Propolis and cancer

Christer Sundqvist

Propolis is nature’s own antibiotic substance and a potent immune system booster for the cancer patient. Propolis is a sticky substance gathered by the bees from the leaf buds and bark of trees. It is furthermore combined with the bees’ secretions.


In use since ancient times

Propolis has been used since ancient times for healing wounds, ulcers and sores. Healing with honey and propolis has been practiced in Europe, the Middle East and Asia for centuries. Already in the 17th century, propolis was listed as an official drug in the London pharmacopoeias.


More than 500 compounds have been isolated and identified in bee propolis such as more than 180 phytochemicals including flavonoids (potent anti-oxidants), organic acids and their derivatives: anti-fungal, phytosterols, and essential oil compounds. These compounds are known to have biological activities such as anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antimutagentic, antihistamine, and anti-allergenic properties.


Interestingly, bees usually carry waste out of and away from the hive. However, if a small mouse finds its way into the hive and dies there, bees may be unable to carry it out.  In that case, they attempt instead to seal the carcass in propolis, essentially mummifying it and making it odorless and harmless.


The health benefits of bee products are much heralded but insufficiently researched. There is evidence that respiratory infections respond to propolis when combined with vitamin C. Propolis is very effective applied topically to both prevent infections and treat infections of wounds and burns. A study comparing Brazilian propolis cream to a silver sulfadiazine salve treating minor burns showed those using the propolis cream showed less inflammation and more rapid closure.


The primary use of propolis has been in immune system enhancement and control of infections. Propolis stimulates the immune system, according to preliminary human studies.


Propolis is very effective against gram positive bacteria (Staphylococcus, Clostridium, Corynebacterium, Streptococcus, Klebsiella and Pseudomonas), but it is less effective against gram negative bacteria (Escherichia, Shigella, Salmonella). This means propolis may or may not work for you depending on which bacteria are causing the problem.


Propolis can be used as a mouthwash. A dropper full of propolis tincture is squirted into small amount of water. It is effective against common oral bacteria that may cause bad breath, periodontal disease such as gingivitis and periodontitis, tooth decay and prevent plaque build-up.


Propolis is expressing anti-fungal properties and reports are available that it is effective against Candida, Microsporum and Trichtophyton. It appears to have anti-viral effects. Thus it is effective against cold virus and herpes simplex virus including cold sores and genital herpes.


Anti-tumoral activity of propolis

Propolis has shown anti-tumoral activity in animal models and cell cultures. It inhibits DNA synthesis in tumour cells, induces apoptosis (cell death) of tumour cells, and activates macrophages to produce factors capable of regulating the function of B-, T- and NK-cells, respectively. Moreover, flavonoids  from propolis play a protective role against the toxicity of the chemotherapeutic agents or radiation.


Artepillin C, isolated from propolis, was reported to induce cytotoxicity of carcinomas and malignant melanoma cells by apoptosis, abortive mitosis and mass necrosis. Caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) and chrysin, bioactive components of propolis, have been shown to have significant biological and pharmacological properties that include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as anti-cancer properties.


The mechanism of propolis-induced apoptosis appears to be independent of the kind of cancer cells studied, but dependent on the concentration of the propolis extract. Thus, several studies have reported that propolis induces apoptosis through the release of cytochrome c from the mitochondria to the cytosol, through the caspase cascade and TRAIL signals.


Propolis extract mixed with water is a key ingredient in the PESHLA method. Clinical studies are in progress to verify the effects of propolis in the prevention and treatment of cancer and other diseases.




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Christer Sundqvist. The PESHLA method., 29.1.2020

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