With spring in full bloom and summer just around the corner, you can count on bees being somewhere in the vicinity. Bees do what they do: hop from flower to flower, collecting the necessary goods needed to make that sweet honey for our biscuits and tea, while single-handedly sustaining our ecosystems through their pollinating (you have all seen the Netflix documentary, right?), and of course, stinging the occasional innocent bystander.
Bees get a bad rap for that last part. Sure there are those in the family that serve no other purpose but to attack, (wasps, hornets, etc.), but we’re talking about bees here. The black and yellow bugs that just want to dive bomb into a flower’s stamen and get that pollen. While the overall importance of that is well documented (seriously, go watch the documentary), what scientists at Japan’s Hokkaido University are discovering is that bees may have more than just honey in those hives.
Recent studies conducted by the aforementioned scientists recently discovered that propolis, a substance found in beehives, has helped hair growth in experiments with mice.
Honey and hair growth, you say? Indeed, that’s what they’re saying.
So what is propolis and how does it work?
Propolis is substance similar to resin that the bees use for patchwork around the hive. It’s been used for centuries all around the world, for all sorts of purposes, due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties. From a topical ointment for wounds, burns, and acne, to even treatment on tumors, propolis is a versatile substance.
Study leader Ken Kobayashi said, “I expect that propolis [can] improve hair loss due to inflammation through the anti-inflammatory properties and the keratinocyte-proliferative effect.” According to Kobayashi, in an interview with FoxNews.com, “recent studies [have] pointed out that propolis has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and proliferative properties. Interestingly, normal hair growth needs active proliferation of hair epithelial cells without excessive inflammation. Therefore, we came up with the idea.”
There’s a lot that go into a person’s hair growth process. One of the essential components in hair follicle production is the growth a specific cells called keratinocytes. Propolis, when applied to the skin of the mice in the study, was shown to aid in the growth of keratinocytes, stimulating cell generation and triggering regrowth in the mouse’s fur at a faster rate than a mouse who didn’t have any propolis applied. It should be noted that the mice in this study were shaved and not bald, however, researchers remain confident that the same result would apply to situations where hair loss was due to inflammation.
There are some in the medical community that feel that the anti-inflammatory powers of propolis would be of little success to for the average man struggling with hair loss.
“The reason people start to go bald is because, especially in men, the testosterone that is released in puberty shuts down some of the hair follicles on the top of the scalp. That has nothing to do with inflammation. Inflammation can cause hair loss, but there are specific medical conditions where that occurs. Those conditions are diseases like alopecia areata,” said Dr. Zoe Diana Draelos, a North Carolina based a board-certified dermatologist and a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.
What effect propolis will have on male pattern baldness remains to be seen. But Kobayashi and his team have transitioned to studying the effects of propolis on human hair. Kobayashi believes that propolis could work alongside another topical hair loss solution such as minoxidil. “Propolis is natural ingredient without any side effects — a combination of propolis and minoxidil may be [very] effective,” said Kobayashi. If study does find that propolis can indeed stimulate hair growth, that’ll certainly take the sting out of going bald.
We will be following their progress intently.