It’s Not Honey, But Bees Make It, and It Fights Cancer

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Bees use propolis to fight infection.While honey has recently gained a reputation as an excellent health food, there is another bee-produced product that may do even more. Propolis—a substance bees manufacture from tree sap and buds, and other plant sources—is very rich in the antioxidants that can help prevent cancer.

For centuries, people believed that propolis was used by bees to plug holes in the hive. But, more recent research indicates that bees promote ventilation in their hives and use propolis for other purposes. Perhaps the most important use is as an antibacterial medium. In fact, propolis works so well as a sterilizer that if a small animal like a mouse makes its way into the hive and dies, the bees will cover its body in propolis to prevent it from rotting and potentially infecting the hive.

Since it is made of concentrated vegetable matter, propolis is full of antioxidants that can help fight the growth of human cancer cells. Researchers in Brazil recently analyzed red bee propolis to determine if it had antioxidant or even antitumor properties.

They found that propolis is rich in the types of polyphenols that could eliminate free radicals before they have a chance to damage cells. In fact, these polyphenols exerted cytotoxic activity against both throat and cervical cancers.

And, they also found that Brazilian red propolis exerts antibacterial, antifungal, and antiradical activities, independently of its plant source and chemical composition. They suggest these remarkable qualities are because of the specific role propolis plays in the hive. Because propolis acts as a “chemical weapon” for bees against pathogens and other harmful microorganisms, it could do much the same in humans.

Bee propolis is available as an over-the-counter supplement, and now has even more serious clinical research to back up claims homeopathic medicine has made on its behalf for decades.

Sources for Today’s Articles:
It’s Not Honey, But Bees Make It, and It Fights Cancer
Frozza, C.O., et al., “Chemical Characterization, Antioxidant and Cytotoxic Activities of Brazilian Red Propolis,” Food Chem. Toxicol. November 19, 2012; pii: S0278-6915(12)00820-4.