Other than costly transplants, underperforming creams and less-than-convincing wigs and combovers, those experiencing hair loss aren’t exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to addressing fading follicles. Over the years science has teased us with a number of promising developments, but none have yet evolved into market-ready saviours the bare-bounced among us are waiting for. New research suggests that a solution be on the horizon, however, with scientists discovering that blocking certain enzyme activity can treat certain kinds of hair loss, with bald mice treated in this way sprouting new hair within 10 days.
But of course, we cannot perform an enzyme-blocking spell all by ourselves. Luckily for us, balding men and women, there’s a new solution: Beehive glues.
Bees, Honey, Honey Hives
Hair loss can be devastating for the millions of men and women who experience it. Now scientists are reporting that a substance from honeybee hives might contain clues for developing a potential new therapy propolis1.
Propolis contains as many as 300 active compounds. These components were found to fight cancer in a variety of ways including:
- Preventing the growth of new blood vessels to feed cancer cells (anti-angiogenesis)
- Preventing the spread or metastasis of cancer from one organ to another
- Halting cancer cell division
- Inducing apoptosis or programmed cell death
In addition, propolis was found to mitigate the side effects or toxicity of chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of cancer.
Bees make propolis by gathering resin from pine and other cone-producing evergreen trees. They blend the resin with wax flakes and pollen, and take it back to the hive. There they use the sticky mess to patch holes, seal cracks and build panels in the hive.
But propolis does more than architectural duty. It also acts as an antiseptic barrier protecting the hive from contamination and from external invaders like mice, snakes, and lizards. In fact, the name propolis comes from the Greek meaning “defense of the city.”
The antimicrobial properties of propolis protect the hive from viruses and bacteria. Researchers found that bees living in hives coated with propolis have lower bacteria in their body and also ‘quieter’ immune systems.
And propolis doesn’t just benefit bees. For thousands of years folk medicine practitioners have used bee glue to treat abscesses, heal wounds, and fight infection. In fact, propolis was listed as an official drug in the London pharmacopoeias of the 17th century.
Modern studies confirm a long list of health benefits offered by propolis. A search of PubMed shows over 2,000 studies on bee propolis. Here are just a few of its health benefits:
1. Anti-Microbial Action
Propolis has a wide range of antibacterial properties. It is also has anti-fungal and antiviral powers. In one animal study, applying a propolis solution to wounds helped speed healing in diabetic rats.
In children, propolis has been found to:
- Prevent respiratory tract infections
- Remedy symptoms of the common cold
- Prevent middle ear infections
2. Heals Burns
A 2002 study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that propolis may promote the healing of minor burns2. The researchers compared a propolis skin cream with silver sulfadiazine, a drug used to treat burns. Study results showed propolis was just as effective as the drug in treating second-degree burns.
3. Prevents Dental Cavities
Greek and Roman physicians used propolis as mouth disinfectant. Modern studies show it may be effective in the treatment of periodontitis and gingivitis.
Many studies have also found that extracts from bee glue limit bacterial plaque and reduce tooth caries.
Other studies show that propolis may even help regenerate dental pulp, as well as bone tissue, and cartilage.
4. Treats Parasites
Preliminary trials show propolis may eliminate parasites. In one study people who took propolis had a 52 to 60% success rate in eliminating the parasite giardiasis3.
5. Wart Removal
In a single-blind, randomized, 3-month trial, 135 patients with different types of warts received oral propolis, echinacea, or a placebo. The results were reported in the International Journal of Dermatology. Patients with plane and common warts achieved a cure rate of 75% and 73%, respectively. The results were significantly better than those associated with echinacea or placebo.
6. Beats Drug for Genital Herpes
Propolis is more effective than a common drug for treating genital herpes according to a study published in Phytomedicine4.
For 10 days, 90 men and women with genital herpes applied either an ointment containing propolis flavonoids, or acyclovir (a drug used to treat herpes sores), or a placebo ointment. The patients applied the ointment four times a day.
By the study’s end, 24 out of the 30 patients in the propolis group had healed. Only 14 of 30 in the drug group, and 12 of 30 in the placebo group were cured.
Like honey, the composition and health benefits of propolis will vary depending on the trees and flowers and the location where it is produced. You can find propolis in its raw form directly from a local beekeeper. It’s also in the “cappings” of honey – a crunchy mixture of pollen, propolis, and beeswax.
Propolis is also available without the honey. But extracts or tinctures of propolis are more convenient to use. They are popular for boosting the immune system, and for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
Propolis and Hair Loss
Now scientists are reporting that a substance from honeybee hives might contain clues for developing a potential new therapy. They found that the material, called propolis, encouraged hair growth in mice. The study appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
People from ancient times had noticed propolis’ special properties and used it to treat tumors, inflammation and wounds. More recently, research has shown that the substance promotes the growth of certain cells involved in hair growth though no one had yet tested whether that in turn would result in new locks. Kobayashi’s team wanted to find out.
When the researchers tested propolis on mice that had been shaved or waxed, the mice that received the treatment regrew their fur faster than those that didn’t.
The scientists also noticed that after the topical application, the number of special cells involved in the process of growing hair increased. Although they tried the material on mice that could grow fur rather than balding mice, the researchers note that hair loss conditions often result from abnormal inflammation.
Propolis contains anti-inflammatory compounds, so they expect it could help treat balding conditions. They add that further testing is needed to see if the beehive material affects human hair follicles.
No definitive cure to hair loss
While there are plenty of creams, and ointments sold in the market, there is no definitive cure to hair loss as treatment depends on its cause. No sufficient evidence points to a definitive cure to balding. Most of the creams, ointments, and mixed solutions claiming to cure hair loss are in fact bunk.
1“Propolis – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2011. 14 Mar. 2016 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propolis>
2Castaldo, Stefano, and Francesco Capasso. “Propolis, an old remedy used in modern medicine.” Fitoterapia 73 (2002): S1-S6.
3Freitas, SF et al. “In vitro effects of propolis on Giardia duodenalis trophozoites.” Phytomedicine 13.3 (2006): 170-175.
4Vynograd, N, I Vynograd, and Z Sosnowski. “A comparative multi-centre study of the efficacy of propolis, acyclovir and placebo in the treatment of genital herpes (HSV).” Phytomedicine 7.1 (2000): 1-6.