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Q: Medicinal Properties of Bee Propolis ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Medicinal Properties of Bee Propolis
Category: Health > Medicine
Asked by: jamesyl-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 05 Apr 2005 02:09 PDT
Expires: 05 May 2005 02:09 PDT
Question ID: 505113
What are the medicinal properties of bee propolis?

I understand that propolis is a resin-like substance used by bees to
patch their hives.  I've tried to do research into the use of propolis
as traditional medicine but I have mostly come up with anecdotes and
speculation, which leads me to believe it is just snake oil.  I'd like
something more convincing, such as scientific studies performed by
reputable research institutions regarding the medicinal applications
and values of propolis.
Subject: Re: Medicinal Properties of Bee Propolis
Answered By: welte-ga on 05 Apr 2005 07:33 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Dear Jamesyl,

Thank you for your question on bee propolis.  As you mention, there is
a lot of speculation out there on the potential uses and qualities of
propolis.  Here is a page from that discusses some of these
issues, attempting to document some of the anecdotal evidence out

From more scientific sources, there are only a few reputable studies. 
Below is a bibliography (limited to articles in English that refer to
humans) on bee propolis from PubMed.  These papers should also point
you to other sources of information.  In particular, the full text of
reference [11] with links to it's references is available online at
the link below.

As the Koo et al. article (reference [5]) states, "Propolis, a
resinous bee product, has been shown to inhibit the growth of oral
microorganisms."  Reference [11] below discusses the effects of the
components of propolis against herpes simplex virus, although these
experiments were carried out in cell culture, not living humans.  The
Koo article itself discusses the effects of components of propolis
against various bacteria, trying to begin to understand the mechanism
by which propolis' antibacterial properties act.  Reference [9] below
documents the weak antibacterial properties of propolis again
gram-positive bacteria (such as staph aureas) in vitro.

It should also be noted, as you might gather from the bibliography
below, that multiple studies have demonstrated that propolis can cause
contact dermatitis from direct or airborne contact.  This has been
documented near beehives and in a beeswax nipple-protective product.

No large-scale clinical trials of propolis have been conducted (much
like most other natural and herbal products) yet.


Citation 1. 

Unique Identifier

Garrido Fernandez S. Arroabarren Aleman E. Garcia Figueroa BE.
Goienetxe Fagoaga E. Olaguibel Rivera JM. Tabar Purroy AI.

Seccion de Alergologia, Hospital Virgen del Camino, Pamplona, Spain.

Direct and airborne contact dermatitis from propolis in
beekeepers.[erratum appears in Contact Dermatitis. 2005 Jan;52(1):55
Note: Fernandez, Sara Garrido [corrected to Garrido Fernandez, Sara;
Aleman, Esozia Arroabarren [corrected to Arroabarren Aleman, Esozia];
Figueroa, Blanca Esther Garcia [correted to Garcia Figueroa, Blanca
Esther]; Fagoaga, Estibaliz Goienetxe [corrected to Goienetxe Fagoaga,
Estibaliz]; Rivera, Jose Maria Olaguibel [corrected to Olaguibel
Rivera, Jose Maria]; Purroy, Ana Isabel Tabar [corrected to Tabar
Purroy, Ana Isabel]].

Contact Dermatitis. 50(5):320-1, 2004 May.


Citation 2. 

Unique Identifier

Tobin AM. Kirby B.

Department of Dermatology, Adelaide and Meath Hospital Incorporating
the National Children's Hospital, Tallaght, Dublin 24, Ireland.

Airborne contact dermatitis induced by a neighbour's beehives.

Contact Dermatitis. 49(4):214-5, 2003 Oct.


Citation 3. 

Unique Identifier

Chen CN. Wu CL. Shy HS. Lin JK.

Graduate Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of
Medicine, National Taiwan University, No. 1, Section 1, Jen-ai Road,
Taipei, Taiwan 100, Republic of China.

Cytotoxic prenylflavanones from Taiwanese propolis.

Journal of Natural Products. 66(4):503-6, 2003 Apr.

Two new prenylflavanones, propolin A (2) and propolin B (3), were
isolated and characterized from Taiwanese propolis. Both compounds
were found to have cytotoxic properties against three cancer cell
lines. DNA content analyses and DNA fragmentation indicated that
propolin A (2) efficiently induced apoptosis in cancer cell lines, but
had no effect on the cell cycle program. Furthermore, both propolin A
(2) and B (3) are potential antioxidant agents and show strong
scavenging effects against most types of free radicals.


Citation 4. 

Unique Identifier

Cuesta-Rubio O. Frontana-Uribe BA. Ramirez-Apan T. Cardenas J.

Instituto de Farmacia y Alimentos, Universidad de la Habana, Cuba.

Polyisoprenylated benzophenones in cuban propolis; biological activity
of nemorosone.

Zeitschrift fur Naturforschung. Section C. Journal of Biosciences.
57(3-4):372-8, 2002 Mar-Apr.

The Copey tree (Clusia rosea) has a large distribution in Cuba and its
floral resin is a rich source of polyisoprenylated benzophenones. To
determine the presence of these natural products, we carried out a
study by HPLC of 21 propolis samples produced by honey bees (Apis
mellifera) from different provinces of Cuba. Nemorosone resulted to be
the most abundant polyisoprenylated benzophenone and the mixture of
xanthochymol and guttiferone E was also observed, but in minor
proportion. We studied the biological activity of the pure natural
product nemorosone and its methyl derivatives. We found that
nemorosone has cytotoxic activity against epitheloid carcinoma (HeLa),
epidermoid carcinoma (Hep-2), prostate cancer (PC-3) and central
nervous system cancer (U251). It also exhibited antioxidant capacity.
Methylated nemorosone exhibited less biological activity than the
natural product.


Citation 5. 

Unique Identifier

Koo H. Rosalen PL. Cury JA. Park YK. Bowen WH.

Center for Oral Biology and Eastman Department of Dentistry,
University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York 14642,

Effects of compounds found in propolis on Streptococcus mutans growth
and on glucosyltransferase activity.

Antimicrobial Agents & Chemotherapy. 46(5):1302-9, 2002 May.

Propolis, a resinous bee product, has been shown to inhibit the growth
of oral microorganisms and the activity of bacterium-derived
glucosyltransferases (GTFs). Several compounds, mainly polyphenolics,
have been identified in this natural product. The present study
evaluated the effects of distinct chemical groups found in propolis on
the activity of GTF enzymes in solution and on the surface of
saliva-coated hydroxyapatite (sHA) beads. Thirty compounds, including
flavonoids, cinnamic acid derivatives, and terpenoids, were tested for
the ability to inhibit GTFs B, C, and D from Streptococcus mutans and
GTF from S. sanguinis (GTF Ss). Flavones and flavonols were potent
inhibitors of GTF activity in solution; lesser effects were noted on
insolubilized enzymes. Apigenin, a 4',5,7-trihydroxyflavone, was the
most effective inhibitor of GTFs, both in solution (90.5 to 95%
inhibition at a concentration of 135 microg/ml) and on the surface of
sHA beads (30 to 60% at 135 microg/ml). Antibacterial activity was
determined by using MICs, minimum bactericidal concentrations (MBCs),
and time-kill studies. Flavanones and some dihydroflavonols, as well
as the sesquiterpene tt-farnesol, inhibited the growth of S. mutans
and S. sobrinus; tt-farnesol was the most effective antibacterial
compound (MICs of 14 to 28 microg/ml and MBCs of 56 to 112 microg/ml).
tt-Farnesol (56 to 112 microg/ml) produced a 3-log-fold reduction in
the bacterial population after 4 h of incubation. Cinnamic acid
derivatives had negligible biological activities. Several of the
compounds identified in propolis inhibit GTF activities and bacterial
growth. Apigenin is a novel and potent inhibitor of GTF activity, and
tt-farnesol was found to be an effective antibacterial agent.


Citation 6. 

Unique Identifier

Velikova M. Bankova V. Tsvetkova I. Kujumgiev A. Marcucci MC.

Institute of Organic Chemistry with Centre of Phytochemistry,
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1113 Sofia, Bulgaria.

Antibacterial ent-kaurene from Brazilian propolis of native stingless bees.

Fitoterapia. 71(6):693-6, 2000 Dec.

Three ent-kaurene diterpenoids, not previously described as
constituents of propolis, were isolated from a sample collected by
Brazilian native bees Melipona quadrifasciata anthidioides. One of
them, kaurenoic acid, as well as the total extract, displayed moderate
antibacterial activity.


Citation 7. 

Unique Identifier

Trevelyan J.

Spirit of the beehive.

Nursing Times. 93(7):72-4, 1997 Feb 12-18.


Citation 8. 

Unique Identifier

Garcia M. del Pozo MD. Diez J. Munoz D. de Corres LF.

Servicio de Alergologia, Hospital Santiago Apostol, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.

Allergic contact dermatitis from a beeswax nipple-protective.

Contact Dermatitis. 33(6):440-1, 1995 Dec.


Citation 9. 

Unique Identifier

Brumfitt W. Hamilton-Miller JM. Franklin I.

Department of Medical Microbiology, Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead,
London, Great Britain.

Antibiotic activity of natural products: 1. Propolis.

Microbios. 62(250):19-22, 1990.

Material extracted from propolis (bee glue) by alkaline aqueous
solvents or organic solvents showed weak inhibitory activity in vitro
against certain species of Gram-positive bacteria. No antimicrobial
activity was detected in urine from three volunteers who had taken 500
mg propolis three times a day for 3 days.


Citation 10. 

Unique Identifier

Takahashi M. Matsuo I. Ohkido M.

Contact dermatitis due to honeybee royal jelly.

Contact Dermatitis. 9(6):452-5, 1983 Nov.

A woman who had ingested honeybee royal jelly as a nutrient, showed an
exacerbation of dermatitis when it was applied to her feet. A topical
fungicide also aggravated her skin lesions. Patch testing showed
positive reactions to the royal jelly, pyrrolnitrin in the fungicide
and urushiol. Positive reactions to the royal jelly were found in 2
out of 10 controls, 1 of whom was sensitive to propolis.


Citation 11.

Amoros, M., C. M. Simões, L. Girre, F. Sauvager, and M. Cormier. 1992.
Synergistic effect of flavones and flavonols against herpes simplex
virus type 1 in cell culture. Comparison with the antiviral activity
of propolis. J. Nat. Prod. 55:1732-1740.


Citation 12.

Burdock, G. A. 1998. Review of the biological properties and toxicity
of propolis. Food Chem. Toxicol. 36:341-363.

Propolis is a multifunctional material used by bees in the
construction and maintenance of their hives. Use of propolis by humans
has a long history, predated only by the discovery of honey. Use of
products containing propolis have resulted in extensive dermal contact
and it is now increasingly being used a dietary supplement. Unlike
many 'natural' remedies, there is a substantive database on the
biological activity and toxicity of propolis indicating it may have
many antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral and antitumour properties,
among other attributes. Although reports of allergic reactions are not
uncommon, propolis is relatively non-toxic, with a no-effect level
(NOEL) in a 90-mouse study of 1400 mg/kg body weight/day.

I hope this information was helpful.  Please feel free to ask for clarification.



Clarification of Answer by welte-ga on 05 Apr 2005 07:40 PDT
A search strategy you may find useful for finding more scientific
sources of information:

"bee propolis"
jamesyl-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars

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