What Is Propolis?

Propolis tablets, capsules, powder, lozenge, and tincture

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Propolis is a mixture of pollen and beeswax collected by bees from certain plants and trees. Rich in flavonoids, a class of antioxidants, propolis has a long history of use as a natural treatment for many health problems, but more research is needed in humans to support its use.

Although found in small quantities in honey, propolis is also widely available in supplement form. For example, propolis is used as an ingredient in certain products applied directly to the skin, such as ointments and creams. In addition, propolis is sometimes found in nasal sprays and throat sprays, as well as in mouthwash and toothpaste.

This article discusses the potential uses of propolis. It also covers the risk factors and side effects of taking this supplement.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement that has been tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean they are safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active Ingredient(s): Polyphenols, flavonoids
  • Alternate Name(s): Bee propolis, propolis resin, propolis wax, bee glue
  • Legal Status: Not currently regulated by the FDA
  • Suggested Dose: More research is needed on the appropriate dosage.
  • Safety Considerations: Do not take when pregnant or lactating. Do not take if taking medications that use the cytochrome P450 enzyme to break it down or warfarin. Do not take propolis with ginger, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, or nattokin.

Propolis Benefits and Uses

Purported propolis benefits are varied. It is said to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, antibacterial, and wound-healing qualities, all due to chemical compounds called flavonoids.

While studied for issues ranging from cavity control and core sores to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stomach ulcers, there simply is not enough research done on humans to support using propolis for these purposes.

The limited research that has been done on the use of propolis for oral, skin, and genital diseases has been inconclusive. Researchers attribute this to small sample sizes and how studies were organized and carried out.

Propolis can be applied topically (on your skin) or in supplement form.

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian nutritionist, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

What Are the Side Effects of Propolis?

Propolis may lead to side effects in some individuals. Due to a lack of research, little is known about propolis's short-term or long-term side effects. Stop using propolis and contact your healthcare provider if any side effects occur.

Do not use propolis if you are allergic to bee products (including honey). Propolis may slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders or during surgery. Stop taking propolis two weeks before surgery.

Propolis tablets

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Precautions

Pregnant or lactating individuals and children should not take propolis as not enough research has been done in these populations. Always speak with your healthcare provider before starting any type of supplement.

Dosage: How Much Propolis Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage is appropriate for your individual needs.

There is no recommended daily dose of propolis and there are not enough human studies to determine how much propolis should be taken to support health conditions. However, adults have used propolis in doses of 400 to 500 milligrams by mouth daily for up to 13 months. More research is needed on the appropriate dosage.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Propolis?

As a general guideline, never take more than the manufacturer's recommended dosage. If you experience side effects of any kind, stop taking propolis and speak with your healthcare provider.

Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with food, other supplements, and medications.

Propolis has been noted to have interactions with certain medications and herbal supplements, which include:

  • Medications that use an enzyme called cytochrome P450 to break them down: Propolis could change the effect of these medications.
  • Jantoven (warfarin): Propolis might decrease the effects of warfarin and increase the risk of blood clotting.
  • Garlic, ginger, ginkgo, ginseng, and nattokinase: Propolis might slow blood clotting, so taking it with other supplements with similar effects may increase the risk of bleeding.

Please check with your healthcare provider before using propolis if you have any questions or concerns.

How to Store Propolis

Store propolis according to the manufacturer's directions on the package. Discard as indicated on the packaging.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is propolis found in honey?

    A small amount of propolis may be found in certain kinds of honey.

  • Is propolis the same as beeswax?

    Bees make propolis from beeswax, saliva, and plant materials gathered. In the hive, propolis is used as a glue to close up small gaps, while beeswax is used to fill larger holes. While propolis is made from beeswax, they are not the same.

  • I am pregnant - can I take propolis?

    It is not recommended to take propolis when pregnant due to the lack of research within this population. Better be safe and wait.

Sources of Propolis & What to Look For

Propolis is available in many forms, including tablets, capsules, powder, extract, and lozenge. When used topically, it's found in ointments, creams, lotions, and other personal-care products. Propolis can be purchased online or at health food stores.

Remember that it is illegal for any company to market a dietary supplement product as a treatment or cure for a disease.

Summary

Propolis is a mixture of pollen and beeswax collected by bees from certain plants and trees. It is available in many forms and can be taken by mouth and applied to the skin. More research is needed on the health benefits of propolis, as many of its uses are not backed up by human research. Therefore, it is unlikely that you will need to take propolis in supplement form for any health reasons. However, if you are considering taking propolis for any reason, it is recommended to consult with your healthcare provider first.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Propolis.

  2. Castaldo S, Capasso F. Propolis, an old remedy used in modern medicine. Fitoterapia. 2002;73(1):S1-S6. doi:10.1016/S0367-326X(02)00185-5

  3. Sung SH, Choi GH, Lee NW, Shin BC. External use of propolis for oral, skin, and genital diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:8025752. doi:10.1155/2017/8025752

  4. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; 2012-. Bee products: beeswax, bee pollen, propolis.

Additional Reading

By Alena Clark, PhD
Alena Clark, PhD, is a registered dietitian and experienced nutrition and health educator

Originally written by Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process