The term propolis derives from Greek and literally means "before" (pro) the "city" (polis). This name comes from the fact that propolis heaped on the holes of hives bees. It is a resinous, sticky mass, which is also produced by honey bees. For many people, propolis is known in numerous other terms such as bee glue, bee resin, thrust or stuffing wax.
In the medical field, propolis is found thanks to a variety of effects that promote the healing of various diseases. Important effects of Propolis are antibacterial and antiviral effects. Furthermore, the propolis has a killing effect on fungi. So it is antifungal effective.
Bees also use these important effects to keep their colony healthy and to ensure their survival. Thus, important places in the hive, such as the honeycombs, in which the brood is located, lined with propolis. This prevents the spread of bacteria and fungi and viruses on the population and thus ensures the coexistence of many individuals in the smallest of spaces.
The use in the health sector concentrates mainly on the alternative as well as folk medicine area. There are various dosage forms of propolis, for example, ointments, creams, tinctures, lozenges and nasal sprays. The scope of application extends from respiratory tract infections and mucosal inflammations to inflammation and skin injuries. Furthermore, there are a variety of care products that contain propolis.
Due to its composition, propolis has characteristic properties and effects. Not all of them are positive for humans. In addition to very helpful and health-promoting effects, side effects are also known in propolis.
The following section deals in detail with the positive effects for humans:
1. Antibiotic / Antibacterial Action: It has been proven that propolis has an antibacterial effect. The effect of Propolistinkturen directed especially against gram-positive pathogens such as staphylococci. Here it could be shown in experiments that propolis inhibits the multiplication of the pathogens. However, the antibacterial effect is not only directed against gram positive but also against gram-negative bacteria. This antibacterial effect is attributed primarily to the flavonoids contained in propolis. Flavonoids are also found in many plants and vegetables. Further studies have shown that propolis can inhibit the attachment of bacteria to human cells. The antibacterial efficacy is thus significantly present, but it must be said that it is in no way as pronounced as the antibacterial effect of antibiotics. A serious infectious disease can not be treated with propolis, because the antibacterial effect is simply too weak and many pathogens have long been resistant to such weak antibiotic effects.
2. Antiviral effect: In addition to the antibacterial effect of propolis, an antiviral effect is known. This means that the bee resin is effective against viruses and can damage and fight them. This effect is also called virostatic. Efficacy is known against the widespread herpesviruses and rhinoviruses. Among other things, herpesviruses cause inflammatory aphthae and blisters on the lips and oral mucosa. Rhinoviruses cause respiratory infections, they are typical "cold causes".
3. Antifungal effect: Propolis contains ingredients that have an antimycotic effect. This means that propolis can inhibit the growth of fungi. The effect is directed primarily against the yeast fungus Candida albicans and other dermatophytes, so-called dermatophytes. Typically, these fungi cause skin mycoses (fungal skin diseases). The antifungal effect is attributed as well as the antibacterial and virostatic effects on the propolis contained flavonoids.
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4. Antioxidant effect: The antioxidant effect of propolis has been shown in animal experiments. The formation of reactive oxygen species was inhibited by propolis. Such reactive oxygen species are cell damaging and arise almost in all metabolic processes in the body. They are also referred to as free radicals. UV radiation, nicotine, pollutants and environmental pollution also lead to the formation of free radicals in the body. These are involved in the education of various diseases such as cancer, arteriosclerosis and aging processes in the body. However, antioxidants such as propolis counteract these processes by inhibiting free radicals. However, a significant antioxidant effect of propolis in the human body has not been proven.
5. Immune Enhancing Effect: The immune enhancing effect of propolis has not been conclusively proven in humans. However, a positive effect on the thymus, an organ of the human immune system, is discussed. For example, flavonoids of propolis are said to promote the activity of the thymus, especially in old age.
6. Wound healing effect: In the wound healing process, propolis promotes granulation. The granulation refers to the regeneration of young connective tissue and is essential for good wound healing. The ingredients apigenin and luteolin, which also belong to the flavonoids, should be responsible for this.
Further information can be found here: Wound healing
7. Cytotoxic effect: This effect has so far only been shown in animal experiments. Propolis acts as a killing agent on tumor cells and inhibits their growth. In humans, however, this effect has not been proven, so that no use of propolis in cancer therapy makes sense.
8. Other effects: Propolis continues to have a positive effect on oral hygiene and prevents plaque formation. A protective effect on pollen allergy is also discussed.
In conclusion, the effect of propolis may vary depending on the composition of the product, so that different studies with partly differently composed products lead to different results.
In addition to many very positive properties, propolis also has a certain allergenic potential for humans, which is probably the most important and significant side effect. It behaves like a contact allergen, which can lead to contact dermatitis, especially in people with an atopic disposition. It is an allergic reaction of the skin, which is characterized by redness, swelling and scaling and follows the contact of the skin with a specific substance. In particular, people with an allergic predisposition or sensitive skin, for example in the context of eczema, but also people with allergies to components of bee products such as honey and royal jelly are affected. Therefore, these people should refrain from the use of propolis.
Furthermore, the side effect profile is not sufficiently secured in pregnant women, so they should do without propolis. The same applies to breast-feeding.
Due to its multifaceted effects, propolis is used in alternative medicine in various diseases. It sees itself as a kind of supportive measure and can not effect a cure, so that a conventional medical therapy should not be waived.
Propolis is not used as a medicine but is contained in cosmetics and homeopathic compositions. Since the composition can vary considerably from manufacturer to manufacturer, no precise statement can be made about dosages and compositions of the products. To promote wound healing, creams, ointments and tinctures are used in particular. However, they should not be applied to open wounds.
Typical areas of application are slight irritation of the skin, small scabs or lacerations or medical pedicure. In allergic eczema or a tendency to allergic reactions, especially the skin, propolis-containing ointments and creams should not be used. Furthermore, propolis is given for the care of mucous membranes, for example in the form of mouthwashes or lozenges. Typical reasons for a supportive care with propolis are aphthae, mucosal inflammation in the mouth and smoking but also the medical dental care. Here one uses the antimicrobial and wound healing effects of propolis.
Another very large application of propolis preparations are personal care products. These include ointments, creams and tinctures. In cosmetic series are shower gels, shampoos and body lotions with propolis. These are characterized by the characteristic, fragrant scent. In rheumatic diseases, propolis creams are also used to massage the painful areas. Another form of administration are nasal sprays. They are also used as oral solutions and lozenges to aid in the healing of mild respiratory infections. The internal use of propolis in the form of capsules and homeopathic globules relies on immune-enhancing and antioxidant effects, which, however, could not be proven in humans.
Propolis tinctures are often used in homeopathy. They are usually offered as drops that can be swallowed. Mainly one promises it of an immune-strengthening effect, for example in the context of colds. Since there are no uniform indications for the use of homeopathic remedies, this varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Tinctures may continue to be used as nasal sprays or in the form of mouthwash to rinse the mouth and upper pharynx. The latter are used, for example, for mild inflammation of the oral and pharyngeal mucosa and for improving oral and dental hygiene.
There are many different creams and ointments that contain propolis in different compositions. They are offered by many manufacturers and are available over the counter, as they are not medicines. Such creams and ointments are used primarily for personal care and skin care. For example, there are creams and ointments applied to mild skin wounds and eczema to promote wound healing. Another application of propolis-containing creams is medical foot care. Furthermore, ointments and creams for use in cold sores and aphthae can be used.
Caution is advised in the case of an allergic disposition or a very sensitive skin, for example in the context of atopic dermatitis. In these cases propolis-containing creams and ointments should be avoided.
Capsules containing propolis are usually sold as supplements and, like other propolis-containing products, are also available from various manufacturers. In particular, reference is made to an antioxidant effect and a strengthening of the immune system. However, these effects are not proven in humans.
Although other areas of application such as depressive moods and asthma are partly declared by the manufacturer, they are definitely not recommended as these are diseases in need of treatment. Propolis-containing capsules can not help in such cases and delay only adequate therapy.