Propolis

Chinese: 蜂胶

Pinyin: Fēnɡ Jiāo

Parts used: A resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax

TCM category: Herbs for external application

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenLiver

Scientific name: Propolis

Other names: Bee glue

Use of propolis (Fēnɡ Jiāo) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Collect propolis from beehives every 10 days during warm seasons. Press collected propolis to form a bigger shape and have them kept in a wax paper. Store them in cool shade.

Main actions according to TCM*: Softens hard skin and tissues. Reduces inflammation and eases pain. Strengthens the immune system.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which propolis may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Calluses Burns Mouth ulcers Stomach ulcers Cervical ectropion Skin fissures

Key TCM concepts behind propolis' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), propolis are plants that belong to the 'Herbs for external application' category. Like the name indicates, this category of herbs is used mostly for external application in the form of powders, pastes or ointments. As such they are used to treat trauma, inflammation, swelling, bruises, bleeding, pain and so forth.

Furthermore propolis are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that propolis tend to help people who have too much "cold" in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much cold in their body are said to either have a Yin excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition propolis can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Propolis also taste Pungent. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like propolis tend to promote the circulations of Qi and body fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such propolis are thought to target the Spleen and the Liver. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on propolis

Propolis extract is effective in controlling pathogenic fungi Candida albicans.1

Propolis has plenty of biological and pharmacological properties and might notably be useful for the establishment of drugs against tumors, infections, allergy, diabetes, ulcers and with immunomodulatory action.2

Sources:

1. Gavanji, S; Larki, B (2015). "Comparative effect of propolis of honey bee and some herbal extracts on Candida albicans". Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine. 23 (3): 201–7. doi:10.1007/s11655-015-2074-9.

2. Sforcin JM, Bankova V (2011). "Propolis: is there a potential for the development of new drugs?". J Ethnopharmacol (Review). 133 (2): 253–60. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.10.032.

Use of propolis as food

Propolis are also eaten as food.