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What is Green Propolis?

By Christine Hudson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Propolis is the natural resin-like substance collected from tree buds by honey bees. Green propolis is the result of higher levels of a more potent antioxidant within the propolis mixture. This is useful to the bees in preserving the integrity of the bee hive and is of particular interest to natural medicine enthusiasts.

Sometimes referred to as "bee glue," propolis is used to repair or mend small holes and cracks in the bee hive. Since propolis is collected from the available tree buds in different ratios and mixtures, the substance found in one area will never match that found in hives of other areas. In fact, batches of propolis that are tested have been shown to vary between hives in similar locales, and the substance sometimes varies even within the same hive.

Since the job of resin in the tree is to seal out harmful substances, propolis has very high antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Proponents of green propolis, which has sometimes been called the super-propolis, have cited it as a treatment for everything from mouth ulcers to heart health issues. Many claim it fights infection, inflammation, and fungus and improves overall healing time. Some studies indicate it may even actively attack cancer cells.

Like most natural types of medicine or treatment, green propolis is not endorsed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The very makeup of green propolis, which many claim makes it so beneficial, also makes it hard for science to prove if the benefits are real. Since every sample of propolis may differ, there is no universal standard, so proving its benefits is difficult. This also means that different brands which offer this substance may vary greatly in makeup and benefit.

Green propolis is also available as a dietary supplement. Generally, these supplements are available in a tincture, softgels, or even in raw form. Other types of products, such as facial cleansers and shampoos, use green propolis as a natural ingredient to help fight of acne, rosacea, and even dandruff. These products are typically available in natural food or organic health stores.

Anyone who has a known allergy to certain local pollens, bee stings, or honey may also have an allergy to green propolis. An allergy test on a small patch of skin may be beneficial before using propolis regularly or taking it internally, even in those with no known allergies. If an allergic reaction occurs, it may be best for individuals to try a propolis from a different area of the world or to discontinue its use.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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Discussion Comments

By browncoat — On May 25, 2012

@Iluviaporos - It won't be that bad, as the bees are pretty good at knowing how to protect themselves. They wouldn't carry dangerous materials into the hive and the country wouldn't let people sell it as a supplement if it could be that dangerous.

It still doesn't appeal all that much to me though.

Propolis has other benefits for bees. It's been shown in studies that they don't use it to block air. They use it to block out disease. And that means that if an animal, like say, a mouse, dies in the bottom of the hive and they can't move it, they will cover it in propolis to try and isolate it from the workers.

Makes you look at it in a different way, considering it's all gathered from the hive.

By lluviaporos — On May 24, 2012

@croydon - It's only called propolis when it's being used by bees so I imagine that the beekeepers gather it from the hive.

Bees source it from all sorts of places, including tree sap but also other plants and sometimes even human made substances.

That's why it's a bit of a gamble, taking propolis for your health. Even if some of it does have benefits, it's made from such different substances, over the course of a season, between individual beehives and simply because that's what the bees wanted to gather, that there's no consistency.

I wouldn't buy propolis myself. I don't go in for these sorts of fads anyway, but at least things like royal jelly have been scientifically shown to have all sorts of vitamins, even if they aren't the cure-all that they are claimed to be.

Even green bee propolis can't be guaranteed to be a particular substance. It could have been made with paint thinner, for all you'd know.

By croydon — On May 23, 2012

I'd never really thought about what bees use to help seal up their hives. I mean, beeswax is probably fairly waterproof but it wouldn't provide a very good barrier against anything that used any kind of force, like a strong wind or another kind of insect.

It's also a pretty good barrier to keep the heat in, I imagine.

It's so amazing how complex bees are with all the things they do to keep their hive running and healthy. They collect nectar and pollen, they can dance to show other bees where the good flowers are, they tend to eggs and young and build the hive and they even search out this kind of sap to repair it.

I wonder if the people who use propolis collect it from hives or from trees? I know you can buy royal jelly, and pollen and of course honey and wax from beekeepers, but I had no idea there was yet another product available to people.

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