Propolis is collected from tree sap and various other plants by honeybees. It contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals and is believed to be an antioxidant as well. Propolis may also be useful as an antibiotic and antifungal supplement with several potential health benefits. Many people ingest propolis tincture, a mixture of propolis extract and food-grade alcohol, because they believe it can ward off a number of illnesses from the common cold to cancer. The tincture can also be applied topically as a means to treat cuts, acne, and even scars.
A propolis tincture can usually safely be taken as a daily supplement by those without allergies. It contains proteins, vitamins, and flavanoids, a type of metabolite produced by plants that often have strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants have the ability to decrease the number of free radicals in the body that could potentially turn into disease or cancer. The daily intake of antioxidants may therefore lower the risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Others who believe in the supplement’s powers take propolis specifically when they feel a viral illness, such as a cough or flu, coming on. A few drops of the tincture — typically only a fraction of a teaspoon — can be dissolved into water or juice for drinking or deposited on a piece of bread to be eaten. It is believed that the sudden increase of this supplement within the body will fight off such illnesses before they become severe. Diarrhea may also be thwarted through the intake of propolis products, as it could reduce the fluid build-up in the intestines that causes this ailment.
Propolis manufactured as a tincture can also be applied directly to the skin. An open wound or scrape could heal faster and have less chance of developing an infection if the antifungal tincture is applied regularly. Acne, which is often caused by a backup of bacteria just under the outermost layer of skin, has also been treated using it. Some believe that the appearance of scars fades over time after several applications.
No government-regulated agency has accepted propolis tincture as a method of prevention or treatment of any condition, but there are many consumers who swear by the supplement. Even nutritionists who agree that propolis contains healthful substances caution that large amounts of it would be needed to have any great effect. Those who have allergies to pollen should not use any form of propolis, as major health complications could result.