Have you ever seen that sticky, brown paste all over the inside of a beehive? That is called propolis, and it’s more important than you think. While propolis has many uses for bees, it is also beneficial to humans. Just like beeswax and honey, propolis has long been harvested and used medicinally.
If you’d like to learn how to use raw propolis, read on. But first let’s cover the basics.
What Is Propolis?
Commonly called bee glue, propolis is a resin like substance used by bees to seal small open spaces in the hive. While the color or propolis can vary depending on it’s source, most propolis is dark brown. It’s texture is quite sticky, but it does harden in colder temperatures.
Honeybees have several uses for propolis. It is often used to fill small gaps and cracks in their hive, line nest cavities, and reduce the hive opening, making it easier to defend. Propolis is important to bees because it provides both stability and insulation to the hive.
Amazingly, propolis is antibacterial, and it does a great job of inhibiting the growth of bacteria and fungus. An important function of propolis is to sterilize and disinfect the hive.
If a bee dies in the hive it’s body gets carried out. But sometimes intruders such as mice or lizards die in the hive and the bees are not able to get the body out. In order to halt decay and putrefaction the bees will encase the carcass in propolis, mummifying it to prevent contamination.
How is Propolis Made?
Bees make propolis from tree resins and sap. Worker bees collect the materials when they are out foraging. Once back at the hive the resins are unloaded with the help of other bees. They then mix the resin with wax, stomach enzymes, and honey to create propolis. Bees tend to keep a stock of propolis available for emergency patches and other jobs.
While propolis is extremely useful, and necessary for bees, it also has benefits to humans too. In fact, people have known how to use raw propolis medicinally as far back as 30 BC. It has multiple uses and is and all around natural health care remedy.
Propolis is antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti fungal.
Propolis can be used for the following ailments:
- Inflammation – Propolis contains compounds that reduce the chronic inflammatory response.
- Immune System – Propolis boosts the immune system. Used during cold season, it has been found that propolis decreases and even suppresses the viral-microbial flora carriage of the upper airways. The antimicrobial properties of propolis stifles harmful bacterial and infections, while also increasing the body’s natural resistance.
- Allergies – A study showed that propolis reduce histamine release, which makes it an all natural antihistamine.
- Wounds – Assists healing of cuts and burns and speeds up healthy new cell growth.
- Eczema and Psoriasis – Anti-inflammatory properties of propolis helps relieve symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.
- Cold Sores and Genital Herpes – Reduces the amount of herpes virus while also protecting the body from future breakouts.
- Cancer – Research shows that propolis causes certain cancer cells to die by necrosis, but did not harm healthy cells. This suggests that propolis would be a great complementary therapy for cancer.
How to Use Raw Propolis
With so many different benefits many people want to know how to use raw propolis. It’s simple, raw propolis can be taken orally, just as it is. The taste is sweet, similar to molasses. There is currently no medically recommended dose, but in general people take 1 teaspoon daily. As always, consult your doctor before starting new supplements. Using raw propolis this way is also beneficial to your dental health, as propolis reduces cavities by impairing the enzyme that causes dental plaque.
Other ways to use raw propolis is to take it in tablet, capsule, or liquid extract form. This way you would still get the health benefits of propolis without having to taste it. You may find that propolis is these forms are easier to take and store.
For skin and wounds you need to learn how to use raw propolis topically. Propolis can be applied directly to the skin, however that may get a little messy. Luckily, propolis also comes in ointment, cream, and lotion form. Apply propolis topically for skin issues such as wounds, burns, eczema, and even acne.
Now that you know how to use raw propolis, let’s take a look at how beekeepers get propolis.
How to Harvest and Process Propolis
Just like honey and beeswax, propolis is harvested by beekeepers. There are 2 ways to harvest propolis. You can scrape the propolis from the hive during an inspection or honey harvest, or you can use a propolis trap.
Hive scraping is a quick and easy way to harvest propolis, but the downside is that it will likely contain bits of wood, wax and bee parts. Propolis harvested this way will require soaking to remove such contaminants. Placing propolis in a large bucket of water will cause the propolis to sink to the bottom while the impurities will rise to the top.
Similarly, beekeepers also will bake their propolis scrapings in a few inches of water. Doing so causes the wax to melt and float to the top of the water. The propolis, meanwhile will stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the water is drained the propolis is frozen and chipped in pieces out of the pan. The beekeeper carefully dries each piece before storing them.
Another way to harvest propolis is by using a propolis trap. A propolis trap is a thin piece of plastic with many small, narrow slits. The trap is placed where the inner cover would normally go. The bees then will fill the slits with propolis in an effort to plug up the holes.
To harvest the propolis the beekeeper will place the trap in a freezer for several hours. Once the propolis is frozen the now brittle propolis can be cracked off of the tray.
Other than cleaning the propolis (in the case of propolis scraping), no further processing is necessary unless you want to turn it into powder or extracts. This propolis can now be eaten or applied topically.
Propolis Powder, Extract, and Oil
Propolis powder is made by grinding frozen chunks of propolis, either by hand or electric grinder. This can be somewhat tricky because the propolis can become sticky and difficult to grind. The powder can also be made into propolis tablets.
Propolis extracts involve dissolving propolis with a solvent, such as food grade alcohol. Place propolis into a jar of alcohol. Shake the jar to mix at least once a day. The process takes 1-2 weeks and it should be strained before using. Propolis oil is made in a similar fashion. Propolis and oil is gently heated on a stovetop until well combined and strained.
How to Store Raw Propolis
Raw propolis should be kept in an airtight container, at room temperature. Propolis that will not be used for a while can also be stored in the freezer.
Where to Buy Propolis
If you are not a beekeeper, but would still like to use raw propolis, you can also purchase it. Pharmacies and health food stores would be your best bet to buy propolis supplements. However, depending on your location, it may be difficult to find propolis for sale in a physical store. Luckily, it’s easy to buy propolis online. Amazon sells propolis in many different forms.
NOW Supplements offers a 5:1 concentrate of natural propolis. One capsule is equivalent to 1,500 mg of bee propolis. Take 1 capsule daily for help in caring for minor wounds, boosting immunity and softening the skin.
Nature’s Answer Propolis Resin Extract is an alcohol free concentrated extract. One serving is 500 mg of propolis. Nature’s Answer’s liquid extracts are made using their exclusive Bio-Chelation cold process method which eliminates alcohol in the finished product. As a supplement, take 2-3 mL 3 times a day.
This homeopathic propolis ointment by Mos Pharma is a 100% organic natural ointment. This ointment is used to heal and soothe skin, including rashes, bug bites, burns, and cold sores. This product is made in Russia, and has russian writing on the box, but don’t let that deter you, as many reviewers say that this propolis ointment works well and fast.
Beekeeper’s Naturals Propolis Throat Spray is 95% bee propolis extract. Use this supplement for sore throats and natural immune system support. This natural remedy is alcohol free, sustainably sourced, and certified paleo. The propolis used to make this spray is from remote apiaries in the mountainous regions of Canada.
Raw propolis chunks can also be bought online. Stakich offers bags of raw, natural bee propolis for sale. This is 100% pure bee propolis that can be eaten as is, or made into other products.
Propolis is an amazing resin like substance made by bees. Bees use propolis to seal open spaces in their hive. Humans have learned how to use raw propolis for it’s antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti fungal properties.