

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