The benefits of propolis on several health concerns

Propolis is a resin created by bees. It contains a mixture of bee saliva, beeswax and substances from plants and trees. Propolis has beneficial effects on human health. Bees use propolis, or “bee glue,” as a sealant. Historically, humans have used it topically or as an oral supplement. However, it may not be suitable for everyone. This article examines what propolis is, what the research says about its potential benefits, and how to use it.

What is propolis?

Propolis is a resinous, waxy substance that bees create by mixing their saliva with beeswax, as well as compounds from various plants and trees. Bees use it to seal gaps in the hive and keep intruders out. Propolis also has antimicrobial properties and can protect bees against pathogens. The substances that make up propolis can be complex. Scientists have identified over 300 distinct compounds in propolis. The exact composition may depend on the location of the hive.

As an indication, propolis generally consists of:

  • tree and plant resins: 50%
  • beeswax: 30%
  • pollen: 5%
  • essential and aromatic oils: 10%.%
    Propolis also contains polyphenols, like flavonoids, which are a type of antioxidant.

Medicinal properties

A 2019 review suggests that people have used propolis as medicine since 300 BC. The ancient Egyptians used propolis for embalming, and some doctors used it during World War II to help heal wounds.
The same 2019 review suggests it may have the following properties:

  • antibacterial
  • antifungal
  • antiviral
  • antiprotozoal, which means it works against parasitic diseases, such as giardiasis
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antioxidant

Some of the substances present in propolis may also have anti-cancer properties. However, although laboratory and animal studies regarding the properties of propolis and its components are promising, few high-quality studies have proven its effectiveness as a treatment for specific conditions in humans.

Common uses of propolis

Modern research suggests that propolis may be useful for:

  • minor wounds
  • oral hygiene
  • inflammation
  • cold sores
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Wound healing

A 2015 study suggests that propolis may help wound healing. An animal study on diabetic rats showed that propolis helped the skin produce new cells in order to repair itself. As people with diabetes may experience slow wound healing, this suggests that propolis may be beneficial in helping skin heal faster. Since propolis also kills certain types of bacteria, it can also help prevent infections.

Oral health

According to the same 2015 review, propolis also appears to prevent the formation of calcium phosphate, which is the main component of dental plaque. Propolis and honey are also antibacterial, which may make them useful as ingredients in dental care products. According to a small study in the journal, propolis significantly reduced the amount of bacteria in the saliva of people with periodontitis.


The antioxidants in propolis may help reduce inflammation, including inflammation caused by arthritis. Animal studies have tested propolis as an anti-inflammatory agent in rats and mice with arthritis. In both studies, propolis inhibited swelling and appeared to impact how inflammation developed.
Scientists believe that propolis can regulate inflammatory substances in the body, such as prostaglandins.


A systematic review published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine suggests that propolis may be an alternative treatment for genital or oral herpes. Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV-1 is usually responsible for oral herpes, which can result in cold sores. HSV-2 is sexually transmitted and causes an infection that can result in painful blisters on the genitals.

In the study, the researchers analyzed several trials of honey and propolis, comparing their effects to those of acyclovir, which is a common HSV drug. In 4 out of 6 trials, propolis was found to be more effective than acyclovir in treating HSV skin lesions, especially cold sores.

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According to the 2015 review, an older study in rats found that propolis was associated with lower blood sugar levels.


Laboratory studies suggest that propolis compounds can inhibit cancer cell growth or induce cell death in cancer cells. Some in vivo tests have shown that propolis flavonoids can inhibit the development of mouth cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, breast cancer, and more.
However, most research in this area has involved isolated cells or animal models.


According to a 2020 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, the antiviral properties of propolis may mean that it is effective against SARS-CoV-2. This is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Previous laboratory studies have shown that propolis exhibits antiviral activity against other types of viruses, including:

  • rhinoviruses
  • influenza (flu)
  • respiratory syncytial virus

Propolis also appears to help boost the immune system. For these reasons, researchers suggest that propolis may help prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection.
However, while clinical trials on the ability of propolis to prevent COVID-19 are ongoing, there is currently not sufficient evidence to suggest that it is effective for this purpose.


A study published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity notes that propolis contains compounds that may have an anti-allergic effect in the body. Some people may experience a benefit from using propolis for this purpose.

Propolis appears to be safe for humans in reasonable doses, both on the skin and internally. Reports of allergic reactions are rare, and no cases of toxicity have been recorded.
When looking for propolis products, check that the manufacturer has conducted third-party testing to ensure the purity and safety of the propolis.

How to use propolis

Propolis can be used in several ways, including

  • as an oral supplement
  • diluted in water as a mouthwash
  • topically on the skin
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For use on the skin, apply pure propolis or a skin product that contains propolis as an active ingredient. For use in the mouth, dilute a small amount of propolis in water. Rinse your mouth or gargle with the mixture for a while before spitting it out.
Many pre-chewed products contain propolis as an active ingredient. In this case, use the product as directed on the label.

Research suggests that propolis has a number of properties that may benefit human health. It can be used on the skin, as a mouthwash, and as a supplement for a variety of minor health conditions.


Anjum, SI, et al. (2019). Composition and functional properties of propolis (bee glue): A review.

Dezmirean, DS, et al. (2021). Plant sources responsible for the chemical composition and main bioactive properties of Poplar-type propolis.

Kuropatnicki, AK, et al. (2013). Histor aspects of propolis research in modern times.

Lima, WG, et al. (2020). Bee products as a source of promising therapeutic and chemoprophylaxis strategies against COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2).

Martinotti, S., et al. (2015). Propolis: A new frontier for wound healing?

Münstedt, K. (2019). Bee products and the treatment of blister-like lesions around the mouth, skin and genitalia caused by herpes viruses—A systematic review [Abstract].

Pasupuleti, VR, et al. (2017). Honey, propolis, and royal jelly: A comprehensive review of their biological actions and health benefits.


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