Propolis is a sticky substance that is collected from plants by honeybees. We previously demonstrated that propolins A, B, C, D, E and F, isolated from Taiwanese propolis (TP), could effectively induce human melanoma cell apoptosis and were strong antioxidant agents. In this study, we evaluated TP for free radical scavenging activity by DPPH (1,2-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl). The phenolic concentrations were quantified by the Folin–Ciocalteu method. The apoptosis trigger activity in human melanoma cells was evaluated. TP contained a higher level of phenolic compounds and showed strong capability to scavenge free radicals. Additionally, TP1g, TP3, TP4 and TP7 exhibited a cytotoxic effect on human melanoma cells, with an IC50 of ∼2.3, 2.0, 3.3 and 3.3 μg/ml, respectively. Flow cytometric analysis for DNA fragmentation indicated that TP1g, TP2, TP3 and TP7 could induce apoptosis in human melanoma cells and there is a marked loss of cells from the G2/M phase of the cell cycle. To address the mechanism of the apoptosis effect of TP, we evaluated its effects on induction of apoptosis-related proteins in human melanoma cells. The levels of procaspase-3 and PARP [poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase] were markedly decreased. Furthermore, propolins A, B, C, D, E and F in TP were determined using HPLC. The results indicate that TP is a rich source of these compounds. The findings suggest that TP induces apoptosis in human melanoma cells due to its high level of propolins.