Reports from Japan have set the internet buzzing with news that wasabi can 'cure' hair loss
, and while some websites have been quick to take this as read it appears that the story needs a little more investigation...
One of the first outlets to pick up on the story was Asian channel SoraNews24, who reported that Kinin, one of Japan's biggest manufacturers of wasabi, had been extolling its hair-restoring benefits following a study of the Japanese horseradish.
Chemical in plant
According to the website, Kinin’s scientists claimed that a chemical contained in the famously hot wasabi plant had the ability to invigorate papilla cells in the scalp. According to the researchers, this chemical isosaponarin kick-starts hair growth and also ensures a good supply of nutrients by triggering the development of proteins that travel to the papilla cells.
It is further claimed that the effects of the chemical on the scalp are “three times that of commercially-available hair growth products such as minoxidil.”
Minoxidil and finasteride 1mg are the only two MHRA licensed and FDA approved medications for Male Pattern Hair Loss treatment
. As such - although they can both be used on their own - together these tend to form the backbone of most treatment courses as specialists have found them to be a highly effective pairing.
Men are typically recommended a customised course based on their precise needs, from their medical profile to their level and pattern of hair thinning. In addition to finasteride 1mg, which is taken orally once per day, and suitable topical applications of high strength minoxidil
, supplementary hair growth supporting products
which can be used alongside these halo products can also be employed.
More harm than good?
team remains sceptical of news that wasabi could eclipse these well-established, medically-proven existing treatments.
There are two reasons why. Firstly, no trial data from the Japanese study has been made widely available. If wasabi has really led to such remarkable results, it seems inevitable that photographic evidence would have been taken and these 'before and after' images would have been released to the press along with the rest of the story.
Secondly, wasabi-as-a-miracle-cure has a whiff of the ‘heard it before’ about it: spicy foods have long been linked with hair growth and so far real proof has not been forthcoming. Most, in fact, tends to be anecdotal.
While it is easy to imagine that a spicy assault on the hair follicles could jump-start them back into action, there is no evidence that this is the case. In cases of male pattern baldness it is the genetically pre-programmed sensitivity to a testosterone-derived hormone - dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
- that causes the classic signs of hairloss around the top of the scalp. It binds to and gradually weakens the follicles, causing increasingly thinning hair and even, if left untreated, baldness. Whilst finasteride 1mg
is designed to inhibit this hormone byproduct in suitable men aged 18 or over, there are no similar medical claims in relation to wasabi.
In addition to the 'spicy food' hair growth claims being something of a myth, there is some suggestion that applying these potentially irritant food substances to the head could actually be harmful to the scalp.
When Beauty Reel blogger Ishika Sachdev started writing that chilli oil
mixed with coconut oil could lead to hair growth, it was noted by Dr Sejal K. Shah, a certified dermatologist, that applying chilli to the head could lead to some nasty side-effects such as swelling and irritation. The same risks also apply with wasabi.
One important aspect of the wasabi story that needs to be considered if, despite the risks, you are determined to give it a try is that the researchers claim it is the plant itself that is packed with the all-important isosaponarin. Many shop-bought, overly-green products purporting to be wasabi don’t actually contain much of it if any at all.
UK-based The Wasabi Company sells wasabi plants for £7.50 each and suggests it will take around two years of growth before you can grate your own wasabi paste from the plant’s stem. Alternatively, for a slightly more proven approach to the treatment of genetic thinning, a visit to a specialist hair loss clinic might be a good place to start.