What is it?
Propolis is a resin-like material from the buds of poplar and cone-bearing trees. Propolis is rarely available in its pure form. It is usually obtained from beehives and contains bee products.
Propolis has a long history of medicinal use, dating back to 350 B.C., the time of Aristotle. Greeks have used propolis for abscesses; Assyrians have used it for healing wounds and tumors; and Egyptians have used it for mummification. It still has many medicinal uses today, although its effectiveness has only been shown for a couple of them.
Propolis is used for canker sores and infections caused by bacteria (including tuberculosis), by viruses (including flu, H1N1 “swine” flu, and the common cold), by fungus, and by single-celled organisms called protozoans. Propolis is also used for cancer of the nose and throat; for boosting the immune system; and for treating gastrointestinal (GI) problems including Helicobacter pylori infection in peptic ulcer disease. Propolis is also used as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
People sometimes apply propolis directly to the skin for wound cleansing, genital herpes and cold sores; as a mouth rinse for speeding healing following oral surgery; and for the treatment of minor burns.
In manufacturing, propolis is used as an ingredient in cosmetics.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for PROPOLIS are as follows:
Possibly effective for...
- Cold sores. Applying a specific 3% propolis ointment (Herstat or ColdSore-FX) might help improve healing time and reduce pain from cold sores.
- Genital herpes. Applying a 3% propolis ointment (Herstat or ColdSore-FX) might improve healing of recurrent genital lesions caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Some research suggests that it might heal lesions faster and more completely than the conventional treatment 5% acyclovir ointment.
- Mouth surgery. Using a propolis mouth rinse appears to improve healing and reduce pain and swelling after mouth surgery.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Canker sores. Early research shows that taking propolis by mouth daily reduces canker sore outbreaks.
- Inflammation of the uterus (cervicitis). Early research suggests that applying a dressing containing a 5% propolis ointment daily can reduce symptoms and improve healing in women with inflammation of the uterus.
- Intestinal infection (giardiasis). Early research suggests that taking a specific 30% propolis extract (Propolisina) can cure giardiasis in more people than the drug tinidazole.
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. Early research suggests that taking 60 drops of a preparation containing Brazilian green propolis daily for 7 days does not reduce H. pylori infection.
- Minor burns. Applying propolis to the skin might help treat minor burns and prevent infections.
- Thrush (oropharyngeal candidiasis). Early research suggests that using Brazilian green propolis extract four times daily for 7 days can prevent oral thrush in people with dentures.
- Upper respiratory tract infections. There is some evidence that propolis might help prevent or reduce the duration of common colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.
- Vaginal swelling (vaginitis). Early research suggests that applying a 5% propolis solution vaginally for 7 days can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life in people with vaginal swelling.
- Cancer sores.
- Nose and throat cancer.
- Improving immune response.
- Stomach and intestinal disorders.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate propolis for these uses.
Propolis seems to have activity against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It might also have anti-inflammatory effects and help skin heal.
Propolis is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth or applied to the skin appropriately. It can cause allergic reactions, particularly in people who are allergic to bees or bee products. Lozenges containing propolis can cause irritation and mouth ulcers.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking propolis if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Asthma: Some experts believe certain chemicals in propolis may make asthma worse. Avoid using propolis if you have asthma.
Bleeding conditions: A certain chemical in propolis might slow blood clotting. Taking propolis might increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.
Allergies: Do not use propolis if you are allergic to bee by-products including honey, conifers, poplars, Peru balsam, and salicylates.
Surgery: A certain chemical in propolis might slow blood clotting. Taking propolis might increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop taking propolis 2 weeks before surgery.
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Propolis might slow blood clotting and increase bleeding time. Taking propolis along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
Propolis might increase the amount of time it takes for blood to clot. Taking it along with other herbs and supplements that slow blood clotting can slow blood clotting even more and could increase the risk of bleeding and bruising in some people. Some of these herbs include angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, and others.
There are no known interactions with foods.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For cold sores: A 3% propolis ointment (Herstat or ColdSore-FX) applied 5 times daily.
- For herpes outbreak: A 3% propolis ointment (Herstat or ColdSore-FX) applied to the blisters 4 times daily.
- As a mouth rinse after mouth surgery: A solution containing propolis, water, and alcohol.
Acide de Cire d’Abeille, Baume de Propolis, Bee Glue, Bee Propolis, Beeswax Acid, Cire d’Abeille Synthétique, Cire de Propolis, Colle d’Abeille, Hive Dross, Pénicilline Russe, Propóleos, Propolis Balsam, Propolis Cera, Propolis d'Abeille, Propolis Resin, Propolis Wax, Résine de Propolis, Russian Penicillin, Synthetic Beeswax.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.methodology (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/methodology.html).
To see all references for the Propolis page, please go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/390.html.
- Santana, Perez E., Lugones, Botell M., Perez, Stuart O, and et al. [Vaginal parasites and acute cervicitis: local treatment with propolis. Preliminary report]. Rev Cubana Enferm. 1995;11:51-56. View abstract.
- Miyares, C., Hollands, I., Castaneda C, and et al. [Clinical trial with a preparation based on propolis "propolisina" in human giardiasis]. Acta Gastroenterol.Latinoam. 1988;18:195-201. View abstract.
- Coelho, L. G., Bastos, E. M., Resende, C. C., Paula e Silva CM, Sanches, B. S., de Castro, F. J., Moretzsohn, L. D., Vieira, W. L., and Trindade, O. R. Brazilian green propolis on Helicobacter pylori infection. a pilot clinical study. Helicobacter. 2007;12:572-574. View abstract.
- Santos, V. R., Pimenta, F. J., Aguiar, M. C., do Carmo, M. A., Naves, M. D., and Mesquita, R. A. Oral candidiasis treatment with Brazilian ethanol propolis extract. Phytother Res 2005;19:652-654. View abstract.
- Imhof, M., Lipovac, M., Kurz, Ch, Barta, J., Verhoeven, H. C., and Huber, J. C. Propolis solution for the treatment of chronic vaginitis. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 2005;89:127-132. View abstract.
- Chen, T. G., Lee, J. J., Lin, K. H., Shen, C. H., Chou, D. S., and Sheu, J. R. Antiplatelet activity of caffeic acid phenethyl ester is mediated through a cyclic GMP-dependent pathway in human platelets. Chin J Physiol 6-30-2007;50:121-126. View abstract.
- Cohen, H. A., Varsano, I., Kahan, E., Sarrell, E. M., and Uziel, Y. Effectiveness of an herbal preparation containing echinacea, propolis, and vitamin C in preventing respiratory tract infections in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter study. Arch.Pediatr.Adolesc.Med. 2004;158:217-221. View abstract.
- Hoheisel O. The effects of Herstat (3% propolis ointment ACF ) application in cold sores: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Clinical Research 2001;4:65-75.
- Szmeja Z, Kulczynski B, Konopacki K. [Clinical usefulness of the preparation Herpestat in the treatment of Herpes labialis]. Otolaryngol Pol 1987;41:183-8. View abstract.
- Amoros M, Lurton E, Boustie J, et al. Comparison of the anti-herpes simplex virus activities of propolis and 3-methyl-but-2-enyl caffeate. J Nat Prod 1994;57:644-7. View abstract.
Samet N, Laurent C, Susarla SM, Samet-Rubinsteen N. The effect of bee pollen on recurrent aphthous stomatitis. A pilot study. Clin Oral Investig 2007;11:143-7. View abstract.
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- Li YJ, Lin JL, Yang CW, Yu CC. Acute renal failure induced by a Brazilian variety of propolis. Am J Kidney Dis 2005;46:e125-9. View abstract.
- Santos FA, Bastos EM, Uzeda M, et al. Antibacterial activity of Brazilian propolis and fractions against oral anaerobic bacteria. J Ethnopharmacol 2002;80:1-7. View abstract.
- Gregory SR, Piccolo N, Piccolo MT, et al. Comparision of propolis skin cream to silver sulfadiazine: a naturopathic alternative to antibiotics in treatment of minor burns. J Altern Complement Med 2002;8:77-83. View abstract.
- Szmeja Z, Kulczynski B, Sosnowski Z, Konopacki K. [Therapeutic value of flavonoids in Rhinovirus infections]. Otolaryngol Pol 1989;43:180-4. View abstract.
- Anon. Bee Propolis. MotherNature.com 1999. http://www.mothernature.com/library/books/natmed/bee_propolis.asp (Accessed 28 May 2000).
- Hashimoto T, Tori M, Asakawa Y, Wollenweber E. Synthesis of two allergenic constituents of propolis and poplar bud excretion. Z Naturforsch [C] 1988;43:470-2. View abstract.
- Hay KD, Greig DE. Propolis allergy: a cause of oral mucositis with ulceration. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1990;70:584-6. View abstract.
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- Mirzoeva OK, Calder PC. The effect of propolis and its components on eicosanoid production during the inflammatory response. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1996;55:441-9. View abstract.
- Lee SK, Song L, Mata-Greenwood E, et al. Modulation of in vitro biomarkers of the carcinogenic process by chemopreventive agents. Anticancer Res 1999;19:35-44. View abstract.
- Vynograd N, Vynograd I, Sosnowski Z. A comparative multi-centre study of the efficacy of propolis, acyclovir and placebo in the treatment of genital herpes (HSV). Phytomedicine 2000;7:1-6. View abstract.
- Magro-Filho O, de Carvalho AC. Application of propolis to dental sockets and skin wounds. J Nihon Univ Sch Dent 1990;32:4-13. View abstract.
- Magro-Filho O, de Carvalho AC. Topical effect of propolis in the repair of sulcoplasties by the modified Kazanjian technique. Cytological and clinical evaluation. J Nihon Univ Sch Dent 1994;36:102-11. View abstract.
- Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998.
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Last reviewed - 11/04/2014
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