The easy way to collect clean propolis is to use a propolis trap late in the summer, when bees are already wanting to propolize everything in sight. It looks a lot like a a queen excluder (but different), and fits on top of the uppermost hive body. Once the bees get it filled with propolis, the trap goes in the freezer to stiffen. Frozen propolis is brittle, and a couple of twists to the trap yield a nice little pile of small propolis “sticks”. I just tried one for the first time this year. Works great!
I also end up at the end of the year with a fist-sized or larger glob of propolis scrapings. These aren’t so clean. They contain wood chips, bee legs, beeswax, etc. This glob goes in the freezer, too, along with either a dedicated coffee grinder, or a mortar and pestle. Once well frozen, the propolis and tools come out of the freezer. Break off a small chunk of propolis, and put the rest back in the freezer. Just a couple of minutes in the mortar and pestle will yield a nice pile of propolis dust, up to pin head size. The finer you can get it, the cleaner you will be able to get it, and the more good stuff the alcohol will be able to pull out for the tincture. If you are using a coffee grinder, be aware that grinding for too long will heat the propolis, and make it very sticky.
Place the ground propolis into a square of cloth or paint filter. This gives you something to lift it out of the water with. Submerge in cool water, deep enough to allow the junk to float up. It will take a couple of minutes of stirring to get everything wet enough to work properly. Skim the junk off the surface of the water, and lift your now-clean propolis out using the square of cloth. Allow to drip, and air dry.
Propolis powder mixed with honey, at a ratio of 3 parts propolis to 7 parts of honey, is a great wound dressing. Supposedly, it will even heal a wound that already has gangrene. I used a 1:2 ratio of propolis/honey for the honey facial demonstation.
To make a tincture, add 1 part of propolis to 5 parts of oil, alcohol (like vodka), or water, depending on the intended use. Never use rubbing alcohol, which is poisonous. Shake the liquid and propolis jar twice daily for a minimum of two weeks, and strain. Alcohol does the best job of pulling the good stuff out of the propolis, and into the liquid for use. Alcohol, water, and oil all pull different constituents from the propolis. For a great mouthwash, you’d use a water tincture. For a body cream, an oil tincture would be used. Alcohol propolis tincture works well for use as a medicinal. Propolis is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and even anti-tumoral in some instances.