Propolis A complex matter

Elders showed us the path of Propolis. We only follow them. Indeed, how far is there between Egyptians that used the resin for embalming their dead, the Roman soldier who was leaving with his piece of propolis to heal its coming wounds, and us, now enjoying its benefits? There is no difference! Propolis remains the most effective natural product in the environment in terms of health because it makes you stronger and more responsive to daily aggressions...

What is propolis?

Definition of the word propolis

Close-up of propolis stillon frames
Miniature propolis on frames

Propolis is a unity of resinous substance, gummy and balsamic collected by bees from the buds of certain trees.

From viscous consistency, bees can alter the composition by providing some of their secretions and wax. There are many impurities related to the exploitation of the hives by beekeepers. Propolis should be purified before use.

Etymology of the word propolis

Various forms of propolis
Miniature Propolis ball

Greeks had noticed that certain breeds of bees reduced the entrance to the hive with this resin plant to defend their colony. They called it pro-polis that means in front of the city.

The word propolis also comes from the Latin verb propolire meaning to coat. Indeed, bee smeared inside the habitat of this resin to protect against microbial attacks!

Propolis into the hive

Propolis root

Before being useful to man and used in many application areas, propolis remains an essential product to the bee. In order to know and understand the basics of its use, numerous studies and observations have been made, thus answering many questions:

Propolis is a resinous substance collected by a small number of bees: field bees (oldest and most experienced bees of the hive). They perform only the activity of unusual and tedious harvesting. Their mission is confined to collect the resin located at the apical buds of various plant species (such as poplar, birch, alder, elm, beech and some conifers), and in some cases those excreted in the bark of trees visited.

The harvest depends on many factors but not really responding to clearly defined rules, and proves to be rather constant during the period of bee activity (from spring to late of fall). Thus, the field bee with its mandibles will take and shape resins before putting them on trays of its hind legs. the bee will take several hours to develop his ball of propolis and will return to the hive, to refuel. At the end of harvest, it goes and comes to stay where propolis should be used.

Therefore, the workers will take the necessary quantities of propolis by stretching wire until it breaks. Because of the viscosity and tackiness of propolis, it is rare that it is used in this condition. Thus, to avoid sinking, which would be fatal to other bees of the colony, the workers will incorporate the wax by pharyngeal pummeling to give malleable texture, but enough rigid for the product.

Propolis use by bees

Purpose of propolis in the hive
Miniature Bee gathering pollen Miniature Deck of propolis Miniature When bees mummify «troublemakers»

Propolis, once removed from its vegetable source, is returned to the hive and used in different ways the bees:

  • Cement to glue the different parts of the hive, to block cracks in wood, to reduce the hive entrance to better control the passage of intruders such as mice.
  • Lagging ideal to maintain a constant temperature for brood development.
  • Antiseptic treatment of waxy cells before the laying of the queen who performs in a clean environment.
  • Biological fight, by covering the inside of their habitat with a thin film of this resin, the bees are free from diseases. Thanks to its adapted and complex composition, it protects the colony against many microbial infections, viral and fungal that threatens constantly. With this glue, for example, it mummified body of hungry honey predators ( Death's-head Hawkmoth, small rodents...) that enter the hive and are too heavy to be evacuated once killed. Once covered with the resin, the biological body of the predator is no longer rotting and do not gangrene the colony! This shows the extraordinary potential of this outstanding product. The waxy cells in which the queen will lay its eggs are also lined with a layer of propolis to form a sterile environment for the harmonious development of the egg.
  • Embalming (see picture): a mouse has just entered the hive, probably attracted by the sweet smell of honey or just by the warmth of a shelter. Anyway the rodent has not made the right choice and ends up in a few seconds, attacked by dozens of bees on alert and ready to leave their lives to save the colony. Less than a minute will be enough to paralyze and kill the intruder, but the excitement in the hive is not declining either. The mouse is too imposing to be moved, but we have to eliminate all potential infectious hazards that may or may bring during its decomposition. Then bees establish a method of embalming with propolis on foreign body in order to completely isolate the internal environment of the hive. In an Egyptian mummy style, the mouse will gradually be dehydrated without decomposition and could cross through the ages without presenting any evidence of modification!

In conclusion, propolis ensures the health of the bee.

A unique chemical composition

Raw propolis harvested at the hive must be purified. It is dissolved in an hydro-alcoholic base in order to separate the undesirable elements (40% wax, pollen and other impurities!) and keep only the active ingredients (resins, balsams, essential oils). Then we obtained pure extracts with active ingredients dedicated to the manufacture of many specialties to human health (EALP, EADP, PPM30, and PPM18).

With its natural composition that differed depending on plant species visited by bees, propolis has always the same activity from the standpoint of human health.

Active elements of propolis

Chemical composition of propolis
Miniature Scheme of propolis composition Miniature Molecular composition of propolis

Propolis is a complex and rich product containing almost 400 compounds! The diversity of complementary active ingredients provides to the propolis all the exceptional therapeutic properties:

Flavonoids antimicrobial, antifungal and antispasmodic

Flavonoids represent the huge family of vegetable pigment (300 items!). We found into the propolis chrysin, pinocembrin, galangin, quercetin, pinobanskine (main flavonoids containing into the propolis), that hold an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial action with a wide spectrum. They act at the systemic level by fighting against pathogens. These molecules protect from oxidative stress by preventing the attacks of singular oxygen.

The phenolic compounds and aromatic acids antibacterial and antifungal

Each phenolic compounds and aromatic acids has a very specific therapeutic activity. It is about caffeic acid, ferulic acid, benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, coumaric, etc...

  • Caffeic acid: has a high analgesic and anti-inflammatory power. It allows effectively fighting against bacteria. It stimulates the immunity and many studies are in progress in order to show its activity against the development of certain cancer cells.
  • Ferulic acid: powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, this natural acid phenol has also an activity that improved cell regeneration and can act quickly on problems of circulatory system's damage.
  • Myristic acid: fatty acid involved in building the biomembranes of the body. It has an important role in regulating many cellular functions. Its action mechanisms remain ill-known and are being studied.

Organic acids preservatives, antiseptics, analgesics, anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulants

  • Benzoic acid: characterized by its preservative properties, this organic acid plays an antiseptic part on mucous membranes and helps fight against the growth of many micro-organisms. Its synthetic counterpart is used excessively in food preservation and the fact that there is an excessive amount; consumer is at risk of chronic toxicity that may facilitate the formation of certain cancers. The quantities present in propolis are tiny and do not accumulate toxic. Populations at risk are generally those whose alimentary balance is probably composed of food products from supermarkets known too sweet, too greasy and too salty.
  • Salicylic acid: this natural acid found in white willow has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant properties, locally and systemically. Widely used in its acetylated form and known as aspirin, this compound can fight against fever (for higher doses).

Terpenes antiseptics, flavored

Anethole, eugenol, alpha-pinene, and geraniol... are terpenes derivatives from plant origin and have substantially the same property that is to say mainly antiseptic and flavoring.

Essential oils antiseptics

Essential oils such as the guiaol, eugenol, anethole, pinene, etc...

Vitamins and trace items

Trace elements are almost all represented. There are even traces of gold, most commonly magnesium, zinc, aluminum, iron, copper, silicon, strontium, nickel...

Harvest and preparation by apiculteur

Propolis harvest
Miniature Beekeeper collects the propolis Miniature A frame and scraped propolis Miniature Filtration of propolis Miniature Propolis paste Miniature Propolis under various forms: liquid, powder, lozenges, capsules
  1. Scraping frameworks and put in the freezer: The harvest of raw propolis is executed by direct scraping of frameworks and internal walls of superhive or by the fitting of propolis grids on the hive. The bee has this particular reflex to plug the interstices of the grids with this resin. The beekeeper collects by the end of the season and stored it in the freezer.
  2. Detachment of frozen propolis: With the cold effect, propolis becomes brittle and can be easily crumbled from its support. It is during winter season that beekeeper prefer to harvest his propolis, whether it is from collector or by direct scraping of the superhive and frames.
  3. Recovery of raw propolis: In the end, it is a complex substance containing many impurities, which is recovered from the hive. Raw propolis contains on average nearly 40% of waste: wood scrap, dead bees, plant residues, and sometimes studs ... Propolis collected constitute the gross fraction of product containing impurities and will undergo a carefully sorting before any other use. In order to obtain a high quality, we must choose only French propolis batches from various French regions, which allows due to the chemical variability of propolis, to obtain by assembling homogenous batches containing a maximum of active compounds. The selection is made first by macroscopic observation of samples, with experience, eliminates the products of inferior quality and doubtful profile. Then a range of chemical tests are made, ensuring optimum activity: absence of heavy metals and pesticides, verifying the presence of flavonoids, organic acids and polyphenols necessary for therapeutic activity of propolis.
  4. Filtration of propolis: All these foreign particles will be eliminated for and optimal use and availability of this fabulous product.
  5. Propolis preparation under different forms: Liquid extract, gum, powder... ready to be incorporated in the propolis based preparation! During publishing results of molecular tests, they will follow the purification of raw propolis according to patented technique by some laboratories (such as Apimab for example). It is dissolved in an alcoholic base. Then by centrifugation and decanting, the impurities are removed from the ethanol extract containing the active fraction of propolis that is known more commonly soft extract. In Apimab, 2 alcoholic extracts are used:
    • EADP up to 43% of active ingredient
    • EALP to up 14% of active ingredient
    These two extracts are used within the company to the preparation of many phyto-pharmaceutical products, and are incorporated into finished products according to manufacturing processes developed on the occasion of research and development actions of laboratories. Only experience and perseverance allow understanding the propolis behavior. And this information is essential to the standard extracts production and the manufacturing of stable products with rich and active ingredients.

Propolis history into the world

Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Mayans...: and thousands of years, men have recourse to hive products for preventive, curative and obviously alimentary purposes. Empirically we found many traces of the use of honey in the disease of the ENT sphere. It is also recognized for many years, fortifying and hypotensive properties of pollen and royal jelly.

During antiquity

Less known than honey, propolis has been discovered and used since ancient times. Aristotle considered it as a remedy for skin diseases, wounds and suppuration. Aristotle had already considered Propolis as a remedy for skin affections, wounds and festering.

In Ancient Egypt (-3200 to -1100 BC)

The earliest evidence of use of propolis probably is dated from the era of ancient Egypt, where it was used for its preservative and aromatic properties in the holy ritual of mummification and embalming. This shows the powerful conservative properties of propolis.

In Ancient Greece (-700 to -600 BC)

Propolis was also known at the time of ancient Greece. Moreover it is during this period that was born the word propolis, the prefix pro means before, ahead and polis: the city. According to comments, this material still ill-known from Greek clever, stood at the entrance of the hive, and stood as a protective barrier in way of chicanes, preventing pests and others from entering the city of bees. We note in particular that Aristotle mentions it in his work History of Animals and already notice about its antiseptic and healing properties, describing it as a remedy for skin diseases, wounds and suppuration.

In Ancient Rome

At Rome, propolis is more expensive than honey. Every legionnaire had one piece during military campaigns. Pline said that it withdrew the sting, reduced swelling, decreased nerve pain, healed ulcers, abscesses and boils...

In South America

At the same time, on the South American continent, Inca seemed to use propolis for its anti-microbial properties to fight against the disease, which causes fever.

In Eastern Europe

Few medical works from the 12th century mention that propolis was part of the preparation of many medicines fighting against minor infections of the skin and the respiratory system.

In France

In France, during the 18th century it was used as a drug for wounds. Its popularity will increase at the beginning of our century because it will be used almost exclusively to heal the wounds of injured at the time of the Boer War.

In France, during the 18th and 19th centuries, we have found some diffuse traces of its use in the treatment of wounds, particularly on the battlefields of the Napoleonic campaigns.

In Africa

It is especially during the colonial war that pitted the Boers, Dutch people of South Africa, against the British soldiers between 1880 and 1902 that the use of propolis peaked because of the beneficial results it engendered in part of the disinfection, of anesthesia and the healing of wounds of war.

In Russia

During In World War II, the soviet clinics routinely used it with success.

From nowdays

Then, without had been continued, the use of propolis has since lasted thousands of years. That is the reason why today this product arouses such an important curiosity in the scientific community that is working since the 1970s to demonstrate and reveal the secrets of a substance that continues and will not cease to amaze us.

Current practices in human medicine were handed down today. Research and numerous studies have been conducted over the past thirty years and more than satisfactory results have attracted the interest of science.


Websites on Propolis

Website of Apimab Laboratoires (for professional contact)

Company specialized in the purification of Propolis, in creating suitable extracts for manufactured products

Avenue du Lac
34800 Clermont-l'Hérault
+334 67 96 38 14

Website of brand Propolia (for professional contact and individual)

Nearly 70 products based on propolis and other bee products, for many uses

Avenue du Lac
34800 Clermont-l'Hérault
+334 67 96 38 14

Where to buy Propolis (in addition to your local beekeeper !)

Websites of resellers

  • La boutique de l'Abeille Website of Miellerie du Salagou, located in Herault -
    +334 67 88 47 66
    To get information about your local Propolia® retailers, please contact Apimab Laboratoires by phone (+33 467 96 38 14) or email (

Where to buy Propolis (in addition to your local beekeeper !)

Direct accesses