Why Propolis Might Be the Next Big Bee Byproduct

The bee-made substance has long been popular in Eastern Europe as a form of alternative medicine. Now, it's making its way into tinctures and facials Stateside.

Carly Stein had been getting sick ever since she could remember. The former investment banker grew up plagued by bouts of tonsillitis, sore throats, and constant visits to nose and throat doctors. “I missed a lot of school as a kid,” she says over Zoom. When Stein studied abroad in Italy during college, she came down with tonsillitis. She spoke to the pharmacist in Florence, explaining her sensitivity to medications. They recommended propolis, a sticky mixture created by bees, composed of wax and resin with healing properties. “She gave me this little tincture. I have to put five drops in water and take it a few times a day and I started using it. In five days, I made a full recovery.” Years later, in 2016, she created her company Beekeeper’s Natural, specializing in propolis that comes in forms such as throat sprays and powders.

For centuries, since 300 B.C to be specific, honey-related ingredients like propolis have been touted as a magical cure-all, especially in Eastern Europe where it has remained a form of alternative medicine. Go to any food bazaar in Eastern Europe and you’re bound to stumble upon one booth that exclusively sells a cornucopia of honey variations. There is most likely a tiny section dedicated to propolis, too, in liquid, powder, or granular forms. While honey and propolis are related and have their respective health benefits, the two bee-produced products are different. Propolis is considered “bee glue,” a sticky mix that bees collect from plants and buds. Bees use propolis to repair the hive, seal cracks, and create a protective barrier against predators.

When it comes to the human body, propolis is considered an aid in gut health, which can affect everything from the skin and the immune system. “Flavonoids, contained in the propolis, can help stimulate the growth and activity of digestive microflora,” says nutritionist Mikaela Rueben, “as well as help the body’s natural detoxification process.”

Dr. Whitney Bowes agrees that those centuries-old rumors of propolis benefits have truth to them, specifically when it comes to our microbiomes, communities of bacteria that help support our metabolism and immune systems. “Propolis seems to enhance our systemic immune system. So it seems to rebalance our microbiome and have a positive effect on our immune health,” she tells Vogue. “About 70-80% of our immune system resides in the gut, so it’s no surprise that our diet can impact our overall immune health and the health of distant organs including our skin.”

This story originally appeared on: Vogue - Author:Liana Satenstein