Normally, hair follicles remain active for up to a decade, producing a long strand of 10 year old hair. In alopecia, however, follicles stop producing hair before the hair is long enough to even emerge from the skin. Male pattern baldnessndrogenic Alopecia, is both genetically determined and influenced by hormones.
Genetics cause some people’s hair follicles to be more susceptible to DHT (dihidrotestosterone), which changes the growth phase of hair follicles. This gene can be present in any sex, but is only expressed when DHT, a form of testosterone, is present. Hence the name “male-pattern” baldness. This is the reason why many trans men develop this pattern of baldness while on T, and why this process of balding stops in most trans women once they start taking anti-androgens (like spironolactone).
Though we cannot change the gene, we can prevent testosterone from converting to DHT to stop this balding process. Testosterone converts to DHT via the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. Research has shown that saw palmetto inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, preventing this pattern of baldness.
Saw palmetto is very effective for hair growth. Saw palmetto together with the supplement beta-sitosterol has been shown to have a 60% effectiveness rate for hair loss reversal. In my experience this does not increase facial hair growth, however studies have shown inconclusive results about its effect on overall testosterone levels. It likely blocks aromatase, an enzyme which converts testosterone to estradiol, a major hormone involved in breast development. If you’re concerned about saw palmetto supplements increasing your testosterone levels, a good alternative is to use it topically. It has been used topically with similar effectiveness.
Saw palmetto also prevents the accumulation of DHT in the prostate, lowering the risk of prostate cancer. It acts on estrogen and progesterone receptors to lower the risk of breast cancer. It’s helpful for colds and coughs, sore throats, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, and migraine headaches. It is also a diuretic (makes you pee more), a sedative, and an aphrodisiac, so be cautious if those are effect you do not want.
DO NOT take saw palmetto with spironolactone because they are both diuretics and could significantly lower your blood pressure or cause dehydration. People with bleeding disorders or who are taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications (“blood-thinners”) such as warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin, or clopidogrel (Plavix) should avoid taking saw palmetto unless under medical supervision. It should also be avoided at least two weeks before or after surgery. Saw palmetto may interact with other medicines, including anti-inflammatory drugs, blood pressure medications, birth control pills and antibiotics.
Another great herb for hair loss is Shou Wu. Shou Wu Pian (aka Fu Ti) is an ancient Chinese herb that increases hair growth. It is generally used for scalp hair growth, but in my experience it increases mustache growth as well. If increased facial hair would be a problem for you, you may not want to take this formula. It’s also important not to take this formula if you are already taking synthetic hormones or other medications as it can increase the strain on your liver.
More hair loss prevention
Massage daily with Rosemary hair oil
Topical borage seed oil works like Propecia to block androgen receptors in hair follicles
Teas of silica rich herbs like horsetail, oats, or nettles
Nourish your kidneys with asparagus, artichoke, celery, aduki beans, parsley
Using a plum blossom needle to stimulate hair growth.
Finally, to support your overall constitution and get treatments tailored specficially to your goals, come in for a treatment!
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All advice on this site and blog is for educational uses only. Always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements, or schedule an acupuncture appointment with Katrina to get your own personalized herbal formula and acupuncture treatment. Questions? Check out the FAQ or resources pages or contact.