Are Herbal Hair Loss Remedies Just Another Scam?
Herbal hair loss remedies account for well over 50% of all hair loss cures sold. Their popularity stems from the general belief that they are an adequate alternative to medicinal treatments but without any negative side effects. Though such claims may not reflect the truth they surely help boost the sales volumes.
Medicinal plants have been used to treat baldness for thousands of years but with questionable rates of success. Many herbal hair loss remedies in the past have become a synonym for "hair scam". Since the discovery of the true cause of hereditary baldness, i.e. the harmful effects of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) on our hair follicles, many new herbs have emerged as potential hair loss treatments. Researchers are mainly looking at plants that have been used in traditional folk medicine to treat prostate problems. This is because prostate enlargement happens to have the same main cause as male and female pattern baldness and that is DHT.
Undoubtedly the most popular herbal ingredient used to treat hereditary hair loss these days is extract from saw palmetto berries. Saw palmetto has been used for many decades to treat prostate enlargement. Recently it became immensely popular as the main active ingredient in natural hair loss remedies. It is often described as a natural alternative to finasteride, though free of its negative side effects. However, science does not provide any conclusive proof that saw palmetto is effective in treating prostate enlargement, let alone in treating baldness.
Many other plants that have been used to treat prostate enlargement in the past are now finding applications in herbal hair loss cures. Such plants include stinging nettle, pygeum africanum and extracts from soy beans and pumpkin seeds, to name just a few. The problem with all natural products is that their effectiveness has not been clinically proven and independently verified and their mode of action is unknown. Their inclusion in natural hair loss treatments is typically based on assumptions and small, sponsored studies.
The second most frequently-used herb appearing in natural hair loss remedies is Fo-Ti, often called He Shou Wu. It is also the most frequently-used ingredient in grey hair cures. Fo-Ti is a Chinese youth tonic and the legend has it that an old villager named Mr He restored his vitality, youthful appearance and black hair using Fo-Ti and managed to father children at a very ripe age. He lived to 130. This was in the 9th century A.D. Although neither scientific nor empirical evidence exists showing that Fo-Ti is capable of reversing baldness or grey hair, it is an extremely popular ingredient in natural grey hair and hair loss products.
There are many other popular herbs used in hair loss treatments that are supposed to work by other modes of action. Some, such as gingko biloba, allegedly improve the circulation in the scalp, thus providing better feeding to the follicles, while others are just used as supportive treatments alongside the main active ingredients to help fight inflammation and infections of the scalp.
The effectiveness of herbal hair loss treatments is no less questionable than their safety. Despite the general public confidence in natural treatments, their absolute safety should not be taken for granted and many of them should be approached with caution. The most likely health risks are related to allergic reactions but many herbs are also known to cause more serious conditions and the risks should not be underestimated.