Propolis, the wonder weapon against many diseases

Since the beginning of time, human beings have used ‘Nature’ as their major model for both their technical and medical achievements. There would be no aeroplanes without birds, just as there would be no medicine without the healing substances found in nature. That these substances cannot be perfectly imitated is obvious – and so countless numbers of medications emerge which have neither the effectiveness nor the safety which ‘Nature’ provides, because – to use the example of ‘technology’ again – aeroplanes sometimes crash, but birds never do...

The smarter among us have already understood that – if possible – it is much more advantageous to refer directly to natural remedies rather than their crude plagiarisms. Luckily, interest in natural remedies is continually increasing among the public.

Not to be forgotten in the medicinal repertoire of ‘Mother Nature’ is apitherapy, an independent branch of treatment within alternative medicine using natural substances produced by bees. Next to pollen, honey, royal jelly and bee venom, propolis is the most important of these substances. Propolis is a resin produced by bees to resist all kinds of parasites in their warm hives, which are thus well-suited for them, from bacteria to viruses to fungal growths, and to keep themselves and their offspring free of all diseases.

For this purpose, the bees collect resin from tree buds and damaged tree bark (mainly from poplars but birches, pines, spruces, alders and other kinds of trees are also options) and mix it in the beehive with their own ferments, flower pollen and wax in order to guarantee a sterile and tightly-sealed dwelling for themselves and their offspring, protecting from rain, heat, cold, and wind.

This self-produced mass is what we humans ultimately call ‘propolis’. To put it simply, the bees make use of plant extracts that are already quite healthy in themselves and then optimise their effect by mixing it with their own secretions.

Propolis – the name

Translated from the Greek, ‘propolis’ means ‘before the city’ in the sense of ‘protection for the city’, that city being, of course, the beehive.

Propolis – the history

Propolis is not a new discovery for us, as its use by human beings for their own health maintenance is very well documented all the way back to ancient times. Hippocrates, for example, raved about the effect of propolis on sores, and Aristotle recommended propolis for skin diseases and festering wounds. While doctors were already using propolis for treatment of wounds, bruises, sores and other conditions, the ancients had used it for embalming their mummies.

Both were very clever, as the antiseptic and sealing properties of the propolis pitch are demonstrably good for both purposes, as the mummies which are still preserved to this day demonstrate.

Bees also use the same mechanism against intruders, e.g. mice, which they sting to death but are unable to remove from their hives.
They cover the intruder’s corpse with a thick film of propolis and can thus prevent decomposition bacteria from growing in their own hive.

Propolis – the rediscovery

A supposedly positive-seeming advance of the pharmaceutical industry with patents for penicillin & co. pushed propolis, and other natural remedies as well, from the minds of doctors and therapists.

For the rediscovery of propolis we can thank, among others, a Danish bee breeder names Karl Lund Aagaard, whose experiments covered all aspects of bee colonies and beehives, and thus also the bees’ putty resin, i.e. propolis.

He undertook his first experiments regarding the health properties of propolis on himself. A severe sore throat, accompanied by a high fever, was a perfect opportunity for this and, to the amazement of his wife, who was a nurse by trade, fully abated overnight until it was nothing more than a light redness of the throat. This redness of the throat, he claimed, completely disappeared the next day.

This was the occasion for further self-tests, which were soon accompanied by similarly fascinating results.

The recognition, that propolis would help counteract numerous illnesses not only in bees but also, in the same way, in human beings, was not far off.

Active ingredients in propolis

To this day, scientists have been able to identify approximately 200 ingredients in propolis.

Among these ingredients are vitamins, minerals, trace elements, secondary plant substances and essential oils. The main active ingredients are without question, however, the flavonoids which are among the secondary plant substances. [1]

It must definitely first be noted, however, that there is not ONE standardised propolis; rather, its composition (and thus effectiveness) depends heavily upon the region (geographically-conditioned particularities of plants) in which the bees were active, as well as the season.  Effectiveness can thus vary from propolis to propolis.


Material composition of propolis

(approximate values)

Propolis is primarily composed of the following individual materials: [2]

·                  50 % resin

·                  30 % wax

·                  10 % essential oils

·                  5 % pollen

·                  3 % organic substances

·                  2 % minerals

Vitamins in propolis

Except for Vitamin K, propolis contains virtually every vitamin which the human organism requires, including Vitamin A, B1, B3, C, E and biotin.


Minerals/trace elements in propolis

Among the minerals/trace elements in propolis are:

-                   Calcium

-                   Magnesium

-                   Iron

-                   Manganese

-                   Zinc

-                   Silicon

-                   Selenium

-                   Vanadium

-                   Copper

-                   Chrome

Propolis can also be accompanied by numerous secondary plant substances, whose significance for our health is attested to by the latest modern science. Among these are:

-                   Flavonoids

-                   Flavons

-                   Ruthin

-                   Quercinine

-                   Pinobanksin

-                   Pinocembrin

-                   Halangin

-                   Apigenin

-                   Galangin


How does propolis work, and what does it work against?

Before we examine the individual diseases and disorders for which propolis is a well-proven remedy, it will first be interesting to learn the way in which propolis has its effect.

Mechanism of action of propolis

In the case of propolis, too, it is the perfect composition of the individual active ingredients listed above—like the instruments in an orchestra, which together cause an overall effect that cannot be reproduced by human hands—that causes the desired healing effect, from simple sore throat to life-threatening diseases like cancer . The central role in this, scientists agree, is played by flavonoids.

General effects of propolis:

-                   Immune system strengthening/regulating

-                   Revitalising

-                   Cell-rejuvenating

-                   antibacterial

-                   antiviral

-                   antifungal

-                   analgesic (pain-relieving)

-                   antioxidative (against free radicals)

-                   detoxifying (e.g. heavy metals)

-                   anti-carcinogenic (against the development of cancer)

-                   antiallergic

-                   blood pressure regulating,

[1] Burdock, 1998

[2] Eva Marbach: Heilen mit Propolis (‘Healing with Propolis’), 2009, p. 12

Foto ©Angelina Ströbel by

Tags: Propolis, health