A glue-like substance used by bees for building and protecting their hives, propolis at first glance appears to be an unlikely medicinal remedy. But the wide range of healing properties attributed to this sticky substance make it effective for everything from canker sores to cancer, and it’s one of my favorite natural remedies. In fact, I attribute my quick and complete recovery last year from a serious staph infection (contracted from a public hot spring swimming pool) in great part to propolis.
Bees create propolis by combining resins from the buds and leaves of plants and trees with beeswax, volatile oils, and a small amount of pollen. Not only is propolis an excellent building material, it also has natural antimicrobial properties and helps to prevent infections within the hive. Research shows that propolis is rich in flavanones, flavones, phenolic acid, and other compounds that effectively fight bacteria, viruses, and fungi. These compounds also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties with wide-ranging benefits.
Because propolis is such an excellent infection fighter and healing agent, I recommend it for both internal and external use. I’ve even found it useful for treating diabetic ulcers, which are notoriously difficult to heal. To take advantage of the healing properties of propolis, I created a formula that combines propolis extract with Dragon’s blood, a tree resin and common folk medicine in the Amazon. This powerfully effective combination is used externally for treating wounds, and internally for gastrointestinal disorders, particularly ulcers and diarrhea, including infectious and traveler’s diarrhea. When applied externally to wounds or herpes sores, the resins form a natural water-resistant bandage.
As one of my favorite remedies for easing sore throats, I include propolis as a primary botanical ingredient in my protocol for cold and flu prevention and treatment. The antiviral properties of propolis help to fight the virus, and the sticky resin adheres to the mucous membranes in the throat, delivering the antiviral action precisely where the cold and flu viruses take hold and multiply. Propolis has the additional benefit of having mild analgesic and anesthetic properties. This makes it an excellent remedy for aphthous ulcers, commonly known as canker sores. These mouth sores are especially common in people undergoing radiation or chemotherapy, and can be so painful that treatment must be halted. I frequently recommend propolis for patients to help prevent canker sores; when used after treatment, it helps to heal the ulcers. The antimicrobial action of propolis is also beneficial when used as a mouth spray or mouthwash to encourage tissue healing after gum surgery or other dental work.
Not only is propolis effective against every type of infectious organism, it also contains the natural anti-cancer compounds apigenin, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), and chrysin. Apigenin inhibits the enzyme hyaluronidase, which in turn impedes the breakdown of hyaluronic acid, a component of the extracellular matrix (the glue that holds cells together). In order for tumor invasion to take place, there must be a breakdown in the extracellular matrix.
For this reason, propolis is currently being studied worldwide for its potential in cancer prevention and treatment. At the University of Chicago Medical Center, scientists found that even small doses of CAPE impede the growth of tumor cells; in mice with prostate cancer, the growth of tumors slowed by half. CAPE appears to work by acting on the signaling networks that control the growth of cancer cells. Numerous other studies show that that propolis effectively induces apoptosis, the death of cancer cells.
Chrysin, a flavone found in propolis, has a plethora of beneficial properties including anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-anxiolytic. Laboratory studies indicate that chrysin inhibits the secretion of lysosomal enzymes and arachidonic acid, as well as the degranulation of mast cells, all of which are implicated in cancer development. Chrysin also inhibits aromatase, which plays a significant role in breast and other estrogen-driven cancers. Along with its cancer inhibiting action, chrysin exhibits anti-anxiety properties and has a beneficial effect on modulating the stress response.
With the vast array of beneficial health-protective properties of propolis, it’s one of the natural medicines that I recommend keeping in your personal botanical medicine chest.