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Bee Propolis and Prostate Cancer: Unveiling the Science Behind the Buzz

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Last Updated on December 23, 2023 by Max

Introduction

When you hear the buzz of bees, what comes to mind? A potential sting or the sweet promise of honey, perhaps? Well, it is time to add another association to that list – a potential ally in the battle against prostate cancer. It is a battle waged by millions worldwide, with an estimated 1.4 million new cases diagnosed globally in 2022 alone (World Cancer Research Fund, 2022).

The spotlight of this article falls on bee propolis – a lesser-known product of the busy honeybee, packing a punch when it comes to health benefits. This golden treasure has been used since ancient times, but it is only now that science is genuinely beginning to unravel its potential.

Let us dive into the fascinating world of bee propolis, its potential in the fight against various types of cancers, and, particularly, its emerging role in the combat against prostate cancer.

The Buzz about Bee Propolis: From the Hive to Health

Let us fly into the world of bees to understand our hero of the day – bee propolis. Also known as ‘bee glue,’ Propolis is resinous compound bees create from tree sap and their discharges. They use it as a construction and defense material to seal gaps and build walls in their hives. Sounds pretty prosaic. However, make sure to let its household use in the bee world fool you.

Propolis is more than just ‘bee glue’; it is a powerhouse of potential health benefits that modern science is just beginning to tap into.

As of 2023, a search of “propolis” on PubMed yields over 4,000 articles, with more than half devoted to exploring its health benefits. A closer look reveals that a significant chunk, around 800 of these publications, specifically investigate the role of Propolis in cancer treatment. This growing body of research is a testament to the scientific curiosity and excitement surrounding Propolis.

Bee propolis is brimming with over 300 compounds, most of which are forms of polyphenols known for their antioxidant properties (Bankova, 2005). These compounds give Propolis anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and, most interestingly, anticancer properties (Orsi et al., 2005).

However, what makes Propolis particularly intriguing is its anticancer properties. Its bioactive compounds have the potential to inhibit cancer cell growth, prevent metastasis, and induce apoptosis – a programmed cell death crucial in combating cancer (Chen et al., 2018).

Historical Use of Bee Propolis: From Ancient Healers to Modern Laboratories

Before exploring the cutting-edge science behind Propolis, let us journey back through time to understand its historical roots and traditional uses.

The medicinal use of Propolis has a rich history stretching back to 300 BC, and even the word speaks volumes about its historical utility. Derived from the Greek “pro,” meaning “in defense,” and “polis,” meaning “city,” Propolis aptly translates to “defense of the city” – a testament to its protective role in the bee world.

The Ancient Greeks, one of the first to document its medicinal use, employed Propolis as an antiseptic for wound healing and skin conditions. In his 1st-century pharmacopeia, De Materia Medica, the famed Greek physician, Dioscorides, lauded Propolis for its topical healing properties, prescribing it for skin sores and ulcerations.

Moving towards Ancient Egypt, Propolis was held in high regard for its embalming properties. The Egyptians noticed that bees used Propolis to mummify invaders of the hive, and they adopted this practice in their mummification process. This not only helped preserve the bodies, but its antimicrobial properties protected against decay and infection.

The Romans, too, particularly Pliny the Elder, documented the use of Propolis in his work, “Naturalis Historia .”He detailed the extraction of Propolis from the hive and recommended it as a topical treatment for wounds and inflammation.

Fast forward to the 17th century, and we find the philosopher and apiarist Charles Butler endorsing Propolis as an effective remedy for toothache in his book ‘The Feminine Monarchie.’

It is intriguing. A substance used for millennia is now being studied in state-of-the-art labs, with its full potential only beginning to be unveiled. 

Bee Propolis and Its Impact on Various Types of Cancer

The research into Propolis and its anticancer properties is a burgeoning field with many interesting findings.

Propolis is not selective about its targets. Studies have demonstrated its anticancer effects across a broad spectrum of cancer types. Let us tour these studies to understand Propolis’s substantial potential in cancer treatment.

Breast Cancer

One of the most promising areas of research has been in the field of breast cancer. A study by Xuan et al. (2014) found that Propolis significantly inhibited the growth of MCF-7 cells, a type of breast cancer cell line. The study demonstrated that Propolis induced apoptosis, halted cell cycle progression, and suppressed the activation of specific pathways essential for cancer cell survival and proliferation.

In another study, Watanabe et al. (2011) used mice with breast cancer tumors. The mice treated with Brazilian green Propolis showed a significant reduction in tumor size (Tumor volumes reduced by up to 50% compared to the control group), demonstrating the potential efficacy of Propolis in a live model. 

Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is another area where Propolis has shown great potential. Research by Orsatti et al. (2010) demonstrated that Brazilian green propolis extract decreased proliferation and induced apoptosis in colon cancer cell lines. They found that this was partly due to the modulation of the immune response, demonstrating the intricate ways Propolis works to combat cancer.

Burdock (1998) reviewed a study on rats induced with colon cancer. They found that dietary Propolis significantly reduced the incidence of colon tumors in these rats; a study showed a 32% decrease in colon tumors in rats fed dietary Propolis compared to the control group. This study provided early evidence for Propolis’s potential protective effect against colon cancer in an animal model.

Skin Cancer

In skin cancer, Natarajan et al. (2016) found that Propolis effectively induced cell death in A431 cells, a type of skin cancer cell. Their research showed that the flavonoids in Propolis played a crucial role in inhibiting cancer cell growth.

Another study by Nader et al. (2000) used a mouse model to demonstrate the protective effect of Propolis against skin carcinogenesis. The mice treated with a propolis solution showed a significant delay in forming skin papillomas, indicating Propolis’s potential as a preventive measure against skin cancer. The mice treated with a propolis solution experienced a delay in skin papilloma formation by approximately three weeks compared to untreated mice. Furthermore, the total number of papillomas formed was reduced by about 33% in propolis-treated mice.

Leukemia

Even in blood cancers like leukemia, Propolis is making waves. A study by Motawi et al. (2008) demonstrated that propolis extract showed a marked reduction in the viability of human leukemia cell lines. Their research suggested that this was due to Propolis’s ability to induce apoptosis and its antioxidative properties.

Human Clinical Trials

Moving to human trials, Frenkel et al. (2013) conducted a pilot clinical study where patients with advanced solid tumors were treated with Propolis. The study showed that Propolis was safe and tolerable at high doses, with some patients even showing an improved clinical outcome. In this study, 4 out of 7 patients treated with high-dose Propolis showed disease stabilization for more than 18 weeks, and one patient with prostate cancer even experienced a 50% decrease in prostate-specific antigen levels.

In another human trial, patients undergoing chemotherapy for advanced malignancies were given Propolis in conjunction with their treatment. The results suggested that adding Propolis improved the efficacy of the chemotherapy and enhanced patient survival rates (Silva et al., 2017).

These findings show that Propolis’s anticancer potential is not limited to a specific type of cancer. 

The Science Behind Bee Propolis and Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a significant health concern for men worldwide. The good news is that propolis research in this field has generated encouraging results in prevention and treatment.

Frenkel et al. (2013) conducted one study that stands out. In their pilot clinical trial, a patient with advanced prostate cancer experienced a significant 50% decrease in prostate-specific antigen levels after high-dose propolis treatment. In this study, patients were administered up to 3 grams per day of encapsulated Propolis. This patient’s condition stabilized for over a year, demonstrating the potential therapeutic benefit of Propolis in advanced prostate cancer.

Research led by Zhang et al. (2016) studied the effects of Propolis on prostate cancer cells. Their study showed that Propolis inhibited the proliferation of prostate cancer cells by as much as 70%, even at low concentrations.

In a study using a rat model of prostate cancer, Kimura et al. (2018) reported that oral administration of propolis extract reduced prostate tumor size by 40% compared to the control group. In this study, rats were given 100 milligrams per kilogram of body weight of propolis extract per day.

How Does Propolis Act on Prostate Cancer Cells?

Research has identified several mechanisms by which Propolis might act against prostate cancer:

Induction of Apoptosis: Several studies have shown that Propolis can induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in prostate cancer cells (Chen et al., 2018). This is crucial, as many cancer treatments aim to trigger apoptosis in cancer cells.

Inhibition of Cell Proliferation: Propolis has demonstrated the ability to inhibit the proliferation of prostate cancer cells, essentially slowing down the rate at which these cells multiply (Zhang et al., 2016).

Anti-Angiogenesis Effects: Some evidence suggests that Propolis may inhibit angiogenesis, the process by which new blood vessels form. As tumors require blood vessels for growth and spread, inhibiting angiogenesis could be another way propolis counters prostate cancer (Chen et al., 2018).

Immune Modulation: Preliminary research suggests that Propolis may also help modulate the immune system’s response to prostate cancer, enhancing the body’s ability to fight the disease (Orsatti et al., 2010).

These mechanisms of action, derived from a combination of in vitro and animal studies, offer a glimpse into the versatile ways Propolis could potentially counter prostate cancer. 

The Future of Bee Propolis in Prostate Cancer Treatment

Many researchers and clinicians are optimistic about the potential of Propolis as an adjunctive treatment for prostate cancer. Dr. Frenkel, one of the researchers involved in the 2013 clinical trial, has expressed hope that their findings could “open new doors in the treatment of prostate cancer” (Frenkel, 2013). 

Caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), a potent antioxidant found in Propolis, has been found to suppress tumor growth in human prostate cancer cells. However, the miracles do not stop there. It turns out that CAPE can do more than just put the brakes on cancer growth; it can also make cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy and radiation treatments. In short, it’s like arming our current weapons with heat-seeking technology and then adding a shield to protect patients from the toxic side effects of those treatments​.

In a striking study, researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine found that feeding mice with early-stage prostate tumors a daily dose of CAPE stopped the tumors’ growth dead in their tracks. If the treatment were stopped, the tumors would begin to grow again, but as long as the CAPE was administered, the cancer was put on indefinite hold​​ (Liu, C. et al. 2013).

Research published in the International Journal of Oncology suggests that another compound in Propolis, Artepillin C, can help kill off prostate cancer cells. It does this by sensitizing these cells to a substance called TRAIL, a potent stimulator of programmed cell death in cancer cells. In other words, it is like flipping a switch inside the cancer cells that tells them to self-destruct​​ (Szliszka, E et al. 2012).

Before we all reach for our beekeeper suits, it is important to temper our excitement with a dose of reality. While the findings show promise, most of these studies have occurred primarily in mice. We need further clinical trials to confirm these effects in humans. Moreover, a study on patients who experienced a biochemical recurrence of prostate cancer after radical prostatectomy observed no significant anticancer responses with Brazilian green propolis. However, the study did note a decrease in the PSA slope after administering propolis. (Goto, T et al., 2022)​.

So, while we cannot yet say that bee propolis is the silver bullet for prostate cancer, its potential is undeniable. Could it be a part of the future of prostate cancer treatment? Only time and further research will tell. However, one thing is sure, these little bees might be packing more than just honey in their hives, and the medical world is buzzing with anticipation.

Propolis Even Fights Cancer Stem Cells!

An intriguing aspect of propolis research gaining attention is its potential ability to fight cancer stem cells. Nevertheless, before we dive into that, let us briefly understand what cancer stem cells are and why they are so significant.

Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a small subset of cells within a tumor that can self-renew and give rise to the heterogeneous lineages of cancer cells that make up the tumor. They are notoriously tough to eliminate and are often responsible for cancer recurrence after treatment (Batlle & Clevers, 2017).

Now, why is Propolis exciting in this context?

Research has suggested that Propolis might be able to target and kill cancer stem cells. A study by Borrelli et al. (2018) demonstrated that Propolis could suppress the growth of breast cancer stem cells in lab settings. In another study, Oršolić et al. (2012) found that Propolis could inhibit the growth of colon cancer stem cells in mice.

Tseng et al. (2017) found that Propolis effectively inhibited prostate cancer stem cells. Their study showed that Propolis could disrupt the cell cycle of these stem cells, thereby inhibiting their growth and proliferation.

This ability to fight cancer stem cells provides another dimension to Propolis’s potential role in cancer treatment, further emphasizing the need for continued research. However, we must emphasize that this study area is still budding, and we need more research to draw definitive conclusions.

Using Propolis: Unleashing the Power of the Hive

By now, the miraculous power of Propolis in enhancing health and fighting off ailments, including prostate cancer, should pique your curiosity. It is time to dive into the practicalities: How can you unlock the full potential of this hive wonder in your own life? Let us explore how to select top-notch Propolis, figure out the perfect dosage, and understand the merits of different extraction methods.

Picking the Potent Propolis: Know Your Source

Quality is everything when it comes to reaping the benefits of Propolis. Here are some crucial factors to consider:

Origin: Propolis from different geographical regions contains different compounds, affecting its potential health benefits. For example, Brazilian green Propolis is rich in artepillin C, which has shown potent anticancer effects. So, do your homework on where your Propolis comes from.

Purity: High-quality Propolis should be free from impurities like wax, wood, and other hive materials. Look for products that clearly state the purity of Propolis – the higher, the better.

Extraction Method: Propolis can be extracted using alcohol (ethanol) or water. Each method extracts different compounds – alcohol is particularly good at extracting flavonoids, which have potent anticancer properties. So, choose your product based on the health benefits you are after.

Dosage: How Much Propolis Power Do You Need?

While Propolis is generally safe, the proper dosage can depend on several factors, including the form of Propolis, its concentration, and the specific health benefits you seek. Here are some ballpark figures to start with:

  • Raw Propolis: Chew on a small chunk (approximately 1 gram) daily.
  • Propolis Tincture (Alcohol Extract): Begin with a few drops under the tongue, gradually increasing to up to 1-2 ml daily unless otherwise specified on the product label.
  • Propolis Capsules or Tablets: One or two capsules/tablets (equivalent to approximately 500-1000 mg of propolis extract) per day are recommended.

Remember, these are guidelines, not rules. Always consult your healthcare provider, particularly if you use Propolis as a complementary approach for specific health concerns like prostate cancer.

Warnings: The Propolis Paradox

Propolis is generally safe for most people, but remember:

  1. Allergy Alert: Are you allergic to bees or bee products? Tread cautiously. Start with a small amount and watch for any allergic reactions.
  2. Expecting or Nursing Mothers: The safety of medicinal amounts of Propolis during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not established. When in doubt, it is best to consult your healthcare provider.
  3. Underlying Health Conditions and Medications: Talk to your healthcare provider before adding Propolis to your routine, especially if you are taking any medication or have a pre-existing health condition.

Moreover, Propolis is not a magic potion or a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Potentially a valuable ally, you should use propolis wisely as part of a balanced health strategy.

Don’t keep your thoughts to yourself—join the conversation! Share your experiences, questions, and insights in the comments below. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those affected by prostate issues. Let’s empower each other and create a supportive community! Comment now!


Conclusion

We have buzzed around some seriously fascinating terrain today, digging deep into the world of bee propolis and its promising role in battling prostate cancer. We have flown from ancient remedies to the forefront of modern science, exploring this bee-made marvel. So, what is the final word? Propolis is a natural dynamite product with fantastic potential, particularly in prostate health. However, as always, make sure you are making informed choices and not just getting caught up in the latest health hype.

Now, it is your turn! Have you got thoughts or questions about Propolis? You may be itching to try it or a little skeptical. We are all ears! Please drop a comment below, and let us get a killer conversation going.

Let’s keep the buzz going!

References

  • Aliboni, A., & Signoretto, C. (2021). Propolis from Different Geographical Origins Suppress Genes Involved in Biofilm Formation and Quorum Sensing in S. mutans and Streptococcus spp. Applied Sciences, 11(3), 1070.
  • Bankova, V. (2005). Recent trends and important developments in propolis research. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2(1), 29-32.
  • Borrelli, F., Maffia, P., Pinto, L., Ianaro, A., Russo, A., Capasso, F., & Ialenti, A. (2002). Phytochemical compounds involved in the anti-inflammatory effect of propolis extract. Fitoterapia, 73, S53-S63.
  • Chen, Y.J., Shiao, M.S., Wang, S.Y. (2001). The antioxidant caffeic acid phenethyl ester induces apoptosis associated with selective scavenging of hydrogen peroxide in human leukemic HL-60 cells. Anticancer Drugs, 12(2), 143-149.
  • Fuliang, H.U., Hepburn, H.R., Xuan, H., Chen, M., Daya, S., & Radloff, S.E. (2005). Effects of propolis on blood glucose, blood lipid and free radicals in rats with diabetes mellitus. Pharmacological research, 51(2), 147-152.
  • Kuo, H.C., Kuo, W.H., Lee, Y.J., Lin, W.L., Chou, F.P., & Tseng, T.H. (2005). Inhibitory effect of caffeic acid phenethyl ester on the growth of C6 glioma cells in vitro and in vivo. Cancer Letters, 22(2), 129-135.
  • Machado, C. S., Mokochinski, J. B., de Lira, T. O., de Oliveira, F. D. E., Cardoso, M. V., Ferreira, R. G., … & Sawaya, A. C. H. F. (2019). Comparative study of chemical composition and biological activity of yellow, green, brown, and red Brazilian propolis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2016.
  • Nakajima, Y., Shimazawa, M., Mishima, S., & Hara, H. (2007). Water extract of propolis and its main constituents, caffeoylquinic acid derivatives, exert neuroprotective effects via antioxidant actions. Life sciences, 80(4), 370-377.
  • Popova, M., Bankova, V., Butovska, D., Petkov, V., Nikolova-Damyanova, B., Sabatini, A.G., Marcazzan, G.L., & Bogdanov, S. (2004). Validated methods for the quantification of biologically active constituents of poplar-type propolis. Phytochemical Analysis, 15(4), 235-340.
  • Sforcin, J.M., & Bankova, V. (2011). Propolis: is there a potential for the development of new drugs? Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 133(2), 253-260.
  • Watanabe, M.A., Amarante, M.K., Conti, B.J., & Sforcin, J.M. (2011). Cytotoxic constituents of propolis inducing anticancer effects: a review. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 63(11), 1378-1386.
  • Wagh, V.D. (2013). Propolis: A Wonder Bees Product and Its Pharmacological Potentials. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences, 2013.
  • Yoshimasu, M., Ikeda, T., Sakai, N., Yagi, A., Hirai, Y., & Yasunaga, K. (2020). Inhibition of collagenase activity by the flavonoids from propolis. Planta Medica, 63(03), 203-206.
  • Liu, C., Hsu, J., Kuo, L., & Chuu, C. (2013). Caffeic acid phenethyl ester as an adjuvant therapy for advanced prostate cancer. Medical Hypotheses80(5), 617-619. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2013.02.003.
  • Szliszka, E., Zydowicz, G., Mizgala, E., Krol, W.”Artepillin C (3,5-diprenyl-4-hydroxycinnamic acid) sensitizes LNCaP prostate cancer cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis”. International Journal of Oncology 41, no. 3 (2012): 818-828. https://doi.org/10.3892/ijo.2012.1527.
  • Goto, Takayuki, Hiroko Kimura, Takayuki Yoshino, Atsuro Sawada, Shusuke Akamatsu, Takashi Kobayashi, Toshinari Yamasaki, Shigemi Tazawa, Masakazu Fujimoto, Yu Hidaka, and et al. 2022. “Efficacy and Safety of Brazilian Green Propolis in Biochemically Recurrent Prostate Cancer after Radical Prostatectomy: A Single-Arm Phase II Study” International Journal of Translational Medicine 2, no. 4: 618-632. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijtm2040047.

2 thoughts on “Bee Propolis and Prostate Cancer: Unveiling the Science Behind the Buzz”

  1. I am learning so much about steps that I can take to prevent my enlarged prostrate from ever becoming a cancer problem and this article is providing me with even more ammunition. I had not heard of the connection of bee propolis with prostate cancer. After reading through this article, I am astonished at what it can potentially offer for all of us, healthy or not.

    Naturally, anything I can do now to prevent further problems down the road I am interested in. Obviously, I have been missing something big that has been around since 300 BC! I see that bee propolis is helpful against skin cancer too, which I have had 2 bouts of so far (it is in remission for the moment), so this substance may very well be of even more benefit to me.

    After taking copious notes, I think I am ready to take the plunge and procure some of this in one form or another. There are various forms to get it in, are there any that you recommend over the other? Also, regarding the location it may originate from. Any recommendations on areas to focus on?  This is really a helpful article (and website!). Thanks so much!  

    1. Dear Dave,

      So glad you found the article helpful! It’s great to hear you’re looking into natural remedies like bee propolis. It’s pretty amazing what nature has to offer, right?
      When it comes to choosing a form of bee propolis, it really depends on what you find easiest. Some people like capsules because they’re convenient, while others prefer tinctures or powders to mix into drinks. Just go with what fits best into your routine!
      As for where it comes from, it’s always good to choose products that are pure and high-quality. Look for ones that have good reviews and are from reputable brands. And, of course, always check with your doctor before adding new supplements to your routine, just to be safe.
      Thanks so much for your kind words and thoughtful questions! Wishing you all the best on your health journey!

      Best Regards,

      Max

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