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.
- Improving healing and reducing pain and inflammation after mouth surgery.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Cancer sores.
- Nose and throat cancer.
- Improving immune response.
- Stomach and intestinal disorders.
- Common cold.
- Minor burns.
- 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.
There isn't enough information to know if propolis is safe. 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: Not enough is known about the use of propolis during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Asthma: Some experts believe some chemicals in propolis may make asthma worse. Avoid using propolis if you have asthma.
Allergies: Don’t use propolis if you are allergic to bee by-products including honey, conifers, poplars, Peru balsam, and salicylates.
It is not known if this product interacts with any medicines.
Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.
There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Jensen CD, Andersen KE. Allergic contact dermatitis from cera alba (purified propolis) in a lip balm and candy. Contact Dermatitis 2006;55:312-3.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Szmeja Z, Kulczynski B, Sosnowski Z, Konopacki K. [Therapeutic value of flavonoids in Rhinovirus infections]. Otolaryngol Pol 1989;43:180-4.
- 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.
- Hay KD, Greig DE. Propolis allergy: a cause of oral mucositis with ulceration. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1990;70:584-6.
- Park YK, et al. Antimicrobial activity of propolis on oral microorganisms. Curr Microbiol 1998;36:24-8.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Magro-Filho O, de Carvalho AC. Application of propolis to dental sockets and skin wounds. J Nihon Univ Sch Dent 1990;32:4-13.
- 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.
- Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998.
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Last reviewed - 01/19/2012
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