Alopecia Hair Loss and Ayurveda
By Dr Sajimon George BAMS, AAA, ATMS
Many people worry about Alopecia – the loss of hair.
Hair loss can be caused by different reasons, including damage to the hair shaft or follicles and fungal infections.
There are two main types of alopecia. When the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles and causes hair to fall out, it’s called alopecia areata.
Androgenetic alopecia, on the other hand, is a commonest cause of hair loss in both men and women. It is commonly known as male pattern baldness. It is caused by a combination of 3 factors – testosterone (the male hormone), age (after 20 years of age) and heredity. It usually affects women later in life than men.
About 60% of people with androgenetic alopecia are men. Hair loss caused by androgenetic alopecia is permanent according to modern medicine. The Ayurvedic system of medicine offers many treatments which can improve this situation.
Hair fall or thinning of hair is common amongst women. About 20%- 50% women face hair loss at some stages of her life.
Symptoms of Alopecia or Hair Loss
- Male pattern hair loss: Thinning or complete loss of hair at the hairline and top of the head.
- Female diffuse hair loss: A gradual thinning of hair, especially on the top of the head. The hairline usually stays the same.
- Alopecia areata : Broken hairs or hairs easily removed; one or more round or oval bald patches.
Causes of Alopecia and Hair Loss
- Some medications, such as chemotherapy
- Autoimmune disorder, in the case of alopecia areata
Ayurvedic view of Alopecia and Hair Loss
Ayurveda believes hair to originate from the “Asthi” or bone tissue, and therefore, to treat hair loss, medicines to strengthen bone are given orally on a long-term basis. This is the rationale of application of Vasthis or enemas with medicated milk in conditions of extensive hair loss.
Baldness or Alopecia is termed as “Khalitya” in Ayurveda. Alopecia areata is similar to “Indralupta” explained in Ayurvedic classics.
Ayurvedic treatment is aimed to treat local and systemic conditions resulting in hair loss, by achieving immuno modulation, correction of the local scalp conditions and reducing stress.
It is noteworthy to mention here that treatment is usually effective for premature hair loss, and where the cause is amenable to treatment.
In terms of Dosha involvement, vitiation of Pitha dosha in the body is the main cause of hair disorders but in some conditions other doshas may also be involved. Irregular bowel movement and constipation can indirectly affect hair health. A mild laxative can be useful in such cases.
Ayurveda Treatment Procedures
External and local treatments
Shiroabhyanga The scalp of the affected person should be energetically massaged daily for 10 to 15 minutes with fingers, after cleaning it with water. This mechanical action activates the hair follicles by ensuring blood circulation, and warms up the scalp.
Regular hair conditioning It is believed that the hair should be washed and conditioned more frequently during summer. This is to prevent dryness of the hair and scalp. During the cold season, it is recommended to use oil and massage it into the hair to protect the hair and scalp from dryness.
Gentle head massage with oil (According to Dosha) Sirolepa This is a special Ayurvedic treatment for hair loss and it is also called ‘Thala pothichil.’ The treatment involves application of a herbal pack on the scalp for 30 minutes then washed.
This process is repeated for 21 days. The herbal pack consists of just one herb or a mixture of herbs depending upon the constitution of the patient and the presenting complaints.
Prachaana This is done by pricking the skin of the scalp by needle like instruments and letting drops of blood coming out. This process is used very successfully for Alopecia areata.
Dhara or pouring of medicinal liquids Some water-based herbal infusions are made from suitable herbs boiled in water; after the decoction is cooled down and strained, it is used to clean the scalp.
Internal administration of ghee or oils This includes oral administration of ghee or oils processed with bitter and astringent herbs. It is very useful in Pitha predominant conditions and bone or Asthi dhathu involved conditions. Alopecia is such a condition. This is also the first step of the Panchakarma treatment procedure. The choice of preparation is made by a physician after assessing the patient’s condition.
Steaming and other heating procedures Herbal steam on the scalp is useful in removal of blockage of subtle channels or srothas.
Virechana or Medicated purgation It is a cleansing method, performed by giving some herbal purgatives which helps to pacify vitiated pitha or fire principle.
Vasthi or Enema like procedure Designed to clean the lower alimentary canal and most effective Ayurvedic treatment bringing cleansing of subtle channels or srothas spread all over the body. This is effective in removing abnormally increased Vatha principle. Special ingredients may be added to it making it a brimhana vasthi which can cause regeneration of asthi or bone dhathu.
Nasya Nasya or nasal administration of medicine is a panchakarma treatment that helps to treat alopecia and other hair disorders. This has an important role to play in preventing premature baldness and graying of hair.
Rasayana therapy This therapy follows panchakarma procedures. Formulations and procedures meant for rejuvenation of asthi or bone dhathu are used here. These medicines will be continued for a long period.
Herbs for the Hair Bhringaraja or Eclipta alba, Henna or Lawsonia inermis, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, Aloe Vera and Gooseberry are some of the herbs useful for hair loss.
Do’s and Don’ts of Alopecia and Hair Loss
Pitha is increased by excessive consumption of tea, coffee, alcohol, and excessive smoking. Oily, spicy, and acidic foods also tend to increase Pitha. So the first step is to change the diet or lifestyle conditions responsible for increasing Pitha dosha.
- Take sound sleep
- Manage stress and anxiety
- Use food that prevents hair loss: Fish, eggs, beans, raisins, beans sprout and seafood
- Protein rich diet should be preferred as hairs are made of protein
- Do meditation and exercise regularly
- Gentle scalp massage improves blood circulation and stimulates hair re-grow
- Fresh vegetables, sprouts, legumes, soy etc. should be preferred
- Aloe Vera is good for hair loss treatment as it heals the scalp and cleansing the pores
- Eating of white sesame seeds is beneficial and used as natural hair loss treatment
- Fruits, leafy vegetables and milk make hair shining and stronger
- Sesame seeds and sesame seed oil is used in the treatment of hair as herbal hair loss remedy
- Rub the head after washing hair as it stimulates sebaceous gland thereby improves blood circulation
- Take more and more quantity of water as it flush out toxins from the body
- Prefer more fruit vegetables [gourds etc]to leafy vegetables
- Use fresh spices for seasoning
- Hair dyes, hairdryer and curling should not be use excessively
- Use salt sparingly
- Don’t rub your hair strongly
- Avoid excessive intake of green chillies, brinjals, curd, peas, peanuts, sea food and bakery products
- Stay away from readymade Garam Masalas or spices
- Reduce junk food and extra calories
- Avoid stiff hairstyles
- Avoid harsh shampoo and conditioners
- Alcohol and beverages should be restricted
- Intake of pro-inflammatory foods like dairy products, animal products should be avoided
Yoga for Hair Loss and Control
The practice of Yoga not only makes you fit and fine, it also gives your body a beautiful look by protecting your hair and making it internally stronger. Yoga is beneficial for hair growth as it increases blood circulation to the head and scalp region.
- Vajrasana is useful for the treatment of hair loss
- Stress, tension and anxiety are common causes of hair loss. Relaxation techniques and meditation are quite effective to reduce stress
- Sarvangasana (shoulder stand pose) this asana is quite effective in increasing blood supply to the scalp region and preventing hair loss
- Bhujangasana (the cobra pose) improves blood circulation in vertebral column thereby facilitating better communication between the brain and body
- Kapalabhati (frontal lobe cleansing technique) energizes the mind and clears the frontal lobe of the brain by speeding up the blood flow
- Anuloma viloma (alternative breathing) refresh your entire body organ, especially the brain part and help in the strengthening of hair and hair follicles
- Pranayama is beneficial for hair care and in curing baldness. It also helps in stopping hair fall.
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