Honey and propolis are both made by bees and can be found in their hives, so what’s the difference?
Propolis is made from a mixture of beeswax and resinous sap collected from trees (mostly conifers) and other vegetative sources. It can act as a sealant to protect the hive from wind, rain and cold conditions.
Honey is a sticky substance stored in the honeycomb. Unlike the evergreen origins of propolis, honey is made from the sweet nectar of flowers.
Propolis has a waxy texture and ranges in color from light to dark brown, even some shades of green. In some geographical regions, like Brazil, it appears to be a reddish tint. At lower temperatures, the wax turns solid and brittle. When exposed to above-room temperatures, Propolis becomes more pliant and syrupy with added viscosity.
The composition of propolis encourages a sound hive structure. It can limit outside vibrations and movements making it more stable.
Think of propolis as the moat around a castle. It secures the colony by eliminating excess points of entry so bees have increased advantage over potentially harmful foreign invaders.
Dead bugs and small animals that find their way into the hive can also be sealed away by propolis. It’s a little morbid, but this prevents waste from building and keeps disease at bay. Propolis in the hive also protects against unwanted fungal and bacterial growth.
But this ‘wonder-wax’ is not just beneficial for honey bees. It contains rich amounts of flavonoids, a form of antioxidant beneficial to human health. Studies concentrating on the medicinal effects of propolis have shown positive results, although the conclusiveness of such evidence remains questionable.
According to the U.S. National Library of Health, “Propolis has a long history of medicinal use, dating back to 350 B.C., the time of Aristotle. Greeks have used propolis for abscesses; Assyrians have used it for healing wounds and tumors; and Egyptians have used it for mummification. It still has many medicinal uses today, although its effectiveness has only been shown for a couple of them.”
In her blog featuring the wonders of honey, propolis and other bee-derived beauty weapons, celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow expresses how well propolis worked to heal an old injury.
“I was recommended bee pollen, raw honey and propolis for various purposes,” she writes. “So far, these recommendations have worked for me. I started to research and found some very interesting facts, products and recipes…”
Bees are probably most known for making honey, another product from the hive. It is often used to sweeten drinks and foods. Some believe it is a healthier option compared to sugar.
Honey is made differently by bees than Propolis. First, nectar is ingested and then processed in the honey stomach. It is then regurgitated into the hive’s honeycomb for storage. During the winter months, when food becomes scarce, bees use the stored honey as a nutrient source.
Like Propolis, honey is often used by people to improve health, or as an all-around beauty tool.
Fitness guru Emma Forbes writes, “I am a firm believer in the power of honey.” Forbes is a prominent television host from the British channel BBC. She has also written three cook books and manages her own healthy living blog.
Like honey’s natural golden color, it can make skin glow. Its humectant properties take advantage of moisture in the air to retain it within hair or skin for supple, soft texture. It also provides exfoliation for sloughing off dead skin cells.
Both honey and propolis are bee-byproducts recognized for having antibiotic properties that could be beneficial in the topical treatment of acne.
While raw honey is delicious, it is not recommended to eat propolis straight from the hive. There are, however, Propolis supplements that can be taken in capsule form. Others use a topical tincture by soaking the propolis in alcohol.