Review of Substances Used in Natural Hair Loss Cures

Herbs have been used in traditional folk medicine of many cultures for thousands of years to treat various hair loss conditions with varying degrees of success. Admittedly, it appears that to this day no ultimate herbal or medicinal cure for genetically-determined hair loss conditions exists. Nevertheless, herbal remedies have experienced a tremendous increase in popularity recently and now account for well over half of all hair loss products sold. This revival began with the discovery of the true cause of hereditary baldness, now believed to be dihydrotestosterone (DHT) attacking hair follicles and the arrival of finasteride (Propecia), which is capable of blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Finasteride is a drug that had been used for some time prior to the discovery of its hair growth-promoting benefits to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also called prostate enlargement. Following this discovery, herbalists started looking for possible less expensive natural alternatives to finasteride among plants that have been traditionally used to treat urinary problems and more specifically enlarged prostates.

Saw palmetto has been used for several decades to treat prostate enlargement and it is one of the few plants used in natural remedies that have been subjected to some sort of medical research in regards to their potential for treating BPH. Its supporters assume that it works by blocking the conversion of testosterone into prostate and follicle-harming DHT but no study has yet confirmed this assumption. Some studies suggest that saw palmetto works by a different modes of action, and does not affect the levels of DHT. Nonetheless, the most recent research results indicate that saw palmetto might not be effective in treating BPH as previously assumed. No clinical research has ever been conducted on saw palmetto’s effects on hair loss. All of its potential hair benefits are derived from the assumption that if it is effective in treating BPH, it must be also effective in treating hair loss. Saw palmetto is a popular herb used by thousands of hair loss sufferers around the world and it is sometimes blamed for causing side effects similar to those attributed to finasteride and thus should not be used by pregnant or breast-feeding women or by children.

Extract from the bark of the evergreen tree pygeum africanum is another popular herbal ingredient found in natural hair loss treatments and many naturalists believe it is more potent in treating hair loss than saw palmetto. Its rise to popularity also comes from the general assumption that this herb, thought to be beneficial for treating prostate enlargement, must be also effective in treating hair loss. Pygeum africanum has been less well studied than saw palmetto and nothing is known about the possible mechanism affecting the prostate, let alone about its impact on hair growth. It has never been used in any clinical hair loss study related to hair. Its inclusion in herbal, hair loss products is derived from the assumption that it is a natural DHT inhibitor. For those who want to try a natural DHT blocker, pygeum africanum seems to be a safer option than saw palmetto due to its lower health risk profile.

The third popular herbal ingredient used in natural hair loss cures is nettle root extract. This herbal drug is derived from the root of the stinging nettle, a popular healing plant found in temperate and subtropical zones of the northern hemisphere. Its use in natural hair loss remedies also stems from the belief that it helps shrink enlarged prostates and is thus thought to inhibit the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Several small studies have shown that nettle root is far more effective in relieving the symptoms of BPH when used in conjunction with pygeum africanum than when used alone, but its mode of action remains unknown. Nettle has never been used in any clinical hair loss study. Caution is advised to patients using nettle root extract since the whole plant is known to be allergenic to a lot of people. Other than that it seems relatively safe as it has been used for centuries in many parts of the world as a vegetable and has been often compared to spinach in terms of its nutritional benefits.

Other popular herbal extracts frequently found in natural hair loss treatments include ginkgo biloba, eleuthero root, Asian ginseng, gotu kola, green tea, pumpkin seed oil, rosemary, chamomile, horsetail, etc. These herbs are supposed to work by various different modes of action, such as by improving the blood circulation in the scalp, fighting fungal infections and inflammation in the scalp or providing necessary nutrients to the hair follicles. Although all of these plants possess properties frequently utilized in traditional folk medicine, none of them has ever been clinically tested for treating hair loss. No scientific proof exists that any herb, vitamin, mineral or nutrient contained in the natural remedies promotes new hair growth. Whether you decide to try a commercial herbal remedy or just one or two herbs on their own, keep in mind that besides there being no guarantee of their efficacy, no daily dosage has ever been established and side effects might occur despite the general belief that herbal hair loss remedies are safe and free of them.