What Is Bee Propolis?

When you think of bees, the first association would have to be honey. People love it for its amazing benefits — calming coughs, soothing burns and in the making of cosmetics, among other products.

Honey is not the only useful by-product of bees. They are also responsible for producing something else quite extraordinary — bee propolis.  

What Does Bee Propolis Mean?

The word propolis derives from two Greek words, namely pro and polis. Pro means defense while polis means city — hence the meaning “defense of the city” or in this case, “defense of the beehive” in bees’ language. 

Bee propolis can be described as a waxy substance that becomes sticky and pliable when warm. Conversely, when cooled, it takes on a different texture — rigid and brittle. The color varies depending on the origin of resin. Bee propolis can be as light as amber through to a deep brown. 

How Bees Make Propolis and Its Role

To make propolis, bees gather resins secreted from buds and cracks in tree bark. Its carried on the hind legs back to the hive, where the bee requires assistance to offload the haul.

The resin is then masticated — adding saliva and enzymes into the mixture. When finally ready for use the composition of bee propolis can be broken down into:

  • Resin (50%)
  • Wax (30%) 
  • Essential oils (10%) 
  • Organic matter (5%) 
  • Pollen (5%)

Bees make propolis primarily to serve as a cushion layer to their city (hive). It serves a practical purpose — filling any cracks or gaps in the hive and strengthens its internal structure. It is, therefore, a sealant for any unwanted spaces. 

It also forms a barrier against parasites, defends against disease and mummifies any intruders that cannot be removed by bees from the hive.

The Health Benefits of Bee Propolis

Bee propolis and its compounds provide a defense against various diseases, conditions and ailments due to its antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral nature. Here are some of the health benefits it provides:

Improves Skin Conditions

Research has shown that bee propolis can soothe and protect the skin. More specifically, it can speed up the healing of minor burns and cuts while preventing further infections. Other dermatological benefits offered by frequent use of bee propolis include but not limited to:

  • Effective therapy for warts
  • Promotes faster healing and reduces discomfort from cold sores 
  • Alleviates inflammatory effects of eczema and psoriasis

Boosts Immune System

If you often catch a cold or flu, bee propolis could be an alternative solution to traditional pharmaceuticals. Studies have proven it has the ability to boost your immunity.

With a strong immune system, you’re less likely to become ill, and even if you do, your body can fight it off faster. Unlike other remedies, propolis can be taken by most people,  including children. 

Anticarcinogenic Properties 

Experts believe there is a link between propolis and fight against cancer. More specifically, propolis can be used as a complementary therapy in cancer treatment. 

Studies report that this bee-related substance can help manage prostate and colon cancer. Experts demonstrate that propolis can kill cancer cells (necrosis) without causing any harm to healthy cells. 

Effective Dental Care

Periodontitus is a serious infection of the gums — affecting the tissues and bone that holds teeth in place. Its caused by a buildup of bacteria in the mouth, mainly due to improper oral hygiene practices. If not acted upon, gums recede and teeth become loose or fall out.

Bee propolis is antibacterial. Research indicates that dental treatments used in conjunction with propolis are more effective than traditional methods.       

Enhances Bone Health

A loss of bone density is one of the downsides to aging — bones become deficient in calcium. It’s a particular problem for women once they hit menopause. This can lead to osteoporosis — a disease that causes brittle bones. 

Studies have shown that taking bee propolis for a period of 24 months improved bone density by 67 percent

Who Should Avoid Propolis?

  • Bee allergies — anyone who is allergic to bee stings or any products derived from bees — honey, royal jelly, bee pollen. Patch testing is often carried out before use 
  • Asthmatics — compounds in propolis are believed to aggravate the condition
  • Pregnant or nursing women — not enough research has been carried out on the safety aspect of propolis and pregnancy  
  • Awaiting surgery — due to the blood-thinning abilities it’s unadvisable to consume within two weeks of surgery
  • Anticoagulants — those taking anti-clotting medications for conditions such as DVT (deep vein thrombosis), stroke or heart attack 

Summary 

Bee propolis has many benefits to health — this natural remedy can treat conditions spanning from cold sores to severe diseases like cancer.

In comparison to honey, the remarkable qualities of bee propolis are on par. Its composition makes it both practical and protective for the bees and also beneficial to humans. 

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