The natural product propolis is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory and promotes wound healing.

Honey bees make propolis to seal and clean their hives. They use resin from trees and shrubs, wax, and saliva. The “building material” also contains vitamins, minerals, and protein building blocks.

The composition changes based on where the hive is and what plants are around. The season also plays an important role. The propolis colours vary, making it difficult to prove its effectiveness.

The antimicrobial effect is beneficial for bee colonies. Inside a beehive, lots of nutrients lead to higher humidity and temperature. This lets viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites grow fast. The corresponding growth-inhibiting effect on these organisms has been confirmed for propolis.

People in ancient times knew about propolis as a powerful remedy. Hippocrates talked about its benefits for skin diseases and ulcers. Aristotle liked how it helped heal wounds and bruises. The ancient Egyptians used propolis for embalming. The Incas used propolis for fevers. Romans used it to clean wounds. In World War II Russia, it disinfected wounds.

“Pro” = before and “polis” = city. Propolis means “before the city” and seals hive holes. Worker bees gather it from tree buds or bark and use it to disinfect the hive. The beehives are also sealed against draughts. Propolis is a powerful natural antibiotic because it fights viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Propolis is now often used as an ingredient in cosmetic products.

Collecting propolis

The Swiss Centre for Bee Research explained the propolis collection in 1956. Only a few specialised worker bees, at least 15 days old, gather propolis. They use their mandibles to collect resin from buds, leaves, twigs, or tree bark. Propolis comes from various trees and shrubs, less from conifers, depending on the location. In Europe, America, and Asia's temperate zones, poplars and birches are the primary sources. The bees mix the collected raw materials with wax and their secretions to form propolis. This plays a vital role in hive hygiene. Thus, the contamination by microorganisms is lower than in the ambient air. Propolis, hence, acts as “urban protection”. When applied to humans, propolis is a strengthening “sun remedy”. A bee collects around 10 mg of propolis per flight. So, if an average bee colony collects 100g of propolis, it needs 100,000 collection flights. Propolis has different colours depending on where it collects. The composition also varies depending on the plant species.

In Europe, propolis collects at the end of summer and autumn. This is when the bees are preparing for the winter. The “Apis mellifica” breed collects a large proportion of propolis. The Caucasian bee collects more propolis than the Ligustica, Carnica, and Nigra bees.

Beekeepers can collect a lot of propolis by observing how bees seal open areas and studying their “putty behaviour.”

Effect of propolis

Flavonoids attribute the effects of propolis. Flavonoids are so-called secondary plant constituents, many known to benefit health. Like pollen flavonoids, propolis flavonoids have an antioxidant effect and bind free radicals. Many propolis flavonoids have an antibacterial effect. It is no exaggeration to say that propolis is the most potent natural antibiotic. Unlike regular antibiotics, no resistance is expected, with various substances having antibiotic effects.

Holistic health – propolis and symbolism

Disturbances in structure and order are observed in many cell diseases today. It is not only the increase in infectious diseases that should be emphasised here. When structure loses structure, confusion, neglect, and more health issues can happen. Many therapists are discussing the choice of propolis as a sign in various cases. Propolis aids in restoring order and promoting holistic health.

Propolis comes in tinctures for wounds, such as drops and capsules for ingestion.

Now available in most pharmacies and drugstores.

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