Phenolics in Bee Propolis

Research by Josephine Farshi and Professor Elmer Mojica

In continuation of my research on the phenolics of bee propolis, I have been focusing on the health-related benefits of varying forms of propolis. Due to the department’s current construction in our lab, I have decided on literary research. Although this has created a challenge in terms of physical research in the lab, exposure to literary research has been an extremely effective way to better understand how propolis plays a critical role in human health. In today’s blog post, I will be explaining how several propolis types are shown to be beneficial in terms of cancer, diabetes, and brain injury.

Bee propolis is not a new discovery and has been used since ancient times as a natural health remedy. For this reason, present-day researchers have investigated the chemical and biological properties of bee propolis and how said properties can be applied as an anticancer remedy. One study from Saudi Arabia determined the chemical makeup of the propolis, which consists of triterpenoids and diterpenoids, discovered using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

These chemical compounds are mainly made up of steroids, which can prevent further growth and multiplying of cancer cells. In terms of further research, I would be interested in understanding the extent to which the growth could be stopped. For instance, would the propolis be capable of preventing cancer, or would it be able to help put an end to mature cancer cells?

Traumatic brain injuries are common in the United States, occurring more than 200,000 times per year. For this reason, I sought interest in understanding how bee propolis can have an effect on this sort of internal trauma. Bazmandegan et al. used brown propolis from Iran. They specified that the propolis was from Iran because this type of propolis differs in biological activities depending on where it is from. The chemical composition and amount of polyphenol in the propolis were determined using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Then, the propolis was treated on mice who had undergone a stroke. The sensory-motor skills improved for those who were treated with the propolis as opposed to those who had not been treated. I would like to be able to further investigate or research if it is only brown propolis that would have this effect on brain injuries. I would also like to understand why the researcher chose brown propolis as opposed to any other sort of bee propolis. It can thus be understood that brown propolis can improve the skills of humans with ischemic brain injuries.

Another common disease in the United States is diabetes. I became interested in conducting literary research on this disease in particular because I have both friends and family affected by this. I therefore wanted to better understand ways that diabetes could be prevented using natural remedies, if possible. Aberomand et al. studied the effect of bee propolis on human erythrocytes when placed under high-glucose conditions. The researchers were able to conclude that while propolis is not exactly a cure for diabetes, it serves as a solid candidate for further researcher. I would be interested in researching whether the propolis serves mainly as a preventative asset, or could reverse the disease as a whole.

Thus far, my literary analysis has shown a desire for further research. The outlook for bee propolis seems none other than positive in terms of human health. I would be interested in seeing the difference between human impacts by propolis in comparison to the data gathered from the animal testing. I believe that cancer, brain injuries, and diabetes are all significant health issues that remain prominent in our society. For this reason, bee propolis could lead science in a positive direction, with successful treatments and a possibility for curing.

Phenolics in Bee Propolis

Phenolics in Bee Propolis

Research by Josephine Farshi and Professor Elmer Mojica

The primary focus of my Summer 2017 research is the analysis of phenolics in bee propolis. I aim to investigate the properties of this propolis in relation to their use by both bees and humans alike. I will achieve this by studying the antioxidant makeup and nutritional properties of propolis by means of analyzing results gathered from gas-spectrometry mass spectrometry (GC/MS). In this blog post I will describe the purpose of my research, along with how I became interested in the topic.

First, I would like to clarify that bee propolis is a product of bees, but not the commonly presumed product known as honey. The product I am focusing on comes from beehives, just like honey does (Alibino 2014). However, bees make propolis by mixing beeswax with vegetable resin, a brown substance gathered from sap (Castro et al. 2014). Propolis is commonly referred to as bee glue. During the process of GC/MS, the propolis is separated into the chemicals that it consists of during the gas chromatography and further analyzed based on these chemicals during the mass spectrometry overview (Kartal et al. 2002).

Studying the chemical properties, such as flavonoids, will provide insight on how certain chemicals can provide nutritional benefits. The nutritional and food-science aspects behind the bee propolis are what first grabbed my attention about this very topic. For instance, bee propolis is known to contain 300 active compounds, some of which have been used to fight sore throat and stomach ulcers due to the pharmaceutical activities (Rios et al. 2014). I knew that I wanted to work with something related to food-science because I am interested in all aspects of nutrition, including health benefits that certain natural products provide and the effects of socioeconomic status on global nutrient intake. From my research, I aim to see how the chemical composition of bee propolis can be used for benefitting human health.

So far this summer, I have focused on an immense amount of literary exploration. There are several reasons behind why literature is significant in my scientific research. For starters, literature provides me with an understanding of how researchers have previously analyzed the same topic of phenolics in bee propolis. Having a broad understanding of the topic at hand can therefore create a rapport between the audience and myself, as they will be able to trust the authenticity of my studies. By using the Web of Science, I have gathered over 200 abstracts from scientists, published between 2014 and 2017. I now have a broad understanding of the importance of analyzing propolis for both bees and humans alike, along with an established methodology for gathering results.