Derived from two Greek words "pro" meaning before and "polis" meaning a town or a city, the term "propolis" is often attributed to the famous Greek Philosopher Aristotle (384 B.C. - 322 B.C.). Going back into the ancient Greek history, one would learn that the term "propolis" was established and used by Greek nature study students. Propolis was used to constrict the entrance or opening of bees' cities - a measure undertaken by the insects to keep the hives safe from unwanted intruders.
While the medicinal values of pollen have been discovered and used relatively recently by medical practitioners across the globe, it would be interesting to note that propolis or the bee glue was officially prescribed by pharmacopeias as well as physicians in London as early as in the 17th century. Although, propolis has been officially used to treat several ailments since the 17th century, its usage became popular in the late 20th century. Incidentally, both scientists as well as the laymen are now showing a renewed interest in the use of propolis. The curious medicinal item is a brownish and resin-like substance that is collected by the bees from buds of the poplar and coniferous trees and used to fill up the cracks and other unwanted openings in their hives.
According to people espousing the remedial use of propolis, the substance collected from the bee hives possesses greater anti-bacterial features than that found in penicillin and other regular antibiotic medicines found in the drug stores. Advocators of propolis claim that the substance derived from bee hives functions actively to enhance the body's natural resistance to various infections by kindling the immunity system. They point out that the propolis therapy is especially beneficial in curing diseases like tuberculosis, duodenal ulcers and even gastric disorders. They further assert that when propolis or its derivatives are applied externally in the form of creams, they help in curing different kinds of skin diseases, particularly which are caused by bacteria or fungi. Normally, propolis is available in the market both in its pure form as well as in combination with pollen. It is available in different forms such as creams, capsules, chips like chewing gums, throat lozenges and even as in powder form. The powder form of propolis is generally used to prepare tinctures of the substance.
Thus far, scientists and researchers have examined over twenty five different elements of propolis and tested them against numerous genuses of bacteria and fungi to ascertain their anti-bacterial as well as anti-fungal actions. The findings of these researches and clinical tests have shown that the anti-microbial properties of propolis therapy are primarily owing to the presence of flavonoids, pinocembrin, galangin, pinobanksin and pinobanksin-3-acetate in the substance derived from the bee hives. In addition to the above-mentioned elements, p-coumaric acid benzyl ester as well as mixture of a chaffiest acid ester present in propolis is also effective. The scientists have found that a 5,7-dihydroxyflavanone called pinocembrin possesses significant anti-fungal features and enhances the resistance power in the body. Although these elements found in propolis were found to be somewhat effective against bacteria and fungi, isolated neither of these were found to be as effectual as the other different types of antibiotics or sulfa drugs that the advocators of propolis compare the substance with. The researches confirmed that antibiotics and sulfa medicines such as streptomycin, oxytetracycline, chloramphenicol, nystatin, griseofulvin, and sulfamerazine are more effective anti-bacterial and anti-fungal remedies.
Researchers in Poland have carried out a series of tests on propolis with a view to discover the substance's therapeutic qualities. These researches have established that in addition to bacteriostatic and fungistatic features of propolis, therapy with this natural substance subdued the augmentation of protozoa, while speeding up bone formation in the body. In addition, the propolis therapy helped in stimulating actions of certain enzymes and also demonstrated cytostatic properties - it restrained the augmentation as well as division of cells. Significantly, all these tests and experiments conducted out by the Polish researchers were in vitro - meaning that the experiments were either carried out in chemical laboratories or in small animals and not on humans. As far as propolis is concerned, no one has conducted double blind clinical tests on human beings thus far.
Successive researches have established that though the flavonoid pigments present in propolis do contain some amount of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal features, they are not as effectual as the normal medicines found in the drug stores to combat such micro-organisms. Since such claims by the advocators of propolis therapy lacks substantial clinical evidence, which is a must for official use of any medicine, it is best to ignore such tall claims about the substance's remedial value. In the meantime, it can be said that it is safe as well as effective to carry on using propolis to close up unwanted openings and cracks in the bee hives!
All said and done, the chemical composition of propolis is very complicated. While the chemical constituents differ depending on the sources they are obtained from, the color of the substance ranges from golden brown to brownish green. It is often also found in reddish brown and blackish brown colors. A general breakdown of propolis confirms that the substance comprises 55 per cent of resin-like compounds and balsam, 30 per cent of beeswax, 10 per cent of ethereal and fragrant oils and five per cent of bee pollen. Significantly, propolis constitutes a number of flavonols too. The other chemical elements found in propolis comprise cinnamyl alcohol, vanillin, cinnamic acid, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, tetochrysin, isalpinin, pinocembrin, chrysin and galangin.
Despite lack of clinical verification, many consider propolis to be another curative wonder derived from the bee hive. Several researches have established that propolis possesses antiseptic, anti-viral, antibiotic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that help to enhance the resistance power of the body against these organisms. Also known as the Russian penicillin owing to its powerful action as well as the intensive research conducted by the Russian scientists on the substance collected by the hard working bees, propolis is considered to be the maiden gift of nature to mankind. Scientists have established that the anti-microbial quality of propolis helps human begins to protect them from as well as fight against bacterial and fungal attacks. Its properties are so powerful that even the scientists have found the streptococcus bacteria have shown to be susceptible to propolis.
Many people believe that propolis has been rightly termed as the nature's foremost protective since intake of the substance not only supports the immune system, but also reinforces it. Recent researches on propolis have established that people ingesting the substance on a regular basis are free from winter colds and aching throats. Regular intake of propolis helps in enhancing the body's natural immunity to ordinary viruses that includes different kinds of flu.
What is significant is that all chemical antibiotics eliminate each and every bacterium found in the body - both friendly as well as the hostile ones. The worst part is that the chemical antibiotics even destroy the flora necessary for the healthy functioning of the total gastronomic system along with the flora detrimental for the intestines. It may be noted that any person taking one antibiotic after another for different ailments would soon be shocked to learn that no drug might be working as well as they did some time ago. This is primarily owing to the fact that the bacterium invading our system becomes 'cleverer' or immune to the chemical antibiotics and resultantly these antibiotics fail to function as effectively as they should. On the contrary, scientists have also found propolis to be natural antibiotic that is substantially effectual even against bacteria that are resistant to chemical antibiotics.
Most importantly, propolis is a natural antibiotic that functions effectively against bacteria detrimental for our body, but does not destroy the friendly bacteria that are necessary for healthy living. Moreover, it has properties that are capable to effectively destroying bacteria that are resistant to the chemical antibiotics. In fact, the area of action or therapeutic value of propolis is very wide and it even includes cancer, urinary tract infection, gout, open wounds, swelling in the throat, sinus blockage, colds, influenza, bronchitis, gastritis, diseases of the ears, periodontal disease, infections in the intestine, ulcers, eczema eruptions, pneumonia, bile infections, multiple sclerosis, circulation deficiencies, warts, arthritis, lung disease, virus in the stomach, headaches, Parkinson's disease, hoarseness, and conjunctivitis.
Researches have also discovered that propolis helps in normalizing hormones. This substance collected by the bees to 'repair' their hives, is a natural antibiotic that kindles or stimulates the natural resistance power of the body. The best part of the propolis therapy is that it can be administered on anyone - irrespective of a person being sick or healthy. Its use is considered to be an effectual way of protecting oneself from the attacks of micro-organisms like bacteria, fungus, virus etc. Researches have shown that propolis is able to heal numerous ailments as it is a special natural substance that is very strong in antibiotic properties.
It is advisable that you use propolis as a dietary supplement daily. Since propolis has helped the bee community to survive against all odds for more than 45 million years, there is little doubt that if you too use it regularly, it will enable you to survive for a longer period and healthily.