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About Bee Propolis & Bee Allergies

About Bee Propolis & Bee Allergies About Bee Propolis & Bee Allergies


Propolis is a resin-like substance that honey bees collect from the buds of poplar and cone-bearing trees. It is dark brown and quickly becomes incorporated into the bee hive. Used by the Egyptians for mummification, the compound has a long history of medical use. However, propolis may be unsafe for people with certain medical conditions.


Propolis has natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activities and these have been the basis of health claims. It has been used topically to treat skin conditions, wounds and burns. Propolis is an ingredient in some types of lip balms, cosmetics, lotions and ointments, shampoos, conditioners and toothpastes. It has also been used internally for the treatment of gastrointestinal conditions, infections, cancers of the nose and throat and for inflammatory conditions.


The National Institutes of Health has found that an ointment of 3 percent propolis seems to significantly improve healing of recurrent genital lesions caused by herpes simplex virus type 2. Propolis is also potentially effective for aiding healing and inflammation after mouth surgery. Although propolis is used in natural medicine to treat a variety of infections or diseases, there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate its effectiveness in these contexts.

Bee Allergy

Approximately 0.1 to 0.2 percent of the population is allergic to bee stings. Although rare, this allergy can produce a serious and even life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. If you have a known allergy to bees, avoid products containing propolis. Signs of allergy may include hives, swelling, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and headaches. A severe reaction may result in dizziness, unconsciousness, difficulty in breathing, swelling in the throat, low blood pressure and shock. These symptoms require emergency medical care.

Other Side Effects

Even if you are not allergic to bees, you may react to propolis itself. Avoid propolis if you have an allergy to conifers, poplars, Peru balsam or salicylates. A study by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that between 1.2 and 6.6 percent of patients are sensitive to propolis and show symptoms of dermatitis after skin patch testing. Some people have experienced mouth ulcers and irritation after taking lozenges containing propolis. People with asthma should avoid propolis as it may worsen symptoms. In addition, the National Institutes of Health recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women avoid propolis since there is little information about its safety for these groups.

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