Propolis is a substance created by bees from resins, wax and their own secretions. It is used by the bees to fill gaps in the hive, to strengthen its structure and to reduce vibration. Propolis contains many nutrients and other beneficial factors so it is harvested and processed for use as a human nutritional supplement. It is non-toxic but allergic reactions are possible particularly if you are allergic to honey.
The nutritional values of propolis vary with the local trees and plants from which the resins are collected. These may also alter its appearance with the most common color being dark brown, though green and red forms are also evident.
The recipe varies between hives, but according to Glorybee Foods, the constituents of propolis are 7.5 to 35% waxes; 10% volatile oils; 3 to 10% fatty acids; and 4 to 19% other compounds, minerals and vitamins. Most suppliers of propolis can give you a more precise nutritional breakdown of their product. You cannot digest the waxy part of propolis and thus it has no nutritional benefit.
Claims have been made for the antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal and antitumor activities of propolis, but virtually all the research to date has been carried out on experimental, non-human populations or has been conducted on such a small sample size that results are statistically invalid. The National Institutes for Health website, MedlinePlus, lists propolis as possibly being effective for treating genital herpes and improving healing after mouth surgery.
Propolis may contain up to 10% fatty acids. According to The University of Maryland, Medical Center Care Guide on dietary fats, these are used by your body for energy, to enable you to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and some are the essential fatty acids that you cannot make yourself and must be ingested as part of your diet. Due to the high plant content of propolis, most of these fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, and though possibly beneficial, the total amount in propolis is small.
Propolis contains calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc. Calcium is essential to maintain the structure of your bones and teeth. It is also a messenger in your cells that allows them to respond to hormones or stimulation by nerves. Copper is a constituent of many of your body's proteins.
Iron is part of the hemoglobin molecule that carries oxygen round your body. Magnesium is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Zinc is necessary so that over 200 different enzymes in your body can do their job.
Propolis contains Vitamins B1, B2, B6, C and E. Vitamin B1 or thiamine is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates. Vitamin B2 or riboflavin is required for the growth of your body's cells.
Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is involved in several enzyme systems associated with the metabolism of proteins. Vitamin C is required for many reactions that happen inside your cells and so that you can build proteins. Vitamin E works with selenium to protect cells against damage by free radicals and oxidants.
Do not take propolis products if you know that you are allergic to honey or beeswax or if you are pregnant or breast feeding an infant under one year of age. If you are not in good health, please do not take propolis without first consulting your health care provider.