Bees make propolis from resins that they collect from plants and trees while they are out foraging.
Once they return to their hive, they process these substances through their enzymatic system and combine them with wax.
The resulting material is called propolis, and the bees use it to seal their hive against infections. This is what makes beehives so sterile. Bees are impeccably clean creatures.
Nature’s Laboratory is a Whitby-based natural medicine company that has been researching the role of propolis as medicine for more than 30 years. They have received a £180,000 grant from Innovate UK to research and investigate how a natural antibiotic that is produced by bees can help with the global crisis in antibiotic resistance.
This grant allows them to work with Department of Pharmacological Engineering Science at University of Bradford over a 2-year period, exploring how science can make local products for a lasting contribution to a global problem.
This unrelated 7:22-minute video by Inside the Hive TV explores the story of the potency of propolis further:
James Fearnley is the CEO and has been known to say that their work has been like a candle burning in the bright sunlight for years, because nobody recognized it. He has written two books on the subject. He said since the 1940s they have known about the anti-microbial activity of propolis, and their own research at University of Oxford in 1998 confirmed it.
Now that the threat of antibiotic resistance is growing darker and bigger, they are being looked at as a potential help for what has seemed like an unsolvable dilemma that is increasingly dangerous.
For the past 30 years, along with their colleagues at UK and global university research facilities, they published more than 30 scientific reports about propolis and there have been remarkable discoveries.
Their most remarkable discovery was during the COVID lockdown around one year ago from work they are funding at Leeds Becket University.
They discovered that by combining propolis with antibiotics that had stopped working, like penicillin, the antibiotic would start working again.
According to Fearnley, they are still working to find out exactly how and why this works, but it is clear that the potential benefits of combining propolis with antibiotics are enormous.