What are the health benefits of bee propolis?
One of the problems with alternative medicines is that while there are many claims as to their benefits, there is sometime very little real hard evidence the the various extracts and supplements actually do what they say. Questions such as "Is bee propolis good for you?" should be given serious consideration before being answered.
So I have done a little looking around at what reseach has been done into this area and what hard evidence there is of propolis health benefits. So in this article I will discuss some of the more reputable research which has been published and is available on the internet.
In Bee Propolis As A Treatment For Burns , I have already discussed a Brazilian study in which a good quality propolis cream was used in the treatment of burns. Just to recap, the study concluded that skin cream was more effective as a treatment of second degree burns than the current treatment - which is silver sulfadiazene (SSD). I would suggest that you go back and read the article for more details.
Another study in turkey (see The effect of CAPE on lipid peroxidation and nitric oxide levels in the plasma of rats following thermal injury) demonstrated that caffeic acid phenethyl ester, a compound contained in bee propolis was in fact effective in the treat of burns. This would seem to confirm the results from the Brazilian study.
And anti-inflamatory properties were confirmed in the studies Prophylactic effectiveness of propolis for immunostimulation: a clinical pilot study and Propolis and some of its constituents down-regulate DNA synthesis and inflammatory cytokine production but induce TGF-beta1 production of human immune cells. These two studies report that an enhanced immune system response was observed in participants in the study.
And lastly, studies in Japan and Bulgaria were able to confirm the anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and some anti-viral properties of bee propolis. For more information see Antioxidant activity of propolis of various geographic origins and Antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activity of propolis of different geographic origin.
In reading the available research, a couple of things became apparent. The substance is a complex natural mixture of compounds which together offer a range of therapeutic benefits. But despite this, it doesn't seem to contain any new or unknown compounds which can be used for further pharmaceutical development. But despite this, the research does seem to confirm a number of the purported health benefits of bee propolis.