Propolis is a resinous mixture that honey bees collect from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources. It is used as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive. Propolis is used for small gaps (approximately 6 millimeters (0.2 in) or less), while larger spaces are usually filled with beeswax. Its color varies depending on its botanical source, the most common being dark brown. Propolis is sticky at and above room temperature. At lower temperatures it becomes hard and very brittle.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Propolis may have a beneficial effect on the healing of minor burns. More studies are needed before propolis can be recommended as a burn treatment.
Canker sores (aphthous ulcers)
There is some evidence that propolis taken by mouth may help reduce outbreaks of canker sores. Further research is needed to confirm this.
Colds (prevention and treatment)
There is some evidence that propolis may help prevent infections with the virus that causes the common cold. Propolis nasal sprays have been suggested as a treatment for runny nose, congestion, and fever in children with nose or throat infections. However, there is not enough clinical evidence to support this use of propolis.
Cornea complications from zoster
Laboratory studies suggest that propolis has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects. There is limited research of propolis for the treatment of eye complications of Varicella zoster , the virus that causes chicken pox or shingles. Some evidence suggests that propolis may speed up healing and improve sight. However, human research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
There is early evidence suggesting that propolis (e.g., propolis gel) may reduce dental pain. Additional research is needed before a clear recommendation can be made.
Laboratory studies report that propolis may have action against viruses, including herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2. Animal and laboratory studies suggest that propolis may help treat various types of infections. Initial human research reports possible benefits against bacteria in the mouth, genital herpes, urine bacteria, intestinal giardia infections, or H . pylori.
Based on anti-inflammatory effects observed in laboratory research, propolis has been proposed as a possible treatment for rheumatic and other inflammatory diseases.
Stomach ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria
Some evidence suggests that propolis and some of its components may stop the growth of Helicobacter pylori , the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers.
Propolis may be an effective treatment for vaginal inflammation. However, more research is needed before propolis can be recommended.
These uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and ought be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. Academic performance, acne, anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-spasm, blood clots, bowel diseases, cancer, colorectal cancer, corneal regeneration, Crohn's disease, dermatitis, dilation of veins (vasorelaxant), diverticulitis, duodenal ulcers, eczema, HIV, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels), immune stimulation, immunomodulatory, laryngitis, leukemia, liver protection, low blood pressure, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, osteoporosis, prostate carcinoma, pruritus (itching), psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, skin rejuvenator, thyroid disease, tissue healing after surgery (tissue regeneration), tuberculosis, ulcerative colitis, UV-induced erythema prevention/sunburn, wound healing.
Patients should avoid propolis if they have had allergic/hypersensitivity reactions to propolis, Populus nigra L. (black poplar), poplar bud, bee stings/bee products (including honey), or Balsam of Peru. There are multiple reports of swelling, fluid collection, redness, burning, eczema, swelling, fever, and other allergic reactions (including a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis) with repeated use of propolis on the skin. Propolis has been linked to several cases of contact dermatitis in beekeepers. Allergic contact stomatitis has been associated with the therapeutic use of propolis.
Side Effects and Warnings
The safety of propolis has not been thoroughly studied. Although there are several case reports of allergic reactions to propolis, it is generally believed to be well tolerated in most adults. Allergic reactions may cause swelling, redness, eczema, or fever. Propolis may irritate the skin and may cause burning, peeling lips, irritation, lesions, itching, swelling, psoriasis, or eczema. Case reports of irritation in and around the mouth have occurred after use of propolis lozenges or extract taken by mouth.
Toxicity data for propolis are limited. Early studies have found propolis to be relatively non-toxic. There has been one report of kidney failure with the ingestion of propolis that improved upon discontinuing therapy and worsened with re-exposure.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend the use of propolis during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Interactions with Drugs
Propolis may produce additive effects when taken with antimicrobial drugs.
Propolis may interact with the following: anticoagulants, H . pylori agents, antibiotics, anti-cancer agents (antineoplastics), antifungals, anti-inflammatories, infertility agents, anti-HIV agents (antiretrovirals), immunosuppressants, and osteoporosis agents.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Balsam of Peru and propolis are both known to cause allergic sensitization in some people and have multiple compounds in common, such as benzyl benzoate, benzyl cinnamate, benzyl alcohol, benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, caffeic acid, cinnamic alcohol, and vinallin. An increased risk of allergic sensitization may occur if both products are used together.
Propolis may interact with the following herbs and supplements: anticoagulants (such as coumarin and licorice), antibacterials, anti-cancer agents (antineoplastics), antifungals, anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, fertility agents, anti-HIV agents, immunostimulants, immunosuppressants, and osteoporosis agents.
This information is based on a professional level monograph edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
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