Propolis, Bee Propolis
Propolis is a resinous material collected by honey bees from botanical sources such as the buds and bark of poplar and cone bearing trees. They combine this resin with nectar, beeswax, and pollen. Enzymes, bacteria, fungi and other microscopic organisms transform the mixture into a substance that can range in color from golden brown to reddish brown to blackish brown and other colors including hues of green and off white.
It is used by bees to seal gaps, seal alternative entrances and to reinforce the structural stability of the hive. Worker bees usually remove dead bees and waste from the hive but if something too large to remove (a small reptile or mammal for example) dies in the hive the bees will cover it with propolis to mummify it and prevent it from decaying in the hive.
The composition and color of propolis is based on the resin source and varies by location and season.
In the North East propolis typically has a breakdown of 55% plant resin, 30% beeswax, 10% essential oils and 5% pollen. The variability of propolis makes medical study difficult. Seasonal variations can lead to drastically different compositions of propolis found in the same hive. Many flavonols are found in propolis including vanillin, cinnamic acid, cinnamyl alcohol, chrysin, tetochrysin, isalpinin, ferulic acid, galangin, caffeic acid and pinocembrin.
For eons humans of many cultures have used propolis for its health benefits and as a traditional, natural or homeopathic medicine to treat wounds and for problems ranging from itching to cancer. Propolis has been shown to have antibiotic, antiseptic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and is effective against streptococcus bacteria. Other studies have found propolis effective in treating minor burns, minor infections, minor wounds, dental pain, inflammatory diseases and genital herpes. Today it is marketed today as a healthy dietary supplement and is available as chunks, capsules, tablets, powder and tinctures. It can be found in some chewing gums, ointments, personal care products and is being investigated as a tooth enamel hardener and a dental sealant.