Science vs Alchemy

One of the common misconceptions in treating baldness is the assumption that natural treatments are safer than medicines. One good example is saw palmetto that can be found as a principal ingredient in almost every natural hair loss product. Many marketers claim that saw palmetto is a safe natural dihydrotestosterone (DHT) blocker whereas finasteride is often associated with causing side effects. An interesting fact about this argument is that saw palmetto is assumed to work exactly by the same mode of action as finasteride does, by reducing the plasma level of DHT, but amazingly this very same process is not accompanied by any potential side effects. It is not logical that saw palmetto would have the best of both worlds - the efficacy and safety. By the way, it is not clinically proven that saw palmetto can reduce DHT levels in the human body. Hence it is not certain whether it is beneficial in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) that it is used for, let alone in treating baldness.

Another frequent argument supporting the use of natural products is about the synergistic effect of their many components that interact to enhance the final benefit. Branded medicinal products contain only one active ingredient. The effects of such substances on the human scalp and health have been clinically tested in the absence of other substances and are relatively well-documented. Their interactions with other drugs are estimated using clinical data. Generic products often combine two active ingredients whereas each one of them was studied separately. This is where the guessing game starts. It is foolish to believe that natural products, combining dozens of various herbal ingredients of indefinable composition have ever been subjected to any rigorous testing. Too many active substances yield a function with too many variables. It is next to impossible to define the recommended and the maximum daily dose and study the side effects. Therefore, natural products are often pure alchemy, their mode of action a mystery and their effects can vary significantly from patient to patient.