Generic Name: propolis

Brand and Other Names: bee glue, bee putty, bienenharz, cera alba, galangin, hive dross, Nivcrisol, propolin H

Drug Class: Herbals

What is propolis, and what is it used for?

Propolis is a natural adhesive and resin-like substance produced and used by bees to construct and repair their hives. Honeybees produce propolis by collecting pollen, resin, and other substances from various plants such as poplar and coniferous trees and mixing it with beeswax and salivary enzymes they secrete. Propolis is a complex mixture of several chemicals and has been used as traditional medicine since ancient times to treat several ailments.

Ancient Egyptians used propolis for mummification, Incas used it to treat fever, and Greek and Roman physician used it as a mouth disinfectant and as an antiseptic and healing agent in wound treatment. People have since used propolis for various conditions including tuberculosis, inflammatory skin conditions, rheumatism, peptic ulcers and other gastrointestinal conditions. The famous crafter of string instruments Antonio Stradivari used propolis as an ingredient in the varnish of his instruments, and it is still used in rosin for stringed instruments.

The chemical composition of propolis is highly variable depending on the geographical origin, vegetation, and seasons, and it is difficult to standardize the product. Generally, propolis contains resins, waxes, essential oils, pollen and other organic compounds, and studies have identified more than 300 compounds in propolis samples. Some of the bioactive components of propolis include polyphenols, flavonoids, terpenes, and aromatic acids. Propolis also contains several trace minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, enzymes, and sugars.

Studies of propolis indicate it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, immunomodulatory, and antitumor properties. Although many therapeutic compounds have been identified in propolis, there are no controlled clinical trials in humans to establish their efficacy in any of its uses. Propolis, however, is generally considered safe and nontoxic. It is commercially available in the form of capsules, mouthwash solutions, throat lozenges, powder and topical formulations such as ointments, creams, and lotions.

Suggested uses of propolis include:

Warnings

  • Do not use propolis if you are allergic to pollen or bee products.
  • Do not use propolis if you are prone to allergies or have asthma.
  • Propolis may slow down blood clotting. Avoid taking if you have a bleeding disorder or concurrently with blood thinners. Stop taking propolis 2 weeks before surgery.
  • Propolis may slow down the breakdown of drugs that are metabolized by the liver and increase their effects. 

What are the side effects of propolis?

Common side effects of propolis include:

  • Allergic reactions in people allergic to bee products
  • Mouth irritation and ulcers with lozenges

This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug.

Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What are the dosages of propolis?

  • There isn't enough reliable information or human studies to know what might be an appropriate dose of propolis. Natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important.
  • Follow directions on product labels and consult a healthcare professional before using.

Overdose

  • Propolis is considered to be nontoxic and there are no reports of human overdose.
  • Propolis can trigger an allergic reaction in people hypersensitive to bee products. In case of an allergic reaction, seek medical help or contact Poison Control.

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What drugs interact with propolis?

Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.

  • Propolis has no known severe or serious interactions with other drugs.
  • Propolis may have moderate interaction with medications that slow down clotting (anticoagulant/antiplatelet) including:
  • Propolis has no known mild interactions with other drugs.

The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.

It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

  • There isn’t enough reliable information on the safety of propolis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Avoid use.

What else should I know about propolis?

  • Propolis is possibly safe for most people.
  • Use propolis products exactly as per labeled instructions.
  • Always check labels of herbal supplements for the ingredients they contain.
  • Propolis is marketed as an herbal supplement and does not require extensive pre-marketing approval from the FDA. There may be discrepancy between the labeling and the actual ingredients and their amounts. Choose your product carefully.

Summary

Propolis is a natural adhesive and resin-like substance produced and used by bees that is commercially available in the form of capsules, mouthwash solutions, throat lozenges, powder and topical formulations such as ointments, creams, and lotions. Propolis has many uses, which include common cold and respiratory infections, inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions such as colitis and diverticulitis, cancer, herpes simplex infections, improvement of insulin sensitivity and glycemic control in type 2 diabetes, reducing alcohol-induced liver injury, treatment of wounds, burns, acne, psoriasis, and dermatitis; and others.

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Medically Reviewed on 6/20/2022
References
REFERENCES:

United States. RXList.com. Aug. 9, 2021. "Propolis." https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_propolis_nivcrisol/drugs-condition.htm

United States. MedScape. June 20, 2022. "Propolis." https://reference.medscape.com/drug/bee-glue-bee-putty-propolis-999225#0

United States. National Library of Medicine. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences. Dec. 9, 2013. "Propolis: A Wonder Bees Product and Its Pharmacological Potentials." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872021/

United States. National Library of Medicine. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. May 27, 2015. "Propolis: A Complex Natural Product with a Plethora of Biological Activities That Can Be Explored for Drug Development." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4461776/

United States. WebMD.com. June 20, 2022. "Propolis - Uses, Side Effects, and More." https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-390/propolis

United States. RXList.com. June 11, 2021. "Propolis." https://www.rxlist.com/propolis/supplements.htm#Overview