Hair loss sufferers may have to look no further than their local beekeeper for a cure. According to the American Chemical Society, scientists from Hokkaido University in Japan have recently discovered that propolis, a substance in beehives, encourages hair growth in mice.
“I expect that propolis [can] improve hair loss due to inflammation through the anti-inflammatory properties and the keratinocyte-proliferative effect,” Ken Kobayashi, who led the study, told FoxNews.com.
The anti-inflammatory properties of propolis, a resin-like material that honeybees use to patch holes in their hives, are nothing new. Ancient people used propolis for wound healing, and in modern times the material has been utilized as a burn, acne and tumor treatment. However, it wasn’t until recently that the substance has been seen as a possible weapon in the war against hair loss. According to Kobayashi, “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.”
Propolis aids in the growth of keratinocytes - cells that are a component in hair shaft and follicle production. Upon applying the substance to the skin of shaved mice, Kobayashi and his team found that it stimulated the keratinocytes’ proliferation and migration into the hair shaft, re-growing the treated mice’s fur much faster than in mice who did not receive the topical application. While it has been noted that the mice treated were shaved and not balding, the researchers remain confident that the compound will grow hair lost to inflammation.
This doesn’t mean every guy losing his hair should start crushing up beehives to rub on his head. According to Dr. Zoe Diana Draelos, a board-certified dermatologist and a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, propolis’ anti-inflammatory properties would do little for male-pattern baldness.
“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,” she told FoxNews.com. “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.” Draelos notes that Finasteride, also known as Propecia, is “probably the most effective thing to treat male-pattern hair loss [currently on the market].”
Whether or not propolis is effective against inflammation-induced conditions such as alopecia areata (which, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s website, currently affects more than 6.5 million Americans) remains to be seen. Kobayashi and his team are currently studying propolis’ effect on human hair follicles in vitro, with a subsequent clinical trial study to take place depending upon the results. One of the hopes is that it can be applied as a topical in conjunction with minoxidil, which is the primary substance used in Rogaine. “Propolis is a natural ingredient without any side effects,” Kobayashi said. “A combination of propolis and minoxidil may be [very] effective.”
The study was published Nov. 22 in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.