Scientists make propolis mouthwash for the benefit of indigenous communities

(Photo: Yucatán a la Mano)

Propolis is one of the richest products of bees. Throughout history it has had multiple uses, for the treatment of respiratory or digestive diseases, or as an antibacterial and healing agent. However, its properties vary according to its place of origin.

Mexico City, (January 15, 2022).- A multidisciplinary team of university scientists from UNAM is working on the development of a propolis formulation to obtain an herbal medicine, in order to support, in particular, the population of indigenous communities that depend on traditional medicine in primary healthcare.

The goal is to develop a preparation with antimicrobial properties in the form of a mouthwash, to combat caries-causing bacteria, that is adequately absorbed and with therapeutic efficacy, which complies with the regulations established for its distribution to the public.

The World Health Organization highlighted the importance of revaluing traditional medicine, which, in this case, is given added value through scientific research, said the participants in the inter-institutional project.

Adriana Correa Benítez, from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics (FMVZ), explained that propolis are resins that bees obtain from plants, which they add with salivary secretions and mix with wax, mud, clay or earth. This material, with which they seal holes or cracks in their colony, is a thermoregulatory agent and also serves as an antibiotic and protection against invaders; if any enter, they are “mummified” with a resin covering.

Their properties vary because neither Apis mellifera (European bee) nor native species visit the same plants. The characteristics of each one will depend on their geographical origin and the type of bee, explained the graduate of the Faculty of Chemistry, José Fausto Rivero Cruz, who continues to work on this project.

Propolis, specified the General Director of Research and Development of Finca la Isla, in Papantla, Veracruz, is a complex mixture with approximately 500 components, among them, the so-called flavonoids (phenolic compounds of vegetable origin with diverse pharmacological properties), the most common and abundant, in addition to terpenoids, phenolic acids and esters.

Likewise, in geopropolis, the research team found terpenoids, highly relevant products due to their healing, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial activity, the expert mentioned.

The working group, explained Blanca Rivero Cruz, from the Department of Pharmacy of the FQ, developed and validated analytical methodologies to quantify the flavonoid markers of propolis from the highlands of Mexico. Thanks to them, they established that there are two characteristics of this region, and “we have differentiated them between samples of propolis from the states of Puebla, Zacatecas, Chiapas, Tlaxcala and Guanajuato. These analytical procedures are of vital importance to guarantee the quality and, therefore, the efficacy of that product from the hive”.

When the sample is obtained, she said, the main components are identified; then a so-called phytochemical study is done and these components are isolated in pure form. In the laboratory they are given the appropriate treatment and with the use of solvents (ethanol and water) the preparation is made, detailed the academic.

Once the profile of propolis is available, that is, components and possible pharmacological activity, then “they are challenged against bacteria, fungi and other disease-causing agents, and it is determined if they are really effective in different uses, not only for humans, but for animals”, added Adriana Correa.

The uses given to them in traditional medicine are taken into account: healing wounds, oral cavity problems or infections, for example. We know from experience with animals and humans which bacteria cause gingivitis, cavities, skin infections, and they are proven that way, he said.

Correa Benítez mentioned that the beekeepers who cooperate with this research receive added value for their product because they know, based on science, if their propolis is better for respiratory tracts, healing, curing herpes in the mouth, etc., and time of treatment can be made more efficient. “That is the important thing, promoting alternative medicine, since in many communities it is the only one available. It is functional, but checking it”.

Until today, they clarified, consumers only have access to generic products (syrups, sprays, etc.) in different concentrations, which may or may not work for different uses, because they are not validated in most cases.

The team analyzed nearly 100 samples from various entities of the Republic, producers and seasons, so that the results are statistically valid. Results have even been compared with samples of Chinese propolis.

The information that has been collected can be used to establish specifications and update the respective official Mexican standard, so that it is more representative for the analysis of this important natural resource that also strengthens the immune system, concluded Blanca Rivero.  

Source: La jornada maya

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