Eclipta alba promotes hair growth in rodents. (Photo by ilexxx)
Eclipta alba (also known "Bhringraj" and "False Daisy") is a tropical herb that has been used to treat various illnesses. A traditional use for it in Ayurvedic medicine has been hair loss treatment and hair dyeing.
While many traditional remedies have not been scientifically studied, Eclipta alba has not one but two actual studies behind it showing hair growth promoting activity in rodents. In the first paper, petroleum ether and ethanol extracts of the herb were compared against minoxidil (link). The second paper also used minoxidil as a positive control, but this time the extract was made with methanol (link).
To get an overview of how effective Eclipta alba really is for growing hair, in this post we'll be comparing the results from both papers.
The three Eclipta alba extracts
In the first paper, 500 grams of dried coarse powder of Eclipta alba was initially extracted with petroleum ether. The resulting marc was further extracted with ethanol to make the ethanol extract. These extracts were then incorporated into an ointment base in concentrations of 2% and 5% (i.e. the resulting ointments contained 2-5% ethanol extract).
In the second paper, 1 kilogram of Eclipta alba was extracted with 95% methanol and then filtered and concentrated. The final formulations contained either 3.2 mg/kg or 1.6 mg/kg of the extract in a solution of propylene glycol and DMSO.
The petroleum ether & ethanol study used six groups of rats with their backs shaved. Group I was applied ointment base only and served as control, Group II was applied 2% ethanol extract, Group III was applied 5% ethanol extract, Group IV was applied 2% petroleum ether extract, Group V was applied 5% petroleum ether extract, and group VI was applied 2% minoxidil and acted as positive control. The ointments were applied for 30 days.
In the methanol study, mice with hair already in telogen phase were selected. Two experiments were done: the first one compared the effectiveness of 1% and 2% minoxidil to a control vehicle, and the second one looked at the effectiveness of 1.6 mg/kg and 3.2 mg/kg methanol extracts of Eclipta alba. The extracts were applied for 10 days.
Results from Eclipta alba in rats
Shaved rats treated with the petroleum ether extract of Eclipta alba began growing new hair significantly faster than rats in the control group. Whereas the control rats took 12 days to initiate hair growth, the petroleum ether extract rats took only 5 to 6 days, with the stronger ointment being slightly more effective. The time it took to completely cover the shaved area in hair was also decreased from 24 days to 20 days.
2% minoxidil reduced hair growth initiation time to 6 days and completion time to 20 days. Therefore, minoxidil was as effective as 2% petroleum ether extract but slightly less effective than 5% petroleum ether extract. Ethanolic extracts reduced the time of hair growth initiation only slightly and had no effect on completion time.
The hair growth effects were due to a marked conversion of hair follicles from telogen to anagen phase. In the control group and ethanol extract group, most of the follicles were in telogenic phase, while in the minoxidil and petroleum ether extract groups most follicles were in anagenic phase. Notably, petroleum ether extract of Eclipta alba was even more effective in inducing anagen phase than minoxidil.
Petroleum ether extract also increased the length of the hair follicles, similarly to minoxidil. In the control group only 34% of follicles were longer than 0.5 mm. In the extract and minoxidil treated groups the percentage was 44-49%, with minoxidil being most effective. Once again, ethanol extract did not have a significant effect.
Results from Eclipta alba in mice
Conversion from telogen to anagen phase was observed in 87.5% of the mice treated with the stronger methanol extract (3.2 mg/kg) and in 50% of the rats treated with the weaker extract (1.6 mg/kg). This was evidenced by the increased number of follicles in the subcutis layer and a thickening of the skin. The total number of follicles was also increased. None of the control rats showed a similar effect.
Both concentrations of minoxidil increased skin thickness, follicle count and the percentage of follicles in anagen phase. 2% minoxidil was slightly more effective than 1% minoxidil. According to the authors, the effects of minoxidil and the methanol extracts were "comparable", but looking at the data, it seems that the stronger extract of Eclipta alba was in fact significantly more effective. For example, 2% minoxidil increased mean follicle count from 43 to 73, whereas the 3.2 mg/kg methanol extract increased it from 19 to 66. The conversion from telogen to anagen was also more pronounced in the methanol extract group.
A petroleum ether extract of Eclipta alba increases hair growth in rats by converting follicles from telogen to anagen phase. The hair growth promoting effect is similar to that of minoxidil. An ethanol extract, however, showed only very modest results. No change in fur color was reported.
In mice, methanol extracts of Eclipta alba induce conversion of hair follicles from telogen to anagen phase. Eclipta alba also increases skin thickness and the number of total and subcutaneous hair follicles. These effects are even more pronounced than those seen from 1% and 2% minoxidil. Since the mice had black fur to begin with, the hair dyeing claims could not be evaluated.
Possible reasons for the lack of efficacy in ethanol extracts of Eclipta alba are the lack of wedelolactone and beta-sitosterol. While petroleum ether extracts and methanol extracts contain significant amounts of wedelolactone, ethanol extracts do not. Wedelolactone has the abilitiy to suppress caspase-11 (link) and androgen receptors expression (link).
Petroleum ether extracts are also high in beta-sitosterol, which has been shown to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase (link), a key factor in genetic hair loss. The beta-sitosterol content of methanol extracts of Eclipta alba was not reported in the study.
For more information on hair growth, see these posts:
Soy Protein Isolate Reduces DHT in Healthy Young Men
Do Flax Lignans Reduce Hair Loss from MPB?
North African Plant Extract (Erica multiflora) Increases Hair Growth
2% Nizoral Shampoo Increases Hair Growth More than 2% Minoxidil