Chemical characterization and biological activity of six different extracts of propolis through conventional methods and supercritical extraction

PLoS One. 2018 Dec 4;13(12):e0207676. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0207676. eCollection 2018.


Propolis is a natural product with many demonstrated biological activities and propolis extract has been used in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Different works have showed the variations in the chemical composition, and consequently, on the biological activity of the propolis that are associated with its type and geographic origin. Due to this study evaluated propolis extracts obtained through supercritical extraction and ethanolic extraction (conventional) in three samples of different types of propolis (red, green and brown), collected from different regions in Brazil (state of Bahia). Analyses were performed to determine the humidity, water activity, the content of total ash, proteins, lipids and fiber in raw propolis samples. The content of phenolic compounds, flavonoids, in vitro antioxidant activity (DPPH), catechin, ferulic acid and luteolin and antimicrobial activity against two bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli) were determined for all extracts. For the green and red ethanolic extracts the anti-leishmanicidal potential was also evaluated. The physicochemical profiles showed agreement in relation to the literature. The results identified significant differences among the extracts (p>0.05), which are in conformity with their extraction method, as well as with type and botanical origin of the samples. The extraction with supercritical fluid was not efficient to obtain extracts with the highest contents of antioxidants compounds, when compared with the ethanolic extracts. The best results were shown for the extracts obtained through the conventional extraction method (ethanolic) indicating a higher selectivity for the extraction of antioxidants compounds. The red variety showed the largest biological potential, which included the content of antioxidants compounds. The results found in this study confirm the influence of the type of the raw material on the composition and characteristics of the extracts. The parameters analysis were important to characterize and evaluate the quality of the different Brazilian propolis extracts based on the increased use of propolis by the natural products industry.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / isolation & purification
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / isolation & purification
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Brazil
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Chromatography, Supercritical Fluid
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Ethanol
  • Flavonoids / analysis
  • Leishmania braziliensis / drug effects
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / parasitology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Phenols / analysis
  • Propolis / chemistry*
  • Propolis / isolation & purification
  • Propolis / pharmacology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Ethanol
  • Propolis

Grant support

The study was unfunded, and the authors received no specific funding for this work.