The naturally antiseptic waxy material that bees produce to waterproof their hives could have health benefits for humans, according to new ongoing research.
Propolis, which offers a hive protection from predators and bad weather and is made from bee saliva, wax and plant material, could be used as a way of lowering blood pressure.
A study by the University of Plymouth suggested that propolis can increase the volume of natural oral bacteria found in the mouth. This bacteria helps convert nitrates in food into a compound that widens blood vessels and in turn lowers blood pressure.
A mouthwash containing propolis is currently being offered to 50 volunteers at the university. Scientist Dr Raul Bescos said: “We know that the make-up and activity of oral bacteria is very important in maintaining blood pressure at normal levels.”
High blood pressure is a major contributing factor of heart disease and strokes, with some 16 million Britons having the condition, which is often without symptoms.
It is hoped the propolis will boost the numbers and activity of nitrite-producing bacteria in the mouth, causing blood pressure to fall.
Consultant cardiologist at Hammersmith Hospital in London, Dr Punit Ramrakha explains: “Study after study has shown that people who have poor oral health, such as gum disease or tooth loss, have higher rates of cardiovascular problems than people with good oral health.
“This new work from the team at the University of Plymouth is looking to see if modifying the bacterial flora in the mouth can have a beneficial effect on the individual’s blood pressure, and the use of propolis for this is inspired and unique.
“We eagerly await the results of the clinical trial and, if positive, this will be another example of how important bees are for human survival.”