Posted by: Glow-worm PJ21 MAR 2012
Propolis is a reddish brown substance produced by bees and derived from resinous substances collected from the buds and bark of trees, and it is used as a cement to stabilise the internal structure of a hive, and make it more defensible by sealing gaps that may be exploited by intruders. Its composition depends on its source, but a typical sample comprises approximately 50 per cent resinous substances, 25 per cent wax, 10 per cent essential oils and 5 per cent pollen.
Its antiseptic properties have been known for thousands of years. It was used in wound healing by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, who also used it in the embalming process for mummies.
Many laboratory studies and clinical trials in Eastern Europe and China have demonstrated effectiveness against bacterial, fungal and viral infections, including inhibition of the Hong Kong influenza and herpes simplex viruses. The antibacterial effects are exerted through several mechanisms. It inhibits bacterial cell division, disorganises cytoplasm and cell membranes, inhibits protein synthesis and causes partial bacteriolysis.
Recent studies in China have concentrated on the efficacy of propolis in cancer prevention and treatment. One of its constituents, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), is of particular interest.
CAPE stimulates the immune system by inhibiting cellular growth and increasing the presence of certain cells like T-lymphocytes. It can also prevent cellular “mistakes” in healthy cells and induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancerous cells, and has been shown to be cytotoxic to various tumour cell lines and to have antitumour properties. Studies have shown that it can arrest the growth of human leukaemia cells and different oral tumour cells.
It has also been shown to significantly decrease cardiac toxicity of doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic agent used to treat a range of cancers. Much research continues into possible applications.