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Can Propolis Fight Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:

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Note that each number in parentheses [1, 2, 3, etc.] is a clickable link to peer-reviewed scientific studies. A plus sign next to the number “[1+, 2+, etc...]” means that the information is found within the full scientific study rather than the abstract.

This article is for informational purposes only. The current coronavirus outbreak is an ongoing event and certain details may change as new information comes to light. No effective or FDA-approved products are currently available for the treatment of the new coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2 or 2019-nCoV), although research is still ongoing.

Anti Infection Potential

Overall, propolis shows antimicrobial potential in test tubes, animals and a few low quality human trials. There are no cell based studies on the novel coronavirus at this time.

We don’t really know the impact on taking propolis for infections, especially COVID-19, but it seems like a generally healthy immune support supplement.

Respiratory Viruses

In an old clinical trial on 50 people with a common cold caused by rhinovirus, propolis sped up recovery [1].

An herbal preparation with propolis, echinacea, and vitamin C reduced the incidence and duration of respiratory infections in a trial on 430 children [2].

A propolis extract (NIVCRISOL) reduced the number of cases with chronic symptoms and the presence of pathogens in the upper airways in a clinical trial of children with rhinopharyngitis [3].

A propolis ointment was more effective than both the placebo and an antiviral drug (acyclovir) at healing the lesions in a clinical trial on 90 people with genital herpes. Similarly, a lipstick with propolis was more effective than acyclovir in a clinical trial on almost 200 people with cold sores [4, 5]. Propolis was also effective against both types of herpes in mice [6, 7].

In mice infected with influenza A (H0N1 and H1N1), propolis extract reduced virus yields and death rate [8, 9].

In mice with respiratory syncytial virus infection, Brazilian propolis attenuated the worsening of the symptoms caused by a chemical (tetrabromobisphenol A). Propolis reduced virus titers, CD8+ cell counts in the lungs, and the production of the cytokines IFN-γ, TNF-α, and IL-6 [10].

The phenolic compound caffeic acid phenethyl ester reduced lung inflammation and damage caused by bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in mice [11].

The combination of propolis flavone and epimedium polysaccharide increased cure rate while reducing death rate in chicken with Newcastle disease [12].

Antiviral Activity

In an old cell-based study, the propolis flavonoids chrysine and kaempferol inhibited two coronaviruses: human OC43 and bovine CDCV [13].

Propolis extract was active against the viruses that cause the following disease in test tubes:

  • Oral and genital herpes [14, 15, 16, 17]
  • Chickenpox [18]
  • Common flu [8, 19]
  • AIDS [20, 21, 22]
  • Polio [23]
  • Newcastle disease [12]

In test tubes, propolis and its active components had antibacterial activity against some microorganisms causing respiratory infections (such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Haemophilus parainfluenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Streptococcus pyogenes) [24, 25].

General Immunity

Propolis and its active compounds also stimulated the immune system in animals vaccinated against the following viruses:

  • Bovine herpesvirus type 5 [26]
  • Porcine parvovirus [27]
  • Suid herpesvirus type 1 [28, 29]
  • Newcastle disease [30, 31]

Herpes

A propolis ointment was more effective than both the placebo and an antiviral drug (acyclovir) at healing the lesions in a clinical trial on 90 people with genital herpes. Similarly, a lipstick with propolis was more effective than acyclovir in a clinical trial on almost 200 people with cold sores [4, 5].

Propolis was also effective against both types of herpes in mice [6, 7].

Asthma

Asthma is a risk factor for complications in COVID-19, so theoretically, improving asthma can reduce your risk of complications if you get COVID-19.

In a small trial on 24 asthmatic patients, those receiving propolis showed a reduction in the incidence and severity of nocturnal attacks and an improvement in lung function. Propolis reduced the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha, ICAM-1, IL-6, and IL-8) and messengers (prostaglandins E2 and F and leukotriene D4), while increasing the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 [32].

Overactivation of mast cells and histamine release is the leading cause of allergic reactions, including seasonal allergies, asthma, and eczema. In mouse studies, the phenolic compounds quercetin, pinocembrin, and caffeic acid phenethyl ester found in propolis blocked histamine, ROS, and cytokine release and relieved asthmatic symptoms [33, 34, 35, 36, 37].

About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello

PhD (Molecular Biology)
Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.
Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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