The Buzz about Propolis

Known as the “glue” of beehives, this resinous material is used by bees to seal cracks and crevices in the hive—fending off bacteria, fungi and other intruders. Now science is proving it also fends off similar health invaders faced by humans.

Although propolis isn’t some new health fad—its human use dates back to the time of Aristotle in 350 BC—scientists are continuing to discover more of its healing properties, which has led to its extensive use in foods, beverages and medicinal tinctures to improve health and prevent disease.

Benefits of Propolis

“Propolis is a natural antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal,” says Robin Pasquale, a naturopathic doctor based in Fort Collins, Colorado, who prescribes its use for her patients suffering from sore throats and other upper-respiratory conditions, as well as some digestive issues.

The resinous substance is collected by bees from various tree buds and contains over 300 natural biologically active compounds, including amino acids, flavonoids, polyphenols, sesquiterpenes and steroids. Studies on propolis show it to have antioxidant, anti-herpes, antimicrobial and anti-cancer activities; yet the chemical composition and strength of propolis varies based on plant sources and region collected.

“We’re just starting to learn about using propolis for digestion,” says Pasquale, who explains how it can help eradicate dysbiosis in the gut, assisting such conditions as SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) and candida by altering the mucus membrane in the small intestine to make digestion more effective.

How and When to Use Propolis

“I usually don’t recommend propolis by itself because it’s so sticky,” says Pasquale, who mixes her raw propolis tincture with other herbs like licorice, gum root and mullein into a synergistic blend. She commonly prescribes propolis for patients with sore throats and upper respiratory symptoms, and recommends using the spray hourly until symptoms improve or taking 30 drops of tincture four times a day until symptoms improve.

Because raw bee propolis alone has a strong taste, many practitioners suggest using it in capsule form to start. Commercial manufacturers sell propolis in capsules, as a tincture, syrup and spray, as well as an ointment for topical application to heal wounds or infections.

Here are some specific and studied ways to use propolis, but be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement. Also, if you have a hypersensitivity or allergy to bee stings or bee products, beware of a possible allergy to propolis.

    • Common Cold and Sore Throat: 500 milligrams one to two times per day, or 30 drops of tincture four times a day until symptoms improve. For sore throat, spray throat hourly until symptoms improve.

    • Cold Sore: Apply propolis ointment to the cold sore four times per day.

    • Genital Herpes: Apply a 3 percent propolis ointment to the lesions four times per day.

    • Yeast Infection: Propolis suppositories can be used vaginally for internal infection until symptoms improve; and a 3 percent propolis ointment can be applied topically to external skin tissues until symptoms improve.

    • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Apply a topical product according to package directions.

    • Candida: Dr. Pasquale typically rotates anti-candida agents into a holistic regime to kill off the yeast over the course of 6–8 weeks. She suggests incorporating oral capsules or tincture of propolis into the mix for four days, then switching to other herbs in the protocol.