Updated: Jan 4
Bees produce a natural resinous substance, called propolis, aka "bee glue," from the sap and parts of plants, such as needle-leaved trees or evergreens. The term is derived from the Greek language, 'pro’ meaning 'in front of' or 'at the entrance to' and polis meaning 'community' or 'city', thus together constituting the phrase ‘before the city’ or ‘in defense of the city’ (ie, the hive). The term therefore aptly describes the protective properties of this unique compound.
Bees make propolis from tree resins that they collect from leaf buds and tree sap. Worker bees collect these resins while out in the field and carry them back to the hive on their legs in their pollen baskets. Perhaps because of the resin's stickiness, the worker bees cannot unload it themselves (unlike pollen), rather, they have to have another bee unload the bounty for them. The bees then mix the collected resin with wax, honey, and enzymes from their stomachs, turning it into the amazing and ever-useful substance that we know as propolis. Each hive’s propolis is a bit different from the next based on the variety of unique resins collected from each colony's local tree sources. The end composition is generally about 50% resins, 30% waxes, 10% essential oils, 5% pollen, and 5% plant debris,
Bees use propolis as a coating to build their hives, smooth out the internal walls, repair gaps or cracks in the hive, and insulate, thus keeping out external pests and invaders. Besides providing structural support to the hive, propolis also has a sterilizing action, which is why it is also called ‘bee penicillin.’ It has especially strong anti-bacterial properties that inhibit the growth of any bacteria, fungus, or other unwanted microbes that can thrive in the warm, humid hive environment. Bees also use propolis to keep out and eliminate potential pathogens that mice or other hive intruders might introduce to the colony. The bees will kill such intruders and then mummify their carcasses in propolis to prevent their decay from degrading the hive environment. Propolis is not only beneficial to the health and wellbeing of honey bee colonies but also to humans.
For thousands of years, ancient civilizations have obtained propolis from beehives for a variety of medicinal purposes. Today, researchers have identified propolis as having more than 300 compounds that include antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. The majority are polyphenols or antioxidants that fight disease and benefit the human body. For example, propolis has shown to be highly effective in healing wounds, burns, acne, herpes simplex and herpes genitalis, and neurodermatitis as well as in improving the effects of upper respiratory tract infections, common cold, sore throat, flu-like infections, diabetes, stomach ulcers, gingivitis, and inflammation, among others.
Rarely available in its pure straight-from-the-hive form, Pualani natural raw propolis can be processed at home into a variety of forms for human consumption including orally as a powder, tablet, liquid extract, and capsule or applied topically in salves, creams, ointments, lotions, and tinctures, Pualani Bee Farm is among the very few sources offering pure, natural propolis, which we harvest sustainably from our hives using what is called pollen trap--a gridlike sheet placed on top of the hive, just under the cover. The pollen trap encourages bees to fill in the grid gaps, thus producing clean surplus propolis that can be harvested by removing the sheet from the hive--without any disruption to its inhabitants.
Processing propolis for various beneficial human uses is quite simple, as the following articles from the magazine, Bee Culture, describe:
We also highly recommend reading a very informative scientific essay about the history and evidence-based benefits of propolis in an article by Vijay D. Wagh:
NOTE: Before using propolis or propolis derivative products, healthcare providers should be consulted about the proper dosage, method of extraction, interactions, and duration of use,