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Propolis is a resinous substance which is used by bees to seal the cracks in their nests and to coat bare surfaces such as wood. In northern temperate countries the gum on poplar tree buds appears to be the favourite source from which the bees collect raw material.

Besides its resinous character, Propolis has a second property which is important in the beehive: it prevents the growth of bacteria. If a stray beetle for instance enters the hive and proves too large to remove, the bees will cover the corpse in Propolis, preserving it and preventing pollution in their nest. This and an anti-viral effect which has been recognised in laboratory work are the actions which are useful to us.

There is now interest in the effects of Propolis among scientists and doctors in Russia, and also among scientists working on the provision of cheap effective medicines for developing countries.

Propolis has proved to be highly efficient first-line protection against a wide spectrum of bacterial infections. Since it carries none of the risks of an antibiotic it is suitable for immediate use whenever an infection threatens.

Folk Medicine

Propolis has had a reputation in folk medicine across the world for many centuries. Some uses such as improving the healing of wounds by reducing bacterial infection were undoubtedly justified. Sadly, folk medicine usually fails to single out the proper uses of a remedy, claiming it as a cure-all instead and bringing it into disrepute. This has been the fate of Propolis. For instance it has been advocated as yet another cure for arthritis. Used correctly Propolis might help a small proportion of patients with certain kinds of arthritis but as a cure-all its potential usefulness is submerged.

Inadequate Doses

Another reason for the poor reputation of Propolis is that a number of preparations which can be bought from health shops contain very small quantities of the substance - as little as
10 milligrams per tablet/capsule, the volume being made up with inert "fillers" such as lactose or starch. The correct minimum daily dose of Propolis is in the region of 1.5 grams. A dose of 500 mg (one third of the daily dose) forms a satisfactory chewable tablet of the pure substance without the need for any filler.

Curiously the various tablets and capsules cost roughly the same even though their contents of Propolis may differ by 50 fold.

Uses of Propolis

1.    Preparation for EPD

Patients with any allergy who are being treated by EPD may greatly reduce the chance of catching a cold or other infection around the time of desensitisation by taking Propolis daily for two weeks before EPD and re-starting afterwards, continuing for a further two weeks.
a)    Propolis should not be started less than 7 days before EPD and a new course of Propolis treatment should not commence until at least two weeks afterwards. (Since Propolis causes an alteration of the candida and bacterial populations of the intestines there may be a short-term rise in the doses of these antigens which enter the bloodstream at the start of treatment.)
b)    A continuing course of Propolis should be stopped 24-36 hours ahead of EPD and not re-started until 72 hours afterwards (i.e. a total of 4 days without Propolis). This will reduce the risk of sensitising the patient to Propolis during EPD.
2.    Asthma
Patients suffering from asthma who develop frequent chest infections and require repeated courses of antibiotics can expect to avoid most infections if they take a full dose of Propolis sufficiently quickly every time they first suspect the: very start of a cold. It does not matter if the suspicion is sometimes wrong and Propolis is used unnecessarily. Whenever Propolis is started the treatment should continue for at least 5 days.
Very severe asthmatics who are often admitted to hospital as emergencies as the result of chest infections will be better with permanent protection from continuous Propolis treatment.
3.    The Urinary Tract
Propolis gives moderate protection against infection of the urinary tract. Women who suffer from repeated infections of the bladder or kidneys should first be instructed in the correct methods of personal hygiene. Many should also be investigated to make sure that there is no abnormality of the urinary tract.
If all else fails, continuous treatment with Propolis may give adequate protection and be preferable to long-term antibiotics.
Patients with urinary symptoms which cannot be shown to be caused by infection will also sometimes benefit from Propolis.
4.    Post-Viral Syndrome ("ME" or PVS)
Propolis has a role in the treatment of PVS and it should be used continuously in full dose.
Some patients have responded to Propolis dramatically, even within one week, others more slowly. The improvement is most obvious when EPD is given to a patient who has already taken Propolis for at least four weeks and continues afterwards. A minority of patients will not respond until after the second dose of EPD while taking Propolis.
In the first series of 27 patients who had taken Propolis for an adequate time to assess its effect, 24 had obviously obtained a major benefit within 4 months: 3 had normal energy (one ran a half marathon within 5 weeks but relapsed in a week if Propolis was stopped). Fourteen patients went back to work, school, or undertook physical activity which was previously impossible. Of this number 6 relapsed within 8 weeks of stopping Propolis or of reducing the dose to 500 mg daily.
The time for which the full dose of Propolis must be continued in PVS is not known. A minimum of one year is suggested, with resumption of treatment if the patient relapses.
5.    Mouth ulcers
Mouth ulcers often respond to Propolis. Since it also has a local anaesthetic effect, chewing a tablet of Propolis up to four times per day when necessary will offer relief to many sufferers.
6.    Skin Infections
For use on the skin liquid solutions of Propolis are available. These may help acne or local skin infections. One example contains 2% of the active substance.

These solutions of Propolis are weak and are not intended to be taken by mouth for treatment of the whole body.

Side Effects of Propolis

2500 years of the use of Propolis in many cultures suggest that Propolis is likely to be free of serious side-effects. More importantly, some Russian doctors have used up to 9 grams daily to treat major surgical infections without running into trouble.

Minor side-effects have been encountered when using Propolis for post-viral syndrome. All have been encountered within one week of starting treatment:

Two patients - loose bowels.
One patient - sore mouth (with chewed Propolis).
One patient who already experienced a burning sensation in the skin found that Propolis made it worse. (Others with a similar sensation have not reported worsening by Propolis.)

These side-effects all disappeared when the Propolis was stopped. Future experience may show that these side-effects would also disappear if the Propolis is continued or the dose is raised (as with Nystatin).

Allergy to Propolis

Allergy to Propolis is possible but appears to be rare in contrast to honey allergy which is quite common. Honey contains allergens derived from flowers and some patients will react directly to the sugars, but sensitivity to the dust from the bees' bodies also occurs.

Propolis contains bee dust and this is the potential problem. It 'should be noted that bee sting allergy is directed against special proteins in the venom, not against the bees' body, so people who react very violently to bee stings are not likely to react to Propolis, just as they can usually eat honey.

Dose and Preparation of Propolis

The minimum effective daily dose of Propolis is 1.5 grams. This may be taken all together at any time in relation to meals, but is perhaps better on an empty stomach if an effect on the bacteria/candida in the stomach and upper intestines is desired.

1.    A number of bee farms market their own Propolis in capsules. If these contain 500 mg, take 3/day. If the capsules are only 250 rng size, take 6/day. Do not use Propolis capsules which do not state the contents of each capsule.

Thesis by Dr. L. M. McEwen