This article is about a product made by bees. For the fungus genus, see Propolis (fungus).
Propolis as hive sealing
Propolis is a resinous mixture that honey bees collect from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources. It is used as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive. Propolis is used for small gaps (approximately 6 millimeters (0.24 in) or less), while larger spaces are usually filled with beeswax. Its color varies depending on its botanical source, the most common being dark brown. Propolis is sticky at and above room temperature, 20 °C (68 °F). At lower temperatures, it becomes hard and very brittle.
For centuries, beekeepers assumed that bees sealed the beehive with propolis to protect the colony from the elements, such as rain and cold winter drafts. However, 20th century research has revealed that bees not only survive, but also thrive, with increased ventilation during the winter months throughout most temperate regions of the world.
make the hive more defensible by sealing alternate entrances;
prevent diseases and parasites from entering the hive, and to inhibit fungal and bacterial growth;
prevent putrefaction within the hive. Bees usually carry waste out of and away from the hive. However, if a small lizard or mouse, for example, finds its way into the hive and dies there, bees may be unable to carry it out through the hive entrance. In that case, they would attempt instead to seal the carcass in propolis, essentially mummifying it and making it odorless and harmless.
Resins in hive
The composition of propolis varies from hive to hive, from district to district, and from season to season. Normally, it is dark brown in color, but it can be found in green, red, black, and white hues, depending on the sources of resin found in the particular hive area. Honey bees are opportunists, gathering what they need from available sources, and detailed analyses show that the chemical composition of propolis varies considerably from region to region, along with the vegetation. In northern temperate climates, for example, bees collect resins from trees, such as poplars and conifers (the biological role of resin in trees is to seal wounds and defend against bacteria, fungi and insects). "Typical" northern temperate propolis has approximately 50 constituents, primarily resins and vegetable balsams (50%), waxes (30%), essential oils (10%), and pollen (5%). Propolis also contains persistent lipophilic acaricides, a natural pesticide that deters mite infestations.
Occasionally, worker bees will even gather various caulking compounds of human manufacture, when the usual sources are more difficult to obtain. The properties of the propolis depend on the exact sources used by each individual hive; therefore any potential medicinal properties that may be present in one hive's propolis may be absent from another's, or from another sample in the same hive.
Preliminary in vivo studies with rats suggest propolis may be effective in treating the inflammatory component of skin burns. Also, a clinical trial has shown Brazilian propolis skin cream to be superior to silver sulfadiazine for the treatment of partial thickness burn wounds. Recent studies have raised concerns about the efficacy of silver sulfadiazine, however, and suggest that it may actually delay wound healing. Further clinical research is needed.
As an immunomodulator
Propolis has been reported to exhibit both immunosuppressive and immunostimulant effects. Further research is needed to establish if there is a practical application for these seemingly opposing pharmacological effects.
As a treatment for allergies
Though claims have been made for the use of propolis in treating allergies, propolis can itself cause severe allergic reactions if the user is sensitive to bees or bee products.
As an oral hygiene product
Propolis has been the subject of recent dentistry research, and there is some in vivo and clinical evidence that propolis might protect against dental caries and other forms of oral disease, due to its antimicrobial properties. Propolis is also being investigated for its efficacy in the treatment of canker sores and in reducing the inflammation associated with canal debridement and endodontic procedures.
As an antioxidant
One in vivo study has shown that propolis reduced the chances of cataracts in rat pups. Again however, in the absence of any clinical studies, it is not clear if this activity has any therapeutic relevance.
Propolis is used by most stringed instrument makers (violin, viola, cello and bass) to enhance the appearance of the wood grain. It is a component of some varnishes and its distinctive smell is easily recognizable in a luthier's shop. Propolis was undoubtedly used by Antonio Stradivari and his luthier colleagues of the time.
Propolis is used by some chewing gum manufacturers to make propolis gum.
Propolis is used to bring about a chemical reaction to convert fats and oils into automobile wax during application.
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