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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 85-92
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ecam/neh055
Original Article

Plant Origin of Green Propolis: Bee Behavior, Plant Anatomy and Chemistry

1Agência Paulista de Tecnologia dos Agronegócios/SAA-SP, Pindamonhangaba, SP, Brazil
2University of São Paulo, Institute of Biosciences, Department of Botany São Paulo, SP, Brazil
3Viçosa Federal University, Department of Plant Biology, Viçosa, MG, Brazil
4Viçosa Federal University, Department of Animal BiologyViçosa, MG, Brazil

Received 4 June 2004; Accepted 15 November 2004

Copyright © 2005 Érica Weinstein Teixeira et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Propolis, a honeybee product, has gained popularity as a food and alternative medicine. Its constituents have been shown to exert pharmacological effects, such as anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anticancer. Shoot apices of Baccharis dracunculifolia (alecrim plant, Asteraceae) have been pointed out as sources of resin for green propolis. The present work aimed (i) to observe the collecting behavior of bees, (ii) to test the efficacy of histological analysis in studies of propolis botanical origin and (iii) to compare the chemistries of alecrim apices, resin masses and green propolis. Bee behavior was observed, and resin and propolis were microscopically analyzed by inclusion in methacrylate. Ethanol extracts of shoot apices, resin and propolis were analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy. Bees cut small fragments from alecrim apices, manipulate and place the resulting mass in the corbiculae. Fragments were detected in propolis and identified as alecrim vestiges by detection of alecrim structures. Prenylated and non-prenylated phenylpropanoids, terpenoids and compounds from other classes were identified. Compounds so far unreported for propolis were identified, including anthracene derivatives. Some compounds were found in propolis and resin mass, but not in shoot apices. Differences were detected between male and female apices and, among apices, resin and propolis. Alecrim apices are resin sources for green propolis. Chemical composition of alecrim apices seems to vary independently of season and phenology. Probably, green propolis composition is more complex and unpredictable than previously assumed.