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Propolis

What is it?

Propolis is a resin-like material made by bees from the buds of poplar and cone-bearing trees. Propolis is rarely available in its pure form. It is usually obtained from beehives and contains bee products. Bees use propolis to build their hives.

Propolis is used for canker sores and infections caused by bacteria (including tuberculosis and upper respiratory tract infections), by viruses (including HIV, H1N1 "swine" flu, and the common cold), by fungus, and by single-celled organisms called protozoans. Propolis is also used for cancer of the nose and throat; for treating warts; and for treating gastrointestinal (GI) problems including Helicobacter pylori infection in peptic ulcer disease.

People sometimes apply propolis directly to the skin for wound cleansing, genital herpes, cold sores (herpes labialis), vaginal swelling (vaginitis), and minor burns. Propolis is also used topically as a mouth rinse to treat painful mouth sores and inflammation (oral mucositis) and thrush (oropharyngeal candidiasis) and to improve healing following oral surgery.

In manufacturing, propolis is used as an ingredient in cosmetics.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for PROPOLIS are as follows:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Canker sores. Early research shows that taking propolis by mouth daily for 6-13 months reduces canker sore outbreaks.
  • Cold sores. Early research shows that applying 3% propolis ointment five times daily might help improve healing time and reduce pain from cold sores.
  • Genital herpes. Early research shows that applying a 3% propolis ointment four times daily for 10 days might improve healing of lesions in people with genital herpes. Some research suggests that it might heal lesions faster and more completely than the conventional treatment 5% acyclovir ointment.
  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. Early research suggests that taking 60 drops of a preparation containing Brazilian green propolis daily for 7 days does not reduce H. pylori infection.
  • A type of intestinal infection called giardiasis. Early research suggests that taking a 30% propolis extract for 5 days can cure giardiasis in more people than the drug tinidazole.
  • Minor burns. Early research shows that applying propolis to the skin every 3 days might help treat minor burns and prevent infections.
  • Mouth surgery. Early research shows that using a propolis mouth rinse five times daily for 1 week might improve healing and reduce pain and swelling after mouth surgery.
  • Painful mouth sores and inflammation (oral mucositis). Early research shows that rinsing the mouth with a 30% propolis mouth rinse three times daily for 7 days helps reduce inflammation and improve the healing of sores in some people with mouth sores caused by chemotherapy.
  • Thrush (oropharyngeal candidiasis). Early research suggests that using Brazilian green propolis extract four times daily for 7 days can prevent oral thrush in people with dentures.
  • Upper respiratory tract infections. There is some early evidence that propolis might help prevent or reduce the duration of common colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.
  • Vaginal swelling (vaginitis). Early research suggests that applying a 5% propolis solution vaginally for 7 days can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life in people with vaginal swelling.
  • Warts. Early research shows that taking propolis by mouth daily for up to 3 months cures warts in some people with plane and common warts. However, propolis does not seem to treat plantar warts.
  • Improving immune response.
  • Infections.
  • Inflammation.
  • Nose and throat cancer.
  • Stomach and intestinal disorders.
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Ulcers.
  • Wounds.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate propolis for these uses.

How does it work?

Propolis seems to have activity against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It might also have anti-inflammatory effects and help skin heal.

Are there safety concerns?

Propolis is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth or applied to the skin appropriately. It can cause allergic reactions, particularly in people who are allergic to bees or bee products. Lozenges containing propolis can cause irritation and mouth ulcers.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking propolis if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Asthma: Some experts believe certain chemicals in propolis may make asthma worse. Avoid using propolis if you have asthma.

Bleeding conditions: A certain chemical in propolis might slow blood clotting. Taking propolis might increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.

Allergies: Do not use propolis if you are allergic to bee by-products including honey, conifers, poplars, Peru balsam, and salicylates.

Surgery: A certain chemical in propolis might slow blood clotting. Taking propolis might increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop taking propolis 2 weeks before surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Propolis might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking propolis along with some medications that are changed by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking propolis, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include clozapine (Clozaril), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), fluvoxamine (Luvox), haloperidol (Haldol), imipramine (Tofranil), mexiletine (Mexitil), olanzapine (Zyprexa), pentazocine (Talwin), propranolol (Inderal), tacrine (Cognex), theophylline, zileuton (Zyflo), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and others.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C19 (CYP2C19) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Propolis might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking propolis along with some medications that are changed by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking propolis, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include proton pump inhibitors including omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and pantoprazole (Protonix); diazepam (Valium); carisoprodol (Soma); nelfinavir (Viracept); and others.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C9 (CYP2C9) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Propolis might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking propolis along with some medications that are changed by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking propolis, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), ibuprofen (Motrin), meloxicam (Mobic), and piroxicam (Feldene); celecoxib (Celebrex); amitriptyline (Elavil); warfarin (Coumadin); glipizide (Glucotrol); losartan (Cozaar); and others.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Propolis might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking propolis along with some medications that are changed by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking propolis, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), clozapine (Clozaril), codeine, desipramine (Norpramin), donepezil (Aricept), fentanyl (Duragesic), flecainide (Tambocor), fluoxetine (Prozac), meperidine (Demerol), methadone (Dolophine), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), olanzapine (Zyprexa), ondansetron (Zofran), tramadol (Ultram), trazodone (Desyrel), and others.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Propolis might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking propolis along with some medications that are changed by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking propolis, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include acetaminophen, chlorzoxazone (Parafon Forte), ethanol, theophylline, and drugs used for anesthesia during surgery such as enflurane (Ethrane), halothane (Fluothane), isoflurane (Forane), and methoxyflurane (Penthrane).
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Propolis might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking propolis along with some medications that are changed by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking propolis, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include lovastatin (Mevacor), clarithromycin (Biaxin), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), diltiazem (Cardizem), estrogens, indinavir (Crixivan), triazolam (Halcion), and others.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Propolis might slow blood clotting and increase bleeding time. Taking propolis along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
Propolis might increase the amount of time it takes for blood to clot. Taking it along with other herbs and supplements that slow blood clotting can slow blood clotting even more and could increase the risk of bleeding and bruising in some people. Some of these herbs include angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, and others.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The appropriate dose of propolis depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for propolis. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Other names

Acide de Cire d'Abeille, Baume de Propolis, Bee Glue, Bee Propolis, Beeswax Acid, Brazilian Green Propolis, Brazilian Propolis, Brown Propolis, Cire d'Abeille Synthétique, Cire de Propolis, Colle d'Abeille, Green Propolis, Hive Dross, Pénicilline Russe, Propóleos, Propolis Balsam, Propolis Cera, Propolis d'Abeille, Propolis Resin, Propolis Wax, Red Propolis, Résine de Propolis, Russian Penicillin, Synthetic Beeswax, Yellow Propolis.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

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Last reviewed - 08/16/2018