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Did you know that honey isn’t the only thing that bees make? Bees also produce a compound called propolis from the sap on needle-leaved trees or evergreens. When they combine the sap with their own discharges and beeswax, they create a sticky, greenish-brown product used as a coating to build their hives. This is propolis.
Thousands of years ago, ancient civilizations used propolis for its medicinal properties. Greeks used it to treat abscesses. Assyrians put it on wounds and tumors to fight infection and help the healing process. Egyptians used it to embalm mummies.
The composition of propolis can vary depending on the location of the bees and what trees and flowers they have access to. For example, propolis from Europe won’t have the same chemical makeup as propolis from Brazil. This can make it difficult for researchers to come to general conclusions about its health benefits.
The National Institutes of Health rates propolis as “possibly effective” for treating cold sores, genital herpes, and post-surgery mouth pain. Propolis is also used to make cough drops for cough and throat irritation. Currently, there is “insufficient evidence” to rate the effectiveness of propolis in treating other conditions.