Was ist Propolis?

What is propolis?

An often neglected bee product with a prominent role in the hive: propolis. At first glance, it is a sticky, resinous sealant that only reveals what it can do at second glance: With propolis, the beehive not only protects itself against intruders through cracks and crevices, but also against the spread of infections inside Propolis provides protection.

What is the most sterile environment known to nature? Every beekeeper will now answer you: a beehive! Bacteria, fungi and viruses hardly manage to gain a foothold in a beehive and the reason for this is propolis.

In this article we would like to take a deep look inside a beehive and try to unravel the secrets of propolis. What is propolis and how do bees make it? Why and for what do many people use propolis? What is propolis made of and what does it do in the beehive? We will get to the bottom of all these questions in this article and devote ourselves in detail to the putty resin with the strange name propolis.

What actually is propolis?

PureBee graphic: This is propolis

The Duden describes propolis as a "resinous, germ-free mass that bees collect from the buds of deciduous trees to line the inside of their hive". So, by definition, it can be described as a substance that bees make by collecting tree sap. Due to the resinous property and the actual purpose, propolis is often also called bee putty or putty resin. The term "putty" comes from the task that propolis takes on in the beehive. Bees primarily produce propolis to seal all open joints. A side effect of this putty is that it has an antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal effect on the hive. This ensures that harmful organisms are inhibited in their development or even killed outright.

A small fact: "Propolis" is used as a feminine noun ("die Propolis"), even if all forms are used colloquially. In the end it doesn't matter if you say propolis, the main thing is that it serves its purpose.

How is propolis formed?

PureBee graphic: This is how propolis is made

A beehive is an absolutely hierarchical living organism. At first glance, the whole hustle and bustle may seem confusing, but the bee colony is absolutely orderly and each bee has its assigned task according to its age. Some of the bees take care of the brood, the others are foragers and fly out to collect raw materials and others are responsible for the further processing of the materials brought in in the hive.

To produce propolis, the forager bees first fly out to collect resin from the trees. Anyone who has ever touched a resinous branch knows that it is incredibly sticky. However, the bees scrape it off with their mouthparts (mandibles) and enrich it with saliva without sticking to it. They stow the collected resin in their pollen pants on their hind legs and fly it back into the hive. There the hive bees help to remove the sticky substance from the pollen panties and do the rest of the work. The hive bees chew the salivated resin until it has the right consistency, adding pollen, wax and other organic matter. In this way, the former tree resin ultimately becomes propolis, which the animals immediately place in the beehive where they think it is necessary.

Discover some of our PureBee products with propolis

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Propolis over time

With the hype about bees, which has become more and more widespread in recent years, more and more information can be found on the Internet and TV as to the applications for which propolis can be good. One could almost think that propolis is a recent discovery and science has only just become aware of it. But you are way off the mark, since the history of propolis begins much further in the past.

Sources go back to around 350 BC and Aristotle already used propolis. The ancient Egyptians embalmed their mummies with it and the ancient Greeks used it to treat wounds, ulcers and other ailments.

How is propolis still used today?

PureBee: A bee in the hive with propolis

Even today, propolis is still used in naturopathy. Since we at PureBee are neither medically nor therapeutically trained, we cannot make any statements about the healing effects. We are also more interested in the cosmetic effects on the skin. What we do know, however, is how it works in the hive. A beehive can be thought of as a hot (constant 35 degrees) environment with high humidity. Thousands of bees live there in a very small space. From time to time a mouse or lizard "gets lost". All of these are ideal conditions for bacteria, viruses and fungi to multiply rapidly. Thanks to propolis, the stick is almost germ-free. An intruder such as said mouse or lizard would be stabbed and then quickly embalmed with propolis to avoid bacterial decomposition.

However, if you are interested in how propolis could have a healing effect on you, a trained therapist, alternative practitioner or doctor will surely help you.


Every immune system reacts differently and propolis is an allergenic substance. So it may be that you are not allergic to honey or bee stings, but you do react to propolis. Especially if you use propolis as a tincture, make sure before the first application that you can tolerate propolis.

Ingredients: What is in the putty resin?

PureBee graphic: ingredients of propolis

If you look at propolis in the laboratory, then it is an organic compound consisting of about 50 percent resins, 30 percent beeswax, 10 percent essential oils, 5 percent pollen, 3 percent organic substances and 2 percent nutrients (minerals, trace elements, amino acids, enzymes, flavonoids).

To date, the putty resin has not been completely broken down and the question of why it is so effective against germs, viruses and fungi in the beehive has not yet been conclusively answered. So far, between 150 and 200 different ingredients have been discovered. But what complicates an analysis is that the composition of propolis is never the same, even from the same hive. It depends on numerous factors such as the plant source and the activity of the bees. These variations are sometimes reflected in the color and taste of the propolis, which is why our cosmetic products can always vary slightly in color.


A large part of the propolis used in Germany is imported from abroad. A colony of bees can produce up to 200 grams of resin per year and , according to the German Beekeepers' Association, there are around 150,000 beekeepers with a total of around 1,000,000 bee colonies in Germany. Many of these beekeepers are pure hobby beekeepers and only a very small number practice beekeeping as a profession. German beekeepers can only cover about 20 percent of the honey requirement, so it is hardly surprising that it is not possible to obtain larger quantities of propolis in Germany.

There is now also Eastern European propolis, which consists of almost the same ingredients (of course there are small differences due to the different plant sources) as the domestic one. Testing in Germany by laboratories and experienced beekeepers is important.

Even our propolis production is not quite enough for our cosmetics production. We therefore buy European propolis, which hardly differs from our propolis in terms of taste and smell. However, a large part of the propolis imported into Germany comes from China. We did some tests with Chinese propolis, and even if everything was fine with it, the taste and smell just didn't convince us and we stick with the more expensive European goods.

The effect of propolis

As already mentioned several times, propolis in the beehive has a pronounced antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral effect. This effect against bacteria, viruses and fungi has already been demonstrated in animals.

The effect of propolis in the beehive is undoubtedly given. In 1966, the French researcher, Prof. Dr. Remy Chauvin, Bees on Parasites. Surprisingly, he did not find any parasites on the bees' bodies. With other insects the situation was quite different. The bees and the bee products were then examined more closely. It was found that propolis is responsible for this phenomenon. The investigations of the propolis were further intensified and are not finished until today. So far, various vitamins from the B group have been found in propolis, as well as vitamins E, H and A. All trace elements and minerals important for the human organism are present. - Iron, copper, manganese, chromium, cobalt, zinc, tin, nickel, silicon, strontium, calcium, aluminum, vanadium, etc. - In 1976 it was determined that propolis contained caffeic and ferulic acid. Both acids are characterized by a strong antibacterial, regenerative and cholagogue effect.

In the hive, the effect of propolis can be easily observed for yourself: Thousands of small insects live in a very small space at an ambient temperature of 35 degrees and very high humidity. If there were no sophisticated strategy against bacteria, viruses and fungi, no bee colony could survive for long - the conditions described are too good for pathogens.

Propolis is very versatile and has great effects in the beehive. Despite all the enthusiasm, one must note that this is NOT a drug and no statements can be made about the health effects or treatment of diseases in humans.

How does PureBee use propolis?

Unfortunately, propolis is not naturally water or fat soluble. In order to be able to process it in our cosmetics, it must first be dissolved in alcohol. We sometimes hear from customers, "Why do all your products contain alcohol?" and that is exactly why. There is no propolis without alcohol. The alcohol content in our products is relatively low and in no way harmful or drying on the skin and is compensated in our recipes by the caring properties of other ingredients. In addition, alcohol is of plant origin, which is very important to us.

From time to time you can also find "alcohol-free" propolis tinctures online. Unfortunately, this is only half the truth. Although the product does not contain the drinking alcohol (ethanol) that we are familiar with, in most cases propylene glycol, a polyhydric alcohol, is the main ingredient. This is synthetically manufactured and classified as harmful to the skin. That's why we prefer to stick with the classic propolis tincture with real alcohol, which grandmother already used :-)

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