Revised: 10 June 2013
Website: September 2010
Prescriber Update 2010;31(3):22
Healthcare professionals are advised to consider the uncertain beneﬁts of propolis versus the risk of developing hypersensitivity reactions or renal failure before recommending its use to patients.
This advice follows a review of international adverse reaction reports that identiﬁ ed several cases of hypersensitivity reactions in people using complementary medicines containing propolis.1 Patients with a history of allergies appeared to be at particular risk of these reactions. Propolis has also been implicated in cases of acute renal failure.2,3
Propolis is a resinous mixture collected by honey bees from tree buds, sap and other botanical sources. It is marketed as a traditional medicine for Prescriber Update 2010; 31(3) September the relief of a wide variety of conditions, including inﬂammation, viral diseases, ulcers, superﬁcial burns and scalds; however none of these claims have been conﬁrmed by clinical studies published in the biomedical literature.4
The composition of propolis depends, among other factors, on geographical location and season; a 'typical' propolis may contain around 50 constituents including resins, vegetable balsams, waxes, essential oils and pollen.
Healthcare professionals are also reminded to ask patients about their use of OTC and complementary medicines, and to report any adverse reactions to CARM.