The word propolis originates from Greek: «pro» = in front, «polis» = city. Propolis was found to have antibacterial activity against a range of commonly encountered cocci and Gram-positive rods, including the human tubercle bacillus, but only limited activity against Gram-negative bacilli. These findings confirm previous reports of antimicrobial properties of this material, possibly attributable to its high flavonoid content.
Propolis is a honeybee product used extensively in traditional medicine for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and anticancer effects. Propolis exhibits a broad spectrum of biological activities because it is a complex mixture of natural substances.
The therapeutic potential of honey has been reviewed by lots of researchers over time. Bee products like royal jelly and propolis, have also been widely used in “folklore medicine” for centuries.
Propolis is a hard, resinous material derived by bees from plant juices and used to seal openings in the hives. It contains pollen, resins and waxes and large amounts of flavonoids which are benzo-y-pyrone derivatives found in all photosynthesizing cells. Flavonoids have many biological effects in animal systems but have received relatively little attention from pharmacologists.
Propolis is the term that beekeepers use to refer to plant resins that bees collect and deposit in the nest cavity. Bees add varying amounts of wax to the resins but, they don’t modify the chemical nature of the resins.
Analogy of the benefits in human terms:
Think of a house or office with mould in the walls. Some people’s immune systems are chronically activated in mouldy environments, causing them to sneeze. If propolis was painted all over the walls of the house oroffi ce, it would probably kill the moulds, which in turn would reduce the person’s immune response.
Mounting an immune response, especially a chronic one, is costly to an individual and eventually takes a toll on overall health.
It is a honeybee product with many biological properties, including immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasite activities, among others.
The antitumour activity of propolis has been recently reviewed. In fact, propolis is frequently mentioned in the literature as an antitumoural and immunomodulatory agent.
The great number of publications on the antitumour action of propolis and its compounds reveals their potential in the development of new antitumour agents. Since propolis administration to humans or rats does not lead to side-effects, propolis could potentially be a relatively inexpensive cancer treatment.
The composition of propolis is very complex and it contains mainly waxes, resin and volatiles. The main chemical groups present in propolis resin include phenolic acids or their esters, flavonoids (flavones, flavanones, flavonols, dihydroflavonols and chalcones), terpenes, aromatic aldehydes and alcohols, fatty acids, stilbenes and beta-steroids.
It’s ethanolic extract (EEP) is one of the richest sources of phenolic acids and flavonoids. EEP and its phenolic compounds have shown various biological activities, including immunomodulatory, chemopreventive and antitumour effects.
Propolis is produced by bees from a mixture of resins, pollen and plant waxes, and flavonoids are its main group of compounds in some geographical regions.
Chrysin is a natural and biologically active flavonoid compound extracted from honey, plants and propolis. It possesses anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anti-allergic, anti-anxiolytic and antioxidant properties, and disturbs cell cycle progression.
However, the mechanism by which chrysin inhibits cancer cell growth and the intracellular pathways remain poorly understood. A significant decrease in human telomerase reverse transcriptase expression levels was verified in cells from leukaemia patients treated with Manisa propolis, due to chrysin.
The cytotoxic effect of polyphenolic/flavonoid compounds on different leukaemia cell lines was evaluated using five different flavonoids and five leukaemia cell lines. Quercetin exhibited the strongest cytotoxic effect on all cell lines, although caffeic acid and chrysin also showed a high cytotoxic level.
Caffeic acid phenethyl ester, a phenolic component of propolis, has been widely studied. This compound has several biological properties including antioxidant, antiinflammatory, antiviral, immunomodulatory, anti-angiogenic, anti-invasive, antimetastatic and carcinostatic activity.
The main mechanism of action of propolis and its compounds, regarding their antitumoural action, are related to apoptosis, cell cycle arrest and interference on metabolic pathways.
It is known that polyphenols play an important role in cancer chemoprevention. Molecules of TRAIL take part in immune surveillance and defence mechanisms against tumour cells
The inhibitory effects of Chinese propolis against neuronal cell death induced by endoplasmic reticulum stress or staurosporine may be exerted primarily by chrysin.
Flavonic derivatives (flavonoids), very widespread in the plant environment, have many therapeutic qualities, the most important being: the action on the capillaries, the permeability and fragility of the blood vessels (preserving their integrity), the vasodilatory and hypotensive effects.
Also, flavonoids have a beneficial effect on the digestive system (clean the bile, digestive antimicrobial in enteritis and colitis), the endocrine system (thyroid, pancreas, adrenal), have antimicrobial, antiparasitic and antiviral effect – all of these are the result of their structure in the form of complex chemical molecules that in the body dissolve into therapeutically active derivatives.
Propolis also contains ferulic acid with antibacterial and agglutinating action (qualities useful in treating heavily healed wounds).
Benefits of propolis:
The beneficial effects of propolis are addressing to a very long list of affections:
- oral Candida that produces afte and stomatitis – propolis is applied in the form of glycerinated solution;
- flu infections – has both a preventive effect, potentiating the immune and curative system due to its antibacterial and antiviral properties;
- cancerous disease;
- prevention of cerebral atherosclerosis as well as cerebral accidents;
- bronchitis, respiratory diseases with abundant secretions – propolis is an excellent antibiotic that acts progressively to inhibit the growth of bacteria, repairing the tissues injured by them, favoring the elimination of excess secretions from the airways;
- digestive diseases such as gastritis and ulcer can be treated successfully with propolis treatments;
- hepatic viral diseases;
- diabetes – Propolis tincture can have an effect in both types of diabetes;
- burns – applied externally to the damaged surface, it has regenerating, disinfecting and anesthetic effect;
- treats eczema, pimples, acne, abscesses, skin ulcer, varicose ulcer;
- helps with the lower limb circulation disorders;
- lowers blood pressure;
- contributes to lowering cholesterol;
Allergic reactions to propolis therapy are quite loud. However, they exist and it is good to have this in mind at the onset of a propolis treatment.
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