It’s estimated that 50% of men and 15% of women will face hair loss.
There are many herbs that have been traditionally used to treat hair loss and naturally promote healthy hair growth.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the best natural herbs for hair loss, based on both tradition and science.
Table of Contents
- Hair Loss Overview:
- Best Herbs for Hair Loss:
- The Hair Cycle:
- Common Types of Alopecia:
- Standard Treatments for Hair Loss:
Hair Loss Overview:
Hair loss, known medically as alopecia, is a common disorder that affects 50% of men and 15% of women (especially postmenopausal women).
Losing hair is part of the typical aging process. The primary difference between male hair loss and female hair loss is the scalp pattern. Men typically lose hair in the front of their heads and on their temples. Males tend to retain hair in the posterior area of the scalp because this hair is resistant to the androgenic hormone.
Women tend to lose hair from the central area of the scalp. Female hair loss rarely leads to complete baldness, whereas male hair loss can end up with complete baldness.
Using herbs and natural remedies for hair loss can be a great way to support healthy hair growth and protect against hair loss.
Best Herbs for Hair Loss:
In this article, we’ve reviewed the most effective, research-backed herbs for hair loss.
1. Garlic & Onion
Garlic and onion are two of the most popular herbs for hair loss. In particular, it’s thought that they help to stop hair loss.
Both garlic and onion are considered together in this section since they both belong to the same genus and have many similarities in chemical composition. It’s thought that the chemical alliin is the active constituent in these plants.
A randomized double-blind clinical study involved applying 5% odorless garlic gel in combination with a corticosteroid betamethasone valerate to the scalp twice daily. The control group was given the same corticosteroid gel without the garlic. The gel was left on the scalp to act for 1 hour daily with the treatment regime lasting for 3 months.
At the end of the experiment, the total number of hairs in the experimental group was significantly higher than in the control group. This study thus suggested that local gel treatment with garlic can be effective as it provides long-lasting therapeutic benefits. The researchers also noted that it was well-received by patients.
In a comparative study, raw onion juice was topically applied to patients with spot baldness. In the control group, tap water was used instead of onion juice. The study participants were treated twice daily for 8 weeks. Hair regrowth was observed after 2 weeks of treatment with onion juice, and the number of hairs in the experimental group was significantly higher as compared to the control group.
Summary:Human clinical studies show that alliin, an active constituent found in both garlic and onion, may be useful for stopping hair loss and promoting hair regrowth.
2. Green Tea
Green tea, known scientifically as Camellia sinensis, is a popular plant that originates from China. It’s thought that green tea is a beneficial herb for hair loss.
Green tea leaf contains a variety of flavonoids called catechins which are thought to provide many of the benefits of green tea (specifically antioxidant benefits). Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the primary catechin that is typically isolated from green tea.
It’s been reported that green tea has the ability to stimulate normal cell growth in epidermal keratinocytes, an important factor for hair regrowth.
Another study showed that the polyphenols in green tea have the ability to stop 5-alpha-reductase activity. 5-alpha-reductase (5-AR) is an enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. High levels of 5-AR lead to hair loss.
A lab study sought to examine the use of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) isolated from green tea for the treatment of hair loss. In this study, a 10% EGCG mixture was used. The results showed that EGCG prolongs the anagen phase (i.e. growth phase of hair) and stimulates overall hair growth. The researchers noted that EGCG appears to support hair health by protecting dermal papillae.
Further, an animal trial found that the polyphenolic compounds in green tea helped to reduce hair loss in rodents. In this study, 60 female mice with spontaneous hair loss on the head, neck, and dorsal areas were given green tea extract over the course of 6 months. At the end of the study, 33% of the mice showed significant hair regrowth. No hair growth was observed among mice in the control group, which received regular water.
Summary:Lab studies indicate that green tea may be beneficial for stimulating hair growth while decreasing hair loss. More human trials are needed for confirmation of these findings.
3. Pumpkin Seed Oil
The pumpkin is a popular plant that has been used as a food for thousands of years. Recent discoveries have shown that pumpkin seed oil is beneficial for hair health.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in a variety of nutrients, including fatty acids, beta-carotene, lutein, gamma and beta-tocopherols, squalene, and phytosterols.
Researchers have found that pumpkin seed oil has the ability to reduce 5α-reductase levels, which can help to support long-term hair health.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that pumpkin seed oil can improve hair regrowth. The experimental group was given a supplement with 400mg of pumpkin oil daily for 6 months, while the control group was given a placebo. Changes were evaluated by four outcomes: 1) assessment of standardized clinical photographs, 2) patient self-assessment scores, 3) hair thickness, and 4) scalp hair counts.
At the end of the study, hair count increases of 40% were observed in the experimental group, whereas increases of 10% were observed in placebo-treated men. The study showed that the pumpkin seed oil helped to support hair growth, likely through the mechanism of inhibiting 5α-reductase. However, the levels of DHT or prostate-specific antigen have not been measured to confirm the mechanism of action of pumpkin oil.
Summary:Research has found that pumpkin seed oil shows promise for supporting hair health and regrowth. Additional human studies would be helpful in verifying these findings.
4. Pink and Blue Ginger
This lesser-known variety of ginger, known as Curcuma aeruginosa, is a herb that grows in Southeast Asia. It is a relative of both ginger and turmeric. Its common name, “pink and blue ginger”, is due to its pink flowers and blue-colored roots. Even though it’s not well known, this herb is thought to be one of the best herbs for hair loss.
The rhizome of this plant is traditionally used in Eastern medicine for various conditions, especially for fungal infections.
A lab-based study found that pink and blue ginger inhibits the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an important aspect of maintaining healthy hair.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that pink and blue ginger helped to increase hair growth. In this study, 87 men with androgenetic alopecia were randomized to receive 5% Curcuma aeruginosa, 5% minoxidil, a combination formulation (Curcuma aeruginosa extract + 5% minoxidil), or placebo, twice daily for 6 months.
The researchers found that there was a statistically significant improvement in the study participants’ overall assessments of hair regrowth and a reduction in hair shedding. Similarly, treatment with 5% minoxidil and 5% C. aeruginosa extract also led to some degrees of hair regrowth. There were no serious adverse events during and after the study.
It’s also been noted that C. aeruginosa acts as an anti-androgen and increases skin penetration of minoxidil. It could potentially be a more effective topical treatment for androgenic alopecia (i.e. male-pattern baldness) when combined with minoxidil. Minoxidil is a popular drug for hair, it works by increasing blood flow to the scalp, which helps to increase hair follicle size and promotes the growth of thicker, stronger hairs.
Paradoxically, while C. aeruginosa helps to support male scalp hair growth, it has also been shown to inhibit underarm hair growth in females
Summary:Although pink and blue ginger may inhibit female body hair growth, it has been shown to promote male scalp hair growth. Further human research is needed to verify these findings.
Ginseng is a herb that is commonly used in Traditional Chinse Medicine (TCM). There are a few different species of ginseng, including Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), American ginseng (P. quinquefolius), and Chinese ginseng (P. notoginseng).
Ginseng usually grows in the colder climates of eastern Asia (mainly in northern China, Korea, and eastern Siberia) and in Russia.
In Korea, ginseng is a traditional herb for preventing hair loss. It’s also said to improve hair growth. It’s said to be especially effective as a natural remedy for hair loss.
It’s thought that the saponin glycosides, namely ginsenosides, in ginseng appear to be responsible for its hair growth properties.
An animal study tested ginseng’s activity on mouse hair follicles. The study showed that ginseng helped to promote hair growth. The researchers found that G-Rb1, one of the saponins in ginseng, was responsible for promoting hair growth.
A 2012 clinical trial involving 50 individuals with spot baldness found that ginseng is effective for improving hair regrowth. The study participants were divided into two groups, the first group received intralesional injections of corticosteroid and took red ginseng extract. The second group was treated with corticosteroid injections alone. The participants’ scalps were photographed and phototrichograms were performed at the beginning of the study and the treatment. After 12 weeks, the thickness and the density of the hair in the ginseng group significantly increased, indicating the effectiveness of the ginseng for hair growth.
Another clinical study found that ginseng combined with minoxidil is more effective than using minoxidil alone. This study was conducted on women with female pattern alopecia.
Summary:Clinical trials indicate that ginseng may work to prevent hair loss and support hair growth. Additional human studies are required for further confirmation.
6. Saw Palmetto
Saw palmetto belongs to the palm tree family (Arecaceae) of plants and is widely used for reducing symptoms of male prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia). It’s thought that saw palmetto is one of the best herbs for androgenic alopecia (i.e. male pattern hair loss).
Saw palmetto fruit contains phytosterols and flavonoids, which have anti-androgenic action over two pathways; the first pathway is direct and works on DHT and androstenediol cytoplasmic receptors while the second pathway is indirect and acts by inhibiting 5α-reductase.
It’s also thought that saw palmetto extract also helps to regulate the catagen phase and maintenance of the anagen phase of hair growth (read more about the follicle cycle of growth below).
A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial investigated the effects of palmetto in 10 individuals with androgenetic alopecia (male-pattern hair loss). This study showed that palmetto worked as a 5α-reductase inhibitor, which means that it works to block dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is an androgen that interferes with the hair growth cycle, making it easier for hair to fall out and more difficult for it to grow back.
A clinical trial compared the efficacy of finasteride and palmetto extract in a hundred patients with mild-to-moderate forms of androgenic alopecia. The experimental group took 320mg of palmetto extract each day for 24 months while the control group was administered 1mg of finasteride per day. Standardized photos captured the density of the hair at the vertices and front regions of the head.
Both treatments in this study showed unusual results; the saw palmetto extract group saw an improvement and stabilization in the state of androgenic alopecia, but only in the area of the vertices while finasteride also functioned well in the frontal area of the scalp. This is likely due to the fact that saw palmetto extract is suggested to have a lower affinity for 5α-reductase than finasteride.
It should be noted that one study looked at the role of saw palmetto in androgenic alopecia. The researchers found little evidence to support the efficacy of saw palmetto for hair loss.
Summary:Saw palmetto is an herb that may be useful in treating hair loss, however, additional human clinical research is needed to verify these findings.
Sophora, known scientifically as Sophora favescens, is a herb that part of the Fabaceae family of plants. It grows in Asia and throughout the Pacific region.
According to researchers, sophora contains 3.3% alkaloids and 1.5% flavonoids. In Chinese medicine, it has long been used for various diseases due to its antimicrobial activity along with its vasodilatory effects. Sophora has been traditionally used in skin diseases and for the promotion of hair growth.
An in vitro study concluded that sophora root extract promotes hair growth and has a regulatory role in the expression of various hair growth factors.
This was further proven by a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study involving sophora extract in patients with androgenic alopecia that was carried out over the course of 6 months. Two pterocarpan derivatives, L-maackiain and medicarpin, were isolated and found to be effective for the treatment of androgenic alopecia.
Summary:Research has found that sophora may work to promote hair growth. Human clinical trials are needed in order to confirm this benefit.
The Hair Cycle:
Every hair on the human body goes through a life cycle that consists of three phases. 1) the growth phase, which is called the anagen phase, 2) the resting phase, which is called catagen phase, and 3) the shedding phase, which is called the telogen phase.
Common Types of Alopecia:
Alopecia can be divided into two groups: non-scarring alopecia and scarring alopecia.
Non-scarring hair loss can be divided into six distinct categories.
1. Alopecia areata
This is hair loss that can affect every part of the body, including the scalp, face, trunk, and extremities. When it affects only a portion of the body, it is called alopecia areata. When it affects an entire site, it is called alopecia totalis. When it involves the whole body, it is called alopecia universalis. The etiology is unknown but may be related to an autoimmune disease.
2. Androgenetic alopecia
This type of hair loss is a genetically inherited disorder that causes an excessive response to androgens. It’s also known by its common name, male pattern baldness. It’s estimated that androgenetic alopecia affects roughly 50% of males and females. Male pattern baldness starts after puberty and is characterized by a slow loss of scalp hair.
3. Telogen effluvium
This type of hair loss is characterized by the excessive shedding of hair. It results from the shifting of the hair cycle growth (anagen) phase towards the shedding (telogen) phase. It may occur due to an illness, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. A crash diet, increased stress, poor diet, and drugs can cause telogen effluvium.
Scarring hair loss can be divided into three major types:
1. Tinea capitis
Tinea capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp. It’s typically caused by the fungal species Microsporum and Trichophyton. In this type of alopecia, the fungi penetrate the hair follicle’s outer root sheath, causing damage to the hair follicle that can lead to hair loss.
2. Alopecia mucinosa
This type of hair loss occurs when mucinous material accumulates in the hair follicles and the sebaceous glands. The mucinous material causes an inflammatory response that hinders the growth of hair.
Standard Treatments for Hair Loss:
In this article, we’ve outlined some of the best alternative treatments for hair loss. There are a variety of standard medical treatments that a trichologist (a doctor who specializes in diseases related to the hair and scalp) utilizes to treat alopecia.
Different treatment protocols are used for different types of alopecia.
In androgenetic alopecia, anti-androgen medications like finasteride along with minoxidil spray will help, but ultimately, the patient might require a hair transplant.
In alopecia areata, medium potency corticosteroids, along with minoxidil spray and topical immunomodulators like tacrolimus, may benefit the patient.
In tinea capitis, the mainstay of treatment is antifungal medications.
The effects of these herbs are well documented and they appear to be a safe alternative for those who suffer from hair loss.
There is both clinical research and traditional usage to suggest that these herbal alternatives may be a natural way to reduce hair loss.
There are many natural herbs that may help reduce hair loss when consumed regularly. Consider adding these to your diet!
As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any dietary adjustments or using a new supplement.