There has been a lot written about certain functional foods which prevent or reduce the risk of suffering from certain illnesses. One of them, propolis, has been known about for ages and was just recently written up in a review published by Basque Research. The identification and extraction of propolis from beehives is an industry in Basque country (Spain) and it enables the development of high value products worldwide -- products with uniquely high concentrations of biologically active compounds.
Propolis is the resinous substance that bees gather from the leaf buds of trees and certain vegetables. They transform it and use it to disinfect the beehive, seal cracks, or to build panels. Propolis is also used by bees as an anti-microbial agent and embalming substance for intruders. Propolis is directly responsible for guaranteeing the aseptic nature of the beehive. Were it not for propolis, beehives would develop viruses and bacteria given their conditions of temperature and humidity.
Most of the promising biologically active compounds (those with proven pharmacological abilities) come from the fractions of resins and balsams this compound contains. Due to the great number of active ingredients, a tincture (alcoholic extract) of propolis is the most often-used delivery form for its therapeutic properties. Notable amongst its properties are its antioxidant and anti-microbial action; in Basque country, it has been shown to have healing, analgesic, anaesthetic and anti-inflammatory activities.
Testing in Basque country showed strong antioxidant properties for propolis. The antioxidant activity trials provided knowledge about the capacity of the product for neutralizing free radicals. These radicals represent damaged molecules and are capable of causing damage at cell level --causing the onset of future degenerative illnesses, such as cancer, Alzeheimer, and so on.
Propolis also shows strong antimicrobial properties, and was tested against a variety of microbes. Microbial growth was shown to be inhibited in the presence of different concentrations of propolis. The minimum inhibitory concentrations were produced at very low concentrations of propolis, thus corroborating the high antimicrobial potential of the product.
It is my belief that propolis is another of nature's tools to protect humankind from the continued onslaught of new and nastier microorganisms.