Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Researching propolis cream

A friend from Bulgaria introduced me to propolis in the form of a cream purchased from Holland & Barrett. She recently gave it to another friend who has eczema on his hands and had tried many other creams without success, but found that the propolis cream provided relief. I decided to research it and have been reading James Fearnley's book 'Bee Propolis - Natural Healing from the Hive'. Propolis is a sticky substance made by bees from plant resins to protect the hive, and is reputed to have quite a wide variety of therapeutic uses. James Fearnley, on the back of his book lists a few:
"Worldwide research has found that propolis is effective:
  • in the alleviation of joint and muscular pain, arthritis and rheumatism
  • as a treatment for skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis
  • in relieving asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems
  • as a healing agent for wounds and burns
  • in treating gastro-intestinal problems and blood disorders
  • as a stimulant for the immune system
Most importantly, propolis contains powerful antibacterial properties which are capable of destroying strains that have become resistant to conventional antibiotics. Could it be the natural antibiotic of the future?"

I've just been looking at some of the propolis creams that are available on the market:
  • Bee Health propolis cream is available online at £3.45 for 30ml or £4.95 for 60ml. However the first things in the ingredients list are "Petrolatum" and "Paraffinum Liquidum" which act as suppressants. So yes, the condition the cream is being used for may appear to get better but it has only been suppressed. It is also over-protective, so the skin becomes dependent on it. Not a good start!
  • BeeVital propolis cream is available online for £5.25 for 50ml. There are lots of ingredients that I'm not familiar with, but there is no petroleum - the oils used instead are almond and coconut. It uses a 90% propolis tincture which is very high (I've bought some propolis tincture from Comvita which is 26.3%). The company is actually run by James Fearnley and they have a good website with lots of information.
  • Earthbound Organics propolis cream sounds really nice and is available online for £7.55 for 50g. I can't see the whole ingredients list but it uses sunflower oil, St John's Wort, orange blossom water and Welsh propolis!
As raw propolis seems to be quite hard to get hold of in the UK, I decided initially to just buy a tincture to experiment with. However, having seen the strength of the tincture in BeeVital's cream (and even the tincture they sell is 50%) compared to the 26.3% I have from Comvita, I've decided to persevere in trying to get hold of some propolis to make my own tincture, and then make the cream. I think it will be an exquisite and therapeutic product by the time I have taken care of each and every step! :-)

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  1. Propolis is high in resin, and resin is only fully soluble in high strength alcohol. (the 90% refers to alcohol strength). So you may find you are not dissolving the full range of active constituents if you use lower strength alcohol. However, I am not a chemist, and I don't really know what the full range of active propolis constituents are,so this is just a thought.

  2. Hi Sarah, thanks for the information - I didn't know about the need for such a high alcohol content for tincturing resins. I've looked at what's available and in this country it looks like the only option available to buy is Absinthe, with the highest alcohol content coming in at around 85%. Not cheap though at just under £30 for 70cl - this cream will be like gold dust once it's made! :-)

  3. Just found some vodka: VODKA666 which is 66% or a quadruple distilled Irish drink called Knockeen Hills POTEEN which is 70%!