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Propolis: a “natural medicine” that surprises with the amount of benefits

Propolis is a well-known product, used especially in cases of sore throat and flu. But, did you know that the benefits of this substance go far beyond? Not by chance, it is highly valued in other countries (such as Japan), being a great ally of good health, in general.

Paula Crook, nutritionist at Patrícia Bertolucci Consulting in Nutrition, explains that propolis is a substance obtained by bees by harvesting resins from plants. “And this resin is used in their hives in order to protect them against fungi and bacteria. Therefore, propolis has antibiotic and antifungal properties, among others,” she says.

Dorival Ribeiro, owner of Mel Angélica – a store that has been on the market since 1989, working directly with honey, propolis, among other products, in Piracicaba – explains that the word “propolis” (pro + polis) comes exactly from the fact that the bee passes propolis inside the new address. “If there were no propolis, there would be a lot of contamination and proliferation of diseases from one alveolus to another,” he says.

“The bee collects propolis from the buds of plants; because propolis comes from what the plant uses as a ‘dressing’ for itself… And this is, then, the plant origin of propolis, since the bee ‘gathers’ all this from various plants and makes a substance of its own”, explains Ribeiro. .

It is worth noting that propolis has been known and appreciated for many centuries. “It was initially discovered by a beekeeper, who had a sore throat. The substance was then found to be excellent for sore throats, as well as pharyngitis, stomachaches, etc. Today, even, several studies have pointed out its benefits in the prevention and treatment of cancer”, comments Ribeiro.

Below, you can learn more about the benefits and ways to use propolis, which is a great ally of health!

types of propolis

Brazil is one of the only propolis exporters. “That’s because we have a low level of heavy metals in the atmosphere, and our bees produce propolis with a higher content of flavonoids (which is what matters most)”, comments Ribeiro.

Regarding the types of propolis, the following can be highlighted:

Green propolis: which is composed of resins and extracts collected by bees from the flowers of the rosemary-do-campo.

Black propolis: which, as explained by nutritionist Paula, are obtained from multiple plants by bees.

Red propolis: which is obtained from a specific plant, the howler’s tail (Dalbergia ecastophyllum).

Ribeiro explains that green propolis is the most exported, due to the fact that it has a higher content of flavonoids. But all types are excellent (thus, the benefits of this substance are not associated with just one type of propolis, but with all types).

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10 benefits associated with using propolis

Paula explains that more than 200 chemical compounds have already been identified in propolis. However, of all the groups of compounds present, the flavonoid group is certainly the one that has attracted the most attention from researchers. “These are phenolic compounds that comprise a wide group of natural substances not synthesized by humans. The ingestion of flavonoids, in turn, interferes with various physiological processes, aiding in the absorption and action of vitamins, acting in the healing processes as antioxidants, in addition to having antimicrobial and modulating activity of the immune system”, she says.

In summary, the benefits of propolis can be highlighted:

1. Antibacterial and antifungal actions

Nutritionist Sonia Ballesteros, from Clínica Saúde e Pilates Apinajés, comments that propolis can be used to fight germs and other bacterial diseases.

It is a very efficient substance in the destruction of several harmful bacteria to the human being, being, therefore, very indicated in the treatment of diseases such as tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, verminoses, sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, flu, rhinitis, among others.

Dorival Ribeiro even comments that some countries even make propolis ice cream (with pineapple, for example) to be given to children, once a year, in order to fight worms at school.

Propolis also has the great advantage of destroying harmful bacteria while preserving the beneficial ones (such as the bacteria in the intestinal flora).

The antifungal action of propolis makes the product effective in the treatment of scalp problems, mycoses in general, chilblains, etc. It can be used, for example, directly on the nails, fighting common problems in this region.

Propolis also acts in the fight against Candida albicans, a fungus responsible for vaginal, oral and digestive system infections.

2. Antiviral action

The substance is widely used in the fight against herpes, for example, in addition to being commonly indicated against flu, colds, conjunctivitis and sore throats.

3. Anti-inflammatory action

Propolis can thus be indicated in the treatment of diseases such as arthritis, arthrosis and rheumatoid.

4. Antioxidant power

The antioxidant action makes propolis help fight free radicals (responsible for cellular aging and the onset of diseases such as cancer).

Ribeiro also recalls that propolis is commonly used in cosmetic formulas, such as facial creams or soaps, and can help in the rejuvenation and beauty of the skin.

5. Anticancer action

Many studies have associated the consumption of propolis with the prevention and fight against cancer. That is, some studies have shown that the substance is not only capable of inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, but also of partially destroying existing cells.

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Ribeiro comments that, in Japan, many people with cancer are treated with propolis, and many benefits have been reported in this regard.

6. Healing action

Due to the presence of flavonoids and amino acids, propolis is efficient in the treatment of bruises, dermatitis, wounds, burns, etc. It can also help to “dry” pimples.

“Many fishermen, for example, especially those who handle crustaceans, when they are injured, benefit from the use of a few drops of propolis… The wound heals overnight”, comments Ribeiro.

7. Anesthetic action

This makes propolis effective in fighting sore throats, tonsillitis, toothaches, etc.

8. Immunostimulating effect

Nutritionist Sonia highlights that propolis stimulates the antibodies and helps the individual’s immunological system to become stronger. Thus, the individual’s resistance against diseases and infections is increased, improving health as a whole.

9. Oral hygiene

Ribeiro highlights that the consumption of propolis provides an improvement of the entire oral region. “There are chewing gums, in Japan, for example, to fight cavities”, he comments.

10. Digestive and weight loss effect

Propolis can also help improve digestion and, in some cases, even lose weight, when associated with a balanced diet.

Although there is no proof that propolis – by itself – acts on weight loss, Dorival Ribeiro comments that mixing a few drops of propolis in pineapple juice, for example, is an old and widely used “recipe” for those who want to lose weight.

“There is no basis that propolis, by itself, helps those who want to lose weight, but, as it improves the entire immune system and lymphatic system, it can, in this sense, be associated with weight loss”, says Ribeiro.

Uses and home treatments with propolis

But, after all, how to use propolis and enjoy all the benefits that this product can offer?

The amounts may vary according to each indication and also the age of the person (if it is a child or an adult). But, in general, 3 to 20 drops diluted in water are indicated.

Below you know some of the most common ways to use propolis successfully:

  • You can consume 5 drops of propolis, regularly, diluted in 3 spoons of water. This, according to Ribeiro, is very good for the immune system.
  • When doing oral hygiene, according to Ribeiro, you can also use 5 drops of propolis in approximately 4 spoons of water – this product is an excellent oral sanitizer.
  • When you have an earache, according to Ribeiro, you can drip 2 to 3 drops of propolis around the ear and massage it well.
  • Sonia points out that propolis can also help treat herpes, with 3 to 4 drops of the extract applied to the wounds, about 3 times a day.
  • In cases of bruises or burns, 3 to 4 drops can be applied directly on the site, about 3 times a day.
  • To heal pimples, 1 to 2 drops can be applied directly on the spot, 4 to 5 times a day.
  • When a person has the flu, according to Ribeiro, he can take about 15 drops of propolis diluted in water.
  • In the case of a virus, according to Ribeiro, more than 30 drops of propolis can be indicated.
  • For sore throat, 4 to 5 drops of propolis can be placed in a cup of water, to gargle. This solution can even be used more than once a day.
  • For respiratory problems, you can put a few drops of propolis in boiled water and make inhalations with the steam of this mixture.
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These are the most common ways of using propolis, but for the most effective results, it is ideal to have the guidance of a health professional, who will evaluate the particularities of each case.

Propolis as a beauty product

Due to its valuable properties, propolis is present in soap formulations, rejuvenating creams, shampoos, etc. There are also those who bet on “homemade recipes”:

  • Ribeiro explains that it is possible to cleanse the skin using honey, propolis and clay; or honey, propolis and cornmeal; or even honey, propolis and sugar. Just put about 1 spoon of cornmeal (or clay, or sugar), 1 and a half spoon of honey with 15 drops of propolis, make an exfoliation, and then rinse the skin.
  • To heal pimples or bruises, 1 to 2 drops of propolis can be applied directly on the site, 4 to 5 times a day.
  • A few drops of propolis can be placed directly on the face cream to help rejuvenate the skin. But, in this case, it is interesting to talk to the dermatologist and see what her position on the matter is.

These are the most common (and safe) uses of propolis directly for beauty. But it is worth remembering that the substance is present in cosmetic product formulations, which can be used safely and effectively, for different purposes.

Warnings about using propolis

Paula points out that some studies have indicated that propolis has low toxicity. “However, as it is collected in the region surrounding the hive, several contaminants can be accidentally added to propolis, such as asphalt, excess iron, copper, magnesium or even lead. So, it is important to know the origin of the propolis consumed”, she says.

Sonia explains that some people can have allergic reactions to propolis, showing signs such as swelling, redness,…

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