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What is propolis? Why do we need it?

Propolis is the name given to the resinous substance that is collected by bees from the leaf buds and barks of trees, such as poplars and conifers.

The bees use the propolis and combine it with beeswax to help build their hives. It contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, proteins and amino acids. Because of this, some people use propolis as a dietary supplement.

Propolis has been shown to have both antibiotic and antimicrobial properties. Test-tube studies have shown that propolis is effective against certain bacteria and yeasts associated with dental cavities, periodontal disease and gingivitis, and that it may help mouth wounds heal faster. Other studies have shown that propolis extracts can treat giardiasis, a common intestinal parasite found in children. Topical application of propolis may reduce inflammation of the skin and treat conditions such as genital herpes and rheumatoid arthritis.

How much propolis should I take?

Because propolis is not considered an essential nutrient, deficiency levels and recommended daily allowance levels have yet to be established. However, many supplement manufacturers recommend a dosage of 500 milligrams of propolis taken orally, once or twice daily. For topical applications, patients should follow the instructions on the product label.

What forms of propolis are available?

Commercially prepared propolis is available in a liquid extract, as well as in capsules and tablets. Topical creams and sprays containing propolis are also available.

What can happen if I take too much propolis? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Proplis is generally considered non-toxic, although it may cause allergic reactions such as skin rashes. People who are allergic to bee stings, bee pollen, royal jelly, honey, or conifer and poplar trees should not use propolis unless being tested by an allergy specialist first. In addition, because the effects of propolis have not been determined in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, it should be avoided by women during these times. As of this writing, there are no well-known drug interactions with propolis. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking propolis or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Dobrowski JW, Vohora SB, Sharma K, et al. Antibacterial, antifungal, antiamoebic, antiinflammatory and antipyretic studies on propolis bee products. J Ethnopharmacol 1991;35:77-82.
  • Stangaciu S. A Guide to the Composition and Properties of Propolis. Constanta, Romania: Dao Publishing House, 1997.
  • Steinberg D, Kaine G, Gedalia I. Antibacterial effect of propolis and honey on oral bacteria. Am J Dent 1996;9:236-8.
  • Tosi B, Donini A, Romagnoli C. Antimicrobial activity of some commercial extracts of propolis prepared with different solvents. Phytother Res 1996;10:335-6.
  • Vynograd N, Vynograd I, Sosnowski Z. A comparative multi-centre study of the efficacy of propolis, a cyclovir and placebo in the treatment of genital herpes. Phytomedicine 2000;7:1-6.
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