Hair loss supplements and vitamins - do they work? Natural therapy for hair loss or thinning hair
Herbs and herbal remedies for hair loss and growth
July 9 2017 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Baldness (alopecia), or severe hair loss, is much more common in men than in women. It can result from genetic factors, aging, local skin conditions, and diseases that affect the body generally (systemic diseases). Some medications, such as those used to treat cancer, also cause hair loss. Perhaps a poor diet with lots of junk food over a period of years and decades is involved, but scientists still don't have a good understanding regarding the relationship of food, diet and hair loss. A broad range of lifestyle factors, including stress (such as from divorce, marriage, childbirth, and surgery), smoking, heavy drinking, and sun exposure of the head (wearing hats while in the sun could be of help), may also foil the follicles. High testosterone levels are associated with hair loss.
Natural hair loss remedy? Diet and food
The role of diet in hair loss is not well understood, but it is possible that a diet with lots of junk food could promote inflammation and be harmful, whereas a very healthy diet, over many years, may reduce hair loss. I'm not sure whether eating soy products, lots of vegetables, fish or taking fish oils pills can be of benefit, but they certainly have other health promoting effects. Fish oils thin the blood and improve circulation. I'm not aware of a hair loss vitamin that would be useful since most Americans are not severely deficient in any particular vitamin such as vitamins A, B, C, and D. I have seen no evidence that taking a daily multivitamin in those with normal diets has an influence on hair loss or growth.
Supplements that can be harmful
High doses of vitamin A can cause hair thinning. The over the counter hormones DHEA and pregnenolone can cause hair loss.
Supplements that may help with hair growth, herbs, herbal remedies for hair thinning problems
Saw palmetto herb and beta sitosterol
Int J Immunopathology Pharmacology. 2012. Comparitive effectiveness of finasteride vs Saw palmetto in male androgenetic alopecia: a two-year study. There were some benefits noted with saw palmetto use.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of botanically derived inhibitors of 5-alpha-reductase in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia.
J Altern Complement Med. 2002.
One contributing factor to androgenic alopecia is the conversion of testosterone (T) to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) via the enzyme 5-alpha reductase (5AR). This metabolism is also key to the onset and progression of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Here, we report the first example of a placebo-controlled, double-blind study undertaken in order to examine the benefit of these botanical substances in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia. The goal of this study was to test botanically derived 5AR inhibitors, specifically the liposterolic extract of saw palmetto and Beta-Sitosterol, in the treatment of androgenic alopecia. Included in this study were males between the ages of 23 and 64 years of age, in good health, with mild to moderate androgenetic alopecia. The results of this pilot study showed a highly positive response to treatment. The blinded investigative staff assessment report showed that 60% of (6/10) study subjects dosed with the active study formulation of beta sitosterol and Saw-Palmetto were rated as improved at the final visit.
Sulforaphane broccoli extract
Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2016. Sulforaphane promotes murine hair growth by accelerating the degradation of dihydrotestosterone. Results suggest that sulforaphane treatment accelerates the degradation of blood DHT, and subsequently blocks the suppression of hair growth by DHT.
A molecule produced in the intestine when soy is digested stops a hormone which can fuel prostate growth or cause hair loss. Writing in the journal Biology of Reproduction, researchers said the finding could explain why Japanese men, who eat more soy, rarely have prostate cancer. They said the molecule could be used as a treatment for cancer and hair loss. The team found that the molecule, an isoflavone called equol, "handcuffs" the male hormone DHT - a by-product of testosterone. Equol is a metabolic product of the flavonoid daidzein. The researchers say this could be particularly important for men who have been diagnosed with either an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia), or cancer of the prostate. DHT has also been implicated in research into the causes of male pattern hair loss.
Saw palmetto extract is also involved blocking DHT in prostate tissue, whether it does so in hair tissue is not clear. One small study indicates the combination of saw palmetto and beta sitosterol could be helpful (see below). Hopefully, over the next few years we will have a clearer understanding of the role of long term dietary intake or supplement use and hair health.
Dietary isoflavone increases insulin-like growth factor-I production, thereby promoting hair growth in mice.
J Nutr Biochem. 2010. Department of Translational Medical Science Research, Nagoya City University, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Nagoya, Japan.
Sensory neurons release calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) upon activation. We previously demonstrated that CGRP increases insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) production in various tissues of mice including the skin. Our observations strongly suggest that might increase IGF-I production in the hair follicle dermal papilla cells in mice through increasing CGRP production in the sensory neurons, thereby promoting hair growth associated with melanogenesis in mice.
Prostate Power Rx - I have formulated a product for prostate tissue health which contains saw palmetto, isoflavones such as genistein and daidzein, along with beta sitosterol. Whether this product helps those with hair loss has not been evaluated. Interestingly, Prostate Power Rx users report sexual enhancement.
Saw palmetto extract (standardized to contain 45% fatty acids - serenoa repens fruit)
Stinging nettle 4:1 extract (urtica diocia root)
Quercetin which is a flavonoid
Rosemary 4:1 extract (Rosemarinus officinales leaf)
Beta sitosterol which is a phytoestrogen
Pygeum 4:1 bark extract (Pygeum Africanum)
Daidzein (standardized to contain 40% isoflavones)
Genistein (standardized to contain 40% isoflavones)
Lycopene (Lycoperscion escatatum fruit)
Testimonial received by email
I have been taking Saw Palmetto for one year now; as follows; 480 mg Saw Palmetto 85% (160mg x 3), Pygeum extract, 50 mg, Pumpkin Seed Oil, 40 mg, and Lycopene, 5 mg and in a second version of the supplement 2 times 562mg (berries), Pygeum 462 mg and Stinging Nettles Root 4:1 Extract (all taken in the morning). I have always had a low PSA (1.4), and the above has done nada for me for BPH symptoms, but I am often getting up two times (sometimes 3) instead of one time per night. On the other hand, after a few months, I realized I had a bunch of hair below my knees that disappeared in my sixties (now 71), and I probably have about 25-30% more hair on my head and body (did not change my hairline). Since I did this to increase my testosterone, all those readings are up 16-32% I have also been reading about Anti-diuretic Hormone (ADH), which regulates urination, and also about Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), which binds to testosterone making the bound testosterone unavailable for its main purpose. I do know that my SHBG is high which lowers Free Testosterone.
Tocotrienol supplementation should be considered.
Biosil and Hair Essentials
Q. I have been taking Biosil (Silicon as choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid 5 mg) for almost two weeks and I had to stop it. It is aggravating my digestive problems. I am thinking of taking Hair Essentials by Whole Body Research. I would like to have your feedback on this supplement. I am trying to grow my hair.
A. I am not familiar with any clinical studies regarding Hair Essentials by Whole Body Research.
Medical hair loss treatment
Hair originates in the dermis, the skin layer just below the surface layer (epidermis). Most types of hair loss have no cure at the present time. A person with male-pattern or female-pattern baldness may undergo hair transplantation, in which hair follicles are removed from one part of the body and transplanted. Medications are another option.
Finasteride use, a medication available as a pill
This medication works well to promote hair growth. Finsateride is available as the product name Propecia 1 mg, or as Proscar 5 mg (used for enlarged prostate). It is cheaper to buy Proscar 5 mg and bite off about a fifth every other day or every third day instead of buying Propecia since Proscar is only slightly more expensive than Propecia but it has 5 times as much finasteride (see list of side effects). It was originally approved in 1992 for the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy. Its approval was expanded in 1997 to include the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men at a dose of 1 mg/day. Finasteride inhibits 5alpha-reductase, thereby prohibiting the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that in high amounts accelerates hair loss in some men. Reduction in DHT results in a significant improvement in hair growth and density. The most common side effects are reduced libido, decreased ejaculate volume and gynaecomastia (enlargement of breast tissue). For those who feel they need to rely on finasteride for hair regrowth or to prevent further hair loss, but wish to minimize the side effects, 0.5 or 1 mg pill every three or four days rather than daily.
Can a person take Passion Rx if they are taking Propecia or Avodart for hair loss? I find Propecia reduces sensation and makes me lose interest in sex.
Yes, we have found that Passion Rx often reverses the sexual side effects from Propecia and you may take it if your doctor approves. Avodart is also known to reduce libido and sexual drive.
I've been using Propecia and minoxidil now for approximately 10 years. I have viewed blogs on the side effects of both of these hair loss treatments. I'm suffering from erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, weaker bladder and decrease in muscle tone from the Propecia and a noticeable increase in wrinkles around the eyes from minoxidil. All these side effects are described on the forums about these products.
Minoxidil used topically, Rogaine
This medication was originally used to lower blood pressure. It is applied topically as minoxidil 2% for women and minoxidil 5% for men. It may promote hair growth in a small percentage of people. The medication minoxidil (sold under the brand name Rogaine), which is used by men and women to stop their hair from thinning further, may trigger fainting in rare instances.
Prostaglandin D2 blockers?
Future drugs that inhibit the action of prostaglandin D2 should delay male pattern baldness.
This is the most common type of hair loss affecting men. It's rare in women and children because it depends on the presence of male hormones (androgens), and levels of these hormones are high in males after puberty. Hair loss runs in families. Hair loss usually begins on the sides, near the front, or on the top of the head toward the back. Hair loss can begin at any age, even in the middle teen years. Some people lose only some hair and develop a bald spot in the back or a receding hairline; others, especially people whose hair loss begins at a young age, may go completely bald.
Researchers have found that variations in a gene related to male sex hormones may be at the root of male-pattern baldness, the most common form of hair loss. The culprit is the androgen receptor gene, and it dwells on the X chromosome, which all men inherit from their mothers. Other, yet-unidentified genes are likely involved in male-pattern baldness, possibly including ones handed down by fathers. But the new findings highlight the importance of mom's side of the family when it comes to a man's hairline.
A cellular malfunction short-circuits the process by which hair follicle stem cells turn into hair-producing progenitor cells. That defect, rather than any loss of stem cells themselves, sparks the onset of androgenetic alopecia, the medical term for a type of genetic hair loss that affects both men and women, according to Dr. George Cotsarelis, chairman of the dermatology department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Cotsarelis.
Female hair loss is less common than male-pattern baldness. Usually, this condition causes the hair to thin in the front, on the sides, or on the crown. It rarely progresses to total hair loss.
Genetics aside, the next strongest predictor of midline (central) hair loss among women is their marital status, with the loss of a spouse (through either divorce or death) raising the risk for thinning hair above that of married or single women.
Gray Hair or grey
Hair goes gray when melanocytes become depleted. The scalp contains a reservoir of adult stem cells that provide a continuous supply of these color-making cells. But as the body ages these cells become depleted and sometimes begin to develop in the wrong part of the hair follicle. I have not yet come across credible and extensive research regarding the reversal of gray hair with vitamins or supplements, but perhaps it is possible as shown below with one herb called mucuna pruriens.
Arq Neuropsiquiatr. 2013. Darkening of white hair in Parkinson's disease during use of levodopa rich Mucuna pruriens extract powder.
An 85-year-old patient with stable Parkinson's disease was treated with levodopa / carbidopa 250 / 25 mg tid. During a follow-up visit it was noticed that her temporal white hair was getting progressively darker, starting after introduction of mucuna pruriens extract at a dose equivalent to 1000 mg of levodopa/day. DOPA / dopamine are intermediate metabolites in the production of melanin, therefore, this association is not surprising. After the addition of decarboxylase inhibitors, this phenomenon, probably related to peripheral effects of levodopa, became strikingly rare.
Products for gray hair
Herbatint, Permanent Haircolor Gel, 2N, Brown, 4.56 fl oz (135 ml).
Common causes of hair loss
The most common is male pattern baldness due to genetics, or hereditary factors.
Telogen effluvium may follow emotional distress, such as a death in the family or a physiological stress, such as a high fever, sudden or excessive weight loss, extreme diets, nutritional deficiencies, surgery, or metabolic disturbances. Hair typically grows back once the condition that caused it corrects itself, but it usually take months.
Hormonal problems, the thyroid gland can be overactive or underactive.
When androgen hormones in the body are out of balance or people are prescribed testosterone or other androgens. Bodybuilders who take steroids could lose their hair.
Some women notice hair loss a few months after they've had a baby. During pregnancy, high levels of certain hormones cause the body to keep hair that would normally fall out. When the hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels, that hair falls out and the normal cycle of growth and loss starts again.
Excessive vitamin A intake.
Certain infections such as fungal infections of the scalp.
Certain medical conditions such as lupus or diabetes.
Alopecia areata. This is classified as an autoimmune disease, but the cause is unknown.
Traction alopecia. Excessive hairstyling or hairstyles that pull your hair too tightly cause traction alopecia.
Undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy may cause you to develop alopecia.
Trichotillomania is a type of mental illness in which people have an irresistible urge to pull out their hair, whether it's from the scalp, their eyebrows or other areas of the body.
Many different types of medications are thought to cause hair loss, including:
Acne medications containing vitamin A (retinoids)
Antibiotics and antifungal drugs
Birth control pills
Anticlotting drugs, blood thinners, anticoagulants
Gout treating medications
Medications that suppress the immune system
Drugs that treat breast cancer
Epilepsy drugs (anticonvulsants)
High blood pressure medications (anti-hypertensives), such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics
Hormone replacement therapy such as testosterone, DHEA, and pregnenolone. Hair fallout is common in those who take DHEA or pregnenolone over the counter.
Testimonial: I am a 47 year old male that has taken Propecia for over 10 years. I started taking 10mg of Dhea on Jan 1st 2014. By late February I had lost close to half the hair on the too of my head. I quit taking it March 1, 2014. I have not seen regrowth yet and my hair has turned very fine all over my scalp.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Parkinson's disease drugs
Weight loss drugs
Does having sex cause hair to fall out?
I seriously doubt there is any relation between sexual activity and balding. We do lose some omega-3 fatty acids and other beneficial substances in semen and sperm, but I doubt this would influence balding.
Natural hair growth research studies
Melatonin topical application and hair growth
Melatonin increases anagen hair rate in women with androgenetic alopecia or diffuse alopecia: results of a pilot randomized controlled trial.
Br J Dermatology. 2004.
In addition to the well-known hormonal influences of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone on the hair cycle, melatonin has been reported to have a beneficial effect on hair growth in animals. The effect of melatonin on hair growth in humans has not been investigated so far. To examine whether topically applied melatonin influences anagen and telogen hair rate in women with androgenetic or diffuse hair loss. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study was conducted in 40 women suffering from diffuse alopecia or androgenetic alopecia. A 0.1% melatonin or a placebo solution was applied on the scalp once daily for 6 months and trichograms were performed to assess anagen and telogen hair rate. To monitor effects of treatment on physiological melatonin levels, blood samples were taken over the whole study period. Melatonin led to a significantly increased anagen hair rate in occipital hair in women with androgenetic hair loss compared with placebo. For frontal hair, melatonin gave a significant increase in the group with diffuse alopecia. The occipital hair samples of patients with diffuse alopecia and the frontal hair counts of those with androgenetic alopecia also showed an increase of anagen hair, but differences were not significant. Plasma melatonin levels increased under treatment with melatonin, but did not exceed the physiological night peak. This pilot study is the first to show that topically applied melatonin might influence hair growth in humans in vivo. The mode of action is not known, but the effect might result from an induction of anagen phase.
Q. I just read your article about the study done on woman using melatonin solution on their hair. I am a woman in her 50s and have already lost hair in the front and upper sides. I was wondering where I can get this melatonin solution for hair loss. Can you direct me to someone who can help me?
Q. I understand 0.1% melatonin hair formula can help with growing hair back for women. Where can I purchase this and would I need a prescription? I saw a website that said, "ASATEX Swiss Melatonin Hair Formula is the first topical hair product with Melatonin in a special carrier system protected by world wide patents. It is recommended for men and women experiencing short-term hair loss caused by various factors such as stress, nutritional problems and seasonal influences. ASATEX improves the texture and appearance of hair in long-term hair loss mainly due to hereditary factors. The product has been developed for use in early stages of hair loss and hair thinning."
A. I am not familiar with this company and do not know if their product works or whether there is an adequate amount of melatonin in the hair formula.
Emails regarding hair loss
Q. I read you article on Serenoa repens saw palmetto and hair loss. What is your opinion on combining finasteride with saw palmetto given the former is a type 2 inhibitor whereas the saw palmetto is a dual inhibitor would you speculate there may be a beneficial effect on hair loss or an adverse one involving hormonal feedback loops?
A. I don't see any obvious harm adding saw palmetto to finasteride, but I honestly don't know whether there would be a synergistic effect. I still am not convinced daily use of finasteride for hair loss or prostate enlargement is safe in the long run. Finasteride blunts sexuality.
Q. I am a 43 year old woman and took a 25 mg. DHEA supplement recommended by my doctor. He was not really clear about how long I should take it, nor did he give me any warnings about possible side effects. Unfortunately I took it for 6 months and now am experiencing pretty severe hair loss. I have lost 50% of my hair in the last 2 months. I really had NO IDEA what I was taking and feel very stupid for not researching this before I took it. My levels were tested on June 23rd and were high. I have stopped the supplement as of 3 weeks ago. Can you give me any hope (at all!) about regaining my hair once the DHEA level drops? I know you won't recommend treatments but if you could direct me to some information I would be grateful. This is causing me unbelievable anxiety.
A. Unfortunately we have had many emails regarding hair loss associated with misuse of DHEA. There is hope that some of the hair, maybe most or all could grow back, but it is impossible to predict. Perhaps some of the herbs as mentioned above could be tried or your doctor could prescribe finasteride for hair regrowth, at least for a few weeks or months.
Q. Is there a way to test if you are an equol producer? I'm an average joe taking red clover twice a day for hair loss but also for prostate health. After reading a couple of the daizden articles I believe I have experienced my first "hot flash" the other night. I got real hot then sweat on my forehead. I just thought I had caught a touch of the flu. Anyhow, I'm now thinking that I had a hot flash, because I'm taking too much daizden? hard to say, there aren't any guidelines for how much to take. Are the "herbal" drug companies any closer to creating an over the counter equol supplement so us thinning hair people can combat male pattern baldness?
A. You ask good questions and we just don't have enough knowledge at this time to make any firm recommendations.
Q. I receive your Supplement Research Update. Another drug to add to the list of harmful pharmaceuticals is Propecia (Merck) for hair loss. More and more people, myself included, are suffering from the long-term, potentially permanent side-effects of this hair restoring drug. The finasteride side-effects include impotence, loss of libido, hormonal imbalance, and problems with mental clarity. In my opinion, this is the next drug that the public will "blow the lid off of." I hope that Dr. Sahelian would comment on this further in upcoming newsletters. Furthermore, I was wondering if you have any recommendations for people who've been affected by Propecia. Is there a way to correct the hormonal imbalance that this drug has caused? Is there hope? I belong to a web forum called finasteride-side-effects dot com. A brief look at the messages posted here show that hundreds of people (on this site alone) have been affected.
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