by Angela Van Alten, Nutritionist and Beekeeper's Daughter
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is not medical advice. This is a report on the research being done on honey and propolis only. We do not recommend honey or propolis for Covid treatment. Always seek medical attention if exhibiting Covid symptoms.
The world is still laboring to overcome the coronavirus disease, with over 391 million cases and 5.7 million deaths reported by World Health Organization. These numbers are climbing daily and with global health authorities recognizing that this virus will be with us over the long term, alternative solutions are being researched.
Bee products such as propolis and honey, which have antiviral activity, are used by people for preventing COVID-19 and supporting immune systems and treatment.1
As most readers of this blog know, Propolis is a bee product that occurs by molding resinous balsam of plants and trees with beeswax and saliva.. Bees use propolis as a detoxification agent and fixing material for their hives to maintain homeostasis, to promote a beneficial microbiome, and protect from insects and animals.2
Propolis has also been used by Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Incas for wound healing, corpse embalming, and to reduce fever. It was used in Europe in the 17th and 20th centuries as an antibacterial agent and during the Second World War due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity.3
Propolis consists of 50% resins, 30% bee wax, 10% aromatic and essential oils, 5% bee pollen, and 5% multiple organic compounds, vitamins, and minerals.4 It includes more than 300 different compounds such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, phenolic acid esters, terpenoids, xanthones, fatty acids, volatile fatty acids, ketones, lactones, steroids, pollens, various minerals and vitamins.
Propolis has various biological activities for humans such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antimutagenic, antitumoral, anticancer, cytotoxic, anti-proliferative, anti-angiogenic, and immunomodulatory.5
As mentioned before, propolis and propolis-derived compounds such as CAPE, benzoic acid, resveratrol, p-cumaric acid, quercetin, chrysin, pinocembrin, and galangin have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antithrombotic activity.
The antiviral activity of propolis may be related to its zinc content. Propolis has variable amounts of zinc. One study found 21 mg/kg or 9326 mg/kg.21 Zinc ions inhibit viral enzymes that are important for the replication of the virus in the host cells.22
Zinc has the potential to threaten COVID-19 by antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties. Zinc can suppress the expressing of various chemokines, acute phase proteins such as fibrinogen and C Reactive protein, proinflammatory cytokines, and some factors that have a role in inflammatory responses such as inhibition of NFκB and modulation of T cell functions that cause cytokine storms in COVID-19.
Another trace element in propolis is selenium that has a role in maintaining adaptive immune systems, inhibiting proinflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and production of free oxygen radicals. Experimentally it was shown that a selenium-deficient diet in mice is related to developing lung injury in post-influenza virus infections.23
Additionally, the anti-inflammatory activity of propolis is related to its components such as phenolic acids and their esters, flavonoids, steroids, terpenoids, and amino acids. The basic mechanisms of anti-inflammatory activity of propolis are the inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX) and prostaglandin biosynthesis, antioxidant activity, inhibition of nitric oxide (NO) synthesis, reducing the level of cytokines, and immunosuppressive activity.24
In many studies it was reported that CAPE, quercetin, naringenin, pinocembrin, Artepillin C, and terpenoids showed anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting COX-2, suppressing the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, reducing the expression of inflammatory mediators such as IL-10, IL-1β, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and inhibiting the production of TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, NF-κB, NO.25
In a 2021 study, researchers used a non-alcoholic preparation of Brazillian Green Propolis. A standardized Propolis Extract was given at two concentrations (400 mg and 800 mg) for 82 hospitalized adult COVID-19 patients. They evaluated the patient's length of hospital stay, dependence on oxygen therapy, development of acute kidney injury, intensive care unit admission and use of vasoactive drugs. 400 mg of propolis contains 21.2 mg of total flavonoids such as quercetin and 54 mg of total phenolics, such as gallic acid. It was shown that propolis treatment decreased the length of hospital stay (6 days for 400 mg versus 7 days for 800 mg, and 12 days for the control group (n=42)) and kidney injury significantly, but didn’t have any effect on the need for oxygen therapy. N side effects of propolis were observed in this study. 26
In a case report, a COVID-19 patient who was 52 years old, used a dose of 45 drops/3 times/day for 2 weeks. The patient's viral clearance occurred within 12 days of treatment. 27
In another 2021 study, doctors used a syrup that contained 1.6 mg Hyoscyamus niger L. extract and 450 mg propolis per 10 mL, in 25 COVID-19 patients aged between 17-85 and 25 patients classified as the placebo group. In this study, 10 mL syrup was administered during the 6 days, three times a day. It was shown that the syrup reduced the clinical symptoms of COVID-19 such as dry cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, chest pain, headache, dizziness, fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea but didn’t have any effect on nausea and vomiting. The dose of propolis at 500 mg/day is approximately equal to 30 drops of propolis extract (11% w/v of dry matter). 28
A 2020 study suggested that 30 drops/day or one capsule might be used for prevention purposes.29