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Although honey is perhaps the most famous bee product of interest to human beings, bees also make propolis, another substance that humans have used for thousands of years. Bees coat the hive with propolis in much the same way we use paint and caulking on our homes. People began using propolis more than 2,300 years ago for many purposes, the foremost of which was applying it to wounds to fight infection. It is a resinous compound made primarily from tree sap, and contains biologically active compounds called flavonoids, which come from its plant source. Propolis does indeed have antiseptic properties; the flavonoids in propolis may be responsible for its antimicrobial effects as well as other alleged health benefits.
Propolis is available in a wide assortment of products found in pharmacies and health food stores, including tablets, capsules, powders, extracts, ointments, creams, lotions, and other cosmetics.
Topical propolis ointments, creams, lotions, balms, and extracts are usually applied directly to the area being treated. However, we do not recommend applying bee propolis directly to the eyes (see Safety Issues ).
Propolis intended for oral use comes in a wide variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, and extracts. Products vary so much that your best bet is to follow the directions on the label.