Bee Propolis Beats Acyclovir for Treating Genital Herpes

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Honeybees, not pharmaceutical giants, have developed a topical cure for one of the world's most vexing sexually transmitted viral infections. 

A randomized study published in Phytomedicine found that an ointment made from bee propolis extract heals genital herpes outbreaks faster, more completely, and with fewer side effects than the standard antiviral acyclovir.1

In the 10-day trial, 90 Ukrainian men and women with recurrent genital lesions from herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) applied either a 3% propolis extract ointment, 5% acyclovir ointment, or a placebo ointment four times daily to their sores. 80% of the propolis group fully healed their lesions, compared to just 47% treated with pharmaceutical-grade acyclovir. Propolis also reduced local pain, itching, and other irritating symptoms quicker than acyclovir.1

Not only did propolis outperform acyclovir, it simultaneously eliminated co-occurring fungal and bacterial infections afflicting subjects' genital areas. Pathogenic microbes dropped by 55% in propolis-treated women but remained steady in the placebo and acyclovir groups.1

This study provides clinical confirmation of past cell research suggesting that natural flavonoids in bee propolis bolster tissue repair while disrupting pathogenic microbial and viral activity.2 The ointment's topical administration delivers high local drug concentrations, circumventing poor systemic bioavailability - a notorious shortcoming of oral acyclovir that necessitates inconvenient 5-times daily dosing to maintain antiviral effects.3

Up to 20% of patients taking acyclovir also risk injection reactions, skin rashes, extreme fatigue, vertigo, headaches, nausea, and kidney toxicity.4 No side effects occurred during 10 days of propolis ointment use.1

Given its stellar safety profile and proved multifaceted therapeutic activity - anti-inflammatory, regenerative, anesthetic, antimicrobial, antiviral - propolis promises to provide complete relief from stubborn, painful herpes outbreaks resistant to standard interventions. Larger randomized trials are needed to further demonstrate the clinical superiority and nominal risks of nature's original pharmacy over man-made antiviral inventions. Given that propolis is a natural product that can not be patented like a pharmaceutical, it is not wonder that in the intervening 24 years since this study was performed, no larger follow up study has occurrred, likely owing to a lack of funding. 

To learn more about the health benefits of propolis, visit our database on the subject here.

To learn more about natural ways to treat genital herpes, visit our database on the subject here.


1. Vynograd N, et al. Phytomedicine. 2000.

2. Scheller S, et al. Biul Instytutu Hodowli Pasiek. 1978.

3. Balfour HH. Am J Med. 1988.

4. Strand A, et al. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 1993

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