Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — Hope for the Hair Challenged

Dear Dr. Walt,

Do any supplements help for hair loss?

—Losing Hair in Hawaii

Dear Balding,

There is some very preliminary evidence that a specific oral saw palmetto extract and beta-sitosterol may be beneficial in androgenic alopecia (male-pattern baldness).

It is theorized that these substances may inhibit the same enzyme (5-alpha-reductase) that is inhibited by the medication finasteride, found in the prescription drugs for hair loss (Propecia or Proscar).

There is also some preliminary evidence that other forms of hair loss, such as alopecia areata (caused by autoimmune disease) and diffuse hair loss (a common form in women) may be improved by the application of lavender oil in combination with the essential oils from thyme, rosemary, and Atlantic cedar directly on the scalp.

In fact, in one small study, this combination improved hair growth in up to forty-four percent of patients after seven months of treatment directly to the scalp.

Dr. Walt

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2018. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.
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3 thoughts on “Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — Hope for the Hair Challenged

  1. Elaine Sue

    Thanks Walt. Great info. Can you two us a bit more on how the oils were tested for hair loss in women? Did they add lavender, rhyme and rosemary and cedar oils to a carrier oil (low olive oil, etc) or use them staight? The latter seems like it would be irritating. I tested positive for ANA but have no other symptoms except random hair loss for decades now. It used to come out a lot at once and grow back after six months or so but now it has been about two to three years since it started falling out again with no hair filling back in. My doctor is not convinced that ANA is the cause but I have no other ideas on what it could be. Short of irritation I don’t see how this would hurt.

    Thanks :)

  2. Walt Larimore Post author

    Here’s the abstract for the study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9828867?dopt=Abstract.

    INTERVENTION:
    Eighty-six patients were randomized into 2 groups. The active group massaged essential oils (thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood) in a mixture of carrier oils (jojoba and grapeseed) into their scalp daily. The control group used only carrier oils for their massage, also daily.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:
    Treatment success was evaluated on sequential photographs by 2 dermatologists (I.C.H. and A.D.O.) independently. Similarly, the degree of improvement was measured by 2 methods: a 6-point scale and computerized analysis of traced areas of alopecia.

    RESULTS:
    Nineteen (44%) of 43 patients in the active group showed improvement compared with 6 (15%) of 41 patients in the control group (P = .008). An alopecia scale was applied by blinded observers on sequential photographs and was shown to be reproducible with good interobserver agreement (kappa = 0.84). The degree of improvement on photographic assessment was significant (P = .05). Demographic analysis showed that the 2 groups were well matched for prognostic factors.

    CONCLUSIONS:
    The results show aromatherapy to be a safe and effective treatment for alopecia areata. Treatment with these essential oils was significantly more effective than treatment with the carrier oil alone (P = .008 for the primary outcome measure). We also successfully applied an evidence-based method to an alternative therapy.

    Hopes this helps you and your doctor. Of course, he or she could pull and look at the entire paper for more details.

    Dr. Walt

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