Whitby company 'the bees knees' in global conference on propolis
Who would have known that at 3b Enterprise Way in Whitby they produce the largest range of herbal medicines in the UK?
And how many people know that award-winning Sweet Cecily’s natural skincare comes from the same place?
But the biggest surprise about Natures Laboratory is that it has just hosted an extraordinarily successful international conference about propolis, now recognised as one of the world’s most important and powerful natural medicines.
James Fearnley, CEO of Natures Laboratory, has been researching propolis for more than 30 years.
He has written two books on the subject and worked with dozens of universities in the UK and internationally, contributing to more than 30 peer reviewed scientific papers.
Propolis is composed of resin collected by honeybees from trees and plants.
The bees process these resins in the hive adding a combination of other ingredients to make propolis.
The word comes from the Greek meaning Defender of the City. The bees use propolis to defend the hive against infection.
Propolis has been used as a medicine since time immemorial.
The Egyptian priests used it. The Greeks used it – Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine, said that it cured sores and ulcers.
Modern research into its use has grown rapidly over the last 30 years, demonstrating its wide application as antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antioxidant and much more.
“But propolis doesn’t work like a traditional pharmaceutical medicine,” said Mr Fearnley.
“It is more of a disabler than a destroyer.
“Traditional antibiotics target bacteria to kill them.
“The problem is they kill the good bacteria as well as the bad ones.
“Propolis stops the bacteria from multiplying and forming dangerous biofilm like MRSA.
“Ten years ago, we published a paper illustrating how propolis was effective against MRSA where antibiotics had become ineffective.
“One of our most recent research projects in Leeds is illustrating the power of combining propolis with antibiotics.
“I have been collecting propolis samples for more than 30 years from every corner of the earth and have looked at their chemical and biological properties.
“We have made some key discoveries such as the observation that propolis from areas where it is very hot and humid has the strongest antibiotic properties.
“But what really shook me was when we looked at propolis from an area where there was sleeping sickness (Trypanosomiasis) in the population.
“We found propolis from this region contained a chemical associated with treating the disease itself.”
“Following this discovery, we created the BEEPHARMA AFRICA project.
“We visited and collected data in five African countries to exploring this concept of geographical medicine, the idea that the honeybee is collecting the local plants immune system and converting it into its own. This explains the old wives’ tale that local honey or local pollen is best for people in that area.“
In 2010, Mr Fearnley started ARC (Apiceutical Research Centre) which puts on biannual international conferences, the most recent two at universities in Glasgow and Sofia, Bulgaria.
In 2016 he founded the International Propolis Research Group, IPRG.
The IPRG was planning a major conference in Istanbul in 2020, entitled Propolis, Medicine of the Future? but Covid-19 intervened.
Undeterred, Mr Fearnley decided to create an online IPRG conference accessible to scientists everywhere but run from Natures Laboratory’s offices in Whitby.
“It was a stressful and unnerving experience,” he said, “but I knew that several truly important pieces of clinical research had just been published in Brazil, Turkey and Israel showing how propolis could help with Covid-19 either directly or with the associated diseases.
“I felt it was my duty not to wait for the end of lockdown and the Istanbul conference but to tell the world about this research now.”
“Never having done anything like this before I turned to Natures Laboratory’s IT Director Jack Barber. Could we do this ourselves and coordinate it from Enterprise Way?
“He assured me we could.
“In the end we had 40 academic papers presented, with nearly 400 attendees from more than 90 countries with many interested pharmaceutical scientists attending looking for solutions to antibiotic resistance and of course Covid.
“Orthodox medicine is in a mess.
“It has produced some brilliant treatments, but it has also caused many problems.
“Antibiotic resistance is now a recognised worldwide threat to human health.
“Propolis is now beginning to be seen as a bridge, as something which combined with antibiotics could give us the best of both worlds, a medicine that can get rid of the bad guys without killing all the good ones.”