Honey bees could help treat mouth ulcers – thanks to new research into the healing properties of propolis, a mixture of resin and wax made by bees to seal and sterilise their hives.
Its use in medicine and food supplements has been limited because the sticky substance is not water soluble and has a strong, off-putting smell.
Now researchers at the University of Bradford have developed a way of purifying propolis that retains its medicinal properties, but makes it dissolve in water and eliminates its pungent smell. The technique has already led to the development of a new mouth ulcer gel and opens the door to a huge range of other pharmaceutical applications.
“There is a substantial market for propolis-based products – particularly in China, the USA and South Asia,” explains Professor Anant Paradkar, who led the research. “Propolis has been shown to be anti-microbial, anti-fungal, a strong anti-oxidant, non-allergenic and can boost the immune system. It also promotes wound healing and has anaesthetic properties.
“A problem for mouth gels is that adhesion to the skin membrane inside the mouth is difficult – because of the nature of the surface, the gel can simply slide off. As propolis retains some of its stickiness even in a water soluble formulation, when it is applied to specific areas in the mouth, it adheres more effectively.”