Whilst there are many recipes for cosmetic hair care treatments, such as conditioners, rinses and hair masks, there are not yet any clinically proven natural hair loss treatments.
Belgravia specialists also advise caution when using any ‘natural remedies’. Despite sounding fairly innocuous, some of these products and homemade hair treatments can be incredibly harmful to the scalp – and may even worsen hair thinning. Others, such as argan oil, are simply based on myths and will have no effect on hair loss whatsoever.
Unpleasant to fatal side effects of ‘natural’ hair loss remedies
Many people wish to avoid using pharmaceutical hair loss treatments as they are concerned about potential side effects. What is important to understand, however, is that ‘natural’ products and ingredients can have very real side effects, ranging from unpleasant to fatal.
Natural Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicines for hair loss should be approached with extreme caution. This is even more crucial for people with additional health concerns or for pregnant women. Whether the preparations are topical or oral, pre-made or provided in kit formats to be made at home, natural remedies can carry bigger risks than one might assume.
Ingredients used in traditional forms of alternative medicine can often interfere with, or have consequences for people with certain illnesses or medical conditions. For example:
Amla – Also known as the Indian Gooseberry, dried amla berries are a popular ingredient in natural hair growth potions. WebMD cites the potential side effects as decreasing blood sugar levels, making this dangerous for diabetics, and – when combined with ginger, tinospora cordifolia and Indian frankincense – worsening liver function in people with liver disease. Also these berries are understood to increase the risk of bleeding or bruising in some people, particularly those with a bleeding disorder or during/following surgery.
Fenugreek – Despite having no proven benefits to hair growth, this seasoning is often touted as beneficial for hair loss as some people believe it can stimulate hair follicles. Side effects are known to include stomach upsets and bloating when taken in large amounts. Pregnant women should not use fenugreek as, in large amounts WebMD advises this “can stimulate the uterus to contract”. It is also advised that people with liver or kidney disease, diabetes and nursing mothers should avoid fenugreek supplements as they can interact with certain prescription medications.
Hibiscus – Herbal remedies made from the flowers and stems of the Hibiscus plant have shown promise in lowering hypertension and high cholesterol. One study also showed that, when combined with other herbs and made into a tea, hibiscus proved effective at treating head lice. It has not been studied nor shown any indication of being useful in relation to treating hairloss. WebMD states that “hibiscus may cause blood pressure to drop. It has also been linked to dermatitis, headache, nausea, and ringing in the ear.” Further adding that people should: “Avoid hibiscus if you are allergic or sensitive to it or members of the Malvaceae plant family. Use with caution if you have low or high blood pressure. Also use with caution if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as little is known about its safety in these cases.” Hibiscus tea may also interfere with the effectiveness of some anti-malaria drugs.
Heshouwu – This buckwheat-related plant, also known as Chinese Knotweed, is said to have anti-ageing properties that can return grey hair to its natural colour. These claims are not only unproven but taking he shou wu can be extremely dangerous. There has been at least one recorded fatality caused by heshouwu. In this instance it led to lethal liver damage in a student using it to treat male pattern hair loss. This plant is known to have a number of serious side effects which include liver dysfunction, hepatitis, as well as skin rashes and diarrhoea. According to Jerry Rankin, a doctor of Oriental medicine writing on Livestrong.com, it’s estrogenic effect can also “stimulate the growth of cancers that are sensitive to oestrogen-like substances, so women battling certain cancers should not take it.”
Onions and/or garlic – Regardless of numerous myths to the contrary, neither onions nor garlic applied topically to the scalp will do anything to help hair loss. Whilst the sulphur they contain is good for hair growth when eaten as part of a balanced diet, neither applying them to the scalp nor eating them will treat genetic hair loss from male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss.
Only the two clinically-proven treatments minoxidil and finasteride 1mg (which is for suitable men aged 18+ and cannot be used by women) have been MHRA licensed and FDA approved for this use.
Various non-pharmaceutical hair growth supporting products can also be used alongside either or both of finasteride 1mg (men) and topical applications of high strength minoxidil (men and women). These include the exclusive Hair Vitalics hair growth supplement which contains a highly-targeted, potent blend of key vitamins, minerals, amino acids and botanical extracts including biotin, zinc and selenium for the maintenance of normal healthy hair growth.
Dangers of using essential oils
Essential oils are a popular part of holistic alternative therapies. Many are touted for their aromatherapy benefits for health conditions but it is their use in topical lotions or oils – especially when made inexpertly at home – that is somewhat controversial.
When using essential oils as hair care or skin care, if they are not properly diluted and used as directed, they can have harmful effects. An article on WebMD showed examples of the types of skin rashes, swelling, burns and oozing sores that can occur when essential oils are over-used and under-diluted. Other potential consequences include respiratory problems, chemical burns and allergic reactions. Even if the oils are not used on the hair or scalp, these types of reactions can still cause thinning hair from a temporary condition known as Telogen Effluvium. This, in turn, is known to be able to speed up the onset of or the rate of existing shedding in people with active or an underlying genetic predisposition to pattern hairloss.
It’s not just topically-applied essential oils that can be hazardous. Having been shown to be beneficial as a natural digestive aid, peppermint oil taken in supplement form, has also been promoted as a hair growth product. There is no robust medical evidence to support this theory, though one small-scale clinical trial found it may be useful in treating thinning hair from temporary hair loss conditions and not female or male pattern baldness. There are still a number of side effects associated with its use though, ranging from headaches and mouth sores, to anal burning during diarrhoea.
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.