Saturday, June 29, 2013

Propolis the Health Wonder from Bees

Propolis means “before the city”  and is colloquially referred to as “bee glue”. It consists of a resin derived from plant substances that seep from the buds and barks of particular trees,  which is gathered by bees whom mix it with a wax gland secretion on their abdomen. They then knead it into a ball for storage in pollen baskets located on their legs for transportation back to the hive.  Bees use Propolis to coat and seal the walls of their hives and as protection from outside intrusion. It acts as an antiseptic for keeping the hive clean and sterile and has antibacteriological and antimicrobial qualities; providing the whole colony with “social Immunity” 

Bees Gluing Their Hive

Our usage of Propolis for medicinal purposes goes far back in history, recorded observations date to 350 B.C the time of Aristotle. The Roman Army traveled with it for treatment of war wounds. Many civilizations used Propolis for varied afflictions. The Greeks used it for treating abscesses, the Assyrians for wound healing and the Egyptians for mummification, just as the bees use it for this purpose when an intruding insect or animal enters their hive. Pliny the Elder pointed to its varied useful qualities describing it as reducing swelling, soothing pain and healing open sores, as did Galen and Hippocrates.

Propolis was a popular remedy in Eastern European countries for successful treatment of widespread health ailments in the 1950’s and 1960’s, it did not have resurgence in Western Europe and Japan until the 1980’s. 

Its usage has continued into the new millennia, growing as further scientific studies are undertaken. It is believed to be an antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic, anti-tumour, antioxidant, anesthetic and immune stimulator and modulator. Our usage of Propolis is multi-purpose- from wound and lesion treatments, natural medicinal purposes and for cosmetic and dental health support to name a few.

Propolis is a dynamic, varied and chemically complex substance, which has still not been completely understood. Its makeup can vary according to type of bee colonies that collect it, their location, environment, seasons and the plants collected from. A general composition is that of 45 - 55% Resins and Balms, 25-35% Waxes and Fatty Acids, 10% Essential Oils, 5% Pollen and 5% Diverse. 

Raw Propolis Balls

Within these components it has been found to have Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Nicotinic acid, Pantothenic acid, Riboflavin, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E and minerals Copper, iron, Calcium, Aluminum, Vanadium, Strentium, Manganese. It combines essential and non essential amino acids, being found to contain 16 amino acids on average and some forms to have 18. Different types of Propolis can have a 40% amino acid content with 50% being Arginine and Proline as mechanism that stimulate mammalian tissue regeneration  and the build up of Collagen and Elastin.

There is a vast array of flavanols and polyphenols within Propolis. The Flavonoids and Cinnaminic acids are involved in its anti bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and cytotoxic qualities. It has been shown to be efficient against staph and strep bacterias and also e.coli . There is strong evidence of hepato-protective qualities and efficacy against heliobacter pylori  Studies have also revealed anti-viral qualities for influenza and herpes. It is also believed to suppress HIV and have an immune-modulatory effect. 

 Propolis has been shown to have antifungal action against Candida. There is strong evidence of its ability to suppress tumorogenesis  and cause apoptic death in some cancer cells. Indications are good for it  being  beneficial for Diabetes Type Two (2 ).

Propolis shows to be gentle, synergistic and have a broad spectrum appeal for health. Keeping with the observation of bees using Propolis as a “structural reinforcement”, there would be a an inclination to choose a perspective to include Propolis in the dietary intake for those that may have a decided need for extra nourishment and support, beyond what a simple balanced diet can offer.

Propolis could be used long term to support the procurement of a more robust immune system in those who have health challenges such as Cancer, HIV, or any condition that has an impaired immune system.  Diabetes or inflammation based illness such as rheumatoid arthritis would also be under consideration for long term consumption of Propolis in their diet for overall wellbeing support.

It could also be encouraged as a temporary nutritional support for anyone suffering from influenza, herpes or any bacterial complaint, and also in the post recovery stages. Temporary to mid- term inclusion in diets would be favorable as a prophylactic measure for workers exposed to pathogens such as those in the  healthcare or childcare fields or in the onset of cold and flu seasons or people traveling.

The indications of the amino acids and antioxidants roles in tissue protection and regeneration make it an attractive long term dietary supplement for people that tend to tax their bodies physically more than the average person such as athletes, which need added support foods within their nutrient intake regime.

Processing and preparation methods vary for Propolis. Beekeepers collect the raw Propolis and sell in bulk to companies. Propolis can be obtained and consumed in its raw state. For commercial and consumptive purposes it is usually processed further. These methods involve ethanol extraction, glycol extraction, aqueous extraction, oil extraction and water soluble derivatives. The solvents must then be eliminated or reduced by vacuum, lyophilization, distillation or evaporation.  The extraction is used to remove wax and other non active substances. It has been found that traditional maceration with an organic non - toxic solvent such as ethanol is the most effective way to keep Propolis potency.

There are some standards in relation to hygiene and cleanliness of Propolis but none for the actual biologically active compounds; this is of course a reflection of the varying nature of Propolis making standardization a challenge. A large range of products are found on the market in the form of lozenges, tinctures, capsules and liquids to name just a few forms. Herb Pharm make an excellent quality Propolis Extract. Gaia Herbs have a throat spray with propolis for throat and nasal health. Propolis is also used in throat lozenges and  toothpastes such as Tom's of Maine.

 It is wise to choose a product that is organic, freshly and hygienically obtained and macerated traditionally, extracted with ethanol  or water and exposed to very little or no heat in order to attenuate the synergistic potency of all compounds within the Propolis. 

The side effects of Propolis are still being researched, although it seems to be safe and gentle. There are some people that show an allergy to the product and/or other bee derived products and so should not take Propolis. Pregnant and lactating women should refrain from use. Propolis shows to be gentle and nutritious synergistic whole food supportive addition to anyone’s diet.

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Value-added products from beekeeping. Chapter 5.