People have trusted the antiseptic and healing properties of propolis for centuries. Propolis –“nature’s best kept secret from the beehive”- is a resin-like substance collected by honeybees from the leaf buds and barks of conifer and poplar trees and used as caulk to seal gaps and holes in hives. The use of propolis on wounds has been shown to improve healing and boost skin immunity. Test tube studies have found propolis to be active against a variety of micro-organisms, including bacteria and viruses. These findings have been the basis for most propolis research in humans and animals. 1
It makes sense that propolis is now being touted as a natural solution for acne. Acne occurs when the pores become clogged with dead skin cells, bacteria and sebum. Once the pores are clogged, they can easily become infected leading to swelling, redness and even pain. Propolis is an ideal solution for acne due to its ability to reduce inflammation and eliminate bacteria. Scientific research supports the ability of propolis to inhibit bacteria associated with acne. In a recent laboratory study, a team of Bulgarian researchers found that propolis extract was successful at killing most strains of anaerobic bacteria, including P. acnes - the bacteria responsible for acne inflammation.2
Inflammation-causing bacteria that live on your skin can exacerbate the condition, causing the formation of nodules and cysts, which can be painful and lead to permanent scarring. Propolis does indeed have antiseptic properties; the flavonoids in propolis may be responsible for its antimicrobial effects as well as other alleged health benefits.3 when used on acne and clogged pores, propolis removes the bacteria that are responsible for clogging the pores. Test tube studies also suggest that propolis has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-preventing properties.4 This anti-inflammatory and antioxidant property helps to sooth inflammation, which reduces the swelling and redness that commonly accompany acne.
Consumers should be aware that propolis might cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to bee products like honey or royal jelly. Women who are pregnant or nursing should also consult a physician before using propolis for acne.
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1 Grange JM, Davey RW. Antibacterial properties of propolis (bee glue). J R Soc Med . 1990;83:159-160.
3 Magro-Filho O, de Carvalho ACP. Application of propolis to dental sockets and skin wounds. J Nihon Univ Sch Dent . 1990;32:4-13.
4 Burdock GA. Review of the biological properties and toxicity of bee propolis (propolis). Food Chem Toxicol . 1998;36:347-363.