Ashwagandha has been used for millennia to treat a variety of ailments in humans. As one of the leading medicines used in Ayurvedic medicine, this plant has been used to manage both mental and physical problems. Also known as Indian Winter Cherry or Indian Ginseng, ashwagandha is a root that can be ingested or used topically. It is classified as an adaptogen, which helps reduce stress and inflammation. Let's dive into the intricacies of this herb, how it can help with hair loss, and how you should take it.
Ashwagandha and Its Adaptogenic Properties
Adaptogens are herbal or plant-based pharmaceuticals that have medicinal properties. Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub with yellow flowers that grows in certain regions in Africa and Asia. It is most often used for stress-related conditions like:
- Moodiness or depression
- High blood pressure
- Decreased immune function
- High blood sugar
- High cortisol levels
Studies suggest that the healing properties of ashwagandha are related to chemicals within the plant called withanolides, which may help fight inflammation and suppress tumor growth.
You can take ashwagandha in several different ways, including as a supplement, in powder form, or you can even steep it in a tea. Often, you can find ashwagandha combined with other plants, including turmeric.
Ashwagandha and Hair Loss
We know that the culprits behind most diseases and physical problems are stress and inflammation, including some forms of hair loss. Indeed, many people suffer from inflammation around individual hair follicles, which can inhibit blood flow from growing strands. Aside from inflammation, we also know that hair loss is a common side effect of stress. In fact, one of the leading causes of temporary hair loss is telogen effluvium, which is directly related to high-stress levels affecting either the body, mind or both. For example, losing a loved one or having surgery can cause you to lose hair temporarily.
What is more, people who are chronically stressed may struggle to have thicker, healthier hair. High cortisol levels may interfere with your hair growth cycle by shortening the anagen (growing) phase. This change in the hair growth cycle occurs because your body allocates energy toward repairing other more vital tissues and organs when you are stressed. Because hair is non-essential at this point in our evolution, the body does not prioritize its maintenance above other systems that serve to keep us alive.
Aside from stress, one of the more common reasons people lose hair is due to androgenic alopecia. Also known as male and female pattern hair loss, this condition tends to run in families and is likely related to an increased sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone - a derivative of testosterone. People with this sensitivity have hair follicles that shrink and become inflamed, which over time produce hair that is more fine. Eventually, hair stops growing altogether.
Who Should Not Take Ashwagandha?
This plant is safe for most people to take, although we do not have much research pointing to its effectiveness or its long-term outcomes. We do know that this herb is not a first-line treatment for other health conditions like high blood sugar, hypertension, and depression. Therefore, if you have any health conditions or are taking any medications, it is important to consult your doctor first.
People who are pregnant or nursing should avoid this plant. Also, those who have an autoimmune disease should undoubtedly consult their doctor as it may aggravate the autoimmune responses in their body. Additionally, people with thyroid conditions need to be cautious when taking this plant, as it may increase thyroid hormone levels. Boosting thyroid levels may tamper with your current medication plan, especially if you take thyroid medication like levothyroxine.
What Does Help With Hair Loss?
While we know little about how effective plant medicine can be in helping to combat issues like hair loss, we know that other formulations can be successful. One of the most well-known solutions for hair loss is minoxidil - a compound that was first used to treat high blood pressure issues. One of the more pleasant side effects of this oral medication was increased hair growth. Now made in a topical formulation, minoxidil can be used directly on the scalp to stimulate hair re-growth. But, we also know that minoxidil is an older formulation, and pharmaceutical technology has taken immense strides to create a newer, better product called Nanoxidil. Nanoxidil can help penetrate deeper inside your scalp to help prevent DHT sensitivity-induced hair loss and curb inflammation with nanosome technology.
Of course, we know that numerous factors go into having a healthy head of hair. So, taking hair support supplements, eating a well-balanced diet, curbing stress, treating underlying health conditions, and using good hair care products can help you get the hair you want.
So - is ashwagandha good for hair loss? Well, the jury is still out if it will help hair loss, but most people can safely take it. Thus, it may be a nice supplement to use in conjunction with other more proven treatment options like Nanoxidil. But, as with any supplement or medication, check with your doctor first before adding anything new to your health regimen.