Bees produce a compound called propolis, bee glue, from the sap on needle-leaved trees or evergreens. They combine the resin with their own salivary secretions by chewing on it and adding beeswax to the mix. Propolis has a little pollen in it, too. When analyzed, propolis contains about 50% resin, 30% wax and oils, 10% salivary secretions, 5% pollen, and 5% amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. and beeswax, they create a sticky, greenish-brown product that is used as a coating to build their hives. This is propolis.
Honey bee workers use this sticky, greenish-brown substance as a construction material, similar to plaster or caulk. Bees cover the interior surfaces of the hive with it and fill any gaps and cracks. They also use it to strengthen their honeycomb. In a man-made hive, the bees will use propolis to seal the lid and hive boxes together. The beekeeper uses a special hive tool to break the propolis seal and remove the lid.
Thousands of years ago, ancient civilizations used propolis for its medicinal properties. Greeks used it to treat abscesses. Assyrians put it on wounds and tumors to fight infection and help the healing process. Egyptians used it embalm mummies.
Propolis is an ingredient used in many of Hershey's Honey Skincare products. The compound is still used for medical purposes, which include:
- Fighting Infections
- Boosting The Immune System
- Healing Genital Herpes
- Healing Cold Sores
- Treating Skin Injuries
- Helping The Mouth Heal After Dental Surgery
What the Research Says
Despite its many uses, scientific research on propolis is still limited. Researchers aren’t exactly sure how it works, but the bee product does appear to provide protection from some bacteria, viruses, and fungi. One study found that applying a propolis solution to wounds helped to speed healing in rats with diabetes. These findings are encouraging but still need further research.
Propolis has been suggested to have a role in treating certain cancers as well. Some of the anti-cancerous effects of the substance include:
- keeping cancerous cells from multiplying
- reducing the likelihood cells will become cancerous
- blocking pathways that keep cancer cells from signaling to each other
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), propolis is “possibly effective” for treating cold sores, genital herpes outbreaks, and improving the healing process after mouth surgery.