Propolis is one of the oldest ingredients in the natural products industry. It’s a complex substance secreted by honey bees and spread on surfaces that has many functions within the hive. Primary among these is to act as an antiviral and antimicrobial agent, to keep worker bees from tracking in pathogens that could attack the vulnerable larvae that are constantly developing within the hive.
Folk medicine vs standardized product
The substance has been gathered and used as an immune health supporting folk medicine for centuries. It’s a complex substance, encompassing hundreds of constituents. And propolis exhibits a high degree of natural variability, depending on the hive’s location and what the bees have to feed on. That has complicated the process of supporting those benefits with peer reviewed science. Using a validated study material has always been a challenge and a weakness in the study of natural products but even more so in the matter of bee propolis.
With its new ingredient, branded as PROMUNEL Ultra Performance Propolis, PLT officials said this challenge has been met. The ingredient is the work of Italian production partner B Natural, Srl. According to PLT, B Natural has perfected supply chain controls and a proprietary extraction method that yields a standardized product. B Natural brands its process as Multi-Dynamic Extraction (M.E.D.) technology. This technology reportedly produces an ingredient standardized to six antimicrobially bioactive polyphenols while allowing for ease of formulation into supplements and functional foods.
While any immune boosting ingredient is a hot property right now, Steve Fink, PLT's vice president of marketing, said this is far from a case of PLT hopping on any antiviral bandwagon. Fink said the timing of this launch, while propitious, was essentially coincidental.
“We have been looking at this ingredient for a long time,” Fink said. The search led the company to look at a number of potential supply partners, but until recently none could provide a propolis ingredient that was sufficiently standardized for the company to take the leap to put the PLT name behind it.
“There were so many boxes getting checked by this version of propolis,” Fink said. “If propolis is not produced in the right way, you get some waxes and resins that are commonly present in the raw material that make it a challenge to formulate with.”
“One of the big challenges with propolis is to get that batch to batch consistency,” Fink said.
Jeremy Appleton, ND, PLT’s director of medical and scientific affairs, said PROMUNEL solves many of the issues that have plagued propolis products in the past.
Standardization equates to efficacy
“As an ND I have been involved with natural products for 25 years. I’ve known about propolis for that entire time. What a naturopath might and what a company like PLT might develop for the market are different things,” Appleton said.
“Because I have been involved in the natural ingredients industry for so long I look more critically at some of products, especially in the matter of reproducibility. Propolis can be a very heterogenous kind of material. For a lot of the propolis ingredients on the market, you didn’t really know what you were getting from teh standpoint of quality and consistency. And quality and consistency are what lead to efficacy,” Appleton said.
“We know what the makeup of this product is. We know, for example, exactly how much quercitin is in there,” he said.
Fink said the standardization of PROMUNEL is what sets it apart from other ingredients in the market. That differentiation was born of years of trial and error on the part of PLT’s Italian partners.
“This is a second generation, family owned company. They have been at this for a couple of decades now and have learned what to do and what not to do. They have developed a process that yields a ‘propolis mother extract’ that is standardized to six active polyphenols. They have refined this process like no one else we’ve seen in the propolis business,” he said.
Appleton said that the standardization of PROMUNEL has enabled to company to use it in a placebo controlled trial demonstrating its upper respiratory immune health benefits with confidence that consumers could expect the same results. The trial, which was published recently in the journal Phytomedicine, showed teh group using PROMUNEL recovered from upper respiratory tract infections two days faster on average than did the control group.
2020 Oct 8;80:153368. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2020.153368
A standardized polyphenol mixture extracted from poplar-type propolis for remission of symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection (URTI): A monocentric, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial
Authors: Esposito C, et al.