Propolis is a dark brown to red sticky resin that honeybees collect from a variety of trees - including cottonwood, aspen and birch - for use in the beehive. It used to be thought that this resin was used just to seal the cracks and holes in the hive, but it has more recently been discovered that propolis is used by the bees to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria and inhibit the presence of parasites.
People use propolis as a medicine, and research shows that it indeed has antibacterial, antifungal and even antiviral properties. The raw propolis is a bit difficult to use, as it is a sticky lump of resin, but if you can warm it slightly, small pieces can be pulled off and placed into a tooth cavity to create a temporary filling that both seals out the air that causes discomfort and has antiseptic qualities that can help prevent infection.
One of my favorite ways to use this fascinating product from our honeybee friends is as a remedy for the throat. I like to combine an extract of the resin with licorice root, yerba del manzo root and tea tree oil to make a throat spray. This blend has the effect of numbing the pain of the sore tissues and being astringent, antiseptic and antiviral.
Propolis contains some actual bee products due to the fact that they gather it, chew it up and deposit in the hive, so people who have an allergy to honeybees should avoid it.
Consult with your health care practitioner about the use of herbs or supplements, especially if you are taking prescription medication.
For more information, visit taosherb.com.
Hawley is the owner of Taos Herb Company. Find out more about local herbs by joining an herb walk Aug. 5. Enrollment is limited, and there is a fee. Call (575) 758-1991.