Could honeybees hold the secret to treating hair loss? Research out of Hokkaido University in Japan is suggesting just that.
According to the results of a study announced Dec. 10, a material honeybees use in building their hives, called propolis, encourages increased hair growth in mice.
In the experiment, mice were shaved or waxed. Some were treated with a topical application of propolis, while the remainder were observed as a control group. Those who were treated with propolis re-grew their fur faster than the mice who were not.
The scientists, led by Ken Kobayashi, found that the special cells involved in growing hair actually increased in number after the propolis was applied. These cells are called keratinocytes, and are involved in the production of both hair follicles and hair shafts.
Propolis is a resin-like sealant bees use to close small gaps in their hives. But it’s not just a physical barrier: It also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal capabilities, and was used to treat tumors, wounds and inflammation in ancient times.
That anti-inflammatory quality may indicate the treatment’s potential for use in balding humans. The test was conducted on depilated mice, rather than ones who were unable to grow fur, but the researchers noted that some types of hair loss in humans result from abnormal inflammation.
Though the researchers are hopeful that their findings can be applied to human hair loss, they cautioned that further testing would be needed to see if propolis has an effect on human hair follicles.
“Use of propolis in medicine goes back to over 4,000 years ago, when Egyptians used it to improve the healing of wounds,” says Parsa Mohebi, MD Parsa Mohebi Hair Restoration. “Propolis improves the growth of epithelial cells, which play a major role in hair growth. Similar studies in medicine can bring about a variety of methods and materials that can enhance the process of hair restoration in the future.”
The full study, called “Stimulatory Effect of Brazilian Propolis on Hair Growth through Proliferation of Keratinocytes in Mice,” is available in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.