For years, herbal remedies have been popular alternatives to medical treatment, famed for their apparent natural ability to heal, treat and cure just about any ailment. There have been suggestions of the power of herbs in the hair department too but just how can they support hair growth and is there any evidence that they are effective in preventing hair loss?
Ginkgo biloba is believed to increase blood flow to the brain and is a popular herb for hair loss, thought to generate hair growth by providing more nutrients to the hair follicles. However, this has not been conclusively proven and in majority of cases, hair loss is the result of DHT (dihydrotestosterone) attacking the hair follicles. The only way its effects can be suppressed are with DHT-blockers such as finasteride 1mg and other anti-androgens.
Saw palmetto is another high-profile herbal remedy for hair loss that is thought to slow down the balding process and stimulate new hair growth. It is believed to be a safe herbal product but does have a primary side effect of mild gastrointestinal distress. It’s thought that saw palmetto inhibits the 5-alpha-reductase (5AR) enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT. One study claimed that extracts of the herb repressed 5AR levels by 32% without affecting testosterone levels in men. However, clinical trials in humans showed that saw palmetto supplements did not result in any clinically significant alterations in laboratory parameters. The only clinically and scientifically proven 5AR and DHT inhibitor that has been MHRA-licensed and FDA-approved for the safe treatment of male pattern hair loss to date, is finasteride 1mg.
This course-toothed plant has long been preferred as a means of curbing balding. Stinging nettle is also thought to prevent testosterone from being converted into DHT and slow down the loss of hair and stimulate hair growth. It is said to be more effective when used together with saw palmetto, however, as it is an unproven treatment for hair loss, any benefit it has for the hair would be best seen when combined with any or all of the proven treatments for hair loss and other hair growth boosters. We also wouldn’t recommend using this plant without medical supervision, given it is known to cause adverse skin reactions.
It was used in Asia for thousands of years before making its mark on western shores as a natural stimulant with metabolism and circulatory benefits and memory-boosting properties. Panax ginseng is now believed by some to stimulate hair growth by nourishing and strengthening the hair. No conclusive evidence exists to support these claims or to suggest it is an effective treatment for thinning hair.
Horsetail is said to rejuvenate the hair through improved circulation and blood flow. Horsetail extract does have high silica and sulphur content which are vital for strong, healthy hair growth but it has not been proven to prevent baldness or fight hair loss.
According to the Belgravia Centre’s senior trichologist, Leonora Doclis, while these herbs can help make hair healthier, they will not generate hair growth or prevent hair loss.
“We use some of these supplements in some of our products and the saw palmetto and the ginkgo biloba are added in our Hair Vitalics supplement,” says Leonora. “Where suitable herbal products can be used to boost the medications as a nutritional supplement to help make hair healthier but they cannot stimulate hair to grow back. None of these herbs will help prevent hair loss let alone resolve.”
Caution should also be exercised when trying natural methods given side effects and contraindications with certain health conditions and prescription medications may exist which could make them unsuitable for certain individuals.
Hair Vitalics contain a lot of the same ingredients as the more expensive supplements such as Provillus and Procerin but unlike these, Hair Vitalics is not marketed as a treatment for hair loss. Hair supplements and herbs may help to encourage the maintenance of normal healthy hair growth but they are not advised as an standalone treatment for or solution to hair loss.
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.