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Complementary & Alternative Medicine
Index of Herbal Medicines, Supplements and Therapies
The decision to use products containing or claiming to contain propolis should be carefully considered.
Be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and dietary supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products containing or claiming to contain propolis. Decisions to use herbs or supplements should be carefully considered. Individuals using prescription drugs should discuss taking herbs or supplements with their pharmacist or health care provider before starting.
Scientists have studied propolis for the following health problems:
Inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis)
Several studies suggest that using propolis topically (as a cream or ointment) may aid in healing an inflamed cervix, the narrow passage at the lower end of the uterus. These studies, however, have been small, low quality and not fully convincing. Better studies are needed.
Early studies suggest that using a mouthwash of propolis may reduce plaque formation, reduce bacteria in the mouth, relieve dental pain and gum inflammation (periodontitis), be useful as a sealant after root canal surgery, and aid in the healing of dental wounds. Preliminary study using a gel prepared with propolis and caffeic acid phenetyl ester (CAPE) applied to the gums found that the gel provided comfort and was accepted by the volunteers. Although there has been promising research, particularly in the area of plaque reduction, most studies have been small, low quality and not fully convincing. Better studies are needed before a recommendation can be made.
Propolis has been studied as a treatment for genital herpes. Although early evidence suggests that healing or crusting of open lesions may be faster when propolis ointment is applied, there are no clear answers in these areas. Studies have been small, with flaws in their design. More studies are needed before a recommendation can be made.
One study has suggested that using propolis with iontophoresis (electrical current) may reduce inflammation in people with rheumatic diseases. This study, however, was small, low quality and not fully convincing. A laboratory study shows that propolis may have anti-inflammatory effects and beneficial effects on the immune system. Better studies are needed before recommendations can be made.
Although laboratory results suggest that propolis may possess some antibacterial or antiparasitic properties, these effects in humans are less clear. One laboratory study found that Bulgarian propolis may be beneficial in the prevention or treatment of Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which can cause gastrointestinal ulcers. More studies are needed in these areas.
Propolis has been studied as a treatment for Legg-Calvι-Perthes disease. This disease is characterized by inflammation of the top of the thighbone, loss of blood supply and death of the outer layer of the thighbone. Early evidence suggests that injections of propolis given directly into affected joints after hip replacement surgery may improve the outcome of the surgery. However, this research has design flaws. Currently, propolis cannot be recommended for this use.
One study found that using propolis films in the eyelids for treating corneal damage after herpes infections in the eyes might improve healing and increase vision. However, this study was small, low quality and not fully convincing. Better studies are needed before a recommendation can be made.
Propolis nasal sprays have been suggested as a treatment for runny nose, congestion and fever in children with nose or throat infections. Currently, there is not enough evidence to support this use of propolis.
Propolis may have a beneficial effect on the healing of partial-thickness burn wounds. A small, poorly designed study done to compare skin cream made of propolis with silver sulfadiazine cream for treating minor burns did not show any significant difference in bacteria colonization between wounds treated with either cream. However, the propolis skin cream appeared to have a beneficial effect on the healing of minor burns. Better studies are needed before a conclusion can be drawn.
Propolis has been suggested for many other uses, based on tradition or on scientific theories. However, these uses have not been thoroughly studied in humans, and there is limited scientific evidence about safety or effectiveness. Some of these suggested uses are for conditions that are potentially very serious and even life-threatening. You should consult a health care provider before using propolis for any unproven use.
Dilation of veins (vasorelaxant)
Low blood pressure
Respiratory tract infection
People with allergies to propolis, black poplar (Populas nigra), poplar bud, bee stings, bee products, honey and Balsam of Peru may be more likely to have allergic reactions to propolis. There are several reports of allergic reactions when propolis was used on the skin. Allergic contact stomatitis has been associated with the therapeutic use of propolis. Laryngeal edema and anaphylactic shock have been associated with topical use of propolis when used for the treatment of acute pharyngitis.
Few side effects, other than allergic reactions, have been reported with propolis. Allergic reactions may cause swelling, redness, eczema or fever. Propolis may irritate the skin, causing burning, peeling lips, irritation, lesions, itching, swelling, psoriasis or eczema. When used in the mouth, propolis may irritate the mucus membranes.
Pregnancy And Breast-Feeding
Propolis cannot be recommended during pregnancy or breast-feeding because there is not enough information in this area. Pregnant women should avoid tinctures because of the high alcohol content (15 percent to 90 percent).
Interactions with drugs, supplements and other herbs have not been thoroughly studied. The interactions listed below have been reported in scientific publications. If you are taking prescription drugs, speak with your health care provider or pharmacist before using herbs or dietary supplements.
Interactions With Drugs
The high alcohol content in some propolis tinctures may lead to vomiting if used with the drugs disulfiram (Antabuse) or metronidazole (Flagyl).
Propolis may produce additive effects when taken with antimicrobial drugs, according to laboratory studies.
The doses listed below are based on scientific research, publications or traditional use. Because most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly studied or monitored, safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients even within the same brand. Combination products often contain small amounts of each ingredient and may not be effective. Appropriate dosing should be discussed with a health care provider before starting therapy; always read the recommendations on a product's label. The dosing for unproven uses should be approached cautiously, because scientific information is limited in these areas.
For Inflammation Of The Cervix (Cervicitis)
Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)
Cream/ointment: A dose of 5 percent cream or ointment applied as a vaginal dressing daily for 10 days has been used.
For Dental Plaques
Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)
Mouthwash: A dose that has been used once or twice per day is the swishing of two teaspoons of 0.2 percent to 10 percent propolis ethanol extract in the mouth for 60 to 90 seconds, then spitting it out.
For Genital Herpes
Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)
Ointment: A dose of 3 percent propolis ointment applied to the skin four times daily for 10 days has been used. For vaginal and cervical lesions, a regimen that has been used is the application of the same amount of ointment to a tampon and inserting vaginally four times per day for 10 days.
As An Antibacterial
Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)
Capsules: A dose of 500 milligrams three times daily for three days taken by mouth has been used.
For Respiratory Tract Infection
Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)
Administration of an herbal preparation (Chizukit) containing 50 milligrams per milliliter (mg/mL) of echinacea, 50 mg/mL of propolis, and 10 mg/mL of vitamin C, or placebo (5 milliliters and 7.5 milliliters twice daily for ages 1 to 3 years and 4 to 5 years, respectively) has been studied for 12 weeks. Currently there is not enough scientific evidence to support using propolis for respiratory tract infections.
For Legg-Calvι-Perthes Disease
Children (Younger Than 18)
Injection: There is limited evidence in this area, and this treatment should be considered only under the supervision of a qualified health care provider.
For Coldlike Symptoms
Children (Younger Than 18)
Nasal spray: For treating nose or throat symptoms, a dose of 0.5 milliliters sprayed into the nostrils once per week for up to five months has been used.
Although propolis has been suggested for many conditions, it has not been proven for any health problem. There is promising early evidence for using propolis mouthwash to reduce dental plaque, but further research is necessary in this area before a recommendation can be made. Propolis should be avoided in pregnant or breast-feeding women. Remember that tinctures can contain large amounts of alcohol and may cause nausea or vomiting if taken with the drugs disulfiram or metronidazole. Consult your health care provider if you experience side effects.
The information in this monograph was prepared by the professional staff at Natural Standard, based on thorough systematic review of scientific evidence. The material was reviewed by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School with final editing approved by Natural Standard.
- Natural Standard: An organization that produces scientifically based reviews of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) topics
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): A division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services dedicated to research
Selected Scientific Studies: Propolis
Natural Standard reviewed more than 295 articles to prepare the professional monograph from which this version was created.
Some of the more recent studies are listed below:
- Almas K, Mahmoud A, Dahlan A. A comparative study of propolis and saline application on human dentin: a SEM study. Indian J Dent Res 2001;12(1):21-27.
- Black RJ. Vulval eczema associated with propolis sensitization from topical therapies treated successfully with pimecrolimus cream. Clin Exp.Dermatol 2005;30(1):91-92.
- Borrelli F, Izzo AA, Di Carlo G, et al. Effect of a propolis extract and caffeic acid phenethyl ester on formation of aberrant crypt foci and tumors in the rat colon. Fitoterapia 2002;Nov, 73(Suppl 1):38-43.
- Borrelli F, Maffia P, Pinto L, et al. Phytochemical compounds involved in the anti-inflammatory effect of propolis extract. Fitoterapia 2002;Nov 73(Suppl 1):53-63.
- Boyanova L, Derejian S, Koumanova R, et al. Inhibition of Helicobacter pylori growth in vitro by Bulgarian propolis: preliminary report. J Med Microbiol 2003;May, 52(Pt 5):417-419.
- Cardile V, Panico A, Gentile B, et al. Effect of propolis on human cartilage and chondrocytes. Life Sci 2003;Jul 11, 73(8):1027-1035.
- Cohen HA, Varsano I, Kahan E, et al. Effectiveness of an herbal preparation containing echinacea, propolis, and vitamin C in preventing respiratory tract infections in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2004;158(3):217-221.
- Crisan I, Zaharia CN, Popovici F, et al. Natural propolis extract NIVCRISOL in the treatment of acute and chronic rhinopharyngitis in children. Rom J Virol 1995;46(3-4):115-133.
- Eley BM. Antibacterial agents in the control of supragingival plaque: a review. Br Dent J 1999;186(6):286-296.
- El-Khatib AS, Agha AM, Mahran LG, Khayyal MT. Prophylactic effect of aqueous propolis extract against acute experimental hepatotoxicity in vivo. Z Naturforsch [C] 2002;Mar-Apr, 57(3-4):379-385.
- Garrido, Fernandez S, Arroabarren, et al. Direct and airborne contact dermatitis from propolis in beekeepers. Contact Dermatitis 2004;50(5):320-321.
- Gebaraa EC, Pustiglioni AN, de Lima LA, Mayer MP. Propolis extract as an adjuvant to periodontal treatment. Oral Health Prev Dent 2003;1(1):29-35.
- Giusti F, Miglietta R, Pepe P, Seidenari S. Sensitization to propolis in 1255 children undergoing patch testing. Contact Dermatitis 2004;51(5-6):255-258.
- Gregory SR, Piccolo N, Piccolo MT, et al. Comparison of propolis skin cream to silver sulfadiazine: a naturopathic alternative to antibiotics in treatment of minor burns. J Altern Complement Med 2002;Feb, 8(1):77-83.
- Gulbahar O, Ozturk G, Erdem N, et al. Psoriasiform contact dermatitis due to propolis in a beekeeper. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2005;94(4):509-511.
- Henschel R, Agathos M, Breit R. Occupational contact dermatitis from propolis. Contact Dermatitis 2002;Jul, 47(1):52.
- Hsu CY, Chiang WC, Weng TI, et al. Laryngeal edema and anaphyalactic shock after topical propolis use for acute pharyngitis. Am J Emerg Med 2004;22(5):432-433.
- Mahmoud AS, Almas K, Dahlan AA. The effect of propolis on dentinal hypersensitivity and level of satisfaction among patients from a university hospital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Indian J Dent Res 1999;10(4):130-137.
- Murata K, Yatsunami K, Fukuda E, et al. Antihyperglycemic effects of propolis mixed with mulberry leaf extract on patients with type 2 diabetes. Altern Ther Health Med 2004;10(3):78-79.
- Murray MC, Worthington HV, Blinkhorn AS. A study to investigate the effect of a propolis-containing mouthrinse on the inhibition of de novo plaque formation. J Clin Periodontol 1997;24(11):796-798.
- Steinberg D, Kaine G, Gedalia I. Antibacterial effect of propolis and honey on oral bacteria. Am J Dent 1996;9(6):236-239.
- Stepanovic S, Antic N, Dakic I, Svabic-Vlahovic M. In vitro antimicrobial activity of propolis and synergism between propolis and antimicrobial drugs. Microbiol Res 2003;158(4):353-357.
- Ting PT, Silver S. Allergic contact dermatitis to propolis. J Drugs Dermatol 2004;3(6):685-686.
- Tobin AM, Kirby B. Airborne contact dermatitis induced by a neighbour's beehives. Contact Dermatitis 2003;49(4):214-215.
- Vynograd N, Vynograd I, Sosnowski Z. A comparative multi-centre study of the efficacy of propolis, acyclovir and placebo in the treatment of genital herpes (HSV). Phytomed 2000;7(1):1-6.
Last updated June 17, 2003
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