The health benefits of honey bee propolis extract


Half Hill Farm’s Propolis Extract – available in 1 oz dropper bottles.

A couple years ago, I noticed honey bees actively coming and going from my compost bin. I thought I had unintentionally adopted a swarm. At any given moment there were about 25-50 bees coming and going. When I carefully opened the top, bees were all over the mushrooms we use to make our extracts. I didn’t know what to make of it so I started research that eventually led me to creating a new extract.

After reading about different roles of bees in the hive, I think these bees were tasked with gathering plant and tree resins that are collectively blended with enzymes and wax to form an amazing substance called propolis.

What is propolis: Bees use propolis as a structural glue and as a varnish protecting the hive from fungal, viral, bacterial infection and disease as well as invading small animals or small insects or mites. Propolis is loaded with vitamins and minerals, but propolis also includes polysaccharides that are also present in wood rotting fungi, including Turkey Tail mushrooms. The more I read the more I liked and began formulating a propolis extract for daily use.

Do bees use mushrooms: A few months later, self-taught mycologist Paul Stamets reported noticing bees on the ground sucking mycelium. Stamets believes his patented use of fungus may be a way to save honey bees from mites. But both of our observations might suggest bees are a step ahead of us and already use a broader range of the forest, including mushrooms and fungi, to protect the hive with blends of propolis.

It already happens with other bees. Last year, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation discovered that the Brazilian stingless bee uses fungus in their propolis to protect larvae food stores from spoiling.

He and his team discovered that the fungus is a key part of the hive. It permeates the cerumen, a material made of wax and resin that the bees use as building material. After the bees have deposited regurgitated food for the larvae inside the cells, and laid an egg, the fungus starts growing.

Once the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the fungus, and it turns out this food is absolutely crucial. When the team tried to grow the bees in the lab without the fungus, the survival rate of the larvae dropped dramatically – from 72 per cent to just 8 per cent.

Mindful observation of nature can reveal tested paths toward better health and well-being. Bees and fungi have evolved to withstand thousands of centuries of environmental changes. While they may be no match for the destruction humans can cause to the environment, their survival and centuries of use by humans suggests honey bee propolis is one of those tested paths we must understand and protect.

Purchase propolis extract: Each 1 oz (30 ml) bottle of Half Hill Farm’s Propolis Extract contains roughly a three month supply with daily use and has a dropper for oral or topical application. Take 3-5 drops a day, or apply to minor cuts to create a liquid band-aid.

The health benefits of propolis: There have been many studies of propolis and its known uses dating back to 300 BC. Here is an excellent summary of propolis studies published in 2015 making the case for potential future drug development. Here is another summary of propolis studies from 2013 also pointing to many reasons why we make our propolis extract.

  • Composition: Raw propolis is 50% resins, 30% waxes, 10% essential oils, 5% pollen, and 5% organic compounds. Propolis contains calcium, iodine, potassium, sodium, manganese, magnesium, iron copper and zinc as well as vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, D and E.
  • Antioxident: High concentrations of flavinoids and phenolic acids in propolis reduce oxidative stress to proteins, lipids, nucleic acids and other biomolecules in the body. Oxidative stresses cause cells to die leading to a variety of diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart diseases.
  • Anti-inflammatory: When reactive oxygen species like hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) are not flushed from cells, inflammation occurs. Unresolved chronic inflammation can lead to many diseases like atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson, asthma and cancer. Many studies show the flavinoids and cinnamic acid derivatives in propolis reduce inflammatory responses.
  • Antiviral: Studies show flavinoid rich propolis interferes with the RNA synthesis of herpes simplex 1 and 2, influenza, H1N1, HIV and other viruses.
  • Antibacterial, Antimicrobial: Propolis is effective against Gram-positive bacteria like Streptococcus mutans, which causes tooth decay and heart disease, Lactobacilli, and Staphylococcus.
  • Antifungal: Propolis is active against dermatophytes and yeasts, including several Candida strains – some resistant to known antifungal agents.
  • Antiprotozoal: Propolis shows activity against parasites that cause many diseases in humans. Studies show propolis is active against trichomoniasis, toxoplasmosis, giardiasis, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, Giardia lamblia, Trichomonas vaginalis, Toxoplasma gondii, Leishmania donovani, Trypanosoma cruzi, and malaria.
  • Antitumor: Propolis acts against cancer cells by blocking oncogene signalling pathways, decreasing cancer proliferation by decreasing cancer stem cell populations and increasing cancer apoptosis. Propolis is active against colorectal, human breast, human tongue squamous cell carcinoma, and human prostate cancer cells. Studies show flavonoids from propolis could play a protective role against the toxicity of the chemotherapeutic agents or radiation therapy.
Please consult your physician before using any of our products for health purposes. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. 

Bees use mushroom fungus to protect colony

Honey bees make a quick pharmacy stop on our farm’s used Turkey Tail mushrooms (March 2015).

Last year, I noticed honey bees coming and going from our compost bin of organic mushrooms we use to make extracts and thought I had a swarm problem. On closer look, I discovered they were nibbling on our used mushrooms and then flying away.

Understanding that bees eat pollen and nectar, I suspected they were up to something entirely different. I suspected they were self-medicating on residual compounds found on Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor) and Red Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushrooms left over from our extraction process.

As scientists are now discovering, that may very well be the case. A scientist at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation recently discovered that the Brazilian stingless bee uses fungus to protect larvae food stores from spoiling.

He and his team discovered that the fungus is a key part of the hive. It permeates the cerumen, a material made of wax and resin that the bees use as building material. After the bees have deposited regurgitated food for the larvae inside the cells, and laid an egg, the fungus starts growing.

Once the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the fungus, and it turns out this food is absolutely crucial. When the team tried to grow the bees in the lab without the fungus, the survival rate of the larvae dropped dramatically – from 72 per cent to just 8 per cent.

This Summer, self-taught mycologist Paul Stamets began working with Steve Sheppard, a bee expert at Washington State University, to test various wood decaying mushrooms on honey bees. They are finding promising results that could lead to ways of treating colonies for parasitic mites and other infections at the heart of troubling colony collapse disorder.

As other scientists are now discovering what I also observed, it may be that bees are already doing it themselves. Understanding what they are doing and why could help us understand more about the medicinal value of mushrooms and lead to both a re-evaluation of our use of fungicides and important life-saving discoveries for humans as well as bees.

Available now: You don’t have to be a bee-in-the-know to take advantage of these important mushrooms. Half Hill Farm makes organic mushroom extracts with USDA certified organic mushrooms, USDA certified organic pharmaceutical grade USP alcohol, and distilled water.

Read several studies showing what scientists are discovering about extracts of these mushrooms and what they can do now for your better health & well-being.

UPDATE: Half Hill Farm’s Bee Sanctuary Project

Vince and I set up our first chemical free habitat for #Tennessee native solitary #bees between our blueberries and apple trees. This is part of our ongoing Bee Sanctuary Project at Half Hill Farm.

This first structure is 6 feet tall (8 feet counting the stone base) and is made from 8 inch sections of old downed trees on the farm, bamboo from a friend and neighbor and locally milled pine and cedar.

As we were filling the bottom section, a solitary leafcutter bee kept inspecting the whole thing, and it was such a joy to witness. Last year, we noticed our top pollinators weren’t honey bees. They were native solitary orchard masons and leafcutters. Honey bees didn’t show up until very late in the season and frantically scavenged the last of the organic Genovese Basil flowers.

One of the many ways we can help solve the problems we’ve created within honey bee colonies is to rely more on our native diversity of bees and other pollinators. The way we have treated honey bees within massive monocultures in conventional farming is an ongoing lesson in the mismanagement of our natural resources. Be a part of the solution and start a Bee Sanctuary of your own!

Resources to get you started:

UPDATE 4-22-14: Here’s one of a few solitary orchard mason bees taking up residence in our native bee condo this Spring. They’ve been working some of the apple blossoms that made it through the recent Dogwood Winter frost.

The bee sanctuary project at Half Hill Farm

The idea of starting a bee sanctuary at Half Hill Farm is taking on a life of its own.

As we weeded the garden before the rain, I caught this alfalfa leafcutter bee (pictured above) weaving in an out of the tomatoes. This and a couple other solitary bees were pollinating the buds of the Giant Beef Steaks and had taken up residence in the bamboo supports. We’ve seen more solitary bees than honey bees this year.

Hosting solitary bees is an obvious first step to bee keeping. They aren’t social (so no swarm), rarely sting, don’t make honey, and are great pollinators. Due to colony collapse disorder of hives, some experts are suggesting people start hosting solitary bees.

Discover the diversity of native bees:

1. Macropis nuda.
2. Agapostemon texanus.  US sweat bee
3. Peponapis pruinosa. Squash & gourd bees
4. Bombus impatiens. The Impatient Bumble Bee
5. Osmia lignaria.  The Blue Orchard Bee
6.  Hylaeus sp.
7.  Habropoda laboriosa. The Southeastern Blueberry Bee
8. Xylocopa varipuncta. The Valley Carpenter Bee
9. Bombus morrisoni.  Morisson’s bumble bee
10.  Perdita minima.
11. Xylocopa virginica. Eastern Carpenter Bee
12. Bombus vosnessenskii.
13. Bombus affinis.
14. Megachile sp. Leafcutter bees
15. Andrena cornelli. Miner bees
16. Anthophora  centriformis. Digger bees, or anthophorids
17.  Nomada sp. The Wandering Cuckoo Bee
18. Augochorella pomoniella. Sweat bees

The idea of creating a bee sanctuary at the farm was inspired by May Berenbaum, Department Chair of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in this NPR story on bee deaths reaching a crisis point. Her suggestion: “Plant more flowers!”

Judging from the number of bumbling mason bees we have, I’d also suggest building more barns. We have to have about 15 of them turning the barn wood to swiss cheese, but they happen to be our #1 pollinator for our cucumbers. As we continue to plan a small sanctuary for both hives and solitary bees, we’re going to test placing a few of these simple mason bee condos to see if it creates a more hospitable alternative.

If you would like to collaborate on the bee sanctuary project, let us know. In the meantime, check out some of these more elaborate solitary bee temples we hope to graduate to very soon!

Wildbienenhotel 110911_0397ErbersbergerForst_.jpg Insect hotel Wildbienenhaus

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