In past centuries the use of
natural balsams such as propolis was common. Knights wounded
in battle used balsams as a form of treatment. Over 100
years ago, an ointment made from goose grease and propolis
was successfully used on horses and cattle to treat hoof
fissures and sores, and an ointment of propolis and vaseline
was used on human wounds during the Anglo-Boer war.
Propolis has a very long
history as a medicine for humans. It is reported to have
treated colds and sore throats, stomach ulcers, burns,
haemorrhoids and joint and muscle inflammation. Although
propolis is considered by many as "folk medicine", its use
has been revived.
Propolis is a natural, resinous
substance with a pleasant aromatic smell, varying in colour
from light brown to dark chestnut red. Certain trees such as
poplar, willow, horse chestnut and birch exude a sap which
has antibiotic qualities to protect that tree from
infection. Bees gather this sap, add their own secretions
and take it back to the hive. Propolis is quite sticky at
hive temperatures when new, it sets quite hard below about
15oC and is brittle below about 5oC.
It is used by bees for repairing
hive damage, sealing off strange objects from the cavity of
the hive, partially closing the hive entrance in winter, and
sealing down foreign objects which might find their way into
the hive, such as sticks or small animals which have died or
been killed by the bees. As they are too big to remove by
bees, they are coated with propolis to "embalm" them and
prevent their decay to reduce risk of infection.
The bees, when they occupy a new
hive, coat the inside walls of their home with a thin layer
of propolis. They also coat the inside of every wax cell
before it is used for laying or filling with honey. The
reason for this is thought to be that propolis contains
natural antibiotics which protect the bee colony, staving
off diseases including bacterial and fungal growths to
combat contamination and pathogen invasion.
PRODUCTION OF PROPOLIS
Commercial production of
propolis is usually difficult and time consuming. One method
is to have special "inserts" placed in the hives - spaces
that mimic holes or cracks in the hive to encourage the bees
to fill them with propolis. The resultant propolis is then
collected, sorted and packaged. The easier method to obtain
propolis is to scrape the hives.
COMPOSITION OF PROPOLIS
Propolis is a mixture of many
natural substances which combines raw materials obtained from
trees and plants together with secretions from worker bee
glands. Being a natural product, the individual constituents of
propolis are subject to natural variation. In addition the
chemical composition of propolis varies widely due to the
variety of plants used by the bees and the technique used by the
beekeepers to harvest the propolis. For this reason an accurate
analysis is usually unable to be given but generally propolis is
about 55% balsams and resins, 30% wax and 8-10% pollen. A range
of other components include various chemical compounds of
flavonoids, phenolics and aromatics; trace amounts of fatty
acids, vitamins and minerals.
WHAT DOES PROPOLIS DO?
Propolis acts as a natural
antibiotic which raises the body's resistance to disease by
internally stimulating the immune system. This helps the body
fight infection, colds, flu and sore throats.
Propolis may help improve skin
condition. Applied externally, propolis is good for abrasions
and bruises because of it's antibacterial effects. It may also
help lower blood lipid and cholesterol levels as well as lower
blood pressure. Some suggest that propolis improves energy and
endurance in athletes.
Propolis can reduce the
symptoms of diabetes, by helping the pancreas to produce
insulin. Propolis can work particularly well with Royal Jelly.
However, please note that diabetes is a chronic condition, with
no known cure. Our aim when advising people on taking Propolis
and Royal Jelly, is to provide them with the nutrients to reduce
their symptoms, and hence their frequency of insulin injections
or tablet usage.