Combat Hair Loss: How To Increase Hair Growth
Throughout history, people have sought remedies to combat hair loss. In Assyria, in 1500 BCE, common law dictated hairstyles according to social position and occupation. Baldness, considered an unsightly human defect, was hidden by wigs. Ancient Egyptian remedies included chopped romaine lettuce applied to the scalp and an ointment made of juniper berries (Juniperus communis) and two unidentified plants kneaded together into a paste with oil and heated. Hippocrates applied pigeon dung to his scalp to try to ‘sprout’ hair.
The first professional barbers shops opened in Rome around 303 BCE. Roman cures for hair loss included perfumed ointments made from crushed myrtle berries, bear grease, and hippopotamus fat; salves containing the urine of young foals; and liniments made from sulfur and tea.
By the 1790s, powdering hair with heavily scented bleached and pulverized wheat flour was considered stylish. Members of the upper classes in colonial America wore powdered wigs to hide their receding hairlines. American and European folk medicine recommended the use of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and olive oil (Olea europaea) scalp massages to promote hair growth.1,2
Fight Against Hair Loss: Who Is Affected?
Hair is the fastest growing tissue in the human body: the average rate of growth is about one-half inch a month. Optimal hair growth occurs from age 15 to 30, slows down from age 40 to 50, and is progressively lost by about age 50. Most men lose hair to some degree by age 35 and are more likely to lose their hair than are women. The life cycle of hair is divided into anagen (active growth), catagen (transitional), and telogen (resting) phases.
On a healthy scalp, 90% to 95% of hair follicles are growing, less than 1% is undergoing involution, and 5% to 10 re resting. The prognosis for encouraging hair growth is favorable if treatment begins before the growth stops altogether.1,2
Hair loss affects 80 percent of American men. Male pattern baldness (hair loss at the top of the head, called androgenetic alopecia) appears most frequently in men over age 40 and is considered to be a normal part of aging. Male pattern hair loss, which often begins during early adulthood, eventually results in a receding hairline or balding at the crown of the head. Androgenetic alopecia results from the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by the enzyme 5-á-reductase. Genetics determines the age at which hair follicles begin producing DHT. Hair on certain portions of the scalp reacts differently to DHT.
Hair loss among women is usually less severe than in men and typically occurs over the crown of the scalp. Approximately two-thirds of women experience hair loss after menopause. The extent of the hair loss is determined by hormones, heredity, vitamin deficiencies, and age.
Restoring Your Lost Hair And Stopping Hair Loss: Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complex and sophisticated healing system. Its origins stem from the ancient Taoist philosophy that views the person as a whole–body and mind are unified, one influencing the other. This approach makes TCM one of the first holistic medical models. It is an intuitive practice, using its own theoretical principles to identify patterns of disharmony. Acupressure, acupuncture, herbal remedies and exercise such as qigong and tai chi are all forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The ancient Chinese believed that a universal energy–chi–is present in every living creature. Chi circulates throughout the body on specific pathways called meridians, allowing the body to function properly and in good health. If this flow of energy is blocked, however, the system is disrupted and pain and illness result. The goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine is to restore and maintain the harmony and balance of chi’s flow.3
Fundamental to this philosophy is the concept of yin and yang. Yin and yang represent the principle that all aspects of life have two sides, of equal importance, working together to create and maintain harmony. One has no meaning without the other.
You cannot appreciate heat, for example, without understanding cold. If you are experiencing harmony, yin and yang are equal and in balance. An excess of one can lead to a deficiency of the other, and the goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine is to correct that imbalance.
Simple Tips To Stop Hair Loss: Treatments
Many are concerned, especially as they get older, with the condition of their hair. We would like to prevent the graying of our hair. Both men and women, of course, would like to prevent hair loss. Women find that their hair starts to thin, and lacks lustre and strength. This can be a major source for concern.
“Hair loss can have a significant psychosocial impact on patients. Persons who experience hair loss may develop emotional, social, and psychological difficulties, including social anxiety, increased self-consciousness, low self-esteem, embarrassment, and depression.”1,2
There are drugs available, and hair transplants. But neither of these solutions is ideal. Concerns about the side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs as led to an increased interest in natural remedies, and Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine has proven to be one of the more promising approaches.
The Phyto-Tech™ product, Lustrous Hair, is based on this Traditional Chinese Medical approach. The formula contains the following herbs: Fo-Ti Root 230 mg, Rehmannia Root 220 mg, Astragalus Root 110 mg, Dong Quai Root 90 mg, White Peony Root 90 mg, Safflower Flower 70 mg, Chinese Salvia Root 60 mg, Liguisticum wallichii Rhizome 60 mg.
What Are The Most Effective Hair Loss Treatments?
As explained above, the basis for choosing these particular herbs is not based upon our usual western medical pharmacological philosophy. This is a traditional Chinese formula, and it has been found to be effective. But some information on several of these herbs can still be enlightening.
- Fo-Ti (He Shou Wu, Polygonum multiflorum)
Fo-ti is a plant native to China, where it continues to be widely grown. It also grows extensively in Japan and Taiwan. Fo-ti has a history of reversing and preventing the effects of aging.4
“A growing concern about the side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs has led to an increased interest in herbal medicine. The authors note that the Chinese botanical fo-ti (he shou wu; Polygonum multiflorum) has shown recent promise as a hair and color restorative and is capable of inducing terminal hair to grow instead of vellus hair (the fine baby hair growth associated with use of minoxidil).
Practitioners of Oriental medicine prescribe the herb to prevent hair from thinning and graying, work as a blood tonic or mild laxative, tonify the liver and kidneys, strengthen cartilage and bone, regulate blood pressure, and prevent hardening of the arteries.”1,2
“Regarded as a rejuvenating plant, fo-ti has been thought to prevent aging and to promote longevity. Fo-ti has been recommended by Eastern and Western herbalists as a tonic to maintain youthful rigor, increase energy, tone the kidneys and liver and purify the blood. It is also use to lower cholesterol, reduce hypertension and improve immune function.
The Chinese common name for fo-ti, he-shou-wu, was the name of a Tang dynasty man whose infertility was supposedly cured by fo-ti. In addition, his long life was attributed to the tonic properties of this herb. Since then, Traditional Chinese Medicine has used fo-ti to treat premature aging, weakness, vaginal discharges, numerous infectious diseases, angina pectoris, and erectile dysfunction”4
Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa, dihuang), a member of the Scrophulariaceae (figwort family), has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries to nourish yin and tonify the kidneys. “In TCM, rehmannia is used to remove heat from the blood and enrich the blood. This traditional use is supported by preclinical studies, which have shown that aqueous rehmannia extracts increase the proliferation of hematopoietic (blood cell producing) stem cells and bone marrow.
An ethanolic extract of rehmannia rhizome has been shown to improve hemorheology (blood flow), reducing the obstruction of peripheral microcirculation associated with chronic disease. Rehmannia polysaccharide has been found to stimulate blood cell production in bone marrow in vivo.
Research has also demonstrated that aqueous rehmannia extracts possess dose-dependent anti-tumor effects and to stimulate apoptosis in vitro. It has been shown to elicit cardiovascular effects, including effects on blood pressure. This herb may also be helpful in the treatment of dementia, and the dried rhizome has been found to have sedative effects in vivo.
Rehmannia extract has also been found to prevent bone loss in osteoporosis through increasing the growth of osteoblasts (bone-forming cells) and inhibiting osteoclasts (cells that reabsorb bone). In TCM, rehmannia is used to treat diabetes, and researchers have demonstrated in vivo hypoglycemic effects of rehmannia extracts and constituents.
In addition, research has shown that rehmannia dried rhizome extract may be effective in inhibiting diabetic neuropathy. Research indicates that rehmannia has anti-ulcer effects, through the inhibition of gastric acid secretion, prevention of ulcer formation, and promotion of gastric ulcer healing. One in vivo study has shown that an aqueous rehmannia extract improves kidney function and reduces the excretion of protein in urine due to kidney damage, which supports the TCM use of rehmannia to nourish kidney yin.
Rehmannia has also been shown to protect the liver. ”5 Historically, Rehmannia has been used as a hair tonic, to prevent premature graying.4
Additional Natural Treatments That Can Help Prevent Hair Loss
- Astragalus Root
“In China, the national version of a nourishing pot of chicken soup is likely to contain astragalus root. In the exotic language of traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus boosts the immune system by ‘stabilizing the exterior’ and strengthening the ‘chi.’ The Chinese knew thousands of years ago that astragalus could strengthen our shield (‘exterior’) against disease and increase overall vitality (chi), long before anyone knew about bacteria, white blood cells, or the immune system.”6
Astragalus differs from herbs like Echinacea in that is is effective as a long-term preventive and restorative herb, “both to prevent illness and to renew energy and vitality one an acute illness has passed.” 6
Astragalus is an adaptogenic herb. As explained in a paper by Wallace, “At the core of an adaptogen’s scope of actions is the ability to help the body cope more effectively with stress. This action amounts to recharging the adrenal glands, the body’s stress-response mechanism. The adrenal glands (covering the upper surface of the kidneys) synthesize dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, compounds ‘responsible for the changes that occur [in the body] during the fight-or-flight reaction.’
Impact of Stress on Health Related Illnesses
Stress-related health problems are said by this author to include asthma, angina, cancer, depression, diabetes, minor illnesses, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, PMS, ulcers, and more. Studies indicate that adaptogens not only help the body cope with stress, but can enhance general health and performance.”7
Preliminary clinical and laboratory evidence supports the use of astragalus as a general tonic, one of its primary functions in TCM and among Western herbal practitioners. It appears to increase oxygenation in the body by stimulating the formation of red blood cells in bone marrow. Astragalus may also work as an antioxidant, protecting the body against harmful free radicals in a variety of degenerative diseases.
- Dong Quai Root, White Peony Root, Ligusticum wallichii Rhizome, Safflower Flower
Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis) is often thought of as “the female ginseng.’ In fact, this extremely popular herb in China is called tang kuei, which means “proper order,” as it is a blood tonic and restores reproductive balance. Although primarily thought of as a female herb, men can also take dong quai to “build the blood.”
“Like many Chinese herbs, the use of dong quai is generally not well understood in the West. In the United States, it is often sold as a single herb remedy, whereas in China it is almost never taken by itself.”6 Traditionally, dong quai is blended with other herbs.
Dong quai’s warming, tonic properties are believed to be even stronger when the root is cooked in soups, teas, and other dishes. It is traditionally added to chicken soup, often with astragalus, and consumed over a four day period during recovery from illness or to improve poor circulation.
“Four Things Soup, the most widely prescribed women’s tonic in China, is made of equal parts dong quai, peony (Peonia albiflora), rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa), and ligusticum (Ligusticum sinense).”6 You will note that all four of these herbs are in the Phyto-Tech™ Lustrous Hair Formula.
White Peony Root. The root and the root cortex of peony species, have been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) prescriptions for centuries. As part of complex herbal formulas, peony has been used to treat a wide variety of health conditions, including menstrual difficulties, nephritis, pulmonary heart disease, infantile pneumonia, and uterine fibroids (myomas). There is a growing body of research on TCM formulas containing peony in the treatment of women’s health complications including: menstrual difficulties, uterine myomas, coronary heart disease prevention, and hormone regulation.4
“Blood-promoting herbs aid circulation, nourish blood, increase its production, and are anti-thrombotic. Dong quai, Chinese salvia (Salvia miltiorrhiza), Chinese peony (Paeonia lactiflora), and safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) all support coronary blood flow and reduce myocardial oxygen use, ischemia, and arrhythmia. Dong quai opposes induced arrhythmia.
Stephania (Stephania tetrandra) lowers cardiac automatic rhythm. Chinese salvia is vasodilating, improving microcirculation to the lungs and kidneys. Ligusticum wallichii has many potential CV benefits; with Chinese salvia and dong quai, it restored microcirculation after adrenaline-induced contraction. A peony extract has aspirin-like effects and may reduce platelet aggregation and thrombosis from hyperlipidemia or hypercholesterolemia.”8
- Chinese Sage (Danshen), Notopterygium Root (Notopterygium incisum)
Chinese sage (danshen or Salvia miltiorrhiza). Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza) is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), often in combination with other herbs. Danshen should not be confused with sage. It grows primarily in the hilly areas in the west and southwest provinces of China. Remedies containing danshen are used traditionally to treat a diversity of ailments, particularly cardiovascular disorders, such as atherosclerosis or blood clotting abnormalities and to combat hair loss.
Danshen is purported to improve blood circulation, although this has not been demonstrated in high-quality human trials. Constituents of the danshen root, particularly protocatechualdehyde and 3,4-dihydroxyphenyl-lactic acid, are believed to be responsible for its vascular effects.4
1. Janowiak J, Ham C. A practitioner’s guide to hair loss: part 1 – history, biology, genetics, prevention, conventional treatments, and herbals Alternative & Complementary Medicine. June 2004:135-143.
2. Janowiak J, Ham C. A practitioner’s guide to hair loss: part 2 – diet, supplements, vitamins, minerals, aromatherapy, and psychosocial aspects Alternative & Complementary Medicine. August 2004:200-205.
3. Credit, L., Hartunian, S., Nowak, M. Your Guide to Complementary Medicine. Avery Publishing. NY 1998
4 Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
5. Zhang RX, Li MX, Jia ZP. Rehmannia glutinosa: review of botany, chemistry and pharmacology. J Ethnopharmacol. May 8, 2008;117(2): 199-214.
6. McCaleb, R., Leigh, E., Morien, K. The Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs. Prima Health. 1999.
7. Wallace, E. Adaptogenic Herbs: Nature’s Solution to Stress Nutrition Science News. May 1998:3(5):244-250. Reviewed by Betsy Levy in Herb Clip, American Botanical Council.
8. Ceylan-Isik AF, Fliethman RM, Wold LE, Ren J. Herbal and traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of cardiovascular complications in diabetes mellitus. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2008;4: 320-328.