May 8, 2023

Propolis is a mixture of resin and beeswax that keeps a beehive sticking together.

Propolis is one of the most complex and potent substances ever studied in nature. It contains over 350 identified compounds, and has been shown to be both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.

It is one of the most potent natural antioxidants, and some studies have even shown it can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

But how exactly is it made, and what gives it these properties?

How Propolis Is Made

Bees make honey.

In order for bees to make honey, they need to forage and acquire nectar from plants and flowers, bring it back to the hive, and process it into honey.

In every colony, however, some bees have an additional job. These bees make trips to trees and look for resins that plants use to protect new leaves or that they secrete when they’ve been damaged in some way.

Why are these resins sought after by bees?

Because these resins are actually part of the immune response for plants. They contain antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral substances which protect plants against pests and other unwanted parasites.

Foraging bees will travel up to 5 km to find these resins and bring them back to the colony.

Why? Because the colony’s survival depends on it!

Once they get it back to the hive, they combine it with beeswax, and this becomes a type of plaster they can use for “building” their hive.

This substance is known as propolis.

Propolis is used to hold all the pieces of the hive together, and to repair breaks and holes whenever needed.

Propolis is for more than just “building”

Researchers have always wondered why bees just couldn’t use beeswax.

It’s strong enough to hold together a hive, and bees can make it easily in abundance.

Why combine it with tree resin?

The answer is now much clearer after studying the substance for several decades.

We now know that propolis is able to kill a wide range of pathogens and germs that can cause disease and death in honey bees.

The reason honey bees combine resin with beeswax is it builds antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties into the hive itself.

Scientists have now proven that propolis is used by bees to “self-medicate” – essentially they’ve learned to use the plants around them as a type of pharmacy that protects them against sickness.

It’s only fitting (and understandable) that humans have ended up using bees products for medicinal purposes too, dating as far back as the Ancient Egyptians and beyond!

Is Propolis Good For You?

The majority of the compounds we have found in propolis are classed as polyphenols, which are a well-known antioxidant.

Propolis is also full of nutrients, namely Vitamins A, C, E, plus a variety of minerals and amino acids (proteins).

Just like it provides antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral protection to bees, it is shown in studies to do the same for humans, among other benefits.

This study showed that propolis can be a useful tool in treating wounds, similar to how manuka honey is used to hasten wound healing.

This study showed propolis could be a useful treatment for cold sores and genital herpes.

This study demonstrated that propolis could be an effective cancer treatment, and inhibited cancer cells from multiplying.

This study concluded that “Propolis is potentially useful in dentistry and oral health management based on available in vitroin vivo, and ex vivo studies, as well as human clinical trials.”

Finally, this study found that “bee products such as honey, propolis, and royal jelly are highly rich in active components such as flavonoids, phenolic acid, phenolic compounds, terpenes, and enzymes, which have biological functions in preventing some diseases and promoting good health.”

The truth is, humans have been using bee products as medicines and healing foods for millennia. Adding honey or propolis to your diet (barring any allergies you might have) should be a perfectly safe and healthy addition.

The easiest way to add propolis to your daily diet is to take it via capsule. Make sure you purchase from a reputed brand!

We recommend these propolis tabs from Comvita:


  • Propolis is a substance made by bees from beeswax and tree resin.
  • It is used by bees to build and protect the hive.
  • It has antifungal, antiviral and antimicrobial properties.
  • It protects bees from certain pathogens that are harmful to them.
  • It is a very strong antioxidant as it is full of polyphenols and flavanoids (similar to green tea).
  • Many studies have shown benefits to humans by consuming propolis, including enhanced immunity, antioxidant activity, dental health, wound healing, and even promising results with cancer.
  • You can buy propolis from Comvita, one of the world’s most reputable honey producers, by clicking here.

About the author 


I'm Erin, and my family has been raising bees for over two generations. We no longer raise bees on Manuka flowers, but it remains one of our favorites, and we eat it daily, among other honeys like Kamahi and Rata. Since Manuka has grown in popularity overseas in recent years, we thought we should educate people on the true benefits of Manuka and how to find quality Manuka honey. Haere mai to our site, written by us and designed by our brilliant computer whiz of a son, Byron. We hope you find it helpful!

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