Is Propolis a Medicine?

Is Propolis a Medicine?

Propolis is a natural substance, produced by honeybees. Research has demonstrated that propolis has some amazing medicinal properties. Honeybees use propolis as a kind of external immune system – defending the hive against infection. It’s antibacteria, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and even antitumoral. And these benefits are known to benefit humans too. Propolis is widely regarded as a natural medicine.

Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.
- Hippocrates

A medicine is typically defined as ‘a substance or preparation used in treating disease’, or more loosley, ‘something which affects wellbeing’. This being the case, there are many substances which act as medicines which are not necessarily pharmaceuticals. Lots of foods contain important nutrients which our bodies depend on to stay health – such as Vitamin C and Zinc.

Pharmaceuticals are often what springs to mind when we think about medicine. These are drugs developed by pharmaceutical companies to tackle specific illnesses or disease. Vaccines, antibiotics, anti-cancer and anti-viral drugs are generally developed by pharmaceutical companies. But many of these medicines start life in the plant world.

For example, a key compound in Aspirin is salycilic Acid, which is commonly found in willow bark. The drug morphene is derived from parts of the poppy plant. A widely used leukaemia drug is derived from the Madagascan periwinkle.

There are thousands of plants which have medicinal properties. However, because of the variability of natural substances it’s not possible to treat them in the same way as mass-produced pharmaceuticals which have synthetically produced active ingredients.


Although this variability can result in unpredictable results, there are also benefits. Propolis is made by honeybees, from plant and tree resins. As varieties of plants vary depending on location, propolis has been found to exhibit different medicinal properties depending on its origin.

Global Propolis Research

The Apiceutical Research Centre is currently undertaking a global project to map the medicinal properties of propolis around the globe. It is hoped that this research will pave the way for propolis-based natural medicines which target specific medical problems, such as viral infections or inflammation, more effectively.

Global Propolis Survey

Scientific Research Papers

There are thousands of published and peer-reviewed research papers about propolis available to read online and in scientific journals. As an example, this research paper demonstrates the medicinal properties of propolis in a number of key areas:

  • Antioxidant activity – protecting the body against damage caused by free radicals
  • Antibacterial activity – inhibiting the growth of bacteria and preventing infection
  • Antifungal activity – acting as a fungicide to protect the body from harm
  • Antiprotozoan activity – defending the body against protozoan infections
  • Anti-inflammatory activity – reducing inflammation caused by an immune response to pathogens
  • Anti-diabetic activity – reducing blood sugar levels as well as cholesterol levels
  • And more…!

Propolis is A Natural Medicine

Because propolis is a natural substance it cannot be marketed as a medicine, by pharmaceutical standards. But as we’ve seen, propolis exhibits remarkable health benefits which make it one of nature’s most powerful natural medicines.

Propolis - A Natural Medicine

Propolis is widely used in Japan, South Korea, Brazil and is becoming increasingly popular in the Middle East. Over recent years natural remedies have seen a resurgence in the West, as pharmaceutical drugs struggle to cope with problems like antibiotic resistance. Propolis is often taken as a preventitive, or Immune Support Medicine – because it helps the body defend itself against infection by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, rather than killing it directly. However, propolis can also be used in a targetted way in the form of a cream, balm or tincture applied to the skin.

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