Propolis is a resinous substance derived from poplar and conifer buds and used by Apis mellifera bees for maintaining their hives. The pharmacologically active molecules in propolis are flavonoids and phenolic acids and their esters. These components have proven antibiotic effects on bacteria, fungi, and viruses.22 New evidence suggests that propolis may suppress the lipoxygenase pathway thereby decreasing LT synthesis.23 In studies using the rat paw edema model, it has been theorized that caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) is the constituent that is most responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects of propolis for reducing acute and chronic inflammation.24

One study investigated the effects of both CAPE and galangin (an ethanolic extract of propolis) on cyclo-oxygenase (COX) activity. Propolis inhibited COX activity significantly in a dose-dependent manner. Similar results were obtained independently with CAPE and galangin; however, the COX inhibitory effect of propolis containing galangin but not CAPE, was determined to be approximately 10 times less potent than the extract containing CAPE. Both CAPE and galangin contribute to the activity of propolis, although CAPE is the stronger-acting constituent.25

The anti-inflammatory effects of this plant medicine have also been studied in other models of inflammation, such as corneal injury and skin burns. It was shown to produce antiinflammatory effects comparable to dexamethasone in treating experimentally induced chemical corneal injury.26 Propolis was compared to silver sulfadiazine (SSD) for treating superficial second-degree burns. Burns treated with propolis had less inflammation and increased cicatrisation compared to those treated with SSD, and no significant differences in microbial-wound colonization were noted between the two treatment groups in one study.27 The researchers hypothesized that, had the dressing been changed more frequently (fewer than every three days), the antimicrobial and healing effects may have been enhanced. The two previous studies exemplify the broad use of propolis as an anti-inflammatory agent that can be useful for treating a number of conditions with various medical therapies, many of which may yet be discovered.

Propolis is difficult to standardize leading to a variation in active ingredients. Using a reputable product is imperative with this treatment.

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