Honeybee Compound for Hair Loss?

Propolis, a natural product used by honeybees to repair their hives, stimulates hair growth in shaved mice.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst was managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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WIKIMEDIA, RAMAA resin-like material that honeybees collect from plant sources like tree buds and use to patch any holes in the hives, the sealant propolis contains antifungal and antimicrobial properties that help protect the colony. As such, people have long used propolis to treat tumors, inflammation, and wounds, according to an American Chemical Society (ASC) press release. Now, Ken Kobayashi of Japan’s Hokkaido University and colleagues propose another use for propolis: regrowing hair.

Recent research has suggested that propolis promotes the growth of keratinocytes, cells involved in production of the hair shaft and hair follicle structures. Sure enough, applying the compound to the skin of mice that had been shaved or waxed, Kobayashi’s team found that treatment stimulated the migration and proliferation of keratinocytes, and that mice that received propolis regrew fur faster than untreated animals. The team published its results last month (November 22) in the ACS’s...

Whether the treatment will be effective on other animals and people, including those that have already gone bald, remains to be seen, but the researchers note that propolis can help reduce inflammation, one of the root causes of hair loss.

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