Bees don’t just make honey; they also make propolis, which is kind of like a sticky resinous glue to help them patch up the hive. While honey has health benefits all its own, particularly raw honey local to your area, it has its drawbacks too. Honey does convert to glucose in the bloodstream, and too much of it can set you up for many of the same troublesome issues as too much regular sugar.


Propolis, on the other hand, contains at least 300 active compounds, with more still to discover. It has many of the health benefits of honey, and then some—and it’s not a sweetener, so cannot spike the blood sugar. Here are a few of the highlights.

  1. Antimicrobial. This study shows that propolis is effective especially against gram positive bacteria. It’s therefore also effective against strep mutans, one of the bacteria primarily responsible for dental plaque and dental caries. It’s even been implicated to kill off bacteria after root canals.
  2. Anti-inflammatory. Still on the topic of dentistry, this study shows that propolis assists in healing wounds from oral surgery by decreasing mast cell accumulation (cells that contain histamine, leading to inflammation) even better than dexamethasone (a very powerful steroid).
  3. Antioxidant. Propolis is very high in polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. According to this study, it’s not quite as effective as Vitamin C, but it’s close (around 72% antioxidant activity, to Vitamin C’s roughly 94%).
  4. Hepatoprotective (Protects the Liver). This study demonstrates that at least in rats, propolis protects the liver against oxidative damage.
  5. Anti-cancer. Some of those 300 active compounds of propolis have been found to inhibit the growth of new blood vessels to cancer cells, or inhibit angiogenesis. Other components are anti-metastatic (block the spread of cancer.) Others block cancer cell division, and still others trigger apoptosis, or cancer cell death. This study demonstrates that propolis inhibits the growth of breast cancer stem cells.
  6. Anti-allergy. Like honey, propolis is most likely effective for seasonal allergies due to the trace amounts of pollen, which act more or less like a homeopathic remedy in that it uses the principle of “like cures like.” This study shows that it is specifically helpful for asthma.


Just like with homeopathy, it’s possible for allergies to aggravate before improving, if you have them. Certainly watch for that if you’re prone to allergies, and avoid if you are allergic to bees!

Otherwise, propolis is not toxic, and the safe dose is 1.4 mg/kg body weight per day, 70 mg/day. Preparations I’ve seen are in capsules or tincture format, and can be found at health food stores.