The cool, crisp autumn air is a sign that winter is near. It is a time when the leaves start changing their color, rodents start searching for warmer places to settle, and bees begin blocking the cracks in their hives with something called propolis.
Have you ever observed a beehive closely? You may notice a sticky, brown paste spread all inside it. That’s what propolis really is, and while you may consider it as an unpleasant, gluey substance, it is actually much more than that.
Containing beeswax, bee saliva, and other substances from trees and plants, this resin has been known to have a lot of health benefits. But how can you use this substance and what can it do for you?
This article will explore what propolis is along with its potential health benefits and different ways to use it.
What Is Propolis?
Contrary to what most people think, honey is not the only thing that bees are responsible for making. They also make propolis, a compound that is created from the sap that they suck from trees. Then they combine this sap with their own beeswax and other discharges to create a sticky, brownish product known as propolis.
The word ‘propolis’, also known as bee glue, has a Greek origin and is a combination of two words: pro meaning “coming before” and polis means “city.” Hence, the word propolis refers to what you may find at the entrance of a city full of bees i.e. a beehive.
The Greeks were the first people to observe this sticky substance coated all around the entrances of various beehives. Later, they came to know that this resin was used by bees for narrowing or restricting the entrance of other insects into their beehives for defense purposes. Additionally, organic raw propolis was also used for disinfecting their colonies as well as for building purposes.
Honey bees are primarily responsible for synthesizing propolis. For this purpose, they use resins that they collect from different deciduous trees, including birch, cottonwood, poplar, and alder. These resins can be found at the buds of these trees where they exist to protect them from attacks of fungus and other intruders.
But how did propolis make its way to the human population? Thousands of years ago, ancient human civilizations eventually came to know that propolis can provide them with a number of medicinal benefits. The Greeks started using it for managing abscesses while the Assyrians used to put it on wounds to fight infections and fasten the process of recovery. It was even used for embalming mummies by the Egyptians.
Composition Of Bee Propolis Extract
More than 240 compounds have been extracted from the honey bee propolis extract so far. Most types of propolis extracted from the beehives across the world have the following compounds in them:
- Around 45 to 55 percent of resins
- 10 percent of essential oils and phenolics. Among these phenolics is vanillin, the compound that gives propolis its characteristic vanilla-like smell
- 25 to 35 percent of fatty acids and waxes
- 5 percent of pollens
- 5 percent of additional organic compounds including flavonoids
- Minor components that are yet to be identified
When propolis is warm, its consistency becomes sticky like gum; however, upon cooling down, it becomes brittle and hard.
The exact composition of propolis can always vary depending on the location of the beehive where you took it from as well as the types of flowers and trees that the bees have access to. For instance, organic raw propolis taken from Brazil will not have the same composition as that taken from Europe.
Benefits Of Raw Propolis
Propolis is said to possess antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. Its spectrum of use is broad and most of the health benefits associated with it date centuries back to ancient human civilizations.
The following benefits can be obtained by using propolis:
- According to a study, using topical propolis alcohol-based extract can slow down inflammation and improve wound healing.
- Research has also found that topical application of propolis can also help increase the duration of healing of cold sores. It also reduces the amount of the herpes virus in the body as well as protects the body from encountering this problem in the future.
- Using propolis can be of particular help in patients suffering from or at risk of cancer. It can reduce the multiplication of cancerous cells inside the body, decrease the possibility of normal body cells converting into cancerous cells, and block the pathways necessary for tumor cells to communicate with and signal each other.
- Its anti-inflammatory properties can help manage psoriasis and eczema.
How To Use Raw Propolis
Given the multiple benefits associated with the use of bee propolis extract, it's natural for people to look for different ways to use it. The fact is, there is not just one way to consume raw propolis. You can choose from a number of options mentioned below as per your liking:
Direct Oral Consumption
If you do not have time and energy to make something fancy out of your propolis supply, there is good news: you can simply consume it just as it is via the oral route. Because of its sweet taste, it is not going to be hard.
At the moment, there are no medical guidelines regarding the dosage; however, most people stick to consuming one teaspoon of this substance every day. If you aren’t sure about how much of it to take, consult a doctor.
Most tablets and capsules of propolis available commercially contain it in a powdered form. If you are not sure about their purity, it is possible to make them at home on your own. For this purpose, make sure that you clean your batch of propolis and freeze it for a few hours. Then, it must be taken out and ground using a mortar and pestle or a hand grinder. Using a hand grinder is better than an electric one as using the latter can end up making your propolis sticky, gummy, and difficult to take out of the grinder.
This powder can then be filled in capsule shells to be used daily. Alternatively, you can also mix organic raw propolis in a powdered form with some honey to make a tasty medicine.
Tinctures and Extracts
Creating tinctures and extracts using raw propolis is not as difficult as it sounds. You only need a little time on your hands along with two main ingredients: propolis and a suitable solvent.
The choice of solvent is particularly important, especially if you are making a tincture for personal use. To achieve the best quality, experts recommend using ethanol. If you do not specifically have it, consider using any food-grade version with at least 65% alcohol in it.
For making a tincture or extract, it is recommended to grind propolis first. This will increase the surface area of the propolis for the solvent to act on. Put the powdered propolis along with alcohol in a water-tight container and close the top with a lid. Then, shake the container for some time. Keep repeating this shaking session twice every day for one to two weeks.
Within a few weeks, you will have your very own propolis tincture. Use a cotton ball or a paper filter to filter this extract and start using the liquid right away. This filtered liquid will be reddish-brown with no particles. Store the propolis tincture in a clean, airtight bottle if you plan to use it for a long time.
If you wish to produce a stronger tincture, increase the amount of propolis while reducing the quantity of solvent. Moreover, eliminate the process of filtration.
If you are not really a fan of using alcohol, making a water extract might be a desirable option for you. Water or an aqueous extract can be prepared by boiling propolis in water or simply soaking it in. However, soaking it in water is preferable as the process of boiling may make raw propolis lose some of its aromatic compounds.
Aqueous extracts are generally less strong than alcohol-based tinctures; however, the former has been shown to have strong fungicidal and anti-bacterial effects. The rest of the steps are the same as described above. For preventing fungal growth, make sure you refrigerate your propolis water extract if you plan to use it for a long time.
Propolis Oil Extract
Take a pan and fill it with propolis along with any food-grade oil of your choice. This can be any oil of your choice, like olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil, etc. You can even consider using butter to make organic raw propolis extract. Now heat the pan at a gentle heat in a water bath for about ten minutes. Remember to keep stirring the mixture constantly throughout.
Even though oil-based tinctures are the strongest, the choice of solvent to use depends on the purpose of making it. For example, if you wish to treat your eye infection using propolis, it is better to go for a water-based extract. On the other hand, oil extracts can work much more effectively against problems of the gums and mouth. If in question, make sure to consult with your physician before use.
Organic raw propolis has been known for the multiple health benefits associated with it. Extracted from beehives, this resin can be used to help heal wounds, manage cold sores, treat infections of the eyes, and lower the risk of cancer. While it can be easily used in the raw form, you always have an option to make an alcohol-based tincture and an aqueous or oil extract, or simply get it in capsule form, including in Dr. Danielle's Bee Wise supplement to enjoy its benefits to the fullest.