Propolis is a nutrient-rich substance made by honey bees. It is a resinous substance gathered from tree bark and leaves.
Honeybees create Propolis to sterilize the hive and to protect it against outside intruders and infection. It is also used to seal cracks in the hive, and for this reason is often termed ‘bee glue’.
Propolis was first used as folk medicine from the day of Aristotle (around 350 BC). Apart from that, others believe it was first used by Egyptians who started using it as medicine after first utilizing it successfully for mummification. Later on, Propolis were also mentioned in Arabs, Greeks and Roman medical treatises during the late 19th century. Equivalent to today's medical journals, these treatises talk about using Propolis for treating infection, skin diseases, respiratory and joint problems.
When modern synthetic drugs were introduced and antibiotics was gaining popularity, the use of natural products like Propolis dropped significantly. It was only in China and Eastern Europe (countries like Russia, Poland, Bulgaria and old Yugoslavia) that medical research were conducted on Bee Propolis.
The medical community in the West only took notice in the 1960s and 1970s after the works of Dr. Aagard Lund in Denmark and Dr. Remy Chauvin in France were published, outlining the benefits of Propolis to health.
Scientifically, studies done on propolis have found that propolis actually consists of more than 150 chemical components.
Because propolis comes from a variety of plants, availability of the plants sap and the type of bees, no two propolis are alike. It would be different in term of color, odor and composition. Some researches even reported finding as much as 300 components in their sample propolis.
Chemically, propolis is exceedingly complex. Flavonoids are abundant in propolis. Apart from that you will also find kaempferol, apigenin, pinocembrin, galangin, luteolin, pinostrobin and quercitin - all of which are anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic, antioxidant and/or antimutagenic.
Propolis is also rich in the caffeic acid (phenethyl ester). This is a substance that was shown to inhibit cancer growth and reduce inflammation in studies done on animals.
Bee propolis also contains organic acids and their derivatives as well as terpenoids. These constituents contribute to it's antibiotic, anti fungal and antiviral effects.