How to process raw propolis into propolis extracts


Propolis or “bee glue” is a resinous mixture that honey bees collect from tree buds and plant resins. Propolis is used by the bees in the hive for its antimicrobial and anti-viral properties. Humans can also benefit from these properties of propolis. Because of its healing power, propolis becomes a very useful (and cheap) tool for the treatment and prevention of many health problems in humans and other animals like, for example, cattle, dogs, cats or birds. Propolis can be used raw or in its extracted form. This technology explains how to process raw propolis into proplis extracts (alcohol, water and oil extracts).


It is very easy to make propolis extract. It is a valuable product that can be prepared in little time and with only two ingredients: propolis and the right solvent.  This technology describes how to make propolis extract using alchol, water or oil as solvent.

1. Break the raw propolis in small pieces:

To prepare the raw propolis for the extraction, first coarse debris such as pieces of wood or dead bees should be removed.  Then, to maximise the contact surface of the propolis with the solvent used, it should be broken up into little pieces or grinded into a fine powder. If the propolis is too sticky to be broken up, it should be placed in a refrigerator or freezer for a few hours. Alternatively, pull the pieces into thin sheets or strips in order to increase the contact surface between propolis and alcohol and to promote dissolution of the active components of propolis.

Picture 1: Raw propolis in a ball                                            Picture 2: Raw propolis in little pieces

2. Choose the best (or the more easily available) solvent:

The choice of the correct solvent is very important if the product is to be used for human consumption. Normally, only ethanol (also called “pure alcohol” or “ethyl alcohol” C2H6O) or exceptionally, glycol (as in method 3) should be used. Other alcohols may be used only if their internal and external physiological interactions are sufficiently known and safe.

So-called denatured, rubbing or methyl alcohol should not be used. If the extracts are intended for external application only, rubbing alcohol may be used in some cases, but different countries use different chemicals to make pure alcohol unpalatable for drinking or internal consumption. Similarly, there are different types of denatured alcohols intended for different purposes. If cheap alcohol is used, care should be taken that the chemicals used for denaturing it are compatible with the planned end use. Chemicals added to denature alcohol may interact negatively with other ingredients so reducing their beneficial effects and may cause irritations, burns or even poisoning. There have been fatal accidents caused by extracts of propolis prepared with unsuitable alcohol.

For most preparations intended for internal use, gin, rum, cachasa, arrak or other clean, locally distilled liquors can be used. These liquors usually contain less than the optimal 70% of alcohol but for home processing, they produce acceptable results. As near 70% of alcohol as better results.

3. Basic equipment for small-scale processing:

  • Large capacity bottle which can be tightly closed
  • Scale (more sensitive if working with smaller quantities)
  • Strainer (special filter paper, several layers of clean cotton cloth or cotton balls)
  • Refrigerator or freezer is useful, but not essential
  • A heat source is necessary to evaporate the solvent

Some methods for propolis extraction:

  • Method 1: Ethanol Extracted Propolis  - the simplest method for extracting propolis

The exact concentration of the desired extract should first be decided. The initial concentration of propolis to be extracted should not exceed 30%, as extraction is less efficient or less complete at higher concentrations. 30% concentration means that the propolis amount will be 30% and the solvent will be 70% of the total volume. The correct quantity of propolis is weighed and the right volume of alcohol measured (see picture 2). One liter of 70% alcohol weighs approximately 860 g, one liter of 50% alcohol weighs approximately 900 g, and so on.

Put the alcohol and propolis into a container, seal the top and shake briefly. Repeat the shaking once or twice a day, leave the mixture in a warm dark place for at least three days. To achieve the best results, the propolis should be left soaking into the alcohol for more than one week.

After one or two weeks, the liquid is ready and should be filtered through a clean and very fine cloth, paper filter or cotton ball. The cloth may be folded into several layers to increase its effectiveness. A second filtration may be advantageous. The remains of the first filtration can be washed or soaked in alcohol again.

The filtrate should be a clear liquid, free of particles and dark brown or slightly reddish in colour (see picture 3). It should be kept in clean, dark, airtight bottles (see picture 4). If dark coloured bottles are not available, the bottles should be kept in a cool dark place or wrapped with a cloth, paper or straw, to protect them from light.

Picture 3:  Transparent glass cup to measure the solvent (Courtesy of Antonio Couto).


Picture 4:  Dark glass bottle to preserve the propolis extract (courtesy of Antonio Couto)


Ingredients for a 10% extract:

Propolis 1 part or  100 gr or 1 kg
Alcohol 9 parts or 900 gr or 9 kg

Or any multiple thereof.


Ingredients for a 5% extract:

Propolis 1 part or  100 gr or 1 kg
Alcohol 19 parts or 1900 gr or 19 kg

Or any multiple thereof.


Tincture 100% alcohol Propolis
  grams or ml grams
10% 900   1146 100
20% 800   1019 200
30% 700   892 300
Tincture 70% alcohol Propolis
  grams or ml grams
10% 900   1073 100
20% 800   953 200
30% 700   834 300


Add 100 g propolis to 400 ml 70% ethanol (for a 20 % tincture)


  • Method 2: Aqueous (water) extracted propolis

Aqueous extracts can be obtained by soaking propolis for several days in water or boiling it in water. The yield of active ingredients is lower than with alcohol, but aqueous extracts have been shown to have bactericidal and fungicidal effects. All other processing, filtering etc., are the same as those in method 1.

  • Method 3: Oil extracted propolis

Mix 10 g of cleaned propolis with 200 ml (about 200 g) of any kind of refined food quality oil ( coconut oil, sunflower oil, etc.) or with 100 g of butter.

Heat gently in a water bath (no more than 50ºC) for approximately 10 minutes and stir continuously. Filter and store the extract in well sealed containers in the dark.

Through method 1 the strongest propolis extract is obtained. But that doesn’t mean that it will be the best for all uses. For example in the case of eye inflammation (or infection or irritation) the best propolis extract to use is the water extracted propolis because it is not a good idea to use alcohol or oil in the eyes for obvious reasons. Oil extract (3rd method) is the best to use for mouth problems (like infection in gums for example) or in the case of baby treatments because of their sensitive skin. The propolis extract obtained using method 1 will be the best to use externally or in ear problems (for example otitis).




This technology is extracted from the FAO publication “Value added products of thebeehive” ( and compiled and completed by Antonio Couto.

Further reading

Value added products of the beehive:



Created date

Fri, 08/04/2016 - 15:17


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
FAO's mandate
Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts - to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
FAO's mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy.

Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación (FAO)
El mandato de la FAO
Alcanzar la seguridad alimentaria para todos, y asegurar que las personas tengan acceso regular a alimentos de buena calidad que les permitan llevar una vida activa y saludable, es la esencia de las actividades de la FAO.El mandato de la FAO consiste en mejorar la nutrición, aumentar la productividad agrícola, elevar el nivel de vida de la población rural y contribuir al crecimiento de la economía mundial.

Organization des Nations Unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture
Le mandat de la FAO
Atteindre la sécurité alimentaire pour tous est au coeur des efforts de la FAO - veiller à ce que les êtres humains aient un accès régulier à une nourriture de bonne qualité qui leur permette de mener une vie saine et active.
Le mandat de la FAO consiste à améliorer les niveaux de nutrition, la productivité agricole et la qualité de vie des populations rurales et contribuer à l’essor de l’économie mondiale.