It may take you a few tries to figure out how to properly pronounce the name of this ancient root-based supplement (and even longer to learn how to spell it right). But, in addition to its quirky name, ashwagandha is purported to deliver a whole range of potential health benefits.
While we won’t delve into every claim made on ashwagandha today, we will focus in on one that seems to be popping up more and more often -- ashwagandha for hair loss.
Below, we will review just what ashwagandha is, what the potential benefits may be when it comes to your hair, who should not try using ashwagandha, and how to use ashwagandha if you want to give it a try.
Ashwagandha is a plant that has been used in ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It can also be called winter cherry or Indian ginseng, and the Sanskrit name is translated roughly as “smell of horse”. This name likely has two different meanings when it comes to this potent plant, the first one being that the actual smell can be quite pungent and reminiscent of a horse, and the second one is that people claim this plant can increase strength, energy, and vitality.
In ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is called the “royal herb” and is believed to have positive effects on various body systems including neurological, energy-production, reproductive, endocrine, and the immune system.
You can easily find lots of claims regarding ashwagandha and hair health. These may include claims of longer, faster growing, stronger, more beautiful hair, and sound pretty good -- but are these actually backed up?
There are not currently any robust trials directly looking into the effects of ashwagandha alone for hair loss, growth, or strength.
There was one double-blind 6-month trial in which women were asked to take a hair supplement containing a combination of ingredients that included ashwagandha, or a placebo. At the end of the study, the researchers reported that the supplement effectively promoted hair growth in women that were experiencing self-perceived hair thinning. However, since this was a combination product, we cannot confirm that the results were due to the ashwagandha component, or how much could be attributed to this one ingredient.
There are a few studies out there that might give us a little information as to why ashwagandha is discussed as a hair loss or hair growth supplement.
What we do know about hair loss is that chronic stress and healthy hair do not play well together. In fact, one study reported that stress can inhibit hair growth, and some of the mechanisms involved may be the induction of hair follicle inflammation, increased cell death of the follicle cells which produce keratin (the main protein component of hair), inhibition of replication in the cells lining the hair follicle, and hair follicles proceeding into the catagen (hair detachment) phase prematurely.
It is this connection between chronic stress and increased stress-related hair loss or slowed growth that may be the reason behind how ashwagandha may relay some benefits.
Ashwagandha has been found to deliver significant benefits when it comes to stress and anxiety management. One double-blind smaller-scale study had women randomized to take ashwagandha twice daily for 60 days, or a placebo supplement. All participants had a history of chronic stress. At the end of 60 days, all participants were asked to take a stress-assessment questionnaire as well as having their cortisol (stress hormone) levels measured. The results showed that there was a significant reduction in stress according to the questionnaire as well as a significant cortisol reduction in the ashwagandha treatment group as compared to the placebo group. The study concludes by saying that high-concentration full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual's resistance to stress.
So, it is possible that if your hair loss or slowed growth is due to a chronic stress root cause, you may be able to find some benefits from using supplements to help regulate your stress levels and your response to stress. But, there still needs to be more studies confirming the direct benefits of ashwagandha on hair. Currently, the claims are stemming from an indirect connection between the fact of chronic stress being able to negatively affect your hair, and the knowledge that ashwagandha may be able to help curb stress.
It is also important to note that not all hair loss is due to stress. The most common cause of hair loss and thinning in men and women is androgenetic alopecia, also known as male and female pattern hair loss. Androgenetic alopecia occurs due to your genetics and your hereditary sensitivity to a hormone called DHT. While chronic stress is certainly not a good thing for genetic hair loss, and may lead to exacerbated androgenetic alopecia, it is not the root cause for this type of hair loss.
If you want to try out ashwagandha for your hair, or for other reasons, you are better off giving it a shot in its oral forms -- either in capsule form or as a powder that can be mixed into a beverage.
Most of the data that we have on ashwagandha is from consuming the supplement, not from applying it to the scalp. So, just because a shampoo or scalp treatment has ashwagandha in this form, it does not mean it is the best way to try it out. Also, since the strongest information on the connection between hair health and ashwagandha is currently the stress relief aspect, the oral form is what may help in that arena more than a topical version.
Any benefits that may come from ashwagandha are more likely to develop if the supplement is used regularly over time, and you shouldn’t expect immediate results.
Always choose a reputable source for your supplements and talk to your doctor to see if this is a safe supplement to add to your regimen. Even supplements can interact with certain medications or existing conditions.
Ashwagandha should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
This supplement also may not be appropriate for people who are currently using other specific medications or that have certain conditions. If you have an autoimmune disease or a thyroid condition, ashwagandha may not be appropriate for you.
Talk to your doctor to see if ashwagandha is a safe addition to your overall hair health or stress resilience regimen.
It is possible that ashwagandha may play a role in improving hair concerns that stem from a chronic stress root cause, although more data is needed to confirm this connection.
That being said, for most people, ashwagandha may be a safe and easy addition to an overall hair health regimen. But, if you are dealing with hereditary hair loss causes like androgenetic alopecia, a medication to help control the underlying DHT root cause may be a better option.
At Strut, we offer a range of hair loss treatment options that target Androgenetic Alopecia using ingredients like Finasteride, Dutasteride, Minoxidil, and Spironolactone. Many of our formulations can be customized to suit your needs or preferences, and can contain multiple active ingredients.
If you are interested in seeing if a prescription hair loss treatment is a good fit for you, you can have a free online questionnaire and image-based telemedicine consultation with our U.S. licensed doctors today.
If you are a good candidate for treatment, your medication will be shipped to your front door with our free shipping.