Natural Remedies for Female and Male Hair LossMay 13, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Hair loss and thinning hair are common problems in both men and women. We’ve known for some time that male pattern baldness is largely due to genetics and a hormonal process that typically accompanies aging. But, the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that approximately 30 million women in the USA are also dealing with some form of alopecia.
Currently, there are several conventional options for dealing with hair loss in both sexes. The choices range from over-the-counter topical treatments such as Minoxidil (Rogaine) to prescription medications like Finasteride (Propecia) and in some instances, surgical options and hair transplantation.
There’s some emerging research that points to natural alternatives for addressing poor hair quality as well. Many of these holistic options only have preliminary evidence to support their use. But, they do offer hope for those who have not found success with conventional therapies or who have discontinued their use due to side effects or other complications.
Before I list some of the most promising alternatives, I want to emphasize that it’s vital to have a complete medical work-up if you’re experiencing unexpected hair loss. By that I mean loss that occurs suddenly or that doesn’t appear to be related to any recent hormonal change, new medication, physical or psychological trauma, dramatic weight loss or genetic predisposition.
A skilled physician can also help determine whether thinning or loss is due to a nutritional deficiency such as a lack of iron, protein or zinc. They will likely test thyroid function and review any medications being taken. A detailed hormonal panel may also be ordered to rule out any shift that may be contributing to the declining health of the hair follicles. There are even certain infections and autoimmune conditions, such alopecia areata, which cause hair to fall out in circular patches. If all tests come back as normal and you’re looking for a natural approach, here are some options that may be worth considering:
- Flaxseeds: A four week study was recently conducted on 33 women with poor hair quality. Their ages ranged from 45-55. The female participants found an improvement in luster, shine and softness after the use of 16 grams daily of flaxseed meal. A dramatic decrease in oiliness, without any drying-effect, was also noted. A prior study utilizing a 250 mg flax extract found that hair loss was reduced in 9 out of 10 men over the course of a 6 month trial. 8 of the men were classified as showing “modest improvement”. One man showed “much improvement” and the one remaining volunteer did not exhibit any benefit. The benefits were registered based on the number of daily hairs lost and the degree of scalp oiliness. (1,2)
- Tocotrienols: Vitamin E isn’t just one isolated chemical. The most popular form of E that we find in supplements is called “alpha tocopherol”. In many foods, a different type of E (gamma tocopherol) is commonly present. But there’s another side to the Vitamin E family: the tocotrienols. Tocotrienols are generally extracted from palm fruit and/or rice bran. They are powerful antioxidants which have been extensively studied for their health effects in the body. The most common areas of scientific interest generally involve their impact on cancer and cardiovascular disease. But new data points to their potential in the management of hair loss as well. An 8 month study on 28 healthy adult males found that 100 mg of palm tocotrienols increased hair growth in those with male pattern baldness by 42%. (3)
- EGCG (Green Tea Extract): A 6 month study in mice with hair loss demonstrated a 33% increase in hair growth when they were given a green tea extract daily. A control group, which did not receive the green tea, showed no hair regrowth. A separate study performed in test tubes and in humans showed that EGCG “stimulates human hair growth”. These findings suggest a possible oral and topical use for this health promoting nutritional supplement. (4,5,6)
- Silica: Silica is a trace mineral that is believed to support the health of connective tissue such as collagen (found in cartilage and skin) and keratin (found in hair and nails). A 2007 study provided 10 mg of “choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid” (Biosil) to 48 women with thin hair. By the end of the 9 month study, the women receiving the Biosil exhibited less hair breakage, greater elasticity and improved hair thickness. A 2005 experiment on 50 women found a decrease in hair loss, nail brittleness and skin roughness after 20 weeks of silica supplementation. (7,8)
- Biotin: Biotin is a micro-member of the B-vitamin family. It’s only necessary in very small quantities, but if you’re deficient, symptoms such as falling and thinning hair may result. The beauty of this supplement is that it also plays a role in blood sugar management and strengthening nails and skin. A rather large dosage, typically 2-10 mgs, is often recommended. It’s best to split up the dosage throughout the day. (9,10,11,12,13,14)
- Laser Therapy: Laser phototherapy is a treatment that can be administered in dermatology clinics or applied at home. It employs the use of “near infrared lights” to combat scalp inflammation and promote the growth cycle of follicles. A study published in 2009 found that a “lasercomb” improved the hair growth pattern of 110 men with hormonally influenced hair loss. No adverse effects were noted. Other forms of hair loss, such as alopecia areata, may also respond to laser therapy. (15,16)
- Apple Extract: A class of antioxidants contained in apples, grapes and various other fruits and vegetables may stimulate the growth of hair in a similar manner as Minoxidil. A 12 month Japanese trial suggests that apple proanthocyanidins may be effective for men with male pattern baldness. 21 Japanese men demonstrated improvements in hair growth, as compared to a placebo, at both the 6 and 12 month mark of the study. The effects became more significant with time and no side effects were reported. The authors of the experiment concluded that, “procyanidin therapy shows potential hair growing activity”. Two previous studies from 2001 and 2000 also support these findings. (17,18,19)
In addition to these alternatives, I would also mirror the advice given by Dr. Andrew Weil. He suggests supplementing with healthy fats such as fish oil and GLA, which can be found in black currant seed oil, borage oil, evening primrose oil and hemp oil. (20) I also recommend following a diet that is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods, low in sugar and adequate in protein. If you’re trying to lose weight, make sure to do so in slow and steady manner. Select nutrient dense, whole foods that provide vital minerals and vitamins as you shed the excess weight. It’s almost always a good idea to also take a high potency multivitamin/mineral to provide added insurance against common deficiencies.
In terms of topical products, try to use the mildest, most natural hair care products available. Avoid products with harsh cleansing agents, artificial colors, preservatives and synthetic perfumes. You can even invest in a chlorine filter for your shower. Chlorine is a powerful antiseptic, but can dry and irritate the hair, scalp and skin. The general idea is to avoid anything that dries out or inflames the follicles and promotes hair breakage.
Hair loss and thinning should be approached in the same way that we address all other health issues. Firstly, try to identify the true cause of the problem. Secondly, start by working from the inside-out. You can always add an outside-in strategy to complement later. Finally, utilize the safest and most natural options whenever possible. Aggressive, conventional therapies may be necessary, but they shouldn’t always be the first choice. By following these basic steps you may be able to improve the actual health of your hair and more importantly, the overall condition of your health.
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Tags: Flax, Green Tea, Hair
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Men's Health, Women's Health