Propolis uses and recipes
Propolis is valuable both internally and externally. It has excellent antiseptic properties. It can be used either dry or as a tincture. Propolis should always be collected very carefully to avoid getting bits of wood and hive dirt mixed in with it. It should smell aromatic and pleasant and the small pieces collected should not be crushed together into a ball. Store it carefully in a clean dry container.
Propolis can be used for a wide range of problems. Fresh or powdered propolis can be chewed and swallowed for all types of stomach problems and sore throats. A small piece of propolis applied directly to the source of an aching tooth will relieve pain. Propolis can be chewed or gently warmed in hot water to become soft then applied to become soft then applied to an affected part and covered with a clean dressing. It can be used this way for boils, ringworm, fungal infections especially on the fingers, and all sorts of wounds and sores. It is always most effective straight from the hive with no processing other than chewing or gentle warming to soften it. As well as its well known effects on stomach problems especially colitis, all sorts of skin and tooth problems, experiments suggest that propolis may have some effect against arthritis, respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis, as well as mitigating influenza and maintaining general health and well being .
There are a number of ways that propolis can be processed. The most common for non industrial processes is to use alcohol to extract the key elements of propolis into a tincture. The propolis is soaked in alcohol for three weeks. This gives the maximum extraction of the most significant active elements of the propolis. If the propolis is for internal consumption the alcohol MUST be of suitable quality for internal consumption. Denatured alcohol, that is alcohol that has chemicals added to prevent it being drunk, is not suitable as these additives are toxic and may be lethal if taken internally.
Only the purest alcohol should be used. In general the higher the concentration of alcohol the more complete the extraction of the most significant active ingredients. To get the maximum extraction 70% or higher proof alcohol is needed. Four times the quantity of alcohol to propolis is required; i.e. for 250gms of propolis 1 litre of alcohol is required for the extraction. Some people find that applying a little heat helps with the extraction but in general it is best to avoid the use of heat as this may reduce the quality of the ingredients extracted.
Where cultural or religious constraints prevent the use of alcohol then water based extraction will remove the water soluble elements but it is widely recognised that their biological; effect is not as potent as alcohol extracted material. In addition, oil extraction using high quality oil such as sesame, sunflower, olive or peach oil can also be effective but the soaking must be done for a very long period of time and again will not be as effective as alcohol based extraction. This method of extraction is appropriate for cosmetics and creams using propolis as an ingredient.
To make propolis tincture
Take the desired quantity of propolis and soak in water for 3-7 days to clean and soften it. Soak the propolis in ethyl alcohol minimum 70% proof, shaking it every day. Do NOT use contaminated or denatured alcohol which will be poisonous. 50 gms of absolute alcohol with 100mls of water will give a 50% solution. To get maximum extraction of the active ingredients will take 1-3 weeks. Then filter through a fine filter such as a coffee filter. The medicinal part is the filtered liquid. This should be kept in a dark glass bottle in a cool place. Since alcohol is a good preservative the tincture will last for a very long time.
For toothache, boils, infections etc apply a few drops straight from the bottle.
For stomach and other internal ailments put 1-2 mls into a cup. Fill with hot water, add a spoon of honey and drink before bedtime.
The following recipes uses small tomato paste cans as an easy measure. A double boiler can be made form a large tin can such as a milk powder can placed in small pot of boiling water over the fire until the ingredient is warmed or melted.
Propolis ointment (1)
Two teaspoons of powdered or one teaspoon of fresh propolis. ½ can measure of Vaseline. Dissolve the propolis in the tomato paste can in boiling water (using the double boiler technique). When dissolved add the Vaseline and heat until melted. Leave to cool and set. When cool stir well to ensure the propolis is well mixed. Pack into small pots to store or sell while it is still soft
Propolis ointment (2)
Take one measure of 10% propolis extract and 9 measures of Vaseline or similar base material.
Gently heat to reduce the amount of alcohol to one third giving a 30% concentration of propolis. Mix thoroughly with a small quantity of the Vaseline then incorporate the remainder of the Vaseline to get a homogenous mixture. Heating gently using a double boiler and adding 10% lanolin or glycerine will make it easier to mix. Pack into small pots to store or sell while it is still liquid.
Our top reading selection
Krell, R. Value Added Products from Beekeeping. FAO Bulletin 124. FAO corporate document repository. click here for link to full text
Fearnley, J. 2001. Bee Propolis: Natural healing from the Hive. Guernsey Press, Channel Islands, UK. click here for more information.
White, E.C. 1993. Super Formulas: How to make more than 360 useful products that contain honey and beeswax. Valley Hills Press. UK. click here for more information.