What is propolis? Propolis is a resinous substance that honey bees make from tree sap, used to seal and clean the honey bee hive. Propolis is in effect part of the colony’s immune system in that propolis kills germs that threaten the health of the colony. Propolis is also used to seal the hive. In the Summer you will typically find when you lift the inner cover up that it’s been glued to the top bars of the hive, so beekeepers scrape this sticky mess off the bars. When the weather turns cold, this material turns brittle. Propolis is interesting stuff!
The honey bee is incredibly hygenic, and it’s easy to forget. I’ve had bee hive woodware that lost their honey bee occupants during winter. Once spring comes and it warms up that dark space (filled with who knows what plus dead bees), it gets really funky inside there. But once you add the honey bees they clean everything up until it smells healthy. (In fact good beekeepers use their nose to assess the health of the colony.) The honey bee uses propolis to clean the hive. For example, each time a new adult bee emerges from the comb, the bees coat the inside of the cell with propolis. Over time the honey comb gets darker as more propolis gets added. If a mouse sneaks into a hive during winter, the honey bees will sting the mouse to kill it, and then coat the mouse with propolis to prevent disease.
Propolis has anti-bacterial properties and has been used as medicine for thousands of years. It can be taken orally or topically for wounds. It can be crushed and placed into capsules, or it can be dissolved in a solvent (typically alcohol). Medical science continues to study the health benefits but more research is needed. I do not make any claims about health benefits (that is way outside my pay grade!) but I do want to offer this as a product to you.
Bee Culture produced a 2-part article about propolis, which is what I used as a guide to produce my propolis tincture. Learn about the benefits of propolis here. My propolis tincture comes in 1 ounce eye dropper bottles. It’s really interesting stuff but be careful what you get it on. Essentially it’s like tree sap dissolved in alcohol, so if you spill this on something, once the alcohol evaporates you’re left with a slightly sticky mess. Fortunately, it can be cleaned up with paper towels or re-dissolved in alcohol. But drops placed on your tongue are no problem at all for some reason.