Bee Propolis: What It Is, Where it Comes From, and What It’s Good For

Published on July 14, 2023

By Lisa Stockwell

Lisa Stockwell

Lisa Stockwell has worked as a copywriter, writer, author, and editor for 35 years, specializing in the field of healthcare since 2009. She recognized the need for reliable health information while supporting friends through unique health challenges and refocused her career to bring clarity and compassion to healthcare communications. Lisa is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and a lifelong Northern Californian.
Bee Propolis: What It Is, Where it Comes From, and What It’s Good For
Bee Propolis: What It Is, Where it Comes From, and What It’s Good For

In a time when science and technology are held responsible for the health of our planet and its inhabitants, it’s easy to forget the awe-inspiring wonders of nature that support our existence. Consider, for instance, the busy bee that plays a vital role in sustaining the delicate balance of our ecosystem.

As these miraculous insects, with their delicate wings and intricate hives, flit from flower to flower, collecting nectar and pollen, they are responsible for the successful propagation of plants. They pollinate many of the crops we rely on for food and help proliferate wildflowers and trees. And let’s not forget: they produce honey, the sweet golden nectar cherished by cultures across the globe. 

In addition to their role as nature's most efficient and essential pollinators, bees offer us one other remarkable gift: Bee Propolis.

While you’ve enjoyed the sweet taste of honey, you may be unaware of Propolis. Emerging research suggests that this magical substance has shown the potential to support overall health, including skin, oral health, and a normal inflammatory response.* 

While the bioactivity and health properties of Bee Propolis have been actively researched for decades , more research is needed to determine its underlying mechanisms of action and confirm its promising benefits for humans.

What is Bee Propolis?

Propolis, also called “bee glue,” is a sticky substance made by bees to protect and fortify their hives. It comes from the Greek words pro, which means “toward the front” and polis, which means “city-state.”

The bees gather resins from a variety of plant sources, including leaf buds, sap flows, and gums. They use their mandibles to scrape and chew the resin, making it more malleable for transport, and carry it back to the hive on their hind legs. Then they mix the resin with enzymes, saliva, and beeswax and spread it over their hives to seal every gap and crack. 

The Propolis provides structural support for their home and protects the colony against parasitic intruders, such as mites, flies, beetles, and wax moths. Should intruders or foreign materials make it past the hive entrance, the bees use Propolis to embalm them. 

Various species of bees produce Propolis, but the most notable Propolis producers are honey bees (Apis mellifera). Within a honey bee colony, worker bees are primarily responsible for collecting resins from plant sources and transforming them into Propolis.

Other species of bees, such as stingless bees (Meliponini) and bumblebees (Bombus), also produce Propolis, although their Propolis compositions may differ slightly from that of honey bees. The composition and properties of Propolis are affected by the bee species, the botanical sources available in their respective habitats, geography, and the current season.

Typically, Propolis comprises lipids (fat molecules), pollen, beeswax, amino acids, and essential oils. 

The Potential Health Benefits of Propolis 

Throughout history, Propolis has been used by humans for various purposes. Ancient Egyptians recognized its ability to prevent decay and used it in the embalming process. The Incas used Propolis to help maintain normal body temperature, while Greeks and Romans employed it to extract stings and splinters and support skin health , bruises, and wounds. Its potential therapeutic properties made it highly popular in Europe from the 17th to the 20th centuries. REF#2262

In the early 20th century, scientists began researching the chemical composition of Propolis, separating and extracting its various components. To date, researchers have identified over 300 specific compounds in Propolis. The most prominent are polyphenols (flavonoids, phenolic acids, and esters), terpenes, and ketones.

In preclinical studies, Propolis has shown promise in supporting upper respiratory and cardiovascular health, gut health and neuro vascular health. Existing studies also suggest it may support oral health and, when used topically, skin health. REF#2263

More studies are needed to determine the bioactivity of its combined constituents as well as its bioavailability (the proportion of a substance that enters the body’s circulation system). 

Propolis May Support Upper Respiratory Health

According to one study with 122 healthy adults, a Propolis oral spray supported upper respiratory health for 83 percent of the subjects, w. REF#2264 Here's how Propolis may support upper respiratory health :

  1. Immunomodulatory effects: Propolis has shown immunomodulatory properties, meaning it can modulate and regulate the immune system's response. REF#2265 It has been observed to enhance the activity of immune cells, including macrophages and lymphocytes, which play a vital role in fighting off infections. By supporting the immune response, Propolis may help support immune health, in particular, upper respiratory health.*
  2. Normal inflammatory properties: Propolis exhibits the ability to modulate the inflammation response .* Because Propolis is waxy and non-water-soluble, when it’s used as a nasal or throat spray it may remain in the back of the throat longer than other spray agents, continuing to soothe over time.
  3. Antioxidant activity: Propolis is rich in antioxidants, which help protect cells from oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals. Oxidative stress can weaken the immune system and contribute to respiratory infections. By neutralizing free radicals, propolis may support the overall health of the respiratory system and help maintain a robust immune response.*

Propolis is commonly available in the form of tinctures, sprays, lozenges, or capsules. These products can be used orally or topically to target the respiratory system directly. However, while propolis may have potential benefits in supporting upper respiratory health, it should not replace medical advice or prescribed treatments. Rather, it should be used to support an already healthy respiratory system.

Propolis May Support Oral Health

Emerging research suggests that Propolis may support oral health due to its compounds’ natural benefits. REF#2266 Propolis may also support good gum health by supporting the normal inflammatory response .*

Propolis can be found in toothpastes and mouthwashes.

How to Take Propolis

Propolis is available in various forms, each offering unique advantages.

  • Tinctures are liquid extracts that are typically alcohol-based and highly concentrated. They can be taken orally by adding a few drops to water, juice, or tea or applied topically to wounds or skin irritations. 
  • Propolis capsules contain powdered or encapsulated propolis extract. They offer a convenient and tasteless option for oral consumption. Capsules provide a measured dosage, making it easier to ensure consistent intake. 
  • Creams: Propolis creams are topical formulations designed for skin application. These creams often combine Propolis extract with other beneficial ingredients such as moisturizers or herbal extracts. They are useful for addressing minor skin conditions, such as dry skin d Propolis creams can be applied directly to the affected area and gently massaged into the skin. 
  • Lozenges: Propolis lozenges are formulated to provide a soothing effect on the throat and mouth. They are commonly used for occasional sore throats or coughs due to dryness. Lozenges slowly dissolve in the mouth, allowing the propolis to come into direct contact with the affected areas. 
  • Propolis sprays are designed for oral or nasal application and are a convenient and easy-to-use option to deliver a fine mist of propolis extract to the nose or back of the throat. They can be used to support throat health, nasal congestion, or overall oral hygiene. Because Propolis is a sticky substance, it may remain on the back of the throat longer than other ingredients, providing longer-lasting relief.
  • Propolis toothpaste often contains propolis extract along with other natural ingredients that promote dental health. Using propolis toothpaste during regular brushing can help maintain oral hygiene, support gum health, and provide the potential benefits of propolis for the teeth and mouth.
  • Propolis mouthwash is a liquid solution that contains propolis extract and is used for rinsing the mouth. It helps freshen breath, promote gum health, and support oral hygiene. 

When choosing a propolis product, consider its intended use, your specific health condition, and personal preferences. Consult with a healthcare professional if you have a medical condition or you’re taking other medications before using Propolis.

Propolis Side Effects and Precautions

While bee Propolis is non-toxic and generally considered safe for most people, you should be aware of a few precautions and potential side effects before using any Propolis product.

  1. Potential allergic reactions or sensitivities: If you have allergies or sensitivities to bee products, you may also be allergic to Propolis. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe and may include symptoms such as itching, swelling, rash, or difficulty breathing. If you experience any adverse reactions after using Propolis, it is important to discontinue use and seek medical attention. It is also advisable to perform a patch test before applying propolis topically to check for skin sensitivity.
  2. Possible interactions with certain medications: Propolis contains bioactive compounds that may interact with certain medications. If you are taking any prescription medications or have any underlying health conditions, consult with your healthcare provider before using Propolis. Some medications, such as blood thinners or immune-suppressing drugs, may interact with Propolis and potentially affect their effectiveness. Ask your healthcare provider for advice based on your specific medical situation to determine if Propolis is suitable for you.

Please note that the information provided here is incomplete, and individual responses to Propolis may vary. If you have any concerns or questions regarding the use of Propolis, it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider who can provide appropriate guidance based on your specific circumstances.

Additionally, it's crucial to follow the recommended dosage instructions provided on the product packaging or by your healthcare provider. Using Propolis in excessive amounts or for prolonged periods without proper guidance may increase the risk of side effects. 

How to Store Propolis

To ensure the longevity and quality of your Propolis products, store them in a cool, dry place in a dark container. Propolis should be kept away from direct sunlight and excessive heat. High temperatures and humidity can degrade the quality of Propolis and reduce its effectiveness over time.

Propolis is sensitive to air and moisture, which can lead to oxidation and loss of potency. So, ensure the Propolis container or packaging is tightly sealed after each use to prevent air and moisture from entering. If using a bulk Propolis block or resin, wrap it tightly in a moisture-proof material, such as aluminum foil or airtight plastic wrap.

Propolis is light-sensitive and can be negatively affected by exposure to light. Propolis tinctures should be stored in dark glass containers, such as amber or cobalt blue bottles, to protect them from light and maintain their integrity and beneficial properties.

Enjoy the Benefits of Good Health

From its health promoting properties for oral hygiene to its potential to provide skinand respiratory support, Propolis may be a valuable natural supplement to keep on hand. If you want to learn about other wonders of nature that may support your overall health and wellness, Gaia Herbs offers a full library of informative articles on our Seeds of Knowledge blog. 

If you’re looking for more ways to cope with a summer cold, maintain your health while traveling, or soothe the cuts and scrapes you might get hiking, climbing, or biking, here are a few you may find helpful:


  • 1. Andrzej K. Kuropatnicki et al, "Historical Aspects of Propolis Research in Modern Times", . 1 1. Andrzej K. Kuropatnicki et al, "Historical Aspects of Propolis Research in Modern Times", .
  • 2. by Andrea Braakhuis, "Evidence on the Health Benefits of Supplemental Propolis", . 2 2. by Andrea Braakhuis, "Evidence on the Health Benefits of Supplemental Propolis", .
  • 3. Cristina Esposito et al, "A standardized polyphenol mixture extracted from poplar-type propolis for remission of symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection (URTI): A monocentric, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial", . 3 3. Cristina Esposito et al, "A standardized polyphenol mixture extracted from poplar-type propolis for remission of symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection (URTI): A monocentric, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial", .
  • 4. by Andrea Braakhuis, "Evidence on the Health Benefits of Supplemental Propolis", . 4 4. by Andrea Braakhuis, "Evidence on the Health Benefits of Supplemental Propolis", .
  • 5. by Muhammad Ali Saeed et al., "Effectiveness of propolis in maintaining oral health: a scoping review", . 5 5. by Muhammad Ali Saeed et al., "Effectiveness of propolis in maintaining oral health: a scoping review", .