Honey Bees propolizing the entrance to their Kenyan top bar hive.
Bees are amazing creatures. We are only now, via the difficult time they have been having the past decade, fully appreciating the extent to which we rely on them. The pollination work they do, the honey they produce, the wax they make are all well known. The hidden gem of the bees, however, is propolis.
Bee propolis is a complex substance originating from tree resin. Trees produce the resin to seal wounds and protect themselves against bacteria, fungi, and insects. The bees collect this resin, mix it with wax and enzymes they produce to make propolis.
Propolis is both a structural material and antiseptic for the beehive. It is very adhesive and flexible making it perfect for the bees to seal any cracks, seams, or other imperfections in their home while simultaneously protecting it from bacterial or fungal growth. It has recently been postulated that the antiseptic properties of propolis are actually an extension of the hive’s immune system.
Oregon bee propolis
Bee propolis (Resina propoli, Chinese: 蜂胶, Japanese: プロポリス) has been used medicinally for over 2000 years. Both the ancient Egyptians and the Greeks used propolis.
In traditional Greek medicine, propolis was used to protect wounds, boost immunity and as a mouth disinfectant.*
Like many of the natural medicines which have withstood the test of time, propolis has a complex group of active compounds. Our northern hemisphere temperate propolis has around 50 constituents, including resins and balsams, waxes, essential oils, and pollen.*
Propolis has been used by modern herbalists to support a variety of health concerns. There are numerous studies on propolis, and it's potential health benefits. We will likely see propolis appear in many new products and continue to hear a lot more about it in the years ahead as more people become aware of its potential.