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Bees make more than honey. They also make gunk called propolis. And this "bee glue" is a powerful health balm. In fact, studies show it has anti-cancer properties.
Dr. Seema Patel of the Bioinformatics and Medical Informatics Research Center, San Diego State University conducted a comprehensive review of the literature on propolis and cancer. Dr. Patel found laboratory and animal studies supporting propolis efficacy against cancers of the:
- Head and neck
- Kidney and bladder
Propolis contains as many as 300 active compounds. These components were found to fight cancer in a variety of ways including:
- Preventing the growth of new blood vessels to feed cancer cells (anti-angiogenesis)
- Preventing the spread or metastasis of cancer from one organ to another
- Halting cancer cell division
- Inducing apoptosis or programmed cell death
In addition, propolis was found to mitigate the side effects or toxicity of chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of cancer.
Bees make propolis by gathering resin from pine and other cone-producing evergreen trees. They blend the resin with wax flakes and pollen, and take it back to the hive. There they use the sticky mess to patch holes, seal cracks and build panels in the hive.
But propolis does more than architectural duty. It also acts as an antiseptic barrier protecting the hive from contamination and from external invaders like mice, snakes, and lizards. In fact, the name propolis comes from the Greek meaning "defense of the city."
The antimicrobial properties of propolis protect the hive from viruses and bacteria. Researchers found that bees living in hives coated with propolis have lower bacteria in their body and also 'quieter' immune systems.[i]
And propolis doesn't just benefit bees. For thousands of years folk medicine practitioners have used bee glue to treat abscesses, heal wounds, and fight infection. In fact, propolis was listed as an official drug in the London pharmacopoeias of the 17th century.
Modern studies confirm a long list of health benefits offered by propolis. A search of PubMed shows over 2,000 studies on bee propolis. Here are just a few of its health benefits.
1. Anti-Microbial Action
Propolis has a wide range of antibacterial properties.[ii] It is also has anti-fungal and anti-viral powers. In one animal study, applying a propolis solution to wounds helped speed healing in diabetic rats.[iii]
In children, propolis has been found to:
- Prevent respiratory tract infections
- Remedy symptoms of the common cold
- Prevent middle ear infections
2. Heals Burns
A 2002 study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that propolis may promote the healing of minor burns.[iv] The researchers compared a propolis skin cream with silver sulfadiazine, a drug used to treat burns. Study results showed propolis was just as effective as the drug in treating second-degree burns.
3. Prevents Dental Cavities
Greek and Roman physicians used propolis as mouth disinfectant. Modern studies show it may be effective in the treatment of periodontitis and gingivitis.
Many studies have also found that extracts from bee glue limit bacterial plaque and reduce tooth caries.[v]
4. Treats Parasites
Preliminary trials show propolis may eliminate parasites. In one study people who took propolis had a 52 to 60% success rate in eliminating the parasite giardiasis.[ix]
5. Wart Removal
In a single-blind, randomized, 3-month trial, 135 patients with different types of warts received oral propolis, echinacea, or a placebo. The results were reported in the International Journal of Dermatology. Patients with plane and common warts achieved a cure rate of 75% and 73%, respectively. The results were significantly better than those associated with echinacea or placebo.[x]