How to Use Propolis.
Propolis, or bee glue, is a mixture of beeswax and resins collected by honey bees from leaf buds, sap flows and flowers. It may be green, red, black or whitish in colour, but is normally dark brown and quite sticky above 20oC. Under cooler conditions it is hard and brittle.
Honey bees commonly use propolis to line the internal surfaces of the hive, and to repair and seal small holes and cracks. It is also believed to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory qualities and has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Propolis also contains potent antioxidants. Today, a variety of products containing propolis are marketed as beneficial to boosting immune function and general health, as well as to treat coughs and throat irritations, and infections. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have concluded that propolis is ‘possibly effective’ for treating the herpes virus, and for assisting the healing process after oral surgery; there is additional evidence to support these findings, and propolis is also being investigated for the potential development of a variety of new drugs.
Propolis is a common additive in skin care and beauty products and can be purchased in pharmacies and health food stores in the form of creams, ointments and lotions, as well as tablets and capsules. But there are also several simple recipes incorporating propolis that can be prepared at home and have practical and convenient applications for domestic use. Raw propolis is readily available from your friendly neighbourhood beekeeper!
Propolis Ointment or Salve.
This ointment can be applied to minor cuts, bruises, burns and abrasions. It has antimicrobial properties and may also be advantageous for acne sufferers as well as for improving the general health of the skin.
The most basic recipe consists of melting equal amounts of propolis and beeswax in a double burner or microwave, and then stirring the mixture continuously until it cools and hardens. The addition of honey and various essential oils such as lavender and tea tree may confer a softer consistency as well as other healing benefits; liquid paraffin is also used in some recipes. The mixture should be stored in glass jars.
This can also be applied on minor cuts and abrasions – think of it basically as propolis ‘extract’ and a natural alternative to iodine. It may also as an antioxidant. A couple of drops added to drinking water may be used to relieve sore throats.
The propolis must first be powdered or broken into small pieces. A number of substances may be used to extract the propolis essence, including ethanol, glycol and vodka or grain alcohol. Olive oil and water may also be used but dissolve much less of the propolis.
Ethanol is highly volatile, so the tincture is best prepared at room temperature. Add 100g of powdered propolis to 400ml of a 70% solution of ethanol; place in a coloured-glass bottle and shake well. Store in a darkened position for approximately two weeks, shaking occasionally, and then strain through a paper filter. Glycol tinctures are prepared in a similar fashion and are for external use only.
To prepare a tincture using vodka or grain alcohol, place equal amounts of propolis and the alcohol in a lidded, ovenproof bottle. Heat to 90oC, shaking the bottle occasionally, and wait for the propolis to dissolve; then remove and strain.
Olive oil is capable of extracting a limited amount of propolis essence, whereas only the hydrosoluble components can be dissolved in water. However, a water-based tincture is also suitable for drinking, and nevertheless has antifungal and antibacterial benefits. Add 50g of propolis to 100ml of water. Boil for one hour, then cool and filter.
Propolis is also used in the manufacture of car wax and has long been an essential ingredient in the varnish used for stringed instruments, imbuing a lustrous, durable sheen. Apparently, propolis is responsible for imparting an attractive golden-yellow hue. Propolis can be used to create a superior varnish that will enhance any woodworking project.
Dissolve four parts blonde shellac with one part propolis and one part manila copal (a soft resin available from specialty suppliers) in a solution of denatured alcohol. Seal the mixture in a glass jar and allow to stand at room temperature for at least a week, whilst periodically rotating or shaking gently. Then strain through several layers of cheesecloth or nylon stocking prior to use.