Did you know honey has a less famous sister? Known as propolis, it’s a natural product made by honeybees to coat their hives in the manner we use caulk in our own homes. A new study conducted by researchers in Japan has found a previously unknown characteristic of propolis: It encouraged hair growth in mice.

The good news? While more testing is necessary, the researchers believe propolis will be able to reverse hair loss due to balding.

Health Food Stores and Pharmacies

As you might imagine, propolis is a resinous compound made primarily from tree sap, and true to its plant origins, it contains biologically active compounds called flavonoids. More than 2,300 years ago, people began using propolis for many purposes, including tumor treatment, though primarily to fight infections in wounds. Our ancestors, needless to say, were anything but fools; contemporary scientists have proven the antiseptic properties of this natural substance.

Today, you will find propolis being sold at pharmacies and health food stores in a variety of forms, including ointments, creams, lotions, balms, tablets, powders, capsules, and extracts. In most cases, it is recommended you apply propolis directly to the area being treated (with the exception of the eyes), and generally it is considered nonirritating to the skin. Oral uses, though less common, also exist and safety studies suggest it is nontoxic. However, it is not uncommon for people to have an allergic reaction however it may be used.

Tested by scientists, propolis is active against bacteria, viruses, and protozoans, among other microorganisms. Most often, people use it to treat wounds and also to speed the healing of canker sores and outbreaks of genital herpes. Taken in the form of a mouthwash, propolis helps soothe following oral surgery. And a study comparing propolis extract to tinidazole, found the extract worked about as well as the drug against the parasite giardiasis.

For the current study, the team of researchers investigated whether it could actually create new locks of hair. The team prepped their mice by either shaving or waxing them. After receiving a topical application of propolis, both groups of mice grew their fur back faster than mice not given propolis. Though the researchers only tested propolis on mice capable of growing fur — not balding mice — the research team noted that hair loss is often the result of inflammation. Plus, the number of cells involved in hair growth increased after propolis had been applied to the skin.

“These results indicate that propolis stimulates hair growth by inducing hair keratinocyte proliferation,” wrote the authors in the conclusion to their study. Tired of being a skinhead? Fingers crossed for human studies of propolis in treating baldness!

Source: Miyata S, Oda Y, Matsuo C, et al. Stimulatory Effect of Brazilian Propolis on Hair Growth through Proliferation of Keratinocytes in Mice. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2014.