Propolis exhibits antioxidant and anti-microbial properties that are beneficial to human health

Growing concerns about health has caused the scientific community to focus their interest on investigating functional foods which contribute to boosting the prevention and reduction of the risk of suffering from certain illnesses. The benefits of this product lies in its composition and, thus, its study, identification and subsequent extraction provides a useful tool which enables making high added-value products, given their high concentration of biologically active compounds.

Over the past 5 years, Neiker-Tecnalia, in collaboration with the Fundaci-n Kalitatea, apicultural associations in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, honey producing plants and Basque governmental bodies, has undertaken R+D projects associated with the beekeeping sector. Various products derived from the beehive have been studied and propolis has proved to be a product having beneficial results for human health.

Propolis (Pro-before, Polis-city = defence of the city), is the resinous substance that bees gather from the leaf buds of trees and certain vegetables. The bee gathers this and transforms it in order to disinfect the beehive, seal cracks, build panels, as well as using it as a microbiocidal agent, disinfectant and also for embalming intruders otherwise difficult to expel due to their size. Propolis is, thus, directly responsible for guaranteeing the asepsis of the beehives, locations prone to developing viruses and bacteria, given their conditions of temperature and humidity.

Although the precise composition of propolis depends on the zone of beehive activity (climate, surrounding vegetation, and so on), as a rough guide, we can mention the following: resins and balsams (50-60%), waxes (20-25%), essential oils (5-10%), pollen (5%), others (minerals, enzymes, etc. 5%).

The fraction of resins and balsams is the one that contains most of the biologically active compounds, mainly phenolic ones derived from the vegetable kingdom and having proven pharmacological abilities. Due to the great number of active ingredients present, tincture (alcoholic extract) of propolis is well-known and used for its therapeutic properties, principally for its stimulant action on the organism's defence system. Notable amongst its properties are its antioxidant and anti-microbial action, its activity as a stimulant and its healing, analgesic, anaesthetic and anti-inflammatory activity.

The study of the biological activity of this product was undertaken following two lines of work: (a) a study of the antioxidant activity and (b) a study of the anti-microbial action.

Source: Elhuyar Fundazioa

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