Research into Propolis

James Fearnley the Director of ARC has been researching the medicinal properties of propolis for over 25 years and has published the principle work in English on the subject: Bee Propolis - Natural Healing from the Hive.

What is Propolis

  • The raw material for propolis is resin which the bees collect from trees and plants and take back to the hive where it is processed and where some of the chemicals within this complex substance are transformed through the bee’s enzymatic activity.
  • During this process wax is added to produce the final product - propolis - a name coined by Aristotle and meaning 'before the city' or 'defender of the city'.
  • Propolis is increasingly being investigated for its antibacterial, anti inflammatory, antifungal and anti tumoral properties.
  • Propolis may contain up to 300 different bio chemicals. The chemical composition however changes according to climate, surrounding flora and time of day collected.
  • Propolis has many functions in the hive including building material, antiseptic, regulation of air flow and reinforcement in the hive.
  • Propolis provides the immune defence mechanism for the hive.
  • Research has shown that propolis in general has antibacterial, anti inflammatory, anti fungal and antioxidant properties. However rather than attacking and destroying bacteria, propolis inhibits the growth of bacteria via a process of uncoupling (See Oxford research) and by inhibiting the development of bio film by disrupting the quorum sensors.
  • Increased antibacterial activity has been observed in propolis samples collected from climatic zones of high temperature and high rainfall (See Phd Thesis: Elham Peyfoon).
  • Research in Brazil has show that the resin collected from plants prone to cancerous growths display cytotoxic activity.

ARC Collaboration with UK Universities

At the University of Oxford - Oxford Propolis Research Group we have explored:

  1. The effect of propolis and its components on eiconsanoid production during the inflammatory response
  2. Antimicrobial action of propolis and some of its components: the effects on growth, membrane potential and motility of bacteria
  3. Propolis and its use in treatment of burns

At the University of Manchester we have explored:

Use of propolis in mouthwash.


At the University of Strathclyde we have explored:

  1. Antimethicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Activity of ‘Pacific Propolis’ and isolated prenylflavanones.Phytother Res 24, 1181-7, 2010. R. Raghukumar, L. Vali, D. Watson, J. Fearnley and V. Seidel.
  2. Comparative study of the antibacterial activity of propolis from different geographical and climatic zones. Phytotherapy Research. 22, 1256-63, 2008 V.Seidel, E. Peyfoon, D.G.Watson, J. Fearnley.
  3. Analysis of Sugars in Bee Pollen and Propolis by Ligand Exchange Chromatography in Combination with Pulsed Amperometric Detection and Mass Spectrometry. J. Food Composition and Analysis. 21, 78-83 (2008). Wei Liang Qian, Zeeshan Khan, David G. Watson and James Fearnley.
  4. Application of principal components analysis to 1H-NMR data obtained from propolis samples of different geographical origin. Phytochemical Analysis 17, 323-331, (2006). D. G. Watson, E. Peyfoon, L. Zheng, D. Lu, V. Seidel, B. Johnston, J. A. Parkinson, J. Fearnley origin. Phytochemical Analysis 17, 323-331, (2006).
  5. Chemical and Biological Properties of Propolis, PhD Study Elham Peyfoon 2011
  6. Chromatographic analysis with different detectors in the chemical characterisation and dereplication of African propolis Tong Zhang a,n, Ruwida Omar a, Weam Siheri a, Sultan Al Mutairi a, Carol Clements a, James Fearnley b, RuAngelie Edrada-Ebel a, David Watson
  7. Characterisation of triterpenes and new phenolic lipids in Cameroonian propolis M.N. Kardar, T. Zhang, G.D. Coxon, D.G. Watson, J. Fearnley, V. Seidel.
  8. Isolation of diterpenes and flavonoids from a new type of propolis from Saudi Arabia Sultan Almutairi, RuAngelie Edrada-Ebel, James Fearnley, John O. Igoli, Waqas Alotaibi, Carol J. Clements, Alexander I. Gray, David G. Watson.
  9. The Isolation of Antiprotozoal Compounds from Libyan Propolis Weam Siheri, John O. Igoli, Alexander I. Gray, Ticiano G. Nasciemento, Tong Zhang, James Fearnley, Carol J. Clements, Katharine C. Carter, John Carruthers, RuAngelie Edrada-Ebel and David G. Watson
  10. A Comparison of the Constituents of Propolis from Different Regions of the United Kingdom by Liquid Chromatography-high Resolution Mass Spectrometry Using a Metabolomics Approach Khaled Saleh, Tong Zhang, James Fearnley and David George Watson.