All individuals across the world are identified by distinct physical attributes, which are unique to each one of them. The hair on a person’s head is a very important distinguishing physical attribute in this regard. However, the human hair is susceptible to the onset of many problems and can easily lose its luster over a period of time. It may also thin out or fall off resulting in baldness. Hair loss is one of the most common complaints around the world, with baldness being seen as in a distinctive negative light in most cultures and people placing a premium on having good hair. Baldness tends to affect more males, but females are not immune from this disorder – however, males and females tend to suffer from distinctly different patterns of baldness. In fact, as people grow older, the greater is the chance that they will be affected by the male or female pattern of baldness, which is due to hereditary androgenic alopecia or AGA. The age is a very important determinant of hair loss, with older people showing greater loss of hair in general. Some types of herbal extracts may stem this problem in such people, where other attempts to reverse the hair loss have failed. Since hair loss is considered to be such a nuisance, it is perhaps best to understand first, what actually lies behind the phenomenon of hair loss and baldness – so as to develop treatments for it.
Hair and Hair Loss:
Hair grows from follicles arising on the scalp on the head. Every follicle of hair has a small bulb-shaped structure known as a dermal papilla at its base where it comes out of the scalp. This bulb like structure is extremely sensitive to physiological stimulus from many types of hormones and is also affected by other chemicals that are secreted by the body or ingested in medications – the action of hormones or chemicals affects hair growth and health in various ways. Male pattern balding, for example, has a hormonal cause in many cases.
Men are most susceptible to a receding hairline – the classic form of male pattern baldness, and many of them have a genetic predisposition to this phenomenon though some women may also show such signs of balding in rare instances. There are two main ways in which hair loss occurs with age in most people. In the type of hair loss most common in men, the hairline recedes; on the other hand, in the type of hair loss most commonly seen in women, the hair follicles tend to thin out over larger areas of the scalp – resulting in a patch of baldness. In both these cases, the thinning of hair or receding hairline is induced by hormonal changes brought on by the actions of a testosterone affecting enzyme present in the dermal papilla – this enzyme is known as 5-alpha-reductase.
The major biochemical action of this particular enzyme is the conversion of the male hormone testosterone into a secondary product known as dihydrotestosterone – DHT in short, which is far more potent than testosterone in activity. As more DHT is converted biochemically from testosterone, they attach to receptor sites in the hair follicles in greater numbers, as hair follicles have a larger number of androgen receptors to which the more potent DHT molecules can attach themselves. This overproduction of DHT from testosterone over a long period of time starts to affect the hair follicles, especially in men. Hair growth is affected as this compound degrades and shortens the active phase of the hair on the scalp, the results are the steady thinning out of hair and the final loss of hair on the scalp. All chemical compounds and products that have the intrinsic capacity to inhibit the action of this enzyme have the greatest chance of preventing and slowing down, or even completely reversing the loss of hair on the scalp.
Preventing Hair Loss:
Herbal extracts can help stem hair loss. In fact, a new ingredient found in some hair care products currently on sale is an extract of the lignans present in flaxseeds. This particular extract has very high amounts of a phytoestrogen compound simply known as SDG. The compounds found in these plant extracts strongly inhibit the activity of the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme. Plant-based extracts that have chemical compounds capable of removing excess cholesterol from the body may also be beneficial in the prevention of hair loss. This primary sterol is the chemical building material for the male hormone testosterone; any inhibition of testosterone will also curb excess DHT production and may prove beneficial.
In addition, the metabolization and effectiveness of these herbal extracts are increased by the use of a mixture of B vitamins, including folate, and the vitamin biotin. The addition of these nutrients will increase the bioavailability of the compounds in the herbal extracts. The addition of the nutrients also strengthens the hair and results in better-looking hair and a healthier scalp. The actual effectiveness and efficiency of various herbal compounds on hair growth is currently being studied in many laboratories around the world.
While herbal treatments may be effective, the results do not always show immediately and patience is required. This is because human hair grows at a rate of about a centimeter every month, the reduction in hair loss may only be apparent in three months time. Any new growth of hair could take four to six months to be noticeable to the person. The rate of hair loss and the balding pattern will gradually fall back to the same state when or if the treatment is halted for any reason.
A Few Herbs that Could Help:
The silicon rich horsetail herb keeps hair very strong and adds luster to hair. The Chinese dong Quai herb is rich in phytoestrogens that can even help reverse baldness and hair loss. Herbs like the nettle, aloe vera and the leaves of the birch help clean the skin and promote a growth of hair on the scalp. Saw palmetto may have the ability to actively inhibit DHT production, therefore stopping hair loss due to hormonal changes.