I had occasion to make a batch of propolis salve or ointment for a woman I know, who had cellulitis (an infection of the skin) secondary to Hodgkins lymphoma. The topical antibiotics she was given were ineffective, so I decided to make some propolis salve to see if it would help. It helped a great deal.
The explanations of how to do this were not very detailed, and it took me a few tries to get it close to right. So I thought I should write down my process, both to provide help to others, and to help me to remember how it is done before I forget.
My primary source was "Beepothecary", a business which maintains a website and also sells this and other products of the hive. You can just buy this stuff there if you want. I suspect it is faster and easier. Considering that their livelihood derives from selling propolis products they have quite a bit of information on their website which is helpful.
IMPORTANT CAUTION: If you plan to make this to sell, you will need to make it in an appropriate facility (FDA approved). I'm not sure what the requirements are for supplements, but your garage/kitchen doesn't meet them.
Get some propolis. You can scrape this off from the ends of frames and frame rests, and from where the outside rim of queen excluders, honey supers, and other parts of the hive.
I don't recommend removing propolis from where it seals the hive bodies, since the bees need that to keep their home cozy in winter.
You need a tablespoon or more to get started. I wouldn't recommend a large batch for a first try.
The brown stuff bees use to (for example) stick the queen excluder to the tops of the frames or as brace comb between frames is probably mostly wax. Same for the stuff on the bottom of feeder pails set on the frames. It can be hard to tell, since all wax contains some propolis, and all propolis contains some wax, or at least that is what I think. if it isn't incredibly sticky and stretchy when warmed in your hands, it is mostly wax. I learned this the had way, because in my hives, some of the brace comb is exactly the color of the propolis.
Some people use a propolis screen or trap or collector. I think that is a good idea, but I haven't tried it.
Get the propolis as clean as you can. pick out any bee parts, wood splinters, seeds, and anything else you can see. it is helpful if you freeze it and smash it. When it is cold, it is brittle and not sticky. If you aren't careful, you will have a bit of a mess.
Get the propolis pulverized as small as you can. I use a coffee grinder (a little helicopter blade thing with a cover) which makes it pretty easy to do.
First, freeze the propolis as cold as you can get it, then quickly run it through the grinder. Otherwise freeze it and smash it. If it gets warm, it gets sticky.
Step 4possibly optional)
take the very cold powder and mix it in very cold water. use enough water so that it is mostly water, not a paste.
The propolis will sink to the bottom. any remaining bee parts, wood, or wax will float to the surface.
That is the theory. It can be a bit hard to get the powder to "wet", so that it doesn't just float. Also, it tends to stick to itself and other stuff like stirrers.
This does seem to work though, but I probably wouldn't do it unless I thought there was quite a bit of wax in my propolis.
When I did this, I got about equal amounts of propolis and wax.
Dry the propolis on a suitable surface. It will dry fairly nicely, and won't stick to the surface as long as you treat it gently.
Re-pulverize the propolis (is that a word?) It is important to have the propolis as finely divided as possible. Again, get it cold first.
Prepare an oil and beeswax mixture to diffuse the propolis into.
You will need about 1 part (by weight) propolis for every 20 parts (by weight) oil/wax mixture.
The exact ratio isn't that important, but this is a fairly typical value.
I used coconut oil and beeswax in the ratio of 4:1 (I think). What I was trying to get was something which would be solid, paste-like at room temperature, but liquid at slightly elevated temperatures, so that the propolis would dissolve in it.
The way I did this was to melt the beeswax in a pan, add the coconut oil, and slowly cool the stirred mixture to 122 degrees F. (50C) at that temperature, it should be a more or less clear liquid. If not, reheat to mixture and add more oil. Then cool the mixture to 110 degrees F (43C) at that temperature it should be just visibly thickened and starting to solidify. If not, reheat, add more wax, and try again. This isn't too difficult to do. I suppose any other oil could work also. I will probably try safflower oil next time, as it is odorless. Not everybody likes coconut.
Heat the oil/wax mixture to 120F (49C) or slightly less, so it is a clear liquid. Chill the propolis powder in the freezer so it is cold (not sticky)
take the very cold propolis powder from the freezer and mix it into the oil/wax mixture. It is very hard to do this without the propolis sticking to itself and everything else, and I suppose next time I will add a small amount of cold oil or ethanol with the propolis to make a paste, so that the individual propolis particles get coated in liquid while still cool. I didn't do that, and it turned out OK, but I had propolis clumps that I never got rid of. They didn't hurt anything.
hold the mixture at this temperature (120F/39C) for 3 days (72 hours). You will need to stir it occasionally (once an hour or so) especially at first. I heated it in a glass jar (lid on) with a water bath in a double boiler on my kitchen stove. The water should be at or above the level of the mixture in the jar, so it has a uniform temperature. I found a setting where the temperature was about that, and made fine adjustments by moving the pan slightly off of the burner.
You will need a fairly accurate thermometer, and will need to check it pretty often. Our stove is electric, and the power regulation in SE Wisconsin is pretty good. If you have voltage fluctuations, a hot plate with a thermostatic control might work better. The goal is to stay as close to 122 degrees F (50C) as possible without going over it. Apparently there is a UN guideline for preparing propolis for medicinal use, and they recommend not exceeding 50C in order not to damage the active chemicals in the propolis. I didn't find this guideline, but found allusions to it. I suppose 50C is a round number. At any rate, the less you heat it the better, but unless you heat it, it doesn't really dissolve in oil, and 50C (122F) is a workable temperature. You can stir it by shaking the jar. The thermometer can be in the water bath, which will be nearly the same as the temperature in the jar. It is OK if the temperature drops lower, it just slows things down a bit.
The reason for heating it for three days is first, to get as much of the propolis as possible to dissolve in the oil. As a second effect, you will notice after about 2 days or so that the propolis isn't settling to the bottom as fast when you shake/stir it. What I think is happening is that the oil is dissolving into the propolis, making it larger and less dense. As a result it stays suspended longer in the mixture. After 3 days you can cool it to the solid state without the propolis settling out.
remove the jar from the heated mixture, and shake or swirl it around until it solidifies. The resulting paste can be used as a lip balm or topical salve. It is solid at room temperature, but dissolves as you rub it on the skin.
That is all. The resulting paste will have visible specks of propolis in it, but they are not objectionable.
I have tried this recipe on cellulitis (it eliminated the infection for two individuals), cold sores (it stopped them from erupting and they went away, but it took a few days) and fungal skin infections ( it eliminated them after 2 applications). Your results my vary. I was careless, and let the mixture go to 125 F (52C) for a few hours, probably. That didn't appear to hurt it at all.