Experimental Evidence for Therapeutic Potentials of Propolis

Thursday 14 October 2021

Last week we investigated some of the medicinal properties of honey, especially in wound care. Recent advancements in research have bettered our general understanding of the benefits of hive products in supporting human health. This week we will explore potential human health-benefits of propolis.

Opportunity for PEI beekeepers: ATTTA will be hosting a limited series of monthly informative discussion sessions with the PEI beekeeping industry beginning October 20, 2021. These sessions are offered through the PEI Beekeepers’ Association. See the infographic at the end of this week’s blog for all the details!

A reminder for the NSBA Fall Technical Session! This session will be held virtually. We hope to “see” you there to join in on some great beekeeping discussions this Saturday from 10AM – 12PM.

Experimental Evidence for Therapeutic Potentials of Propolis

Propolis is a sticky substance produced by honey bees which they often use as a glue within the hive and around hive entrances. Bees collect resinous materials from certain plants they visit (e.g., birch trees, pine trees, & alder trees) and then mix in their own enzymes, and varying amounts of beeswax, to modify the collected materials into a product the bees can use as a construction material. Beyond this use, propolis also contains components which lend antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to the hive where it has been applied. Due to this, an interest is building into the development of natural and novel human health products and treatments.

As highlighted in a recent review (Bhargava et al., 2021), it is important to note that the quality and composition of propolis depends on its geographic location, climatic zone and local flora (Bhargava et al. 2021). In other words, not all propolis is created equally and therapeutic potentials vary, just as with honey! In the propolis world, New Zealand and Brazilian green propolis have been the focus of recent studies. Results from these studies have contributed experimental evidence to support the therapeutic bioactivities of active compounds found in these two kinds of propolis which include:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Antitumor
  • Antimetastatic
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Antimicrobial

Some other types of propolis that have undergone experimental investigations to determine therapeutic potentials of their components and extracts include:

  • Taiwanese propolis – antioxidant and antitumor activities
  • Chinese propolis – antiproliferative effect
  • Canadian propolis – radical scavenging activity
  • Greek propolis – antimicrobial
  • Cuban propolis - antioxidant

A recent publication (Shaldam et al., 2021) demonstrates additional, possible medicinal effect of propolis.  This study investigated the use of propolis as an inhibitor of COVID-19. Interactions of 14 honey and propolis compounds (including certain flavonoids, phenolic acids, and terpenes) with the target enzymes of the causative agent of COVID-19 were analyzed. Of the 14 compounds, four were highlighted to be potential effective inhibitors of COVID-19.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many drugs have been repurposed and analyzed as potential treatments and preventatives of this viral infection. This also facilitated an opportunity to progress knowledge, understanding, and evidence of the healthcare potentials of hive products. Overall, this theoretical study supports further research to assess the potential of using compounds found in honey and propolis as a COVID-19 inhibitor.

Experimental evidence suggests that propolis has potential health benefits.  We will revisit the topic of health benefits of hive products in subsequent blogs to learn more about the broader benefits of these products not only for their own sake, but also beekeeping enterprises.


Bhargava, P., Mahanta, D., Kaul, A., Ishida, Y., Terao, K., Wadhwa, R. & Kaul, S. C. 2021. Experimental Evidence for Therapeutic Potentials of Propolis, Nutrients. Full text available online.

Shaldam, M. A., Yahya, G., Mohamed, N. H., Abdel-Daim, M. M. & Naggar, Y. A. 2021. In silico screening of potent bioactive compounds from honeybee products against COVID-19 target enzymes, Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Full text available online

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can: