Complete Guide To Propolis Allergy

Propolis allergy is caused by some of its constituents. The very first detected chemical substance that is responsible in propolis allergy was LB-1[1]. LB-1 is consistently found in every chemical dissolution process from various bee propolis and poplar bud samples [2]. At the very beginning, LB-1 was initially identified to be entirely composed of 1, 1-dimethylallyl caffeic acid ester [2,3],  but then as it has been shown by the latest study, LB-1 consist of other chemical substance:
  • 3-Methyl-2-butenyl caffeate, methyl-2-butenyl caffeate and 3-methyl-3-butenyl caffeate [1].
  • Phenylethyl caffeate
Flare as a positive result of propolis allergy
Flare as a result to positive reaction to propolis allergy.
Among those chemical substance 3-Methyl-2-butenyl caffeate acts as the most powerful allergen factor[4,5].  It draws out a strong response found in subject experiment who acknowledge suffer to propolis allergy. The same result is also identified with phenylethyl caffeate.
Later, it is determined that the main chemical substances which directy cause propolis allergy are 3-methyl-2-butenyl caffeate and phenylethyl caffeate.
Aside from those two main allergens, there are also several more that is considered as moderate sensitizer[6]:
  • Benzyl isoferulate (Based on Hausen experiment, it is considered a noteworthy sensitizer)[5].
  • Coniferyl benzoate. This substance exists in fresh samples of balsam of Peru, while in propolis it has been detected only once so far [2].
  • Benzyl salicylate and benzyl cinnamate.
Many other studies show that people who suffer to propolis allergy don’t show any reaction to those sensitizers [5]. However, people who suffer to propolis allergy still should be warned about potential reactions to cosmetics or products containing these substances.
Flavonoids and other compounds such as waxes, fatty acids, essential oils, pollen, and other organics and minerals have no capability as allergen[7,8].

  Diagnosing Propolis Allergy

Propolis allergy can be diagnosed by performing patch test. In case a person suffers to propolis allergy, a flare as positive patch test allergic reactions will certainly happen[17]. Bee propolis has become a part of European Standard patch test sequence, since 1988[5]. It's availably store-bought in 10% petrolatum concentration[9,10].  
Nevertheless, in certain nations (just like Italy), patch-testing is performed with 20% concentration[11-16]. Numerous experiments noticed that a 20% concentration is not enough to trigger propolis allergy reaction. Based on particular research conducted by Hausen, it has been observed that the tolerance for bee propolis allergy seemed to be more than 20%, while the tolerance for LB-1 is basically in a range of 3% to 10%[2]. In spite of these experiments outcome, the suggested standard patch-testing concentration for is still at 10% petrolatum concentration.

People Who Should Avoid Bee Propolis Uses

People who suffer to propolis allergy is also equally allergy to bee sting and also bee products. Based on the given statistic, the amount is approximated to be 0.001% – 0.002% of total population. That means 1 – 2 people out of 1,000 people suffered to propolis allergy [19].
However, the amount of propolis allergy cases will probably keep on rising due to the fact that the use of propolis-based products is also increasing. Propolis allergy is also considered as a part that cause an increase in the number of allergic contact reactions, especially for individuals who frequently use products and cosmetics that is formulated with this compound, its constituents and/or sensitizers [4,5]. Based on those clinical studies and experiments, it’s strongly suggested to avoid any usage if you are included in this following group:
  1. Has hypersensitivity with Balsam of Peru (Myroxylon Pereirae), benzyl salicylate and benzyl cinnamate[1,2,5,6].
  2. Suffer for other bee products allergy (including honey, royal jell, bee sting, etc) [19]
  3. Pregnancy and breast-feeding women: Not enough data and proven clinical study about propolis use for pregnancy and breast-feeding women.
  4. People who suffer to asthma. Some experts believe that chemical substances contained in bee propolis might worsen asthma attack. Even though some other clinical studies show otherwise (that bee propolis can help to cure asthma), you better avoid it.
  5. Paediatric age children [10,11,13,14].

Propolis Allergy Symptoms

  1. Dermatitis (skin Inflammation) is the most known propolis allergy symptoms, with approximately 200 occasions documented in literature for last 7 decades period [1]. Usually, dermatitis happen by skin contact with raw propolis, extracts or other products containing caffeic acid and its derivatives[20]. Dermatitis will be relieved by the time the skin is no longer in contact with bee propolis.  So, whenever you feel this kind of allergy symptoms, immediately stop the usage.
  2. Oral inflammation and ulceration
  3. Mouth oedema (swelling) and stomatitis
    However, these two allergy symptoms (oral inflammation and ulceration also mouth oedema and stomatitis) are rare incidents. They happen  as a result of oral chewing of bee propolis [21]
  4. Nausea and Stomach upsets.
    Chewing raw bee propolis with a large quantities and high frequency can trigger the allergic reactions in a form of nausea and stomach upsets [22].

How to Prevent Any Unwanted Propolis Allergy Reactions

It is strongly recommended to conduct patch testing, just in case for any propolis allergy symptomp [18]. You can try to consult to dermatologist before deciding to use any product that contains bee propolis. Aside from it, the consumption should begin in a small dose and then it can be steadily increased to the full dose. This kind of procedure is recommended in order to assess the compatibility with propolis allergy. For the same case, stopping bee propolis consumption also needs to be done gradually[23]. For chewing consumption, the recommended dose is maximum at 1 gram for one time in 3 times a day. [22]

  1. Hausen BM, Wollenweber E, Senff H, Post B. Propolis allergy (I). Origin, properties, usage and literature review. Contact Dermatitis 1987;17:163–70.
  2. Hausen BM, Wollenweber E, Senff H, Post B. Propolis allergy (II). The sensitizing properties of 1,1-dimethylallyl caffeic acid ester. Contact Dermatitis 1987;17:171–7
  3. Marks JG Jr, Elsner P, DeLeo VA. , Contact and occupational dermatology 3rd ed St. Louis: Mosby; 2002. p. 212-
  4. Hausen BM, Wollenweber E. Propolis allergy. (III). Sensitization studies with minor constituents. Contact Dermatitis 1988; 19(4): 296-303
  5. Hausen BM, et al. Propolis allergy (IV). Studies with further sensitizers from bee propolis and constituents common to bee propolis, poplar buds and balsam of Peru. Contact Dermatitis 1992; 26(1):34-44
  6. Walgrave SE, Warshaw EM, Glesne LA .Contact dermatitis from propolis allergy. Dermatitis. 2005 Dec;16(4):209-15
  7. Schmalle HW, Jarchow OH, Hausen BM, Schulz KH. , ; Aspects of the relationships between chemical structure and sensitizing potency of flavonoids and related compounds. In: Liss AR, editor Plant flavonoids in biology and medicine New York: Alan R. Liss. Inc.; 1986. p. 387-90.
  8. Marks JG Jr, Elsner P, DeLeo VA. , Contact and occupational dermatology 3rd ed St. Louis: Mosby; 2002. p. 212-
  9. Chemotechnique Diagnostics Patch Test Products. Chemotechnique Diagnostics, P.O. Box 80 S-230 42 Tygelsjo
  10. Malmö, Sweden, Giusti F, Miglietta R, Pepe P, Seidenari S. Sensitization to bee propolis in 1255 children undergoing patch testing. Contact Dermatitis 2004;51:255
  11. Giusti F, Miglietta R, Pepe P, Seidenari S. Sensitization to bee propolis in 1255 children undergoing patch testing. Contact Dermatitis 2004;51:255–8
  12.   Trevisan G, Kokeli F. Contact dermatitis as propolis allergy: role of gastrointestinal absorption. Contact Dermatitis 1987;16:48
  13. Manzini BM, Ferdani G, Simonetti V, et al. Propolis Allergy contact sensitization in children. Contact Dermatitis 1998;15:12–7
  14. Seidenari S, Giusti F, Pepe P, Mantovani L. Propolis Allergy Contact sensitization in 1094 children who conduct patch test for duration of  seven years. Pediatr Dermatol 2005
  15. Francalanci S, Giorgini S, Ricci L, Sertoli A. Patch testing by additional series of allergens: results of further experiences Am J Contact Dermat 2001;12:203–7
  16. Francalanci S, Sertoli A, Giorgini S, et al. Multicentre study of allergic contact cheilitis from toothpaste. Contact Dermatitis 2000;43:216–2
  17. Wohrl S, et al. The significance of fragrance mix, balsam of Peru, colophony and bee propolis as screening tools in the detection of fragrance allergy. Br J Dermatol 2001; 145(2): 268-73
  18. Walgrave SE, Warshaw EM, Glesne LA .Allergic contact dermatitis from bee propolis . Dermatitis. 2005 Dec;16(4):209-1
  19. Wasp Stings,” Bee and Pest Notes, Publication 7449, February 1998, produced by IPM Education and Publications, UC Statewide IPM Project, University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8620;s
  20. Hashimoto, T., Tori, M., Asakawa, Y. and Wollenweber, E. 1988. Synthesis of two allergenic constituents of propolis and poplar bud excretion. Zeitschrift flir Naturforschung, C 43: 470-472
  21. Hay K. D & Greig D E. (1990) "Propolis Allergy: A Cause Of Oral Mucositis with ulceration." Orak Surg Med Oral Pathol 70, 584-586; & [ ]Wanscher B. (1976) "Contact Dermatitis From Propolis" British journal Of Dermataology 94(4). 451)
  22. Donadieu, Y. 1979. La propolis. Editions Maloine, Paris
  23. R. Krell, Value Added Products From Beekeping. FAO Agricultural Service Bulltein  No. 124, 1996