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I didn’t have an upbringing that I would deem as conventional. Don’t get me wrong, my brother and I have all of our vaccinations, we used store bought soap and shampoo, and we ate a lot of pre-packaged Hamburger Helper.
Like, a lot of it.
But we also rubbed tobacco on our bee stings for pain relief, we ate little sugar balls from the asian market to relieve headaches, and we used bee propolis at any hint of a cold. Although I don’t carry on the first two traditions I still use bee propolis. It is a popular remedy in Brazil that, up until a few years ago, I had completely forgot it existed. Sorry, Mom. My mother came over and saw that I was coughing and, being a mom, she began rummaging through my medicine cabinet. “Where’s your propolis?” I don’t have any mom. I don’t use that hippy stuff. Ha. Ha. Man, was THAT a mistake or what!?! I got a nice verbal beating for that one.
Still totally worth it.
All jokes aside, bee propolis is a great alternative to sugary cough drops. It gets the job done without having to fill your body with artificial chemicals and dyes, and you get the added benefit of the healing power that only bees can provide. My recommended brand posted is down below or you can check it out here.
What is bee propolis?
Bee propolis is a mixture of honey and propolis extract. Okay, what is propolis extract? It’s a mixture that honeybees create to repair and seal small cracks in their hive by mixing beeswax, saliva, and resin(or sap) from trees. Besides filling in cracks in the hive, bees also use it to embalm any unwanted (recently dead) intruders who may have entered the hive; it effectively stops the decay process which eliminates unwanted bacterial growth that may lead to an infection in the hive. Crazy, huh? It is naturally hard and brittle but when heated becomes soft and gummy-like and its total composition is around 50% plant resin, 30% waxes, 10% essential and aromatic oils, 5% pollen, and 5% various organic compounds.
Propolis is grown and harvest much like honey is. Bee keepers collect it by using a ‘propolis trap’ which looks like a rubber version of an air vent and fits just under the lid. The bees feel compelled to fill the little vent-like slits with propolis extract and then, come harvest time, the bee keeper removes the propolis traps and scrapes off the propolis. No bees were harmed in the making of propolis…well, at least theoretically.
Propolis has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. The Egyptians used propolis in embalming its dead, much like when bees embalm its intruders. The Incas used propolis as a fever reducer and the Greeks and Romans used it as a wound antiseptic. As you can see, it has many uses.
How does it work?
Ok, this is the part of the post where I get into the science of things. This is my favorite part of all my ‘natural remedy’ posts becuase it’s where I get to separate old wives tales from facts. Let’s get started.
So propolis is a tricky thing. Bees collect sap(or resin) from plants in their local habitat which creates propolis unique to that habitat. This means that propolis from different regions has different compositions depending on the habitat that the resin was collected from. The principle compounds in propolis are flavonoids, aromatic acids, diterpenic acids and phenolic compounds. But, the composition of these compounds changes depending on geographic region. Despite this, all propolis displays identical biological activity! You guys, this is profound!! Despite evolving in different geographic regions, bees, as a species, have found a way to create a compound that has different compositions but DOES THE SAME THING! That’s cool right!?
So how does this affect the propolis that we us? Well, this means that propolis from different regions are better at treating different aliments. For coughs and sore throat, the best propolis, in my opinion, is something called green propolis. This propolis is made from Brazilian bees and has been found to have the highest amount of antioxidants than any other propolis extracts due to the Rosemary field, a native Brazilian plant.
How do I use it?
Propolis naturally comes in a hard brittle form. For cough and sore throat remedy, it is made into liquid form and contained in a spray bottle. Think mouth freshener. I use it first thing in the morning (1 spray) when my throat hurts the most and then use it as needed throughout the day. I find each spray will soothe a sore throat for about an hour or so and each spray will hold off about 3 “cough sessions”.
My personal recommendation is BeeLife Propolis Spray Mint and Pomegranate flavor. This is green propolis from Brazil and it’s the brand that I used as a child and still the brand I use today. One difference is that when I was a child, they didn’t come in flavors like they do today. Propolis with no flavor has a awful aftertaste. Thankfully today they come in 3 flavors; Mint and Pomegranate, Ginger, and Mint and Malva.
What brand of propolis do you use? Write it in the comment section below so other readers can check out your suggestions!