Propolis has been used empirically for centuries and it was always mentioned as an immunomodulatory agent. In recent years, in vitro and in vivo assays provided new information concerning its mechanisms of action, thus a review dealing with propolis and the immune system became imperative. This review compiles data from our laboratory as well as from other researchers, focusing on its chemical composition and botanical sources, the seasonal effect on its composition and biological properties, its immunomodulatory and antitumor properties, considering its effects on antibody production and on different cells of the immune system, involving the innate and adaptive immune response. In vitro and in vivo assays demonstrated the modulatory action of propolis on murine peritoneal macrophages, increasing their microbicidal activity. Its stimulant action on the lytic activity of natural killer cells against tumor cells, and on antibody production was demonstrated. Propolis inhibitory effects on lymphoproliferation may be associated to its anti-inflammatory property. In immunological assays, the best results were observed when propolis was administered over a short-term to animals. Propolis antitumor property and its anticarcinogenic and antimutagenic potential are discussed. Since humans have used propolis for different purposes and propolis-containing products have been marketed, the knowledge of its properties with scientific basis is not only of academic interest but also of those who use propolis as well. This review opens a new perspective on the investigation of propolis biological properties, mainly with respect to the immune system.
* THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. THIS IS NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT CURE OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE.