Bee propolis is a substance that is composed of beeswax and the resins honeybees gather from plants and flowers. Honeybees obtain the resins by scraping them off leaf buds and flowers with their mandibles. They transport the resins to their hives using their hind legs. During the collection and transportation of the resins from plants and flowers to the hive, saliva, wax, and other secretions blend with the resins. This mixture is called bee propolis and it has many practical uses as a home remedy.
The Western honeybee, Apis mellifera, is the only bee known to collect propolis. Honeybees have many different uses for bee propolis. Worker bees use the substance to seal brood cells, reduce the size of hive entrances, and seal small cracks in the hive. It is also used to line the inside of the nest, repair combs, and line the interior of the brood combs.
Since bee propolis has both anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, it helps protect the honeybees by protecting against some diseases and fungi. Dead animals or bees that cannot be removed from the hive are sealed off with bee propolis. This process retards the growth of bacteria and reduces the possibility of infection spreading throughout the colony.
Propolis can vary in color from yellow to dark brown; it may even be transparent. The variations in color are caused by the different resins that comprise the propolis along with the beeswax. Odor and medicinal properties of the propolis can vary based on the types of plants where the resins were collected.
There are also numerous ways in which propolis benefits humans. Bee propolis contains flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants. Due to its antibacterial properties, propolis has been used topically to help prevent infection in wounds. It has also been used in the treatment of ailments including acne, itching, asthma, cancer, and tuberculosis. Studies have also shown that propolis may have practical applications in the treatment of genital herpes, diabetes, burns, and inflammatory diseases.
As a dietary supplement, bee propolis is available alone or with royal jelly, honey, and bee pollen. It comes in many forms, such as proplis lozenges and propolis tincture. Raw propolis can be purchased at some natural foods stores or from beekeepers. Anyone with allergies to bee stings, honey, or pollen may potentially develop a reaction to bee propolis. It is generally recommended to keep propolis away from the eyes.