Remarkable, Natural Immune Stimulant
Nature has provided bees with a substance
that keeps them and their hives free of germs, in spite of
40,000 to 60,000 bees being crammed into close quarters in the
hive. This protective substance is called propolis, which is a
name derived from two Greek words meaning defenses before a
town. The bees place propolis near the opening of the hive to
sterilize anything entering it; they also use propolis to embalm
or mummify the carcasses of larger animals that have invaded the
hive, but that are too large for the bees to remove. Propolis
helps sterilize the hive to inhibit the spread of bacteria,
viruses and fungi that would be a significant threat in such a
humid, crowded environment.
Bees do not make propolis--they gather it from trees. Propolis
is a mixture of many compounds including resins, vitamins, amino
acids, minerals, high amounts of bioflavonoids, and the
anti-bacterial substance galangin.(1)
Anti-Infective Properties of Propolis
Propolis has been used for wound-healing for thousands of years.
During World Wars I and II, soldiers used propolis to prevent
their wounds from becoming infected and to speed the healing
process. The early research work on propolis was mostly done in
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, consisting of highly
technical laboratory studies as well as controlled clinical
trials. Laboratory tests showed that propolis on its own is
effective against over 20 kinds of bacteria.(1) Clinical studies
from the former Soviet Union,(2) Romania,(3) and China,(4)
demonstrated that propolis was effective against various kinds
of bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Dr. Kravcuk of Kiev
found that propolis was effective against sore throats and dry
coughs in 90% of 260 patients.(5) A recent study by Serkedjieva,
et al, showed that the active ingredients in propolis
significantly inhibited the Hong Kong flu virus.(6) Therefore,
propolis might be a good agent to prevent and treat the common
cold and flu. Recent studies also show that propolis is
effective against the herpes simplex virus.(7,8)
The antibacterial properties of propolis appear to be due to
multiple mechanisms. Drs. Takaisi-Kikuni and Schilcher found
that propolis: 1) inhibits bacterial growth by preventing cell
division; 2) disorganizes bacterial cytoplasm, cell membranes,
and cell walls; 3) causes partial bacteriolysis; and 4) inhibits
protein synthesis.(9) No prescription antibiotic acts in so
complex a manner as propolis. Additionally, a unique advantage
of propolis is that it enhances the effectiveness of antibiotics
such as penicillin and streptomycin.(1,10) The combination of
propolis with antibiotics can reduce drug dosages, minimize drug
side effects, and decrease chances of drug resistance.
Propolis and Immune Enhancement
Propolis also stimulates the bodys immune system. Dr. Remy
Chauvin of Paris, France, comments, Propolis healing mechanism
is due not only to its antibacterial properties and detoxifying
effects, but also by increasing the defensive reaction of the
organism. Propolis works by raising the bodys natural resistance
to infections by stimulating ones own immune system.(11)
Propolis significantly activates macrophages, which play an
important role in infection prevention.(12) In addition, it can
significantly inhibit lipoxygenase activity, thereby inhibiting
prostaglandin synthesis.(13) Strehl, et al confirmed that
propolis has anti-inflammatory effects.(14)
Propolis in the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer
One of the most exciting recent findings on propolis is its
efficacy in cancer prevention and treatment. Caffeic acid
phenethyl ester (CAPE), one of the active ingredients in
propolis, has been shown to prevent cancer formation in animal
models.(15) It also showed strong cancer inhibitory effects
against several cancers.(16,17) Propolis inhibits cancer cell
growth by increasing the process of apoptosis (programmed cell
death, the process our body uses to get rid of old, useless
cells).(18,19) Propolis can significantly decrease the heart
toxicity of doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic agent used in cancer
Other Uses of Propolis
Dr. Franz K. Feiks of the Public Hospital at Klosterneuberg, in
Austria, reported that propolis is also effective against
ulcers. In a clinical study involving 294 patients, Dr. Feiks
found that 90% of 108 ulcer patients given propolis were free of
symptoms after two weeks, compared to only 55% of 186
conventionally treated patients.(21) Dr. Feiks also noticed that
70% of the propolis group obtained relief in three days,
compared to only 10% of the group receiving conventional
medication. Propolis also appears to be effective in the
treatment of severe acne.(1)
No side effects have been reported for propolis. The LD50 (the
dose causing half of the tested animals to die) for propolis is
7.34 g/Kg body weight in mice. Thats close to 50 gm of propolis
for a 160 pound person.(22) Also, propolis is
non-irritating,(22) and is thereby safe for topical use.
Although a very small percentage of the population may be
allergic to propolis, as Susan Smith Jones commented in her book
Lets Live, Bee propolis has been around for 40 million years!
Thats a reasonable testing period.(21)
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1. Hill R. Propolis, The Natural Antibiotic. Thorsons,
Wellingborough, England, 1977.
2. Tsarev NI, Petrik EV, Aleksandrova VI. Use of propolis in the
treatment of local suppurative infection. Vestn Khir, 134 (5):
3. Esanu V. Recent Advances in the chemotherapy of herpes virus
infections. Virologie, 32 (1): 57-77, 1981.
4. Pang JF and Chen SS. Treatment of oral leukoplakia with
propolis: Report of 45 cases. Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih, 5
(8): 452-453 and 485-486, 1985.
5. Kravcuk P. Doctoral Dissertation. Kiev Univ., USSR, 1971.
6. Serkedjieva J, Manolova N, and Bankova V. Anti-influenza
virus effect of some propolis constituents and their analogues
(esters of substituted cinnamic acids). J. Natl. Prod., 55 (3):
7. Amoros M, Lurton E, Boustie J, Girre L, Sauvager F, and
Cormier M. Comparison of the anti-herpes simplex virus
activities of propolis and 3-methyl -but-2-enyl caffeate. J.
Natl. Prod., 57 (5): 644-647, 1994.
8. Dumitrescu M, E sanu, and Cri san I. The mechanisms of the
antiherpetic action of aqueous propolis extracts. I. The
antioxidant action on human fibroblast cultures. Rev. Roum.
Virol., 43: 3-4 and 165-173, 1992.
9. Takaisi-Kikuni NB and Schilcher H. Electron microscopic and
microcalorimetric investigations of the possible mechanism of
the antibacterial action of a defined propolis provenance.
Planta Med., 60 (3): 222-227, 1994.
10. Krol W, Schelleer S, Shani J, Pietsz G, and Czuba Z.
Synergistic effect of ethanolic extract of propolis and
antibiotics on the growth of staphylococcus aureus.
Arzneimittelforschung, 43 (5): 607-609, 1993.
11. Churchill R. American Chiropractor, 34-38, January/February
12. Dim V, Ivanovska N, Bankova V, and Popov S. Immunomodulatory
action of propolis: IV. Prophylactic activity against
gram-negative infections and adjuvant effect of the
water-soluble derivative. Vaccine, 10 (12): 817-823, 1992.
13. Sudina GF, Mirzoeva OK, Pushkareva MA, Korshunova GA,
Sumbatyan NV, and Varfolomeev SD. Caffeic acid phenethyl ester
as a lipoxygenase inhibitor with antioxidant properties. FEBS
Lett., 329: 1-2, 21-24, 1993.
14. Strehl E, Volpert R, and Elstner EF. Biochemical activities
of propolis -extracts. III. Inhibition of dihydrofolate
reductase. Z Naturfosch [C], 49: 1-2, 39 -43, 1994.
15. Rao CV, Desai D, Kaul B, Amin S, and Reddy BS. Effect of
caffeic acid esters on carcinogen-induced mutagenicity and human
colon adenocarcinoma cell growth. Chem. Biol. Interact., 84 (3):
16. Rao CV, Desai D, Rivenson A, Simi B, Amin S, and Reddy BS.
Chemoprevention of colon carcinogenesis by
phenylethyl-3-methylcaffeate. Cancer Res., 55 (11): 2310-2315,
17. Guarini L, Su ZZ, Zucker S, Lin J, Grunberger D, and Fisher
PB. Growth inhibition and modulation of antigenic phenotype in
human melanoma and glioblastoma multiform cells by caffecic acid
phenethyl ester (CAPE). Cell Mol. Biol., 38 (5): 513-527, 1992.
18. Su ZZ, Lin J, Prewett M, Goldstein NI, and Fisher PB.
Apoptosis www.es the selective toxicity of caffeic acid
phenethyl ester (CAPE) toward oncogene -transformed rat embryo
fibroblast cells. Anticancer Res., 15 (5B): 1841-1848, 1995.
19. Chiao C, Carothers AM, Grunberger D, Solomon G, Preston GA,
and Barrett JC. Apoptosis and altered redox state induced by
caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) in transformed rat
fibroblast cells. Cancer Res., 55 (16): 3576-3583, 1995.
20. Chopra S, Pillai KK, Husain SZ, and Giri DK. Propolis
protects against doxorubicin-induced myocardiopathy in rats.
Exp. Mol. Pathol., 62 (3): 190-198, 1995.
21. Jones S. Lets Live. 112-118, 1979.
22. Arvouet-Grand A, Lejeune B, Bastide P, Pourrat A, Privat AM,
and Legret P. Propolis extract. I. Acute toxicity and
determination of acute primary cutaneous irritation index. J.
Pharm. Belg., 48 (3): 165-170, 1993.
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