Researchers uncover anti-carcinogenic potential in Indian propolis
04/16/2020 // Evangelyn Rodriguez // Views

Propolis is a sticky natural product used by honey bees to build and insulate their honey combs. It has a yellowish brown to black color, a pleasant smell due to a mixture of honey, wax and vanilla, but a naturally bitter taste.

There are many health benefits attributed to the use of propolis, most of which come from its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. But research has found that some compounds in propolis also have properties that make it an effective anti-cancer medicine.

In a recent study, researchers at Bharati Vidyapeeth University in India evaluated the anti-cancer activity and biosafety of Indian propolis in vitro and in vivo. This propolis was produced by local bees from the Bharatpur region of Rajasthan, India.

The researchers found that Indian propolis is rich in flavonoids and phenolic compounds that make it an even better anti-cancer agent than the chemotherapy drug, 5-fluorouracil. They described their findings in an article published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine.

Indian propolis is a natural anti-carcinogenic agent

According to the researchers, propolis has a wide range of medicinal properties, thanks to its abundance in phytonutrients. The most notable of these plant compounds are polyphenols, flavonoids and the anti-cancer agent, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE).

CAPE is a bioactive polyphenol that is present in many plants. However, it is mostly obtained from the bee product, propolis. Studies suggest that CAPE has antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can also enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs, making it an effective adjuvant to cancer therapies.


For their analysis, the researchers extracted, optimized and standardized Indian propolis using a newly developed and validated liquid chromatography method that simultaneously estimated its caffeic acid, apigenin, quercetin and CAPE content.

Then, they screened the standardized ethanolic extract of Indian propolis (EEIP) for in vitro cell toxicity, anti-carcinogenic activity (against Dalton’s Lymphoma ascites [DLA] cells), hemolytic (red blood cell-rupturing) effect and pesticidal potential.

The researchers found that EEIP contains more flavonoids, polyphenolic compounds and other phytonutrients, except for caffeic acid, than Indian propolis extracts obtained using other solvents.

EEIP also showed better anticancer activities than CAPE alone on MCF-7 (breast cancer) and HT-29 (human colorectal adenocarcinoma) cells in vitro. Meanwhile, in vivo, EEIP showed better anti-carcinogenic effects against DLA than 5-fluorouracil. It also proved to be non-hemolytic.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that the ethanolic extract of Indian propolis is a safe anti-carcinogenic agent that can be further developed into a natural anti-cancer medicine.

Other medicinal uses of propolis

Propolis was regarded by ancient civilizations as a natural medicine for a variety of ailments. While the Ancient Greeks used it to treat abscesses, the Ancient Assyrians used it on tumors and wounds to prevent infection and accelerate the healing process.

In Ancient Egypt, propolis is known as an anti-putrefactive and anti-pyretic (fever-reducing) agent. It was also used by the Ancient Romans as a mouth disinfectant, an antiseptic and a wound healing agent. Even today, folk healers still use propolis to treat burns, sore throat and stomach ulcer.

Here are some other ways propolis can be used medicinally:

  • As a treatment for cold sores – Propolis is said to have anti-viral properties, which can kill the virus that causes cold sores.
  • As a remedy for genital herpes – According to a study, the flavonoids in propolis can help heal sores caused by genital herpes.
  • As a medicine for gastrointestinal disorders – Research also suggests that some chemical components of propolis can kill Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that causes stomach inflammation and ulcers.
  • As a preventive agent against cavities – The anti-microbial properties of propolis can inhibit the growth of oral bacteria like Streptococcus mutans.
  • As a treatment for diabetes – According to an animal study, propolis can regulate blood sugar and the metabolism of glucose in diabetic rats.

Propolis, as an oral supplement, is available in various forms (i.e., tablets, capsules, extracts, powder and lozenges). It is also used as an ingredient in topical ointments, creams and lotions. While propolis supplements are considered generally safe for consumption, they may slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding in some people. Hence people with bleeding disorders or are allergic to honey and other bee products are advised not to consume or use propolis.

Learn more about this amazing natural product at

Sources include: 1 2 3

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