5.12 Market outlook

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It should be noted that the opinions expressed here are not based on extensive market surveys, but enquiries among a relatively few buyers and producers.

The market for raw material and secondary products containing propolis will probably continue to grow as they find more acceptance in medicinal uses and as more cosmetic manufacturers realize their benefits and marketing value. Improvements in the productionof water-soluble formulations of the active ingredients should further facilitate their wider use. Presently,, the demand is higher than supply in most countries. Unstructured and unorganized marketing, however, does not create much of a price advantage for the producer.

The difficulty of establishing uniform rules and quality control standards is probably a further impediment to market development. Concerns of importers or buyers about product effectiveness may be avoided by early collaboration with well established and reliable laboratories or researchers. Many of them will probably be glad to analyze and perhaps even test good samples of well documented origin.

International prices for raw propolis are going down. Having reached levels as high as US$160/kg or even US$300/kg, less than 20 years ago (Crane, 1990) prices of some buyers in 1992 are as low as US$4-12/kg. In several countries prices of US$30 could still be obtained in 1991. Some producers say there is a market for already fractionated extracts, i.e. extracts which are separated into various groups of components. These fractions are purchased by pharmaceutical companies and their market is most likely to increase. Though these special extracts bring a much higher price, producing them requires a well equipped chemical laboratory and trained staff for processing.

There is an opportunity produce for and develop local markets. The kind of products made and the extent of a local market will depend partly on the base ingredients available and the ability of entrepreneurs to adapt their products for local acceptance and use. Once quality standards of the large consumer nations are reached, exports may become feasible. Gaining market experience now, while competition is still relatively low will provide an advantage in the future when competition and quality control become more stringent. This should be true for raw materials as well as for manufactured products.

5.13 Caution

Hausen et al., (1987) cited almost 200 cases in which people have shown allergic reactions to propolis. In some cases of direct contact with propolis, this may have also been a result of contamination by other bee products such as pollen or bee hairs. However, extracts and products containing propolis extracts have been shown to cause allergic reactions as well (Hausen, et al., 1987, Hausen and Wollenweber, 1987 and Ko~nlg, 1988) mostly in the form of contact dermatitis. Hashimoto et al., (1988) identified caffeic acid and its derivatives as the major allergenic agents.

Therefore, with all preparations intended for human or animal luse, small quantities should be tried during the first days, slowly increasing to the full dosage (half for children) in order to test for the compatibility of the preparatino or allergic reactions. Equally, termination of medical treatments prescribed by a physician should be gradual, slowly reducing the daily dosage.

Prolonged chewing of large amounts of raw propolis may lead to nausea and stomach upsets. Donadieu (1979) recommended chewing one gram at a time, three times a day.

5.14 Patents including propolis

Since many of the formulations prepared with propolis are made by or for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, they and their production processes are often protected by patent rights.

The following are a few patents which include propolis as an ingredient. Copies of patents can usually be obtained through the patent office of the country in which the patent has been registered. The addresses of the USA, European and World patent offices are listed in Annex 2. Those of other national offices can be obtained from the country's consulate or embassy.


Anti-inflammatory (topical) Busciglio, 1988
Antibiotic ointment (dermatitis) Iwasaki, 1990
Anti-inflammatory and cell growth inhibitor Nakanishi et al., 1989
Tissue regeneration agent (veterinary) Dubaj et al., 1988
Propolis-stabilized vitamin C (Tablets of 91.5% glucose, 5% vitamin C and 3.5% ethanol exract of propolis) Dubovsky et al., 1988
Drug for muscle hypoplasia in piglets Musci et al., 1989


Deodorant Vol’Fenzon et al., 1989
Deodorant mouthwash Cho et al., 1988


Germicide, insecticide for food packaging Mizuno, 1989a, b

Extraction methods

WSD - Water Soluble Derivatives Nikolov et al., 1987

5.15 Information sources

Pharmaceutical, cosmetic, dermatological, medical and most beekeeping journals in different countries occasionally publish articles on propolis composition, uses and recipes for products. As a single source of information the IBRA has compiled a bibliography of all propolis-related articles which have appeared until recently in the Apicultural Abstracts. The American Apitherapy Society is collecting case histories of medical uses and continuously updates its database on research and other related publications.


Various products containing propolis (from left to right): extracts of various concentrations, revitalizing cream,  extracts with dropper, caramels, soap, shampoo and night cream.

Figure 5.6: Various products containing propolis (from left to right):
extracts of various concentrations, revitalizing cream,
extracts with dropper, caramels, soap, shampoo and night cream.

5.16 Recipes

As with all other recipes in this book, no guarantee is given that they will work under all conditions or that they will be effective for what their authors have claimed. They are meant as a basis for experimentation and adaptation to local conditions. When preparing a new formulation, notes of all environmental conditions, exact ingredient mixes and a precise description of every step in the process should be kept. These notes will allow the repetition of a successful trial and help avoid repeating those which have failed.

Propolis extracts or their dried residues (pastes or powders) are said to be beneficial if included in normal formulations of all kinds of creams, ointments, lotions, shampoos, lipsticks, anti-cellulite and anti-wrinkle preparations, mouth and nasal sprays etc. As a general guideline, propolis can be added to a product at 1 to 3 % by weight in the form of a 50% propolis-ethanol solution, i.e. 0.5 to 1.5% of extracted propolis. Up to 10% of less concentrated solutions are recommended by some authors which represents essentially similar amounts of extracted propolis dry weight. Only a few applications will benefit from much higher concentrations.

If the final product is an oil or fat-based product, a propolis solution prepared with highly concentrated ethanol will blend well with the final product. Glycol or less concentrated ethanol may be used for extracts that will be added to products which contain some water. For additional cosmetic recipes see Chapter 9.

5.16.1 Ointments

1) Simple Vaseline-based ointment

Ingredients (in parts by weight) after D. and G. Barral (1992):

1 Propolis extract
9 Vaseline or other petrolatum

Prepare a propolis extract in 96% ethanol to a concentration of 10% propolis (method]) then reduce the solvent to obtain 30% propolis content by weight. Mix the extract with a small quantity of the Vaseline. Once the mix is homogeneous or well emulsified the rest of the Vaseline can be added slowly. If not mixed well the propolis extract will separate and leave dirty looking droplets in the cream (see also Fig. 9.9). Slight warming in a water bath will improve mixing. Using an emulsifier or electric mixer makes mixing easier.

The propolis extract may make up to 10% (by weight) of the final ointment. 10% of lanoline can also be melted with the Vaseline (using a water bath) following the same procedures as for the propolis.

2) Simple ointment based on vaseline or animal fat

Propolish cream (in parts by weight) after Savina and Romanov (1956):

This cream can be used for application on cuts, abscesses and festering wounds in animals and external ulcers and burns in humans.

10 Vaseline or animal fat
1 Propolis

Bring the vaseline or fat to boiling point, cool to 50-60 0C, add propolis, heat to 70-800C, stir for 10 minutes and cover for 10 minutes. Filter through one layer of thin cloth into clean container and seal. ft is ready as soon as it has cooled, but will not stsore for very long, particularly if animal fats are used.

3) Simple oil-based ointment

Ingredients (in parts by weight) after Proserpio and Martelli (1986):

2 Propolis ethanol extract, 20% (EEP, method 1)
1 Beeswax
7 Lanolin
10 Butter of palm, cacao, keraté or similar

Melt the beeswax in a water bath, slowly stir in the melted lanolin and mix well. while the mixture is cooling mix in the butter. The propolis extract is best mixed with a small amount of butter and added to the rest of the mixture once the latter has cooled to less than 40°C.

5.16.2 Oral and nasal spravs

D. and G. Barral (1992) recommend preparing a 2 to 10% propolis solution in propylene glycol (Method 3). For flavour, an extract of some herbs in glycol or ethanol canbe prepared and filtered. Regalis, anis, eucalyptus and mint are among the many suitable herbs that can be used.

The two alcohol extracts are mixed using only a small quantity of the plant extract, according to taste. The alcohol solution can be further diluted before bottling in small mechanical sprays (vaporizers). Glycol is preferred over ethanol in this recipe because of its slower evaporation after application. A caution about excessive use of the glycol based spray should be included on the label (see Method 3 for reasons).

5.16.3 Suntan lotions

Select a suntan lotion and add sufficient propolis-glycol extract to make up 2-5% in propolis dry weight.

For basic suntan lotion formulations see the recipes in Chapter 9.

5.16.4 Propolis syrups or honeys

For syrups to be taken orally use the propolis in ethanol extract and mix it with a glucose/fructose syrup (e.g. honey or inverted sugar syrup). A sugar mixture is reported to work better than a syrup made from a single sugar. The alcohol acts as a preservative.

Mixing propolis extract with a slightly diluted honey should work even better, since they complement each other's function. To find a water-soluble extract with all the curative values of raw propolis would be best. One of the previous methods (7-10) could be tried.

The propolis extract, however, can also be mixed with undiluted honey. To make the mixing or emulsification easier, only a small quantity of honey should be taken and mixed with the extract. Once this mixture is homogeneous, it is easily mixed with the rest of the honey. Store this product in dark or opaque containers.

5.16.5 Propolis tablets

This basic formula can also be used to incorporate pollen, where most of the sugar can be replaced with it; but a 10 to 20% sugar (honey) content should be maintained. Unless the tablets can be coated with wax or a similar barrier, the use of honey ~hould be limited because of its hygroscopic nature. Thikonov, et al., (1991) describes another recipe for a sublingual tablet with propolis.

Ingredients (in parts by weight) after Bianchi (1990):

1 Gum arabic
1 Water
1 Propoli paste (from an aqueous EEP)
10 Powdered sugar
q.s. Flavouring (not essential)

In a small container, mix the water with the gum arabic until a homogeneous mass is obtained. while stirring, slowly add the propolis extract and mix well. Then slowly add the powdered sugar and mix continuously. Add the flavouring if required.

Prepare a suiface for rolling out the dough, thinly cover it with powdered sugar and roll out the dough to a unijorm thickness. when the thickness is that of the desired tablets cut the dough with metal, glass or plastic rings of the desired diameter or shape. Unite the leftover dough, roll it out again and continue cutting pills until the dough is finished.

Dry the pills, suitably protected from dust, in the open air or in an oven or solar drier. The temperature should never exceed 400C. Store the product in clean, dark containers.

To protect against various infections and inflammations of the mouth and throat, particularly after tooth extraction, one pill may be slowly dissolved in the mouth 3 or 4 times a day. The exact size of the pill is not that important, since no precise dosage of the propolis is necessary. This medication should not be taken without consulting a doctor.

5.16.6 Propolis shampoo

Propolis shampoo has been described as having anti-dandruff properties. Formulations for other shampoos can be found in Chapter 9. Propolis extract prepared from diluted alcohol (less than 25 %) or glycol, can be mixed with many readily available shampoos. When mixed with alcohol, depending on the gel agent, some shampoos may loose viscosity.

Anti-dandruff shampoo with propolis.
Figure 5.7: Anti-dandruff shampoo with propolis.


Ingredients (in parts by weight) after Lejeune et al., (1984):

1 Propolis extract
20 Texapon N40 (alkyl sulphate by Henkel, see Annex 2)
3 Comperlan KD (copper diethanolamide by Henkel)
2.5 Sodium chloride
0.1 Lactic Acid
3 Vegetable oil, preferably ricinus (castor) oil

Add demineralized water or boiled rain water to make up 100 parts.

A 1 % propolis extract in 96% ethanol was found most cost-effective and compatible with other ingredients. The Henkel products are added to obtain a pleasant viscosity which might also be obtained using other emulsifiers and natural gels if the alcohol is eliminated from the propolis extract. The oil is needed for protection of the scalp and hair.

Dissolve the sodium chloride in 20 parts of water, filter the solution and add the lactic acid. The oil phase is mixed after heating the Comperlan in a water bath to 40 0C. First add the Texapon and then the oil to the Comperlan. Mix careflilly and slowly to avoid the formation of too much foam. After, also the propolis extract is added the two liquids (oil and water phases) can be united and the volume is made up to 100 parts with water. The resulting shampoo is a clear brown colour with a pleasant aroma and it can be stored in dark bottles for at least 12 months.

5.16.7 Anti-dandruff lotion

This simple lotion is easy to prepare and, if stored in dark bottles away from heat, can be used for at least 12 months.

Ingredients (in parts by weight) after Lejeune et al., (1984):

1 Propolis (50% EEP)
5 Sodium laurylsulphate
37 Ethanol (96 to 100%)
57 Rain water, boiled

A 10% propolis extract is prepared according to method 1 and solvent reduced  the to provide a 50% extract of propolis by dry weight.

Mix the propolis extract with 37 parts ethanol and the laurylsulphate with 57 parts of boiled rain water. Then mix the two solutions together.

If the propolis extract contains less than 50% dry weight, appropriate calculations can avoid solvent reduction and later addition of the same solvent, i.e. add Sparts of 10% EEP and only 32 parts of ethanol. On the other hand the exact concentration of propolis is not very important as long as the lotion contains at least 0.5% of propolis by weight. The alcohol content of the lotion should be about 45% by volume.

5.16.8 Propolis toothpaste

The antibacterial, wound healing and circulation improving characteristics of propolis can be used for daily tooth and gum care. Rather than making your own toothpaste, it is easier to add propolis to an existing formulation. For home use simply take a tube of toothpaste, open it at the folded end and spoon out the contents. Mix the contents well with 3 to 10% of propolis paste (method 6) refill the tube and close up the end again.

For small-scale commercial production find a supplier of the base formulation and add your own propolis extract, or ask a larger manufacturer to formulate and pack the paste for you with your own label.

Proserpio and Martelli (1982b) recommended the following base formulation for a toothpaste. Other toothpaste formulations can be found in Chapter 9.

Ingredients (in parts by weight):

2.5 Propolis extract (10% EEP, method 1)
25.0 Boiled and cooled water
1.0 Carboxymethylcellulose (emulsifier)
25.0 Glycerol
1.5 Flavours and sweeteners
40.0 Calcium phosphate
2.0 Silica powder
2.0 Sodium laurylsulphate
1.0 Clear mineral oil

The propolis can be extracted with ethanol or, alternatively, glycol. Borax can be used as the emulsifier, but it is harmffil to consume borax in appreciable quantities and its inclusion in products that might be consumed is illegal in the USA and some other countries.

Once the components are well mixed they should be packed as soon as possible. Tubes are the preferred containers for toothpaste, but (if consumers will accept them) alternative packaging could be soft squeeze bottles with a spout that can be closed.

5.16.9 Anaesthetic propolis paste

The major application for the paste is in dentistry. Propolis is supposed to give this paste anaesthetic and regenerative effects. It also contributes to antimicrobial and analgesic properties. Alternatively, the propolis extract can be mixed with ready-made benzocaine creams at a rate of 30% of a 50% propolis-ethanol solution. These pastes generally contain no water, so the propolis should be added in the form of a high-percentage alcohol extract.

The propolis solution should be prepared in advance to the right concentration. For this purpose the original extract prepared at a 10 to 30% propolis concentration should be evaporated until a 50% concentration is reached.

Ingredients (in parts by weight) after Sosnowski (1984):

10 Lanolin
10 Unbleached beeswax
10 Petrolatum (or Vaseline, the trade name for a petrolatum)
2 Ethyl aminobenzoate
3 Clove oil
15 Propolis (50% EEP)

Melt the beeswax and mix it with the petrolatum in a water bath, continue stirring during cooling and slowly mix in the lanolin. when the mixture has cooled to about 40 0C, start stirring rapidly while mixing in the propolis extract, followed by the other ingredients.

5.16.10 Creams

Propolis extract can be mixed with most creams. Moisturizing, rejuvenating or curative creams can be improved by adding 1 to 5 % (dry weight) propolis extract; many commercial preparations contain much less than this. Some extracts require ernulsifiers and others can be mixed directly depending also on the basic formulation of the cream. The antibacterial, antifungal, stimulating and rejuvenating effects of propolis are particularly welcome in certain skin and hair-care preparations. Pharmaceutical creams with propolis extract can be used by humans and for animals.

For basic cream recipes see Chapter 9.

5.16.11 Facial masks

1) Facial masks are intended either to moisturize or to cleanse and tighten ghe skin. The following recipe is for a cleansing mask and the propolis is said to help rejuvenate the skin.

Ingredients (in parts by weight) after Sosnowski (1984):

50 Filler (this may be Fuller’s earth, china clay, kaolin, bentonite or a mixture of any of them)
44.0 50% glycerol solution
5.7 50% propolis solution
q.s. Perfume or essential oils

Mix the glycerol and the propolis extract (made with high percent alcohol) well, heating slightly if necessary. Mix with the filler and the petyume. Other beneficial plant extracts in alcohol may also be added in small quantities.

2) A simpler cleansing mask for oily skin (modified from Krochmal)

The ingredients (in parts by volume) for this mask should not be mixed until immediately prior to use, since they do not contain preservatives and will spoil rapidly.

4 Fuller’s earth (or substitute)
1 Rose water
1 Lemon juice
2 Honey
1 5 to 10% propolis extract

The propolis extract here should have been prepared with diluted ethanol (less than 25%) or glycol, so that it is more water-soluble, or one of the powdered formulations should be used. The rose water can be prepared by dispersing a few drops of rose oil in water or by preparing a cold infusion tea) from a few rose petals in clean water. Other water or alcohol based petyumes or aromatic extracts can be used.

5.16.12 Micro-encapsulation

Several authors have described the encapsulation of propolis extracts as a mechanism for prolonged, slow release. Micro-encapsulated propolis could also be used in food as a preservative against bacterial decay.

Pepeljnjak et al., (1981) has shown the prolonged antibacterial effect of propolis enclosed in soft gelatine capsules. Encapsulation techniques in general are highly advanced, but simple methods requiring less expensive technology are possible. Further details can be found in Kondo (1979)

5.16.13 Ouality tests for antioxidant activity

A very simple home test has been suggested in a Canadian bee newsletter (CHRA, 1988): "To know whether your propolis is still active, put half a tea spoon of ground propolis into a small cup of fresh milk and let the milk sit at room temperature for four days. If the milk is still fresh after that time, your propolis is O.K."

A more accurate, but still simplified method for testing containing propolis is described below (after Bianchi, 1990):

Ingredients required:

200 mg Propolis
5 ml Ethanol
100 ml distilled water (boiled and cooled)
1 ml 20 % sulphuric acid
1 drop 0.1N potassium permanganate solution

Apparatus required:

1 Scale, precise to at least +/- 10 mg
2 250 ml Erlenmeyer flasks or other clean glass containers
1 Filter paper, cotton balls, cotton cloth or coffee filter
1 2 ml pipette and syringe or medicine stopper for drop application
1 50 ml beaker or other clear, clean glass container of small diameter
2 Medicine stoppers
1 Stopwatch or watch which indicates seconds

For raw propolis:

1) Place 200 mg of finely broken propolis into the Erlenmeyer flask and add 5 ml of ethanol.

2) Leave for one hour then add 100 ml of boiled and cooled distilled water, mixing all well.

3) Filter everything

4) From the filtrate (the clear liquid) take 2 ml with the pipette orthe syringe, transfer it into the 50 ml beaker and add 1 ml of the 20% sulphuric acid.  Mix for one minute, then add one drop of the permanganate solution.

5) Watch the colour of the liquid closely; the liquid should turn colourless, i.e. no longer pink, within 11 seconds. If discolouration takes longer, the propolis is of lower quality, i.e. has less antioxidant activity.

For propolis extracts:

The reaction time for discolouration depends on the quantity of dissolved propolis in the reagent (test liquid). Therefore, for different concentrations of extracts the times will be different. The initial quantity mixed with the distilled water can (accordingly) be adjusted to a standard dry weight of propolis extract which then can be compared with a similar solution or raw propolis of known origin.

Mix 2 ml of a 10% ethanol extracted propolis solution (method 1) with 100 ml of boiled and cooled distilled water and follow the above test from step 3. Discolouration should occur within 20 seconds.

For propolis paste:

To 100 mg of paste add 5 ml of ethanol and then 100 ml of distilled water (boiled and cooled). Follow the above test from step 3. Discolouration should occur in less than 20 seconds.

For other propolis containing preparations:

For preparations with approximately 3 to 10% of propolis dry weight per weight of the preparation the following test should work. Always try a standard product first for comparison, i.e. the same product containing a known quantity of guaranteed fresh propolis.

To 2 g of a product containing 3 to 10% of propolis on a dry weight basis, add 10 ml of ethanol and mix well until it is dissolved. Add 100 ml of boiled and cooled distilled water. Mix and if necessary filter and then proceed with step 4. Discolouration should not take longer than 50 seconds.

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