Propolis is a bee product that is a mixture of plants resins, beeswax, pollen, essential oils, and bee secretions. Organic propolis is made with plant materials that have been grown without using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Humans have used propolis for centuries as a remedy for skin ailments, and to treat and ward off disease. While individual propolis samples may contain antibiotic or anti-fungal compounds, the contents of propolis vary widely depending on the hive, the region, and the season.
Bees use propolis along with beeswax to build and reinforce their hives. It is used to line the inside of brood cells where bee larvae are hatched and fed. It is also used to close off entrances and fill small spaces in the comb and hive. Propolis is strong and brittle at lower temperatures, and sticky and somewhat pliable at warmer temperatures. It can be melted into liquid at boiling or near boiling temperatures.
Compounds that can destroy bacteria harmful to bees can be found in propolis, which is why it is used to line brood cells. In addition to protecting eggs and larvae from disease, propolis is also used to cover the corpses of large insects or small animals that may enter the hive and die. If the bees cannot remove an object, they essentially mummify it in propolis to contain the pathogens. Ancient Egyptians also used propolis in the mummification process.
Organic propolis may be red, green, amber, or brown depending on the source material, climate, or season. The components of propolis, even in samples taken from a single hive, are extremely inconsistent and very hard to control. Ensuring the source plants were grown organically, or that they are uncontaminated by drifting pesticides, is also quite difficult. Bees tend to range about four miles (6.4 km) from the hive, but they may travel up to seven miles (11.2 km) looking for desirable plants.
Organic propolis is sold as a natural cure for a variety of ailments, as well as a nutritional supplement. It is often an ingredient in herbal sore throat lozenges, skin creams, burn ointments, and chewing gum. It may also be an ingredient in drinks or snacks that are designed to give energy or boost health. Some manufacturers claim that organic propolis can treat more serious disorders, such as genital herpes and cancer. Although organic propolis often contains antiseptic compounds, its effectiveness against major and minor ailments has not been established in clinical trials.