The synergy between bees and marijuana has been a groundbreaking discovery for Telmo Güell. Passionate about traditional beekeeping, he figured out that bees are able to pollinate cannabis plants without being intoxicated, as they cannot synthesize cannabinoids. This inspired Güell to found The Beemine Lab, which mixes non-psychoactive extracts of Cannabis Sativa L with traditional honey remedies to support sustainable beekeeping and create EU-certified cosmetics.
Among the myriad molecules that compose the cannabis plant, the best known are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC has a psychoactive effect on the human nervous system, provoking the effect of feeling high, but CBD doesn’t produce any such effect and, moreover, has great therapeutic potential.
In Spain the use of CBD products is legal and regulated for topical use only. The Beemine Lab, which enjoys a 70% repeat purchase rate among its customers, distributes a range of cosmetics via its own e-commerce site, through Amazon and in specialized stores and pharmacies. The range includes lip balms, hydration creams and CBD oils with different concentrations, which can be used as natural remedies to alleviate chronic muscle complaints and skin inflammation.
Why cannabis and bees?
CBD was isolated for the first time in 1940 by two American organic chemists working in parallel but independently: Roger Adams and Alexander Todd. Adams found it in plant samples acquired from Mexico, while Todd obtained it from resin manufactured in India. However, it took 24 more years before CBD and THC were isolated and synthesized by Raphael Mechoulam.
Since then, research in the field has grown significantly. Researchers are now investigating cannabidiol potential in treating topical afflictions such as psoriasis, eczema or atopic dermatitis. More serious diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, epilepsy, anxiety and stress may also benefit from the use of CBD.
“In the past 30 years, CBD antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties have been discovered and studied, which is why interest in its consumption and research is growing," says Christina Schwertschlag, a cosmetic researcher at The Beemine Lab.
The startup is the first laboratory in Europe mixing CBD with beekeeping derivatives to reciprocally enhance their therapeutic effects. Both activate the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which balances and improves human metabolic processes and optimizes the body’s functions. The ECS was discovered only in the 1990s during research on THC and CBD and has proved to play a crucial role in regulating physiology and mood, affecting day-to-day experience.
Bees and cannabis plants can also create symbiotic relationships, shaping biodiversity in the natural ecosystem. The startup is in fact using bees to pollinate male cannabis plants, richer in pollen, to nourish beehives. In its first year of operation, The Beemine Lab has invested 10% of profits in bee protection, working in collaboration with a dedicated institution, Ecocolmena, to increase and maintain bee populations in an ecological and sustainable way.
In 1998, the French police required a Body Shop store to discontinue the sales and distribution of a newly launched hemp-based cosmetics line. Things have changed drastically since then.
In November 2017, the World Health Organization recognized the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol – a year after the number of stores selling cannabidiol-infused products had grown exponentially throughout Spain. Today, popular fashion and lifestyle magazines feature beauty products containing hemp seeds rich in Omega 3, Omega 6 and essential amino acids. Famous cosmetics brands such as Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, NYX, and Origins have added cannabidiol to their product lines. In 2018, the global CBD cosmetics market was valued $710m and is expected to grow to $959m by 2024, about 10% of the total skincare market, says Prohibition Partners, a research consultancy specialized in the global cannabis market.
Amid much CBD hype, The Beemine Lab raised €280,000 in 2019 through a crowdfunding round on the Startupexplore platform. Notable private investors have included renowned bank director and former Real Madrid FC director Juan José Juste Ortega and serial e-commerce entrepreneur García Perrote. With such funding and with more market traction, The Beemine Lab has prioritized market consolidation and expansion, as well as research and product development.
In April, the brand landed in Japan, a market that will contribute to 30% of the company’s sales in 2021. Meanwhile, it is planning to expand into Norway, Canada and Ecuador while continuing to invest in R&D that goes beyond cosmetics. One example of this is a CBD-infused propolis spray to treat nervous-system diseases, and a sexual lubricant to be distributed in para-pharmacies. Moreover, as a sustainable company, it has recently introduced braille language into its packaging and has removed plastic seals, substituting them with paper label closures.
Hanway Associates consultant Charlotte Bowyer has observed of the growing market: “[Established brands] are generally more conservative and willing to allow smaller, more independent companies to explore the field," opening up a bright future for startups that have already embraced CBD therapeutic potential. For now, The Beemine Lab’s goal is to enable a regulated cannabis market that is more transparent and accessible while simultaneously creating symbiosis and biodiversity in the surrounding environment.