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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 29  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 119-121

Propolis: Nature's boon - A review

1 Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Divya Jyoti College of Dental Sciences and Research, Modinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Babu Banarasi Das College of Dental Sciences, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission30-Apr-2016
Date of Acceptance09-Aug-2017
Date of Web Publication9-Nov-2017

Correspondence Address:
Karabi Das
Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Divya Jyoti College of Dental Sciences and Research, Ajit Mahal, Niwari Road, Modinagar, Ghaziabad District, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jiaomr.JIAOMR_49_16

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Propolis is a Greek word meaning “defender of the city.” Constituents of propolis possess health promoting properties. Propolis plays a very important role in the field of medicine and dentistry. This paper is an attempt to review various applications of this compound in improving the general health of an individual.

Keywords: Antibacterial, anticarious, antioxidant, propolis

How to cite this article:
Kumar R, Channaiah SG, Rastogi T, Das K. Propolis: Nature's boon - A review. J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol 2017;29:119-21

How to cite this URL:
Kumar R, Channaiah SG, Rastogi T, Das K. Propolis: Nature's boon - A review. J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol [serial online] 2017 [cited 2021 Sep 19];29:119-21. Available from: https://www.jiaomr.in/text.asp?2017/29/2/119/217917

   Introduction Top

In the poem, The Bees, by William Shakespeare (King Henry V) said

“…Others, like soldiers, armed in their strings,

Make boot upon the summer's velvet buds;

Which pillage they with merry march bring home…”

A fascinating little insect like the common honey bee offers humans some incredibly healthy natural food such as propolis.[1] The bee's immune system produces numerous antimicrobial peptides that can fight infection.[2] It is collected by Apis mellifera bees and is a lipophilic material, hard and brittle when cold, but soft and sticky when warm; hence, the name “beeswax.”[1] It has adhesive properties of oils and interacts strongly with skin proteins. The volatile substances give to the glue its specific pleasant aroma.[3] Color varies depending on the geographical regions.[4],[5]

   History Top

Since the olden days people have been witnessing the magical uses of propolis. The Egyptians, Arabs, Greek, and Roman physicians recognized it for its medicinal properties and used it for embalming, as an antiseptic, as a mouthwash, etc. Moreover, it was widely known for its healing effect. As mentioned in the Holy Bible the Healing Propolis is well known as the “Balm of Gilead.”[1] The Greek philosopher Aristotle mentioned it in his Historia Animalium as a substance which the bees smeared at the hive entrance which could be used as a cure for bruises and sores. The Roman scholar Plinius (23–79 A.D.) postulated that it originates in the buds of different trees such as willow, poplar, elm, and reed. He mentioned “current physicians use propolis as a medicine because it's extracts stings, reduces swelling, softens indurations and relieves pain.”

   Types Top

Three types of propolis have their botanical origin identified.[6] They are South, Northeast, and Southeast types and have been reported as resins from Populus sp, Hyptis divartica and Baccharis dracunculifolia, respectively. Twelve different types of propolis have found significance on the basis of their botanical origin and chemical composition.[1]

   Chemical Composition Top

The chemical composition depends on the flora of the area, the time of the year, and bee species. At present, researchers have extracted over 300 substances from propolis.[1],[6] In general, the composition of propolis comprises:

Resin: 50–80%

Beeswax: 8–30%

Plant wax: 6%

Essential oils: 10–14%

Pollen: 5%

Tannin: 10%

Mechanical impurities: 5%

Propolis also contains numerous beneficial constituents including:

  • Macronutrients: Calcium, manganese, zinc, tin, copper, etc.
  • Vitamins: Pro vitamin A, Vitamin B1, B2, etc.[1]
  • Aromatic esters: Ethyl esters of cinnamic and caffeic acid, etc.
  • Flavanoids: Chrysin, tectochrysin, etc.

Other compounds present in the European propolis are geraniol, aromatic compounds, hydrocarbons, triterpene alcohols, and enzymes (amylase and esterase).[6] In low concentrations, volatile compounds are found in propolis which contribute to its aroma and significant biological activity.[7]

   Uses Top

Antioxidant/antiaging effect

Free radical causes oxidative damage and is the primary factor in aging. An explanation regarding the classical use of propolis as an antiaging agent is its convincing antioxidant activity. Propolis can be used to abrogate the harmful ionizing radiation on the brain.[8]

Antibacterial/antifungal activity

In-vitro research has demonstrated that propolis has significant antibacterial activity as it helps to reduce oxidation potential growth of bacteria (particularly gram-positive bacteria) and in fighting against infections of the upper respiratory tract. It also has antifungal activity, particularly against Candida albicans.[8]

Antiviral activity

In addition to its antibacterial properties, propolis when tested on cold viruses and herpes viruses showed encouraging antiviral properties. More in-vitro research has also shown that flavonoids found in propolis led to curtailment of intracellular cloning of herpes virus strains.[8]

Antitumoral activity

Propolis shows promising results in antitumour, anticarcinogenic, and antimutagenic properties, however, the mechanisms involved in chemoprevention are still unclear.[9] Researchers reported propitious antitumoral property of propolis, but its mechanism is incompletely understood.[10],[11] Potential antitumour activity is found in Brazilian propolis.[12] Some clinical trials are ongoing to determine the efficacy of propolis on tumor cell lines.[13],[14]

   Uses in Dentistry Top

It is crucial to investigate the mechanism of action of propolis due to its intricated medley of chemical components.[15] Various clinical trials proved the efficacy of propolis efficacy by carving out interesting results on topical application.[16]

Anticarious agent

Streptococci mutans are etiologic agents of dental caries. As S. mutans, S. sobrinus, and Lactobacillus generate an acidic environment, the enamel is demineralized.[17] Propolis from different geographical regions worldwide has demonstrated an in-vitro inhibition of Streptococcus mutants.[18] Koo et al.[19] and Duarte et al.[20] showed significant inhibition of growth and adhesion of S. mutans by different fractions (hexane, chloroform, ethanol) of propolis from Brazil.

Storage media following avulsion

Parolia et al. conducted a study to test the efficacy of propolis to maintain cell viability of periodontal ligament in an avulsed tooth, and recommended 10% propolis over other media.[21]

Intracanal irrigant

Al-Qathani et al.[22] and Oncag et al.[23] found highly satisfactory results of propolis against Enterococcus faecalis in the root canals and recommended its use as an alternative intracanal medicament.

Pulp capping agent

Propolis constitute flavonoids, arginine, various vitamins, copper, iron, and zinc aiding in reducing the inflammatory response by inhibiting lipooxygenase pathway of arachanoic acid. They also improve the immune system by promoting phagocytic activity and stimulates cellular immunity.[21]

Dentinal hypersensitivity

Almas et al. conducted a pioneering study on the effect of propolis on dentinal hypersensitivity in vivo. Clinical trial of propolis on 26 females was conducted where it was applied twice daily on hypersensitive teeth. It was assessed on visual scale 0–10, and they concluded that propolis aids in the control of dentinal hypersensitivity.[8]


Studies demonstrated efficacy of propolis extracts on periodontal pathogenic microorganisms in in-vitro studies.[24] Hidaka et al. conducted a study on the effects of honey bee products on the rate of amorphous calcium phosphate transformation to hydroxyapatite, concluding that it was decreased by 12–35%. It was concluded that propolis may have potential as an anticalculus agent in toothpastes and mouthwashes. Study conducted by Dodwad et al. showed effective reduction of gingival inflammation.[15]

Effect on C. albicans

Martins et al. assessed the susceptibility of C. albicans strains, compiled from HIV-positive patients with oral candidiasis to a commercial 20% ethanol propolis extract (EPE) paralleling with antifungal agents, nystatin (NYS), clotrimazole (CL), econazole (EC), and fluconazole (FL). EPE inhibited all C. albicans strains tested. Hence, commercial EPE could be encouraged to treat candidiasis in HIV-positive patients.

Treatment of denture stomatitis

A study by Santos et al. showed that Brazilian EPE formulation helped in treating cases with denture stomatitis.[25] da Silva et al. conducted a study where the effect of various antifungal agents and propolis orabase gel (PRO) on poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) surfaces were compared. Eventually, PRO was able to coax necessary modifications in PMMA surface properties, which could be associated with decreased microbial adhesion.[26]

Effect on recurrent aphthous stomatitis

Propolis is used in some cultures as treatment for mouth ulcers. Samet et al. evaluated the efficacy of propolis in patients suffering from recurrent aphthous ulcers. The statistical data along with patient's self-approval to use propolis indicated its efficacy in the management of recurrent aphthous stomatitis.

Application in extraction sockets

Filho concluded that, on application of propolis hydro alcoholic solution to extraction sockets, it generated oral epithelial repair although it had no effect on socket wound healing.[27]

   Allergy to Propolis Top

People usually are allergic to propolis on external contact with the skin or mucous membrane rather than oral administration. Allergic reaction to propolis usually occurs as contact dermatitis after topical administration. There are some reports of propolis allergy manifesting as rhinitis, conjunctivitis, and inflammation of the oral mucous membranes. Rare cases of respiratory distress, headache, and nausea have been reported.[28]

   Conclusion Top

Propolis is one of the few natural remedies that has flavonoids and phenolic acids, and their esters which is helpful in nurturing a healthy life. Clinical trials are needed to authenticate the above-mentioned claims in various studies.

   References Top

Santos VR. Propolis: Alternative medicine for the treatment of oral microbial diseases. In: Sagakami H, editor. Alternative Medicine. Chapter 7. Rijeka, Croatia: InTech; 2012. p. 133–69.  Back to cited text no. 1
Souza BM, Palma MS. Peptides from Hymenoptera venoms. In: Lima MH, editor. Animal Toxins: State of Art - Perspectives in Health and Biotechnology. EditoraUFMG; 2009. p. 345-67.  Back to cited text no. 2
Leonhardt SD, Zeilhofer S, Blüthgen N, Schmitt T. Stingless bees use terpenes as olfactory cues to find resin sources. Chem Senses 2010;35:603-11.  Back to cited text no. 3
Piccinelli AL, Lotti C, Campone L, Cuesta-Rubio O, Campo Fernandez M, Rastrelli L. Cuban and Brazilian red propolis: Botanical origin and comparative analysis by high-performance liquid chromatography-photodiode array detection/electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry. J Agric Food Chem 2011;59:6484-91.  Back to cited text no. 4
Farooqui T, Farooqui AA. Beneficial effects of propolis on human health and neurological diseases. Front Biosci 2012;4:779-93.  Back to cited text no. 5
Rathod S, Brahmankar R, Kolte A. Propolis - A natural remedy. Indian J Dent Res Rev 2012;1:50-2.  Back to cited text no. 6
Bankova V, Popova M, Trusheva B. Propolis volatile compounds: Chemical diversity and biological activity: A Review. Chem Cent J 2014;8:28.  Back to cited text no. 7
Almas K, Dahlan A, Mahmoud A. Propolis as a natural remedy: An update. Saudi Dent J 2001;13:45-9.  Back to cited text no. 8
Endo S, Matsunaga T, Kanamori A, Otsuji Y, Nagai H, Sundaram K, et al. Selective inhibition of human type-5 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (AKR1C3) by baccharin, a component of Brazilian propolis. J Nat Prod 2012;75:716-21.  Back to cited text no. 9
Oršolić N, Bašić I. Antitumor, hematostimulative and radioprotective action of water-soluble derivative of propolis (WSDP). Biomed Pharmacother 2005;59:561-70.  Back to cited text no. 10
Szliszka E, Czuba ZP, Domino M, Mazur B, Zydowicz G, Krol W. Ethanolic extract of propolis (EEP) enhances the apoptosis- inducing potential of TRAIL in cancer cells. Molecules 2009;14:738-54.  Back to cited text no. 11
Awale S, Li F, Onozuka H, Esumi H, Tezuka Y, Kadota S. Constituents of Brazilian red propolis and their preferential cytotoxic activity against human pancreatic PANC-1 cancer cell line in nutrient-deprived condition. Bioorg Med Chem 2008;16:181-9.  Back to cited text no. 12
Li F, Awale S, Tezuka Y, Kadota S. Cytotoxicity of constituents from Mexican propolis against a panel of six different cancer cell lines. Natural Product Communications 2010;5:1601-6.  Back to cited text no. 13
Búfalo MC, Candeias JM, Sousa JP, Bastos JK, Sforcin JM. In vitro cytotoxic activity of Baccharis dracunculifolia and propolis against HEp-2 cells. Nat Prod Res 2010;24:1710-8.  Back to cited text no. 14
Dodwad V, Kukreja BJ. Propolis mouthwash: A new beginning. J Indian Soc Periodontol 2011;15:121-5.  Back to cited text no. 15
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Vervelle A, Mouhyi J, Del Corso M, Hippolyte MP, Sammartino G, Dohan Ehrenfest DM. Mouthwash solutions with microencapsuled natural extracts: Efficiency for dental plaque and gingivitis. Rev Stomatol Chir Maxillofac 2010;111:148-51.  Back to cited text no. 16
Arslan S, Silici S, Perçin D, Koç AN, Er Ö. Antimicrobial activity of poplar propolis on mutans streptococci and caries development in rats. Turk J Biol 2012;36:65-73.  Back to cited text no. 17
Özan F, Sümer Z, Polat ZA, Er K, Özan Ü, Deḡer O. Effect of mouthrinse containing propolis on oral microorganisms and human gingival fibroblasts. Eur J Dent 2007;1:195-201.  Back to cited text no. 18
Koo H, Rosalen PL, Cury JA, Ambrosano GM, Murata RM, Yatsuda R, et al. Effect of a new variety of Apis mellifera propolis on mutans streptococci. Curr Microbiol 2000;41:192-6.  Back to cited text no. 19
Duarte S, Koo H, Bowen WH, Hayacibara MF, Cury JA, Ikegaki M, et al. Effect of a novel type of propolis and its chemical fractions on glucosyltransferases and on growth and adherence of mutans streptococci. Biol Pharm Bull 2003;26:527-31.  Back to cited text no. 20
Parolia A, Thomas M, Mala K, Mohan M. Propolis and its potential uses in oral health. Int J Med Med Sci 2010;2:210-5.  Back to cited text no. 21
Al-Qathami H, Al-Madi E. Comparison of sodium hypochlorite, propolis and salineas root canal irrigants: A pilot study. Saudi Dental J 2003;5:100-2.  Back to cited text no. 22
Oncag O, Cogulu D, Uzel A, Sorkun K. Efficacy of propolis as an intracanal medicament against Enterococcus faecalis. Gen Dent 2006;54:319-22.  Back to cited text no. 23
Sforcin JM, Bankova V. Propolis: Is there a potential for the development of new drugs? J Ethnopharmacol 2011;133:253-60.  Back to cited text no. 24
Santos VR, Pimenta FJ, Aguiar MC, do Carmo MA, Naves MD, Mesquita RA. Oral candidiasis treatment with Brazilian ethanol propolis extract. Phytother Res 2005;19:652-4.  Back to cited text no. 25
da Silva WJ, Rached RN, Rosalen PL, Del Bel Cury AA. Effects of nystatin, fluconazole and propolis on poly(methyl methacrylate) resin surface. Braz Dent J 2008;19:190-6.  Back to cited text no. 26
Margo-Filho O, de Carvaho AC. Application of propolis to dental sockets and skin wounds. J Nihon Univ Sch Dent 1990;36:4-13.  Back to cited text no. 27
Chan GC, Cheung KW, Sze DM. The immunomodulatory and anticancer properties of propolis. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol 2013;44:262-73.  Back to cited text no. 28


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