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14 Benefits and Side Effects of Propolis (4 Contraindications To Be Noted) [Updated Feb/2023]

Propolis is one of the secrets of bees that have survived on Earth for hundreds of millions of years (honey, royal milk and bee pollen), and humans have been using propolis since 300 BC. Propolis has been documented as a medicine in many parts of the world, both internally and externally

The word propolis is derived from the Greek, where Pro means “in… front”, while polis means “community” or “city”, combined to mean defensive matter

What are the benefits of using propolis in empirical medicine? Are there any side effects of propolis? See text analysis for details

What is Propolis?

Propolis is a natural non-toxic substance formed by worker bees collected from plant secretions, such as mucus, gums, resin, and then mixed with their own secretions and beeswax, with a waxy texture that may be green, brown or reddish depending on the species of plant collected.

In addition to being used to build and repair hives, propolis also prevents moisture from entering the hive, maintains constant humidity and temperature, and also controls the flow of air to the hive.

In addition, propolis can also act as an antibacterial agent to protect larvae, honey and honeycombs from external microorganisms, which is the best chemical weapon.

Propolis is a mixture of plant compounds and bee secretions formed, generally speaking, raw propolis is mainly composed of 50% resin, 5% pollen, 30% wax, 10% essential oil, 5% of various organic compounds (such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, esters, diterpenes, sesquiterpenes, lignans, aromatic aldehydes, alcohols) and amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, etc., the composition will be slightly different according to the place and time of collection.

What are the recommended benefits of propolis?

  1. Propolis assists COVID-19 treatment

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a highly contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is rampaging around the world, with clinical symptoms such as acute pneumonia, systemic fever, dry cough, fatigue, myalgia, arthralgia, dyspnea, etc., which can lead to acute respiratory distress, multiple organ failure, and even death.

This novel coronavirus has the characteristics of rapid spread, widespread and universal susceptibility of the population, and is a highly contagious disease, and some infected patients may develop immune dysregulation and high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, known as cytokine storms, which are one of the important causes of clinical deterioration.

A randomized, controlled, open-label, single-center trial (1 week, 124 patients with COVID-19, mean age 50.0±12.8 years) noted that Brazilian green propolis extract (Propomax) combined with standard care reduced hospital stay and a lower incidence of acute kidney injury compared with standard care. Note 1

*Conclusion: For the treatment of COVID-19, propolis adjuvant therapy may bring positive help, but limited by small sample sizes, more studies are needed to further confirm its clinical benefit


  1. Propolis is good for periodontal diseases

Periodontal diseases include many forms and symptoms, the most common being gingivitis and periodontitis.

Periodontitis is widely regarded as the second most common dental disease in the world, after dental caries. In the United States, it is endemic in 30 to 50 percent of the population, but only about 10 percent of cases are severe forms of the disease.

Periodontal disease is thought to be associated with various systemic health problems. Including: Alzheimer’s, cancer (pancreatic cancer), respiratory disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and other conditions are all associated with gum disease.

A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (8 randomized controlled trials of periodontal disease) noted that propolis treatment reduced probing pocket depth compared with placebo. Note 1

*Conclusion: For periodontal disease, propolis-based treatment may bring positive help, but limited by small sample sizes, more studies are needed for further validation


  1. Propolis reduces inflammation indicators

Inflammation is a complex dynamic protective response to cellular microbial infections (infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.), physical factors (such as burns, stress, wound trauma, radiation), chemicals (drugs, toxins, alcohol) to immune reactions (such as rheumatoid arthritis), clinically manifested as: redness (erythema), fever (hyperemia), swelling (exudation), pain (through nerve and chemical mediators).

Type C-reactive protein (CRP) is an acute-phase protein produced by the liver whose levels rise during inflammation, while TNF-α is an early indicator of inflammation caused by both infectious and non-infectious causes.

A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (6 randomized controlled trials, 406 participants) noted that propolis supplementation significantly reduced serum C-reactive protein and TNF-α concentrations. Note 1

*Conclusion: Propolis supplementation may help reduce inflammation markers CRP and TNF-α, but limited by the small sample size, more large randomized controlled trials are still needed for further validation


  1. Propolis is good for menstrual pain

Dysmenorrhea, defined as painful cramps of uterine origin during menstruation, is one of the causes of pelvic pain and menstrual disorders, and about 45% to 93% of women of childbearing age suffer from menstrual pain, with the highest incidence in adolescents.

Menstrual pain is divided into primary dysmenorrhea (no organic lesions) and secondary menstrual pain (with subpelvic lesions). The cause is unknown. However, excessive secretion of uterine prostaglandins, especially PGF 2a and PGF 2, is the main cause of uterine contractions (peaking during the first two days of menstruation).

A randomized, double-blind controlled trial (2-month study of 86 university students with primary menstrual pain) noted that oral propolis capsules (500 mg daily) helped reduce pain index (measured by the visual analog scale) compared with placebo. Note 1

*Conclusion: For primary menstrual pain, oral propolis is helpful in relieving symptoms, but limited by small sample sizes, more large studies are needed to support this


  1. Propolis is good for diabetic foot ulcers

Diabetic foot ulcers are a common complication of diabetes with high morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs.

It is estimated that 19% to 34% of people with diabetes may be affected by diabetic foot ulcers in their lifetime, with a 2.5-fold increased risk of death compared to diabetics without foot trauma.

Adjunctive therapies include non-surgical debridement, dressings and topical medications, oxygen therapy, negative pressure wound therapy, cellular biologics, human growth factors, energy therapy, and systemic therapy.

One randomized placebo-controlled study (8 weeks, 31 patients with diabetic foot ulcers) showed that topical use of propolis reduced wound size compared with no treatment. Note 2

In addition, propolis increased glutathione, glutathione/disulfide glutathione ratio, decreased tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α), and increased interleukin-10 levels.

*Conclusion: Topical propolis has a positive help in the care of diabetic foot ulcers, but due to the small sample size, more studies are needed to support it


  1. Propolis is good for the common cold

Common colds are the most common human illness and a term traditionally used for mild upper respiratory illnesses, which includes a heterogeneous set of self-limiting illnesses caused by many viruses (more than 200 viruses are still changing, and coronaviruses are often associated with more severe symptoms than rhinoviruses).

In addition to affecting quality of life, the common cold imposes a huge financial burden on society due to absenteeism from work (7000 million working days per year in the United States are caused by non-flu-related viral respiratory infections, equivalent to $80 billion in indirect costs and 40% of all lost work time).

A prospective epidemiological multicenter study (7-day study of 40 children with acute rhinitis and common cold symptoms) suggested that the use of propolis nasal spray (three times daily) improved cold symptoms and overall quality of life. Note 3

*Conclusion: The use of propolis spray has a positive effect on relieving colds, but limited by the small sample size, more studies are needed to further validate


  1. Propolis is good for diabetes blood sugar control

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic, progressive disease characterized by insulin resistance, islet cell dysfunction, and the liver producing too much glucose.

More than 2 million people worldwide currently have diabetes, and that number is expected to reach 84 million by 2030. If not handled properly, it can lead to many health complications and disabilities.

A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (6 randomized controlled trials, 373 adults with type 2 diabetes) noted that propolis supplementation (daily dose between 226 and 1500 mg, minimum and maximum duration of intervention 56 and 180 days) significantly reduced fasting plasma glucose (-13.51 mg/dl) and glycosylated hemoglobin A1C, -0.52%) concentration (but no significant improvement in fasting insulin levels or insulin resistance). Note 1

*Conclusion: Oral propolis may have a positive effect on glycaemic control, but more studies are needed to support it due to the small number of studies, the short intervention period, and possible methodological bias


  1. Propolis improves oral mucositis (caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy)

Oral Mucositis refers to an inflammatory state of the mucous membranes of the mouth and oropharynx in cancer patients after undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

Oral mucositis initially presents as erythema of the oral mucosa, then often develops erosions and ulcers (usually covered with a white fibrous pseudomembrane).

Chemotherapy-induced stomatitis is usually less severe and usually lasts 3-12 days, while radiation therapy-induced stomatitis can last 3-12 weeks and can significantly affect nutritional intake, oral care, and quality of life.

A meta-analysis (5 randomized controlled trials of 209 cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy) noted that the incidence of severe oral mucositis with propolis mouthwash (5-15 ml 2 – 3 times daily for 7 to 180 days) was significantly lower than in the control group. Note 1

*Conclusion: Propolis mouthwash has a positive effect on improving severe oral mucositis caused by chemical radiotherapy, but more large trials are still needed to support it due to factors such as small sample size and exclusion of studies other than Chinese and English


  1. Propolis is beneficial for wound healing

Wound repair is a very complex mechanism in the human body, which is a series of cellular molecule-guided hemostasis, inflammation, cell proliferation, tissue remodeling processes, including the migration and spread of epidermal cells and keratinocytes, fibroblast adhesion, synthesis of extracellular matrix proteins, connective tissue remodeling, etc. Note 1

However, for certain traumas, such as diabetes, chronic infections, burns and large wounds, wound management requires caution and reducing wound infection is a priority.

A prospective feasibility study (6 weeks, 24 patients with diabetic foot ulcers) showed that applying propolis solution to local wound areas reduced the ulcer area and accelerated wound healing. Note 2

*Conclusion: Topical application of propolis may have the effect of accelerating wound recovery, but more large controlled trials are needed to confirm the results


  1. Propolis is good for cardiovascular disease

For a long time, cardiovascular disease was considered to be predominantly male. However, studies have found that women’s relative risks are actually higher, especially in morbidity and mortality. Note 3

Women with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and other symptoms, the risk of cardiovascular disease will be greater than that of men, in addition, depression is another important independent factor.

A double-blind controlled study (90 days, 67 adults) showed that propolis not only increased antioxidant capacity (achieved by increasing glutathione/glutathione and lowering lipid peroxidation index TBARS), but also increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c), which may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Note 1

*HDL cholesterol plays an important role in vascular diseases, neutralizing the hardening effects of LDL cholesterol on blood vessel walls and preventing oxidation. Note 2

*Summary: Propolis can improve antioxidant efficacy and high density of good cholesterol, and has potential anti-cardiovascular disease effects, but more empirical confirmation is needed


  1. Propolis is good for otitis media

Otitis media is a common bacterial infection in children, and it is estimated that about 50% to 85% of young children will experience acute otitis media before the age of 3, and the onset period is usually between 6-15 months.

Due to physiological structure, young children are more likely to develop otitis media, possibly because the eustachian tube is shorter, more elastic, and more horizontal, resulting in more invasive pathogens.

The Eustachian tube usually does not mature until after the age of 7, which explains the decline in incidence after this age, and the immune system is also an important factor.

A controlled study (3 months, 122 children under 5 years of age) found that propolis solution (with additional zinc) helped reduce the number of episodes of recurrent acute otitis media and the use of related drugs (antibiotics). Note 2


  1. Propolis is good for genital herpes

Genital herpes (HSV) is the fourth most common sexually transmitted disease, affecting billions of people worldwide, and there are two main viruses that cause the disease, namely herpes simplex virus type I and type 2.Note 6

Herpes simplex virus type I mainly affects the oropharynx and genitals, while type II is mainly in the genital area, and both types of virus are associated with contact with the patient’s secretions on the surface of the oral, genital, or mucosa

The incidence of genital herpes varies greatly between 2 and 74% in most countries, and in some African countries, the prevalence rate is more than <>%, not only increasing the risk of HIV infection, but also increasing the rate of HIV transmission

A controlled study showed that propolis ointment was as effective as acyclovir/acyclovir (a drug for herpes) and placebo in treating genital herpes lesions and local symptoms, and the incidence of superinfection was reduced to 55% (compared to 66% in the initial review). Note 5


  1. Propolis is beneficial for dentin allergies

Dentin hypersensitivity is characterized by short, severe pain in the exposed dentin to irritation (usually hot, evaporated, tactile, penetrating, or chemical) that cannot be attributed to any other dental defect or pathology.

Incidence ranged from 4% to 74%, with a slightly higher incidence in women than in men, with most affected patients aged between 20 and 50 years old, peaking between 30 and 40 years old. Canine teeth and premolars are the most affected teeth, and the buccal side of the neck area is a common affected site.

A systematic review (six randomised controlled trials) found that propolis (follow-up period of 21 to 90 days, applied to dentin using a microbrush) was effective in relieving dentin hypersensitivity, with no adverse effects reported. Note 1

*Conclusion: Propolis extract may be considered an effective, safe, and low-cost alternative to reduce dentin hypersensitivity, but more studies are needed due to small sample sizes and heterogeneity between studies


  1. Propolis is beneficial to liver function

The cause of liver disease can be determined through a series of specific blood tests called serological liver screens.

This usually includes liver enzymes such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT) or aspartate aminotransferase (AST) as markers of hepatocellular damage; Bilirubin is a sign of liver parenchymal disease or biliary obstruction; and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) are hallmarks of biliary disease and cholestasis, but are also produced by bones, intestines, and placenta.

In addition to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic liver disease, and viral hepatitis, there are many other causes of liver dysfunction, including autoimmune diseases, biliary diseases, systemic diseases, drug reactions, and infectious hepatitis.

A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (6 randomized controlled trials) noted that propolis supplementation reduced aspartate aminotransferase (AST) compared with controls, but had no significant effect on lipid markers (triglycerides (TG), total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL)), and alanine aminotransferase (ALT). Note 1

*Conclusion: Propolis may have a positive effect on liver function, but due to the small sample size and high heterogeneity between studies, more high-quality studies are still needed to further validate

Are there any side effects of propolis?

Propolis has been used by humans for hundreds of years and is a safe natural substance (whether oral or topical), but possible side effects include allergic reactions, such as rashes, local burning, gastrointestinal discomfort and other allergic symptoms (although allergies may also appear some time after use)

Contraindications to the use of propolis (precautions)

  • Do not use if you have been allergic to bees or their related products such as honey, pollen, royal jelly or aspirin (containing salicylate compounds).
  • Some experts believe that some ingredients in propolis may make asthma worse, so patients with asthma should not use it
  • Some of the phytochemicals in propolis may have anticoagulant effects, so patients with coagulation disorders (such as hemophilia), taking anticoagulants, and 2 weeks before surgery should not consume them
  • Do not use by pregnant women, nursing mothers, children under one year old, and people with poor liver and kidney function (the relevant safety is still unknown)
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