By Janet Raloff, Science News, 7/29/2009
Lance Armstrong take note: A new study indicates an extract of propolis, a honeybee product, holds promise for helping endurance cyclists cope more effectively with the heat stress that develops during long-distance rides. That heat can diminish an athlete’s performance by fostering fatigue and dehydration.
Propolis is a resinous material that bees fashion from plant saps and the like. They use it to not only caulk small spaces in their hive but also to insulate and reinforce the hive’s support structures. But folk medicine has found plenty of uses, too, for propolis over the years — primarily in treating everything from burns and sore throats to impaired immunity. This gummy substance may even hold promise in fighting dental caries.
A key ingredient in propolis — caffeic acid phenethyl ester, or CAPE — exhibits strong antioxidant activity. So it can quench some of those tissue-damagingfree radicals that the body produces during illness and stress.
A team of researchers headed by Yu-Jen Chen and Jasson Chiang of the Chinese Culture University’s Graduate Institute of Sport Coaching Science, in Taipei, is now probing CAPE’s potential to protect certain white blood cells. Known as mononuclear cells, these immune-system players tackle infection by inducing localized inflammation. They can also cause damage by triggering inappropriate or overzealous inflammation…