Medically reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD, PhD
If you thought honey was the only medicinal product produced by honeybees, you would be amazed to know that honeybees also produce another medicinal substance, propolis, which is a resinous mixture used to seal their beehives (bee-glue). Propolis has extensively been used in traditional medicine for treating many diseases. You may read more about propolis in a paper titled “Propolis: A Wonder Bees Product and Its Pharmacological Potentials – PMC” published in Advances in Pharmacological Sciences.
Even more interesting to discover are the results of a recent clinical trial that investigated propolis as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This study titled “Effects of propolis supplementation on irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) and mixed (IBS-M) stool pattern: A randomized, double-blind clinical trial” was recently published in Food Science & Nutrition.
The Phase 2 clinical trial (IRCT20190708044154N1) on propolis in IBS-C and IBS-M was conducted on 56 patients in Iran. The participants received either daily 900-mg propolis or a placebo for 6 weeks. The study found a significant reduction in IBS symptoms in participants receiving propolis. Furthermore, propolis medication considerably decreased the degree and frequency of stomach discomfort. The chances of improvement in IBS symptoms with propolis treatment were 6.22 times that with placebo. Supplementation with propolis did not affect the energy or nutrient intake of the participants.
Can these results be a Game Changer in IBS?
This is the first clinical trial report of propolis supplementation in IBS. Based on these encouraging results, propolis may be developed as a therapy for IBS in the future. The Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, a top Iranian academic institution, funded this trial.
Propolis contains more than 300 phytochemicals, including polyphenols. Propolis, and its constituents, possess antioxidant properties and modulating effects on the inflammation, immune system, gut microbiota, and permeability of the gut in the previous lab-based studies.
Patients with IBS have derangements in the above pathways. However, there are not many effective therapies for IBS. Moreover, dietary therapies that restrict gas-producing foods can alter bacterial diversity in the gut. Propolis, a modulator of multiple pathways, can offer hope to patients with IBS not adequately managed with other therapies.
What are the Takeaway Messages from this Study?
Propolis supplementation decreased the severity and frequency of stomach discomfort in IBS-C and IBS-M patients, according to this study. As a result, propolis might be used as an additional therapy for IBS-C and IBS-M.
But, as this was a Phase 2 trial, the benefits of propolis need to be evaluated in larger Phase 3 studies before reaching definite conclusions about the effectiveness of propolis in IBS.
Miryan, M., Soleimani, D., Alavinejad, P., Abbaspour, M., & Ostadrahimi, A. (2022). Effects of propolis supplementation on irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS‐C) and mixed (IBS‐M) stool pattern: A randomized, double‐blind clinical trial. Food Science & Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.2806
Wagh V. D. (2013). Propolis: a wonder bees product and its pharmacological potentials. Advances in pharmacological sciences, 2013, 308249. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/308249