The bees, they are wise. And humans have been drawing from their wisdom for centuries. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all utilized bee propolis for its healing properties, making extensive use of it as medicine. Bee propolis is a resin material made by honeybees for the purpose of sealing and protecting cells of the hive, lining the inside of nest cavities, and repairing honeycomb. Worker bees collect resin from leaf buds and tree sap and combine it with honey, bee saliva, and beeswax to produce this ultra-sticky, protective compound. Without propolis, hives would be susceptible to viruses and bacteria. It is aptly named, in more ways than one: the Greek words “pro,” meaning “in defense of,” and “polis,” meaning “city.” It could be speculated that this meaning refers to both the defense of the hive, and also a defense against ailments that affect human communities.
The composition of bee propolis varies, but on average, it is made up of 50% resins, 30% waxes, 10% essential oils, 5% pollen, and 5% other compounds such as acids, sugars, and Vitamins B, C, and E. In total, bee propolis contains over 300 biologically active ingredients, but the main active components are powerful antioxidants called flavonoids.
Flavonoids are essential to a plant’s defense system. So in turn, bee propolis is made from elements of a plant’s immune system, and boosts bee hives’ immune systems, and can also be harvested to benefit human immune systems.