Drug Safety

, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 419–423 | Cite as

Surveillance of Suspected Adverse Reactions to Natural Health Products

The Case of Propolis
  • Francesca Menniti-Ippolito
  • Gabriela Mazzanti
  • Annabella Vitalone
  • Fabio Firenzuoli
  • Carmela Santuccio
Conference Paper

Abstract

Natural health products are promoted to the public as equally or more effective and less toxic than conventional drugs. However, some ‘natural’ medicines are known to have adverse effects.

From April 2002 to August 2007, 18 suspected adverse reactions associated with propolis-containing products were reported to the national surveillance system of natural health products, coordinated by the Italian National Health Institute. Sixteen reports concerned allergic reactions (with dermatological or respiratory symptoms), while two concerned the digestive tract. Some of the reactions were serious: six patients were admitted to hospital or visited an emergency department and in two of these a life-threatening event was reported. In seven patients (four of whom were children), an allergic predisposition was indicated.

Propolis, a resinous substance collected by honeybees from the buds of living plants, has been used for several purposes (dermatitis, laryngitis, oral ulcers) because of its wide range of suggested activities (antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and chemopreventive actions). However, propolis is also a potent sensitizer and should not be used in patients with an allergic predisposition, in particular an allergy to pollen.

In Italy, products containing bee derivatives (bee pollen, royal jelly or propolis) are available to the public as food supplements. No label warning of possible adverse reactions is found on the packaging, although it is well known that atopic and asthmatic individuals may be at an increased risk of allergic reactions after using these products. The public and healthcare practitioners should be aware of the risk of allergic reactions to products derived from bees and a warning should be added to the packaging of these products.

References

  1. 1.
    Capasso F, Gaginella TS, Grandolini G, et al. Phytotherapy: a quick reference to herbal medicine. Berlin: Springer Verlag, 2003Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Coelho LG, Bastos EM, Resende CC, et al. Brazilian green propolis on Helicobacter pylori infection: a pilot clinical study. Helicobacter 2007 Oct; 12(5): 572–4PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Jasprica I, Mornar A, Debeljak Z, et al. In vivo study of propolis supplementation effects on antioxidative status and red blood cells. J Ethnopharmacol 2007 Apr 4; 110(3): 548–54PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kwon YS, Park DH, Shin EJ, et al. Antioxidant propolis attenuates kainate-induced neurotoxicity via adenosine A1 receptor modulation in the rat. Neurosci Lett 2004 Jan 30; 355(3): 231–5PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Burdock GA. Review of the biological properties and toxicity of bee propolis (propolis). Food Chem Toxicol 1998 Apr; 36(4): 347–63PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Gulbahar O, Ozturk G, Erdem N, et al. Psoriasiform contact dermatitis due to propolis in a beekeeper. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2005 Apr; 94(4): 509–11PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hausen BM. Evaluation of the main contact allergens in propolis (1995 to 2005). Dermatitis 2005 Sep; 16(3): 127–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Greenberg PA, Flais MJ. Bee pollen-induced anaphylactic reaction in an unknowingly sensitised subject. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2001 Feb; 86(2): 239–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Thien FCK, Leung R, Baldo BA, et al. Asthma and anaphylaxis induced by royal jelly. Clin Exp Allergy 1996 Feb; 26(2): 216–22PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hausen BM, Wollenweber E, Senff H, et al. Propolis allergy (1). Origin, properties, usage and literature review. Contact Dermatitis 1987 Sep; 17(3): 163–70PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesca Menniti-Ippolito
    • 1
  • Gabriela Mazzanti
    • 2
  • Annabella Vitalone
    • 2
  • Fabio Firenzuoli
    • 3
  • Carmela Santuccio
    • 4
  1. 1.National Centre for EpidemiologyNational Institute of Health, Surveillance and Health Promotion, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina ElenaRome, 299Italy
  2. 2.Department of Human Physiology and PharmacologyUniversity “La Sapienza”RomeItaly
  3. 3.Centre for Natural MedicineS. Giuseppe HospitalEmpoliItaly
  4. 4.Italian Medicines AgencyPharmacovigilance UnitRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations