When the new virus variant Omicron was alarmed, healthy food or supplements that help strengthen the immune system as well as possess antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammation effects have seen surge in. Although the pandemic may be reaching an end, it is still important to keep our immunity strong in the highest defense to guard our wellness.
Evidence indicates that immune-boosting supplements derived from natural ingredients are rich in bioactive compounds. These compounds play a role in exhibiting beneficial effects to aid the treatment of bacterial or viral infections. The propolis is one of the kinds.
Read on to find out more about propolis.
What is propolis?
Propolis is a natural resinous mixture produced by honey bees. The honey bee produces this mixture by mixing saliva and beeswax with the exudate from trees and plant buds.1 The bees use propolis to mend their hives, to protect against external invaders such as insects and animals, and as a detoxification agent.
In thousand years ago, ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and Incas used propolis for wound treatment, corpse embalming, mouth disinfection and as a medicine to prevent or reduce fever.2 Today, different concentrations and dosage forms of propolis are in cosmetic products and health supplements targeting various health concerns.
More than 300 bioactive constituents identified in propolis have contributed to the beneficial effects, including anti-microbial, bactericidal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and antioxidant activities.
What are the health benefits of propolis?
Propolis is one of the excellent options for wound healing treatment. The active constituents in propolis, such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, terpenes, benzoic acids, amino acids and vitamins help to speed up the wound healing process at various tissues repair phases.3 One study found that oral intake of propolis appears to increase fibroblast proliferation (the growth of cells in connective tissues), thereby stimulating the production of collagen to deposit in the wound area for healing.4 The antioxidant property of propolis helps alleviate oxidative stress in wound tissues.5 The anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory actions of propolis have also played a part in accelerating the wound healing process.
Several research studies have documented the anti-bacterial effect of propolis. The propolis exhibits an anti-bacterial effect by directly acting on the microorganism via disrupting its membrane and reducing the bacterial movement. The propolis also stimulates the body’s immune system to defend against the bacterial invasion.6
The propolis helps fight bacteria, such as Streptococcus aureus and E. coli6, which are the common causes of skin infections, food poisoning, pneumonia and respiratory illness. A study has shown that a natural flavonoid in propolis, namely apigenin, worked well with certain antibiotics to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.7
Propolis is a promising antiviral agent, as confirmed by many studies. There are more studies of propolis antiviral potential against the herpes simplex viruses (HSV), which found the propolis acted on the viral DNA, affected viral absorption and reduced the viral infectivity.8,9,10 Earlier research has also indicated the ability of propolis and its components in inhibiting the influenza virus, H3N2 reproduction.11 Later on, another study has confirmed the antiviral effect of propolis in combating the H1N1 virus and relieving the influenza symptoms in animal subjects.12 It is believed that the anti-inflammatory activity of propolis has prevented a type of enzyme that acts as a key protein for the virus entry.13
So, what about the SARS-CoV-2 virus? A human clinical trial has evaluated the efficacy of propolis for COVID-19 patients. The study concluded that the hospitalized COVID-19 patients, who took propolis as an adjunct treatment, have reduced their hospital stay, lower rate of acute kidney injury compared to the control group who did not take the propolis, and no adverse events throughout the study.14
Oxidative stress and inflammation are the two major causes of heart diseases. It makes sense that propolis, an antioxidant and its anti-inflammatory potential, would be beneficial in improving heart health. Several research articles have validated this statement.
The active components in propolis, including polyphenols, helps to reduce the buildup of plaques by regulating the blood cholesterol profile, improving oxidative status, monitoring inflammatory reaction, as well as protecting the vascular endothelial cells.15,16,17 These mechanisms of action would reduce the risks of developing atherosclerosis, hypertension and heart attack.
Manage diabetic-related symptoms
People who have diabetes or high blood glucose level are at risks of developing diabetes-related complications. These include heart health issues, nerve damage (neuropathy), and kidney problems (nephropathy), to name a few. Oxidative stress that occurs in the body has play a big part in all these complications. The propolis with abundant natural active constituents is a potent antioxidant that can reduce oxidative stress and delay the diabetes-related complications.18,19 It has also been shown to improve the serum lipid levels in patients with Type 2 diabetes after a daily intake of 900mg of bee propolis for 12 weeks.20
Is propolis safe to take?
As a natural ingredient, propolis is generally safe to consume. Clinical research in animals and humans found that propolis is well tolerated, without adverse events. However, people who have an allergy to honey or bee products should avoid taking propolis or seek medical advice before consumption. The same goes for pregnant mothers and breastfeeding mothers, as there are no reliable studies available as of now.
Propolis & COVID-19
If you’re one of the many who are looking for supplements to strengthen your body for fighting against the virus, propolis should be on your list. Despite only one human clinical trial confirming the potential benefits of propolis on COVID-19 patients, other clinical trials conducted on humans are underway.
Long before the strike of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous reliable sources have confirmed the antiviral effect of propolis in herpes simplex virus, influenza virus, and rhinovirus, to name a few. Not to mention, propolis is also a potent antioxidant, possesses anti-inflammatory properties, and can regulate the immune system. These are the valuable attributes of propolis as an adjuvant treatment for viral diseases, such as COVID-19.