If you have never considered taking ashwagandha, you are missing out on many potential health benefits, including potential benefits for hair loss (which we will look at in a bit).
Ashwagandha is native to India. It is a small green shrub that, at first glance, would not be the cause for curiosity. But inevitably people began becoming curious of ashwagandha and if there was more than meets the eye, turns out there was. It was discovered that there were in fact a lot of prospective medicinal uses for ashwagandha including: improving concentration, lowering blood sugar, depression, muscle building, and more. As you can see, it covers a lot of bases, although some of the claims have not been investigated by the scientific community and remain purely anecdotal at this point.
But the effects that ashwagandha can have on your hair? Well those have been studied, numerous times in fact. That will be the primary focus of this article. I will be illuminating precisely how ashwagandha may be able to benefit your hair to give some legitimacy as to why we included it in our hair formula Follicle Foundation.
Stress and hair loss
Most people may not be aware that stress can cause temporary hair loss.
“Stress” is a relative term for the process of the body releasing cortisol.
Cortisol is a steroid that is produced by your adrenal glands in response to perceived stress. It causes your blood pressure and heart rate to increase, and, although small episodes of stress will likely not lead to hair loss, prolonged excessive cortisol release increases the chances of stress-induced hair loss significantly.
This is because if cortisol levels begin to build in the body, through a series of complicated processes, our hair follicles start shifting from the anagen (growth) phase to the telogen (resting) and catagen (transition) phases. This quick transition of hair phases is called telogen effluvium and one of the primary side effects is rapid hair loss.
Although telogen effluvium is temporary, it can cause massive thinning if it is prolonged and may take a long time to recover from (i.e. restore complete hair density). Stress, as much as possible, is best to avoid, especially if you are someone who is dealing with androgenic alopecia (pattern hair loss) on top of it.
Ashwagandha helps alleviate stress
What is the most effective way to mitigate telogen effluvium? Reduce stress.
This is where ashwagandha can make a rather profound difference: by reducing cortisol, and the subsequent stress associated with it. There have been several studies done that found ashwagandha to be quite effective at this.
One study (1) took a look at 64 subjects that had been previously diagnosed with chronic stress. They were all administered stress-assessment questionnaires in addition to having their serum cortisol levels measured. They were assigned to either a control group or a high-concentration ashwagandha group.
After 60 days, the results found were astonishing. It was discovered that the ashwagandha group’s stress-assessment scores were significantly lower, but more importantly their cortisol levels were significantly reduced as well, all without side effects. There are additional studies that yielded similar results (1,2,3).
By reducing cortisol levels, ashwagandha can be effectively used as a mechanism for stress reduction. Now, it is still important to note one thing: ashwagandha does not directly affect androgenic alopecia, which is caused by DHT not stress (more on that here).
Wait! Don’t stop reading. Ashwagandha may have several other benefits for your hair.
Additional benefits for hair
There are several other potential ways that ashwagandha may be able to influence your hairs health, let’s take a look.
First, piggybacking off ashwagandha’s stress-relieving properties, it can also help relieve anxiety which can result in the promotion of better sleep. This is important because it is during sleep in which your body recovers. Poor sleep leads to an overall worsening of health, including increased stress which as we know, can lead to hair loss. This only makes the case stronger for ashwagandha as it not only physically reduces the chemical that causes stress, but can alleviate stress by promoting good sleep as well.
Second, ashwagandha is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants protect against oxidative stress and the formation of free radicals through the process of neutralization. This is beneficial for hair because free radicals crawl the body stealing electrons from other molecules, which causes damage to hair cells and can cause premature hair aging (a fancy term for hair loss). Without the help of antioxidants, free radical damage would be quite common as it is triggered by UV light, pollution, and several other relatively common triggers.
The last additional benefit of ashwagandha is that it can stimulate the production of melanin in the hair. Melanin is an amino acid that is responsible for the pigmentation of your hair (and skin). Its production is very important for someone who is trying to overcome hair loss, mostly due to the nature of vellus hair.
When suffering from androgenic alopecia, vellus hair is what begins to take the place of your otherwise healthy hair. It is the small, thin, unpigmented hair that creates the appearance of the thinning/balding look. So, where am I going with this? By stimulating the production of melanin, ashwagandha may be able to help bring the color back into the vellus hair during regrowth and therefore reduce the appearance of thinning.
In case you haven’t realized by now: ashwagandha is a very powerful and unique plant.
Ashwagandha is quite miraculous. It’s not every day that you come across a seemingly unassuming green shrub that turns out to provide a wide array of health benefits.
For those suffering from hair loss, or just looking to improve their hair quality in general, ashwagandha is certainly something you will want to consider. Though it won’t cure androgenic alopecia on its own, it would be wise to add it to your regimen as it can protect against many things that could worsen your hair loss including stress, free radical damage, and more.