Ayurveda for Alopecia
Alopecia, also called baldness, refers to the loss of hair from the head or body. The most common form of alopecia is male or female pattern baldness; however, alopecia comes in many other forms. Current pharmaceutical and surgical therapies do not address the root causes of alopecia, which may be countered and even stopped using Ayurvedic medicine.
How Can Ayurveda Help Relieve the Symptoms of Alopecia?
Ayurveda is a holistic treatment that can correct the mental, physical, and emotional imbalances in the body that cause alopecia. By restoring equilibrium to the body, mind, and spirit, Ayurveda can improve the body’s overall health, including reducing hair loss.
As with all holistic treatments, Ayurvedic treatment for alopecia begins with a thorough patient evaluation by the Ayurvedic practitioner to determine where any imbalances may be found. This evaluation includes both a medical history and a physical exam during the first visit. Then the practitioner and the patient discuss the patient’s personal and professional life, career goals, life purpose, diet, exercise habits, general health, and spiritual life. With the resulting well-rounded life assessment, the practitioner then recommends a program of natural therapies that includes massage, herbs, meditation, diet changes, healing oils, yoga, simple lifestyle adjustments, and other treatments.
Ayurveda treatments of alopecia, called “Indralupta,” are designed to restore overall balance to individuals and address particular imbalances in the “Asthi,” or bone tissue.
Indralupta therapies may include:
- Topical herbal treatments on the head and in the nose with medicated oils such as Vranashodhan oil, Bhrungraj oil, Amalaki oil, Brahmi oil, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis oil, Vatajatadi oil, Anu oil, and Bhallatak oil
- Dietary changes to strengthen the Asthi including an increase of milk consumption
- Lifestyle changes to reduce stress, allow time for relaxation, and boost the body’s immune system
- Leech therapy of bald spots
- Oral herbal pills and powders such as Arogya Vardhini, Amalaki, and Guduchi
Why Use Ayurveda for Alopecia?
In Western medicine, treatment for alopecia often includes topical or systemic medications such as minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia) or surgery with procedures such as follicle transplantation and scalp flaps. A generalized approach that focuses on matching one or two drugs or procedures to individuals with a variety of types of alopecia does not address all of the symptoms of alopecia in a particular individual. Ayurvedic medicine practitioners, therefore, recommend a unique treatment program of Ayurvedic therapies for each patient designed to address the unique needs of the patient. As mental and physical balance is restored, the individual’s overall health and well-being improve and hair loss is reduced or eliminated.
Scientific studies of Ayurvedic principles to date have looked at the effects of treatments one at a time more so than in combination, disregarding the synergistic nature of the therapies. However, they do show that the Ayurvedic principles have positive results on alopecia. As an example, a team of physicians led by AG Kessels in the Netherlands in 1991 found that that use of the herbal abstract dabao has a modest positive effect on hair growth. Another study in 1998 concluded that therapy with scented oils provides a safe and effective treatment for one form of alopecia.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a system of medicine that was conceived by Hindus in India 5,000 years ago. Through Ayurvedic medicine, practitioners aim to educate individuals on methods to help them balance body, mind, and spirit.
The three bioenergetic natural forces, or dosha, of Ayurvedic therapy are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha:
- Vata dosha—governs movement; represents space and air
- Pitta dosha—governs food digestion, sensory perceptions, and discrimination between right and wrong; represents fire and water
- Kapha dosha—governs body weight, structure and lubrication of the mind and body; represents water and earth
These three dosha work together to bring balance to all parts of the body, mind, and spirit. Through this balance, practitioners believe, Ayurveda helps prevent physical and mental issues, including alopecia.
What Causes Alopecia?
There are many potential causes of hair loss. The most common form of alopecia is male or female pattern baldness which has a genetic basis and is related to hormonal changes. Other hair loss can be caused by systemic disease, side effects of medications, stress, nutritional deficiencies, injury, or damage to the hair. Alopecia can also be caused by psychological compulsion to pull out one’s own hair, called trichotillomania, or continued hair trauma from tight braids or ponytails and/or burns to the scalp from hair relaxer or hot styling implements.
Finding an Ayurvedic Practitioner
Licenses to practice Ayurveda are not available in the United States. However, certificates of “Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist” may be earned through educational programs at California College of Ayurveda, the Ayurvedic Institute, and other U.S. educational institutions. Several professional organizations for ayurvedic practitioners work toward regulation of Ayurvedic Medicine and the establishment of formal licensing, including National Ayurvedic Medicine Association, the Association of Ayurvedic Professional of North America, and the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine.
It is important to select an Ayurvedic practitioner who is formally trained and certified in the practice. Ask your practitioner about their training and level of experience in treating alopecia.
Vasant Lad, “Ayurveda: A Brief Introduction and Guide,” The Ayurvedic Institute, 2003.
Shubhra Krishan, “Essential Ayurveda: What It Is and What It Can Do for You,” New World Library, Novaro, CA, 2003.
Alopecia and Ayurveda from Baidyanath.