Preparing a Propolis Extract is something every beekeeper should consider. The process for collecting, prepping, extracting and bottling takes a little planning and know how but is very achievable.
Below you will find the outline of how we process propolis to make our own Propolis Tincture. The instructions are a culmination of many resources including Bee Culture, the FAO guide and more.
STEP 1 – COLLECT THE PROPOLIS
Collect the propolis through a propolis trap or scrapings from the hive
- If collecting through scrapings, use care to try to source clean propolis and avoid propolis that might be intermixed with beeswax and debris.
- Propolis collected with traps is a superior method as the propolis collected tends to be free of foreign materials. These require specialized equipment, time, and expertise, not to mention that propolis will often be deposited by the bees at certain times of the year.
Use of Mixed Materials
- Some forgo cleaning collected propolis of errant materials and extract raw collected propolis – debris and all. The assumption here is that the extract will do the job and there is no need to separate out the wax and other detritus. This is up to you and personal preference.
- Many exercise their preference to clean the propolis by processing it through a hot water bath so the extraction is a concentration from the propolis directly. See PREPARE THE PROPOLIS BELOW
Step 2 – SEPARATE/PREPARE THE PROPOLIS
Removing Errant Debris
- Place your collected propolis in a disposable container (we like to use large Chinese Food Soup Takeout Containers)
- Heat water to 175 to 195°F*.
*Avoid using water that is higher than the specified temperature range as it risks killing off beneficial constituents in the propolis.
- Add as much water to the container as needed to create a loose slurry
- Stir the contents to loosen everything up into the slurry. As you do this the wax will separate out of the propolis mass and float to the top and most debris will fall out to the bottom
- Allow the slurry to cool and settle
When the slurry cools, pour off the water*
- Separate the propolis from the strata
- If it still contains foreign elements repeat the process until the wax is separated out.
- You will know you are close on your separation when little dots of wax appear across the top of the propolis after cooling.
- It might take a few rounds of mixing the slurry and repeating this process to get clean propolis.
*Note: It is possible to use the water in this process as a alternative form of extract. Water (Aqueous) extracts are not as potent, but they are form of propolis extract and you might consider straining and reserving the water used in this process as a secondary extract.
STEP 3 – FREEZE THE PROPOLIS (in preparation for grinding)
Freeze the propolis to make it stiff and brittle
The next step is to take the room temperature propolis and freeze it. When it is cold it becomes brittle and easier to break apart and grind into a powder.
When the cleansing process yields a Propolis that is cleaned to your satisfaction, we recommended that you flatten the collected propolis into a pancake form, while it is still soft, prior to freezing.
- This makes it easier to break apart for grinding in the next stage.
Place the ‘propolis pancake’ into a zip top bag and place it in the freezer and allow it to fully solidify.
- We recommend placing your propolis in a zip top bag so it does not pick up any off flavors or odors from the freezer space.
STEP 4 -GRINDING / PULVERIZING
Pulverize the Propolis into a Powder
Fracture the ‘pancake’ with your fingers into small pieces and place them into a smooth Mortar & Pestle to convert to a Powder.
- You can also coffee grinder for this operation but be aware of the heat generated and keep the bits being ground frozen or they will gum up the machine.
Pulverizing Large Chunks
- As an alternative, you can freeze chunks of propolis and break/pulverize them with a hammer
- You are ready when you have transformed the frozen propolis to a powder form.
Note: You can use the fractured bits from the pancake and skip the powder steps. You will likely not get as complete an extraction but it will work reasonably enough.
STEP 5 – EXTRACT AND FILTER
Extracting the Propolis
Add the ground propolis and Everclear together.
- Place in a warm, dark place. and shake 2 to 3 times daily for two weeks.
- It is highly recommended that you use a powerful grain alcohol for the extraction (something like Everclear). You could use Vodka or other spirits but they do not have the extraction power to break down the propolis in the way that Everclear does.
Filter the Propolis
After two weeks, filter the liquid through a clean and very fine cloth, paper filters or cotton ball.
- The cloth may be folded into several layers to increase its effectiveness.
- Once filtered an additional step can be taken to refrigerate the propolis at 40°F (4.0°C) for a few days and then filter again. The filter should also be cooled prior to use. It states better results are achieved by doing this.
- When finished, the filtrate should be a clear liquid, free of particles and dark brown or slightly reddish in color.
- One option is to use a coffee filter. Rinse the paper with water and let it rest until it is only lightly damp before pouring the extract through.
STEP 6 – FILL, LABEL, and STORE
Carefully pour the filtered propolis extract into the clean bottles or jars.
- It is recommended to use dark bottles that do not permit light to pass through. Light will reduce the effectiveness of the extract over time due to the exposure.
- Leave a small amount of space at the top to allow for expansion and prevent leakage when sealing.
- If dark colored bottles are not available, the bottles should be kept in a cool dark place or wrapped with a cloth, paper or straw, to keep out light.
Label each bottle with information such as:
- Your brand mark (if desired)
- The Date Produced
- Dilution Ratios
- Any other important information (Volume, etc.)
Store the propolis extract bottles in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight, heat, and humidity. Keep the bottles out of reach of children and pets.
Yield: 3/4 cup Time: 2 Weeks
- 188 Grams Everclear (1 cup)
- 80 Grams propolis powder
- CLEANING THE PROPOLIS
Pick through the collected propolis and remove any visible non-propolis debris.
- Place the propolis in a heat-proof container and add just enough 175°F to 195°F hot water to wet the contents. Stir the mixture until it forms a slurry. As you do this any wax present will floats to the surface, while any debris will sink to the bottom. Set it aside to cool.
- When it is cool, pull off the wax layer, retrieve the propolis, and discard any debris at the bottom
– Consider straining and reserving the water as it is a form of water based propolis extract.
– Repeat this process until you have satisfactorily removed anything that is not propolis.
- GRINDING THE PROPOLIS TO A POWDER
Take the soft warm propolis and form it into thin sheets (like a pancake). Place this in a zip top bag and move it to the freezer. Freeze it overnight.
– Alternatively you can leave it in round balls and break it up later with a hammer; see the next step.
- When it is frozen, break it up into bits and place it into a smooth mortar and pestle. Grind it to a powder.
If you chose to make small round balls, leave the frozen balls in the zip top bag and strike them with a hammer to break the bits down into a powder
– You could skip this and proceed with extracting the bits and small pieces but you will get a better extraction if you take the effort to break it down into a powder.
- EXTRACT THE TINCTURE
Add the powder and alcohol to a jar. Lid, and shake well. Set in a warm dark place and shake 2 to 3 times daily.
- After two weeks, filter the extraction through cheesecloth or some fine filter; coffee filters work well too.
– Be patient as the fine silt will clog the filters. You may have to use several filters over hours of time to fully filter the liquid from the mixture.
- BOTTLE THE EXTRACT
Carefully pour the propolis extract into the sterilized bottles or jars. It is best to use dark bottles that do not permit light to pass through. Leave a small amount of space at the top to allow for expansion and prevent leakage when sealing.
- FILL SEAL, LABEL and STORE PROPERLY
SEAL THE BOTTLES: Tightly seal the bottles to create an airtight environment. This helps preserve the propolis extract and prevent evaporation and contamination.
LABEL: Label each bottle with information such as: The Date Produced | Dilution Ratios | Any other important information
STORAGE: Store the propolis extract bottles in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight, heat, and humidity. Keep the bottles out of reach of children and pets.
The ratio of Alcohol to Propolis is 3:7. 3 parts Propolis (by weight) to 7 parts Everclear (by weight).
– A single cup of 95% Everclear weighs 188 grams; [I know because I weighed it :-)]
– To get the proportionate amount of propolis, divide the gram weight of the Everclear you are using by 7, and then multiply the result by 3 to discern the weight of the propolis to use to get a 3:7 ratio.
– You can adjust how much tincture is produced by scaling up the ingredients following the proportions above.
– A 3:7 ratio yields a 30% extraction
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES and REFERENCES
- Review our presentation on the topic: https://www.bkcorner.org/documents/presentations/2023-0929_Propolis.pdf
- FAO guide: http://www.fao.org/3/w0076e/w0076e14.htm#5.7
Questions or Corrections can be addressed through email to Kevin@bkcorner.org