Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/21/2021
The magical natural cure is the OG MacGuffin of the worlds of science, medicine and alchemy. Society has fantasized since the beginning of humanity about the water of life, the holy grail, the fountain of youth and any number of a dozen names for the same idea: immortality and agelessness.
What we're getting at here is that people have been looking for magic plants for a long time. As such, herbs for problems of age like hair loss are a common search term.
We’re not saying herbs for hair loss are a waste of time — far from it. Much of the early science shows that any number of plants really could help with reversing hair loss one day.
But for now, the science isn’t there yet.
Still, herbs for hair loss present a field worth keeping an eye on. We’re going to explain why, but first we need to talk about how your hair works.
Hair loss is not fully understood, but we know several important things about how and why it happens.
The first is that some hair loss is perfectly normal. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), for example, says you lose between 50 and 100 hairs per day.
Usually, this is a result of hairs falling out at the end of their growth cycle. The hair growth cycle is composed of the anagen phase (actual growth), catagen phase (growth pause) and telogen phase (follicle rest) before the hair is shed and the cycle starts again.
Hair loss tends to happen because something has upset that cycle, which can be caused by a multitude of factors including trauma, hormones and autoimmune diseases, just to name a few.
Hair loss treatments, then, address the underlying cause of the hair loss or encourage the follicle’s growth cycle (or both).
There are a wide range of treatments, including machines, surgeries, medications and yes, herbs.
Herbs offer treatment potential for hair loss with a wide range of research backing. Not many of these individual plants and extracts have been thoroughly studied, but initial research offering potential is definitely worth noting as the popularity of this field increases.
In other words, the science behind most of these herbal remedies isn’t strong, but that’s just because there hasn’t been enough research yet.
There are many herbal therapies that show enough promise for further research though, and we’ve gathered a list of ones worth keeping an eye on:
Green tea’s antioxidant and anticancer benefits are well established, but it also has proven potential for hair loss treatment.
Anti-inflammatory and stress inhibitory effects showed promise in mice, and could even boost regrowth. More study is needed.
Onion has been reported to have benefits for patchy baldness conditions. The onion’s high levels of zinc may help secrete the scalp with oil and prevent dandruff, reducing the potential factors for hair loss. It may also boost the oxygen floor in blood cells.
A compound called Procyanidin B-2 obtained from apples has shown promise in therapy for hair growth responding to male pattern baldness.
A similar compound in barley can also promote hair cellular growth, and more research is definitely needed to confirm these findings.
Ginseng has healing and medicinal properties that are ancient by human standards. It’s been used to increase appetite, vitality, reduce cold sensitivity, and in mice it has been shown to promote hair growth and inhibit an important compound in the chemical process of male pattern baldness.
You may remember hearing the ridiculous sounding name of this herb on an infomercial as a kid. It has a long history of legit medical benefits, mostly having to do with the benefits of increased circulation and oxygen supply. In hair it promotes growth, and has potential as a hair tonic. More research is needed.
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The Himalayan boxwood is an evergreen tree with free radical fighting properties. Those properties have been investigated for hair growth studies in mice, with potentially promising results, both as an oral and topical treatment.
Speaking of evergreens, rosemary is an evergreen shrug with a history of medical uses, treating respiratory disorders and also stimulating hair growth.
This one has also been used as an aromatherapy to treat alopecia areata, believe it or not.
Add another shrub to the list. Hibiscus’s leaves and flowers promote hair growth and aid in ulcer healing.
A particular leaf extract promoted the ratio of hairs growing to hairs resting in mice, by mechanism of follicle enlargement and elongation of the growth phase.
Gooseberries’ parent tree indirectly impacts the oxygenation of red blood cells, which it is theorized can help hair follicles grow more effectively.
Studies aren’t many but it has promise for several of its many beneficial compounds.
Hair loss prevention and regrowth can benefit from a number of treatments, but many of them don’t have a lot of scientific backing.
Some of the things you’ll typically hear from a healthcare professional are suggestions to change lifestyle issues like poor diet, stress, obesity, smoking and other factors.
Medications may also help.
Finasteride is an oral medication that helps your body block the creation of a hair-killing androgen called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
There are also vitamins to consider — our Essential Vitamins for a Healthy Head of Hair guide explains which ones work, and how.
Hair loss isn’t the sort of thing you make a wild bet on. Yes, rubbing your head in rosemary and onion every night may make you more appealing to partners who love Italian cooking, but that’s not the way to reverse the problem.
What’s the right way for you? Well, that’s a question best answered by a healthcare professional. They will be able to give you the best advice on hair loss solutions.
If you’re seeing hair loss signs, the best next step is talking to someone about your options.