MANY IDEAS AND THEORIES EXIST ABOUT NATURAL HAIR LOSS REMEDIES THAT MAY OR MAY NOT HELP, BUT EXPERTS AGREE THEY CAN’T HURT!
Currently, there are only three FDA-approved, widely recognized hair loss treatments that have been proven to halt hair loss and regrow hair to some degree, and they are Rogaine, Propecia and laser hair therapy, explains hair transplant surgeon Dr. Bernie Nusbaum, founder of the Hair Transplant Institute of Miami and former clinical instructor in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine. “But there is a lot of buzz about herbal and natural remedies such as saw palmetto and antioxidants as we look toward nature to provide some answers to simple male- and female-pattern balding,” says Nusbaum.
More studies needed on natural hair loss remedies
Nusbaum continues, “I am aware of one small study on the effects of saw palmetto on hair loss and many ideas about antioxidants and platelet-rich plasma, and I am open-minded and interested in investigating them and feel there is a great need for testing the efficacy of these treatments, especially for women, whose options are limited now.” The surgeon agrees that while these treatments will not hurt, they might not help until we figure out what action they have on the hair loss and exactly how they need to be administered, whether topically or internally, or both. As of yet we don’t have any real proof or large clinical studies showing that natural or botanical products are helpful in treating hair loss — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t so. There are a few studies showing that some of these compounds are anti-inflammatory, which is one of the main aspects of pattern baldness. “But more research needs to be done. We really need to look further and harder to try to find substances to treat female-pattern hair loss,” stresses Nusbaum, who admits that FDA requirements for extensive clinical trials can be stringent and costly and are part of the problem in the advancement of hair loss treatments.
Why saw palmetto?
A link between the hormone by-product DHT, produced in the body naturally as we age, and hair loss has been established, and the internal use of the herb saw palmetto has been linked to relieving symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in men, also caused by increases in DHT. We have proof that pattern balding has been responsive to drugs such as Propecia used to treat BPH, so that’s why the hair loss community has embraced saw palmetto, even for women, because it doesn’t affect actual hormone levels, just the secretion and accumulation of DHT, which attacks follicles in both men and women.
In one small placebo-controlled, double-blind pilot study published in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine in April 2002, which involved only ten men, six out of the ten men rated their hair loss condition as improved, after using the study formulation containing saw palmetto. The results showed that more testing should be done. “Currently, there is another in-vitro study also showing that saw palmetto had some anti-inflammatory effects, and it has been shown to block DHT in a test tube but not yet in humans,” says Dr. Nusbaum. “Through all of this testing we are learning about aspects of hair loss pertaining to inflammation and oxidative stress, and we’re learning more and more about the genes that turn on and turn off hair growth,” he notes.
Laser hair therapy
The laser is not a drug or an herb but instead a low-level light source that has also been proven to halt hair loss and regrow hair with no known side-effects, so it qualifies as a natural treatment for hair loss. Nusbaum explains how it works: “The laser can stop hair loss if used on an ongoing basis and does improve hair counts. When hairs are in the resting phases of the growth cycle (about 10 percent of your hair at any given time) and follicles are still alive, exposure to low-level laser light stimulates these 10 percent of hairs to grow, and that can make a noticeable difference. But there is still a lot we don’t know. We do not know the optimum strength of the laser or frequency to use yet. Since laser hair therapy is still in its infancy, there are no longitudinal studies on it.
The multitherapeutic approach to solving hair loss
Most hair experts, including Nusbaum, agree on a multitherapeutic approach to treating and halting your hair loss. All the hair loss treatments currently available (hair transplant surgery, Propecia, Rogaine, laser hair therapy, herbal topical and internal supplements, acupuncture, aromatherapy and massage with essential oils) can be used in conjunction with each other with no known contraindications except that Propecia cannot be used on women.
Once you’ve read about the different types of treatments available (a great starting point is hairlosschat.com’s free e-book The Complete hairlosschat.com Guide to Solving Hair Loss), it’s best to discuss them with your doctor and a hair loss treatment professional, who can tailor a plan that will work best for your type of hair loss.