Hair loss itself doesn’t make you sick, but it can be upsetting and affect your mental health and self-esteem. Research suggests that some herbs might help with hair growth.
What Causes Hair Loss or Thinning?
Hair grows in stages. The first stage is active growing (anagen), which involves about 90% of your hair. The second stage, called catagen, is when your hair starts to die. The final stage, called telogen, is the resting phase when your hair sheds. These two stages each affect about 5% to 10% of your hair.
Your hair normally sheds 50 to 100 hairs per day. Shedding more than this amount, having a widening part, or having patches of no hair are all signs of hair loss.
There are many reasons why you might lose your hair. It may be a symptom of another condition or a side effect of a treatment. Sometimes, it’s directly caused by a hair condition. Some causes of hair loss include:
- Severe and prolonged underactive or overactive thyroid
- Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes patchy hair loss
- Female or male-pattern hair loss, or hereditary hair thinning
- Not enough iron
- Weight loss
- Tinea capitis, a fungal infection in your hair follicle that causes hair loss
- Trichtotillomania, an impulse-control disorder that causes you to pull your hair out
- Trichorrhexis nodosa, or hair loss caused by tight hairstyles or harsh hair chemicals
- Treatments like chemotherapy, tamoxifen, and allopurinol
- Toxins like gold, bismuth, arsenic
- Hormone changes like in postpartum hair loss
- After a surgery
- After a high fever
- High stress levels
Do Herbs Help With Hair Loss?
Herbs have been used for a long time in many different beauty and hair care routines. Some evidence shows that certain herbs can help with hair growth through a few different ways.
Horsetail. Known as Equisetum arvense, horsetail is rich in silica. Silica penetrates your hair follicle and the hair matrix where cells grow and build your hair follicle, which makes your hair thicker. Having more silica content in your hair may help lessen hair loss.
Red clover. Male- and female-pattern hair loss is influenced partly by inflammation and hormones, including a form of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone.
One study showed that red clover (Trifolium pratense) blocks an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, and helps lower inflammation, which can help hair grow.
Another study showed that a cream made of red clover and peptides, or short chains of amino acids, helped hair growth through blocking the 5-alpha reductase enzyme and lowering inflammation.
Stinging nettle. There aren’t a lot of quality studies on stinging nettle, or Urtica dioica, for hair growth, but one study showed that taking this herbal extract increased dermal papilla cell growth. These cells are part of the hair follicle and regulate hair growth.
Another study showed that stinging nettle is rich in a plant chemical called beta-sitosterol, which raises growth factors that stimulate hair growth.
Some herbs like stinging nettle are rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin A and iron, which are beneficial for your skin and hair. This herb might be helpful as a food or dried herb for people who have malnutrition or other vitamin deficiencies.
How to Use Herbs for Hair Growth
Using herbs as a topical hair treatment might be a safe way to use them. Using a herbal cream, serum, or hair mask on your scalp along with a massage can help stimulate your hair follicles and hair growth.
Herbs are not safe for everyone. Some herbs can interact with medications and other health conditions, and some shouldn’t be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Taking certain supplements can actually worsen hair loss, too.
If you are thinking about taking herbal extracts or supplements, talk to your doctor and a trained professional herbal practitioner first.
Other Ways to Treat Hair Loss
There are other ways to treat hair loss or thinning hair. These can include:
- Changing your hair products
- Towel drying or air drying your hair
- Using a flat iron on low heat no more than every other day
- Wearing loose hairstyles
- Avoiding cornrows, braids, and hair extensions
- Medications for hair growth
- Medications for the immune system
- Medications for hormones
Eating a healthy diet might also help your hair. Research shows that the Mediterranean diet and diets high in protein and soy might be helpful alongside other treatments for alopecia.
Considerations for Herbal Hair Treatments
Sometimes your hair can show signs of changes in your hormones and nutrition. Some studies show that herbs might help by affecting your hair follicles and enzymes, but more research is needed. Your doctor can help you decide if herbal hair treatments are safe for you.