Bee Propolis Dosage: How Much Is Too Much?

Safety studies have found it to be non toxic when taken orally, and also appears to be non-irritating when applied to skin[1], unless for people who has hypersensitivity (propolis allergy). In addition, there are very few propolis side effect reactions that have been recorded in the written documents, so, the product is considered generally not to be harmful[2].

Regardless of the claims above, somehow, we just feel the urgency to know the exact figure of its dosage. The first question that arises in my head was: 
If bee propolis claimed as a very safe supplement, what is the upper limit? How much that is categorized as too much?
And then, my second question was:

Is there any recommended bee propolis dosage for specific medication purpose?

In my opinion, these two questions are very reasonable, especially when we consider it for alternative medication purpose. However, in this article I only explain about the first question, while the second question will be answered in other article 

How Much Is Too Much?

Everything in this world always has a toxicity level that our body can tolerate. For example, water can cause water intoxication if it taken in a very large amount, while a very toxic substance such as cobra’s venom, won’t do any harm to us if it is taken in an extremely small amount. In other words, toxicity level of a substance is highly depends on its dosage. The question of “how much is too much” can be explained by using the concept of toxicology and its relation with dose limitation.

Limit Of Propolis Dosage Based on LD50

Toxicity can be calculated by monitoring the effects on the object (the object itself can be organism, organ, tissue or even cells). However, each individual has different levels of response even for the same propolis dosage. This means a toxicity population-based calculation is needed to determine the precise limit of its dosage.

A well known method for measuring toxicity level of a substance is called LD50. LD50 or also known as median lethal dose means a dosage which resulting in 50% of the experiment object population die. Refer to Bardock’s study, the LD50 value of bee propolis is more than 7.34 gram/kg body-mass for mice[3].

If we convert that raw number for human, the limit of bee propolis dosage will be 587,200 mg for person with 80 kg weight.  This figure is approximately equal to 1,100 capsules consumption at one time where each capsule contains 500 mg of pure propolis.
Basically, we can have a conclusion that bee propolis is a very safe supplement, unless the consumption is done with an irrationally large dosage[4] (such as over 1000 capsules of 500mg propolis extract at one time).

What Will Possibly Happen if the Limit Exceeded?

In 2011, A. Montoro, researcher from Brazil conducted a study to assess any possible propolis side effects. He applied a very high concentration of ethanol extract propolis and then analyzed its effect on human peripheral lymphocytes. The result presumed extreme concentration of Ethanol Extract Propolis is possible to cause notable damage to human DNA. Montoro’s work also confirms previous experiment, where a very high concentration of propolis given can cause DNA damage and/or alteration.

  1. Arvouet-Grand A, Lejeune B, Bastide P, Pourrat A, Privat AM, and Legret P. Bee Propolis extract. I. Acute toxicity and determination of acute primary cutaneous irritation index. J. Pharm. Belg., 48 (3): 165-170, 1993.
  2.  Schmidt, J.O. and Buchmann, S.L. 1992. Other products of the hive. In: The hive and the honeybee J.M. Graham, ed. Dadant & Sons, Hamilton, Illinois, USA. 927-988
  3. Burdock,GA. Bee propolis biological properties and propolis dosage toxicity review. 1997 
  4. Ghisalberti, E.L. 1979. Bee propolis: a review. Bee World, 60 (2): 59-84