Licorice is used in Ayurvedic medicine for hair growth. (Photo by Pikaluk)
Now that my previous hair growth battle has come to its disappointing conclusion, it's time to start a new experiment. In this one, I'm going to take a plunge into the strange world of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of traditional medicine.
There are probably hundreds of plants used in Ayurvedic medicine that are claimed to promote hair growth. Some of them may be effective to a degree, while the majority of them probably do nothing, at least not for hair loss. The fact that there are so many balding Indians – including Ayurvedic practitioners – should make anyone suspicious of any wild claims about growing your hair back.
The product I've chosen is something called Nutrich oil. This hair growth tonic contains a number of oils and herb extracts, all meant to either treat male-pattern baldness, stimulate hair growth, or prevent graying. The oils and their proportions are:
- Sesame oil (sesamum indicum): 80%
- Coconut oil (cocos nucifera): 10%
- Castor oil (ricinus communis): 9.5%
- Almond oil (prunus amygdalus): 0.5%
All of these are mentioned as hair growth promoters in Ayurvedic literature, but scientific evidence is severy lacking. While coconut oil is antibacterial on the skin and has been shown to protect the hair from protein loss when used as a conditioner (link), there's not much reliable information out there on the other three. Sesame oil is apparently a common massage oil and is said to "remove toxins from the body", which immediately raises alarm bells in my mind, because nobody ever seems to know exactly what these "toxins" are. I couldn't find any data on almond oil as a hair growth promoter. Same thing with castor oil, though it does increase the luster of hair (link).
So not much going on in the oil department. Perhaps the more interesting part of the ingredient list are the herb extracts:
- Bhrungraj (Ecplita alba)
- Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi)
- Brahmi (Centella asiatica)
- Nilpushpa (Indigofera tinctoria)
- Ratanjyot (Onosoma echiodes)
- Nagarmotha (Cyperus scariosus)
- Triphala (Emblica officinalis, Terminalia bellirica & Terminalia chebula)
- Gunja (Abrus precatorius)
- Chameli (Jasminum officinale)
- Henna (Lawsonia inermis)
- Sankpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis)
- Khaskhas (Vetiveria zizanioides)
- Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Rasanjan (Berberis aristata)
- Ratanjali (Pterocarpus santalinus)
Out of these, Bhrungraj or Eclipta alba has actually been shown to grow hair in mice – even quicker than minoxidil, provided that the extract is not made with ethanol. Unfortunately, there's no mention on the label as to how the extracts were made. Even the absolute amount of the extracts is unclear, since only the relative quantities are stated.
Emblica officinalis, one of the components of Triphala, has been shown to increase cell proliferation, improve wound healing (link), and induce procollagen production (link), which may actually make it useful for hair growth. There's not much info on the other two, except that they're antibacterial (link). All three components together improve wound healing (link). Rasanjan (Berberis aristata) and Ratanjali (Pterocarpus santalinus) may also speed up wound healing (link, link).
Yashtimadhu, which is the Ayurvedic name for Licorice, is known to be antiandrogenic (link) and to suppress prostate cancer (link). These effects may be due to beta-sitosterol, which reduces 5-alpha-reductase (link). There are no in vivo studies showing that licorice topically or orally grows hair in animals or humans, however.
Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) and Sankpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis) are apparently good for the brain when taken orally, but a pubmed search gives nothing on hair growth. Brahmi, also known as Gotu kola or Centella asiatica also has a range of health benefits, but again, nothing related to hair. Jasminum officinale is anti-inflammatory (link), and some of the other ingredients are antioxidants, but that's about it.
With this in mind, I'm going to apply the oil on my right temple & hairline and also on my right eyebrow. The left side, meanwhile, is getting the tretinoin treatment. The bottle (100 ml) looks like it's going to last me quite a while, so the $20 I paid for it is not cheap but not overexpensive either.
The odour is not too bad, but it is really strong and reminds me of incense. Unless you want to smell like an Indian bazaar, massaging your entire scalp with this stuff seems like a potential hazard to me. A nightly application and then washing it off in the morning might work, but the color is green and absorption less than perfect, so be careful.
For more information on Ayurveda, consult your local yoga instructor. For more information on hair growth, see these posts:
North African Plant Extract (Erica multiflora) Increases Hair Growth
Capsaicin and Soy Isoflavones Promote Hair Growth
Do Flax Lignans Reduce Hair Loss from MPB?
Soy Protein Isolate Reduces DHT in Healthy Young Men