Propolis: 6 Health Benefits, How to Use, Dosing & Side Effects

Updated in December 2023

Propolis contains properties that protect the body from bacteria, viruses and fungi. It can strengthen the immune system, making it a great home remedy for the treatment of colds and flus. Propolis also contains an anti-inflammatory effect and helps to promote wound and burn healing. 

Propolis is a substance that is produced naturally by bees using tree sap. The sap is combined with bee honey and saliva, producing a sticky brown substance that helps to line and protect the beehive. 

Propolis is commonly found as an extract, which can be consumed. However, it can also be an ingredient in products like creams, ointments, capsules and even cosmetics. 

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Health benefits

Due to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, propolis can offer many health benefits, such as: 

1. Strengthening the immune system 

Propolis is known for having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and antiviral properties, which strengthen the immune system and protect the body from local infections.

This is why propolis is recommended for the treatment of throat and tonsil infections. Propolis resin can also be recommended for the treatment of respiratory problems, like flus, sinusitis and colds. 

2. Speeding-up wound healing 

It has been proven that propolis acts on skin lesions by preventing the growth and development of bacteria and fungi, which can help to speed-up healing. Applying propolis on your skin every 3 days can also help to treat mild burns and prevent infections. However, more studies are needed to determine the effective dose and effects of propolis in this context. 

When compared to dexamethasone’s anti-inflammatory action, propolis showed superior results in the treatment of mouth ulcers. Propolis can also speed up healing of foot wounds in people with diabetes, as it promotes the growth of healthy, new cells. 

3. Complementing herpes treatment  

Some herpes ointments on the market contain propolis, as this ingredient can help to reduce symptoms and speed-up ulcer healing in both oral and genital herpes. Using propolis on its own to treat herpes also appears to be effective when applied 3 to 4 times per day. It has shown to be more effective than some medications that are prescribed for herpes treatment, like aciclovir.

Propolis creams may also be used to protect the body from future herpes ulcers. 

4. Treating canker sores and mouth ulcers

Due to its antimicrobial properties, taking propolis orally every day can help to reduce canker sores and prevent new ones from appearing. Propolis may also be effective in treating gingivitis and its associated symptoms, as well as bad breath when used as a gel or mouth gargle. 

5. Preventing cancer 

Propolis contains anti-cancerous effects as it is an immunomodulator that can increase antibody activity. This can help to protect healthy cells and prevent cancer cell multiplication. Some studies show that taking propolis as a complement to the medical treatment for breast cancer can be quite effective.

6. Preventing Helicobacter pylori infection

Propolis contains antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action that can influence enzymatic activities. It is used as a complementary treatment for H. pylori infection, and it can relieve symptoms of gastritis, peptic ulcers and some types of cancer. 

How to use

Propolis can be applied directly on the skin, or added to water for vapor inhalations, mouth gargles or drinks. 

Pure propolis is made from dehydrated resin that is ground into flakes. This form is more difficult to find, but it can be sold in natural health products or directly from propolis farmers. This form can be added to juices or yogurt. 

Propolis extract is made from a concentration of the flakes that is then diluted in water or alcohol. 

There are creams, ointments and lotions on the market that contain propolis extract, which are applied topically. Oral propolis can be found in pill, capsule or liquid forms, which are typically found in natural health products or pharmacies. 

Recommended dose

Propolis is sold in many different concentration and there are not enough studies available to confirm the specific therapeutic dose of this resin. 

Manufacturers that produce propolis extract will typically recommend 15 to 30 drops per day. Regardless, you should speak to a health care professional before taking propolis. 

Possible side effects

The most common side effect that can arise from propolis use is an allergic reaction. This will usually present with swelling, redness, itching or hives. 

To prevent a serious allergic reaction, you should perform a sensitivity test before using it. Place 2 drops of the extract on your forearm and wait 20 to 30 minutes. Monitor for itching and redness, as these will indicate an allergy. 

Contraindications for use

Propolis extract is contraindicated for people with an allergy to bees, propolis or any of the components in the product's formulation. Propolis should only be used under medical supervision in pregnant or breastfeeding women.