From the Underground Health Reporter
Did You Know...
... that propolis kills the HIV virus that causes AIDS?
Propolis is a sticky resin that honey bees collect from tree buds, bark, sap flows, or other botanical sources. It is used to varnish the cells of the honeycomb, and as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive.
This natural substance that costs only pennies has been shown to kill the virus responsible for one of the world's deadliest and most tragic diseases. Furthermore, this germicide from the bees also blocks the HIV virus from entering into cells. HIV treatments that block cell entry of the virus are rare and sought after due to the HIV's mounting resistance to available drug treatments.
The study that proved propolis fights HIV was published in The Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2005, but the research started 5 years before that -- by accident -- when Genya Gekker was working as medical researcher at the University of Minnesota.
Gekker's research team was testing various substances against the HIV virus when she happened to come down with a cold. Back home in her native Ukraine, Gekker treated colds with propolis, a popular remedy in Eastern Europe and South America. Throughout the world for thousands of years, people have valued the healing power of propolis, now proven by a number of human and animal studies as effective against burns, minor wounds, infections, inflammatory diseases, dental pain, and genital herpes. People have applied propolis against a long list of other ailments, too, including:
In the Ukraine, propolis is as widely available as aspirin or Echinacea are in the United States. But 10 years ago in Minnesota, Gekker had to search for propolis, finally finding some at a local farmer's market where beekeepers sold honey. With a little alcohol, Gekker extracted a propolis tincture. As her sniffles improved, Gekker was struck by a powerful realization. Her research team had never tested propolis against HIV!
Gekker set up the trial, and amazingly, it worked. Propolis killed HIV. After dozens of successful lab trials testing propolis against HIV, Gekker wrote up the remarkable results with an international team of researchers led by Dr. Phil Peterson. Peterson said that propolis had been studied in the past, but not for its power to fight HIV.
The propolis lab trials that started with Genya Gekker's cold went on for about 3 years. "It was difficult work," said Peterson. Difficult, but exciting. Every single propolis sample the team tested killed HIV in lab cultures and appeared to inhibit HIV's ability to enter cells. "HIV attacks the microglia of the brain -- that's where the virus grows when it gets in the brain cells," explained Peterson. "Its other main targets are T-lymphocytes, specialized white blood cells that affect immunity. And we found, lo and behold, that when you put this propolis in a cell culture system, it has potent activity against the virus in both microglia and T-lymphocyte cell cultures."
Despite this amazing research and its follow-up since 2005, an FDA-approved drug is still years away. First, researchers would have to identify and isolate the exact active HIV-inhibiting component or components in propolis. With at least 300 and possibly as many as a thousand components in propolis, isolation isn't easy or quick. Researchers would also need to solve the issue of batch variability. The challenge of batch variability arises because bees collect propolis from different trees in diverse regions of the world!
However, even as the gears of medical research grind onward, everyday consumers can already reap the benefits of this wonder substance powerful enough to kill HIV in lab tests. Propolis has become much more widely available in recent years -- in lozenges, sprays, chewing gums, creams, ointments, and, of course, in its raw state from the beekeepers. Propolis is also endorsed as a home remedy by an increasing number of well-known doctors, including Dr. Andrew Weil.
Best of all, propolis is an inexpensive, natural substance. "We know that of the 40 million or so people affected by the HIV virus, 90% of them are living in the developing world, where they can't afford retroviral drugs at $10,000 a year," said Peterson. "Propolis, by comparison, is available for pennies. And it's been used with relative safety for medicinal purposes for 5,000 years, since Biblical times at least, all over the earth. We know it has activity against many bacteria, fungi, viruses -- it's a warehouse of antimicrobial activity. Because of propolis, a beehive is one of the most sterile places on earth. I have much greater respect for bees than I ever did," he said. "They're very clever beasts."