Propolis: Natural alternative to antibiotics?

Propolis: Natural alternative to antibiotics?

Honeybees produce a greenish-brown resinous substance called propolis. It is used as a coating for beehives, to strengthen the cells – much like a type of cement. Propolis also acts like a protective barrier against invasion from parasites in the hive. It inhibits bacterial and fungal growth. The bees collect this resinous mixture from conifers, evergreens and the buds of trees. Much like honey, the composition of propolis vary greatly in different regions and climates. This makes conclusive study of propolis more difficult.

The healing properties of propolis include these effects:

  • Antibiotic – infections caused by bacteria
  • Antiviral – colds and flu
  • Antifungal
  • Antitumour – cancer fighting properties
  • Treatment of minor burns
  • The possible topical treatment of cold sores
  • The use as a dental sealant is being investigated

There is good reason for trying to avoid antibiotics where possible. One concern with the overprescription of broad-spectrum antibiotics is that drug-resistant strains of bacteria are being produced. This breeds superbugs that are very hard to get rid of. The other possible negative side-effects of antibiotics are mostly gastro-intestinal: Diarrhoea, bloating and indigestion, abdominal pain, feeling or being sick and loss of appetite. Allergic reactions to antibiotics can be potentially life-threatening.

Antibiotics kill some of the good bacteria living in the digestive tract. These millions of micro-organisms populating the intestines are considered to be an organ within an organ. This gut flora composition is unique to every individual. It is influenced by events like the birth process; baby’s diet, levels of hygiene and medication. Gut flora play a role in the immune system. Genetic predisposition and interference with gut flora can lead to inflammatory bowel conditions and non-optimal health. Toddlers can contract a protracted toddler’s diarrhoea when the gut flora balance is disturbed.

Interestingly enough, imbalance of the gut flora also affects the brain. Gut flora aids in serotonin production. Serotonin is the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitter. Lack of serotonin can lead to depressed states. Probiotics can help in restoring and maintaining a healthy gut flora balance.


Propolis is considered relatively non-toxic. It will cause allergic reactions if people are allergic to bees, honey, or other bee products and should be avoided in these cases. The use and dosage should be discussed with your medical professional. In cases of preventative treatment or prophylaxis, a short course corresponding to the length of a course of antibiotics can be considered. This is for colds- and flu prevention, at the first sign of a sniffle, for instance.

Herbal treatments are not nearly as well regulated as prescription medicines. Therefore it is of vital importance to look out for well-known brands from reputable companies when purchasing any herbal supplements. Do not trust inflated prices or cheap packaging without proper investigation into the source company.


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Studies pertaining to Propolis properties and uses

Cancer fighting properties

Gut flora functioning as an organ


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