Propolis, the amazing, dark 'glue' that bees use to narrow the opening of their hives to keep out unwelcome intruders continues to add to the list of health benefits it can offer.
In this recent study published in the journal Lipids, scientists examined the effects of propolis on something called the reverse cholesterol transport.
This is the process that results in the net movement of cholesterol from the body back to the liver via your blood so that the liver can eliminate it from your body through bile (this is a very good thing).
What the scientists did was inject cholesterol into mice that were fed propolis. They then measured different parameters in the mice to find out if the propolis enhanced the "reverse cholesterol transport" or the ability of your body to remove cholesterol from the body.
Stunningly, they found that propolis did in fact do this, leading them to proclaim that propolis is beneficial for increasing your HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and diminishing the risks of heart disease.
In another study, propolis was examined to determine if it has any role in heart disease prevention. Heart disease refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Your heart is a muscle that gets energy from blood carrying oxygen and nutrients. Having a constant supply of blood keeps your heart working properly. Most people think of heart disease as one condition. But in fact, heart disease is a group of conditions affecting the structure and functions of the heart and has many root causes.
One of those causes is elevated homocysteine levels. Homocysteine generates something called 'reactive oxygen species (ROS)' which create oxidative stress in the body and lead to damage within the heart, ultimately leading to heart disease. If you've heard of 'antioxidants', think of ROS as pro-oxidants or free radicals.
It is well known and I've discussed many times that Propolis has various biological activities and powerful antioxidant capacity. The flavonoids and phenolic acids (the most bioactive components of propolis), have a superior antioxidant ability to defend cells from free radicals.
Knowing this, could Propolis limit the damage of ROS caused by elevated Homocysteine levels and help prevent heart disease?
This study, done in human heart cells, set to find out.
Scientists in Turkey treated human heart cells that had elevated homocysteine levels with Propolis and what they found was astounding. Propolis decreased the overproduction of free radicals and lipid peroxidation in the cells. Fewer free radicals result in less damage to your arteries and less risk of heart disease because your arteries don't clog up! It has long been thought that eating saturated fat leads to clogged arteries but from studies like this one, we know that excessive free radicals and diets low in antioxidants are what actually lead to clogged arteries.
To stave off heart disease, eat a diet high in antioxidants (fruits and veggies) and considering including high antioxidant supplements like propolis, bee pollen and royal jelly.
Unfortunately, neither of the studies stated the dose of propolis used to obtain the results they did. Undoubtedly, studies down the road will reveal this valuable information. I know this is important to you so I'm going to offer my opinion on what amount I'd recommend taking to get this cholesterol lowering effect based on some of the other studies in which propolis has shown a strong therapeutic result.
In other studies, a daily dose of 100 mg/kg (about 6.8 grams for a 150 lb person) has shown strong therapeutic activity in the body. This is not an unreasonable amount of propolis per day but it is still on the high end. It is always better to start low and increase from there once a baseline has been established with a blood test. That being said, I recommend to my clients that they begin in the 3 - 4 gram range after having their cholesterol levels tested. Take this dose for 3 months and then re-test. If cholesterol levels are not receding, increase this dose by one gram and re-test in 3 months.
The Cholesterol study can be found in the journal Lipids, 2011 Jun 3.
The full Heart Disease study can be found here: Acta Histochem. 2016 Apr 13. pii: S0065-1281(16)30041-1