When it comes to hair loss, there are a lot of people who turn to herbal treatments. Many people have the idea that it is safer to consume them rather than take prescription medicines. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies herbs as food anyway, not medicinal drugs. Therefore, ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic medicinal herb, is not subject to regulation. However, it has been used for thousands of years for treating various ailments. One use of it has been for treating hair loss, but many people question the effectiveness of ashwagandha as a hair loss treatment.
In Ayurvedic science, hair loss can result from stress, and ashwagandha can reduce stress levels. So, by reducing levels of stress, ashwagandha can promote hair growth. If you’re wondering what ashwagandha means, “ashwa” means smell and “gandha” means of the horse. That’s because its roots smell like a horse. However, ashwagandha is also taken to mean “like a horse.” That’s because it is believed to give an individual the strength of a horse and boost their immunity. But can ashwagandha hair loss therapy give you a mane as beautiful and luscious as a horse?
What Is Ashwagandha?
Also known as “Indian winter cherry” or “Indian ginseng,” the scientific name for this herb is Withania somnifera. In Ayurvedic science, this medicine is thought to restore balance to the body and increase resistance to stress.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine to investigate the effectiveness of ashwagandha root extract for treating stress and anxiety in people with chronic stress. The control group was given two capsules each day for 60 days, and the cortisol levels (stress hormone) were significantly lower in the control group compared to the one that did not receive the capsule.
Essentially, ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that restores hormonal balance in the body and helps the body cope with stressors that can arise inside or outside the body. These stresses can be of physical, chemical or biological nature.
In addition, ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory (which may treat scalp irritation), antioxidant, and anti-anxiety properties because of the various compounds present in it. Various studies have demonstrated the health benefits of this herb.
One study published in Clinical Cancer Research showed that it could also kill cancer cells, making it a potential ingredient for anti-cancer medicines. Another study showed the cell regenerating ability of this root, which can improve the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
How Can Ashwagandha Help with Hair Loss?
There are different ways in which Ashwagandha can help with hair growth. It can improve hair health, but it depends on why you’re experiencing hair loss.
Stress creates inflammation and prompts hair in the growing phase of the growth cycle to enter the resting phase. Consequently, people lose hair at least 3 months after a stressful event. This is commonly referred to as stress hair loss.
This kind of hair loss is reversible, but regrowth can take 6-12 months. However, hair loss can also cause further stress trapping the person in a vicious cycle. Here, ashwagandha promotes hair growth by taking care of stress itself.
Among other compounds, such as amino acids, alkaloids, and fatty acids, ashwagandha contains steroidal lactones or withanolides, which is basically a group of around 300 steroid hormones. The way it works is that it competes with corticosteroids and binds to the steroid receptors instead of them, which helps control the levels of cortisol.
This reduces stress, but ashwagandha goes a step forward and even increases stress resistance. So, if you are experiencing stress, ashwagandha can help you. Moreover, it may also help with conditions that result from stress and affect hair health, such as scalp psoriasis.
Improves Thyroid Health
Hormonal imbalances resulting from thyroid issues can also cause thyroid hair loss. Studies have shown that ashwagandha can help with hypothyroidism.
In one double, placebo-controlled study, ashwagandha increased the levels of thyroid hormones after 8 weeks of treatment. Therefore, it may help stop the hair fall resulting from this condition. People with hyperthyroidism should be more careful about taking ashwagandha for hair loss because it can lead to extremely high levels of thyroid hormones, which can be very dangerous.
Increases Red Blood Count
There’s no scientific evidence that ashwagandha can dilate the blood vessels and increase natural blood circulation. However, according to a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, it can increase the number of red blood cells, which increases the capacity of the blood to carry more oxygen and nutrients. This, too, can help nourish the hair and prevent further hair fall.
Can Ashwagandha Hair Loss Treatment Work for Every Type of Alopecia?
It’s important to know about the types of hair loss that ashwagandha does and doesn’t work for. That way, you’d know what to use it for and when to look for alternative treatment options.
Telogen effluvium is the hair shedding that results from stress. Since ashwagandha takes care of this problem, it stops further hair loss resulting from stress. This medicinal herb works best for stress-induced thinning.
As androgenetic alopecia (pattern baldness) is genetic, ashwagandha cannot help. In fact, since it can increase the level of male hormones in the body, it can worsen androgenetic alopecia (or PCOS hair loss), which is why it’s best not to use it for this type of hair loss.
Traction alopecia that results in permanent damage to the hair follicles cannot be reversed by ashwagandha hair loss therapy. That’s because it isn’t related to the levels of stress or hormonal imbalances in the body.
Ashwagandha hair loss products don’t address any nutritional deficiency in the body. If you have one and are losing hair because of it, taking ashwagandha will not help your hair grow. Usually, iron and vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss. You may need to restore their normal levels through dietary sources or supplements.
This kind of hair loss occurs due to an abnormal immune response and affects the hair follicles on the scalp. Taking ashwagandha to treat this kind of hair loss won’t help.
Although the exact cause of alopecia areata isn’t known, it may be triggered by stress. In that case, ashwagandha for hair can help, but you should talk to your doctor about it.
Infections of the scalp, whether fungal or bacterial, can also result in hair loss. There’s folliculitis, tinea capitis (ringworm) and seborrheic dermatitis, all of which are scalp infections that can make you lose your hair. Ashwagandha won’t work for these either.
Can Ashwagandha Reverse Grey Hair?
As far as changing hair colour with ashwagandha is concerned, so far, there’s no scientific evidence available for any herbal supplement to do that. However, it can treat the causes of greying hair, one of which is stress.
In addition, its antioxidant properties can help with oxidative stress (where the body has more radicals than the power to scavenge them), which can also cause grey hair. So, ashwagandha cannot reverse grey hair, but it may prevent early greying of the hair.
How to Use Ashwagandha Hair Loss Products?
The leaves, roots and red berries of ashwagandha are used for different purposes. However, for hair loss, usually, you’ll find an ashwagandha powder or capsule form. Many hair supplements are available in the market that either has ashwagandha as their main ingredient or in combination with other ingredients.
You can take these capsules or gummies orally. However, you can use the ashwagandha hair loss powder in different ways. For instance, you can mix it in your tea, milk, coffee, or smoothies. You can even add it to your water for drinking.
Can I Mix Ashwagandha Powder or Capsule in My Hair Oil?
Some people want to apply ashwagandha powder on their scalp topically. They can find ashwagandha hair loss oil and ghee in the market for that. It can also be mixed with honey, water, and even shampoo to make a paste for hair.
How Much Ashwagandha Can You Consume?
According to studies, individuals have taken 1000mg of ashwagandha per day. It also reports that large doses can result in an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhoea. If you’re taking a supplement for ashwagandha hair loss, follow the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) on them to be on the safe side.
Before starting the consumption of Indian ginseng, it’s best to consult your doctor. The dosage you require can depend on your needs and vary accordingly. Some people also have to build their tolerance for ashwagandha by starting with small doses. As far as its long-term use is concerned, there are no studies on it.
Can Ashwagandha Cause Hair Loss?
Now, there’s a lot of talk about ashwagandha’s benefits, especially for healthy hair growth. However, there are also many people who experience hair loss after they start taking ashwagandha. The reason why it happens is that this non-medicinal herb increases testosterone levels. This then converts to DHT, which can cause hair loss in people who’re genetically predisposed to pattern baldness.
So, ashwagandha hair loss therapy is not suitable for everyone. And if someone with androgenetic alopecia takes it to treat hair fall, they may end up losing more hair. This can, however, result in the growth of thick facial hair, which can be problematic for females.
Is Hair Loss from Ashwagandha Reversible?
If taken for a long time, the DHT hormone can cause permanent damage to the hair follicles, which can cause irreversible hair loss from ashwagandha. While it can result in hair loss on the scalp, it can promote the growth of thicker facial hair.
Even though you may be tempted to use a non-prescription medicine to treat hair loss, you have to be careful about its usage. If you’re losing hair, it’s best to consult a doctor so that they can tell you about the exact cause of hair loss.
Ashwagandha hair loss therapy doesn’t directly affect the follicles on the scalp. It treats the problems that can cause hair loss, such as stress, which can cause telogen effluvium or a thyroid problem. Or it can simply supply more oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles, nourishing them and strengthening them.
However, ashwagandha hair loss treatment has not been the only use of this herbal medicine. It has been used to boost immunity; some children even consume it as a tonic. Other than that, ashwagandha has also been used as an aphrodisiac because it increases testosterone levels.
Since high levels of testosterone are the reason why males develop pattern baldness, this can accelerate hair loss in them. Lastly, if you do plan to consume ashwagandha for hair or any other purposes, you should discuss the safe dosage of this herb with your doctor because it can be harmful in some instances.
Reviewed and Approved by Trichologist Yaprak Yazan