Updated: Jul 9, 2020
Rosemary (Salvia Rosmarinus) is a popular evergreen herb with needle like leaves. Though native to the Mediterranean, rosemary is used worldwide as a common seasoning that adds a great woodsy/peppery taste to any dish. It is also used for many things outside of food such as improving memory, improving mood, lowering blood sugar, alleviating stress, and even as a hair loss remedy, plus many more.
Though rosemary has many potential health benefits to explore, this article will be focusing solely on its benefits for hair loss. By taking a closer look into studies and information that is available on rosemary, we hope to expand your understanding of this magnificent plant so that you can make a decision as to whether or not it could benefit your own hair loss.
How rosemary may be able to help hair loss
Rosemary in its raw form will not do much for your hair loss, you need to use rosemary essential oil. When it is in the form of an essential oil, rosemary is much more concentrated and contains the plants core components.
Current scientific evidence only supports rosemary oil’s benefits for more common types of hair loss such as androgenic alopecia (pattern hair loss) and alopecia areata. Unfortunately, other causes of hair loss such as: nutritional deficiencies, telogen effluvium, and more have not been studied alongside rosemary oil. This doesn’t mean that it won’t work for those conditions though, there is just a complete lack of evidence. It is best to talk to your doctor to determine the cause of your hair loss so that you can utilize appropriate treatments.
There is an abundance of claims as to how rosemary oil can potentially benefit male/female pattern hair loss. Just like with any hair loss treatment, some of these claims have evidence to back them and some do not. We are going to explore some of the common claims you might hear about rosemary, break them down, and hopefully give you a more realistic understanding of exactly what rosemary oil is capable of, so let’s get started with a very bold claim…
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is what scientists believe to be the main cause of pattern hair loss. DHT is an androgen that is formed when testosterone is metabolized by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. By binding to androgen receptors in the scalp, DHT causes miniaturization (essentially the “slow death”) of hair follicles. Blocking it is currently the most effective method we have of stopping the progression of pattern hair loss.
Popular hair loss treatments such as finasteride have been developed to block the formation of DHT, and have been quite successful in doing so with many studies to back its effectiveness (not to mention FDA approval). Some people claim that rosemary oil can be equally as effective, if not more, at blocking DHT, but there is more to the story.
The study that is commonly referenced (here) showed impressive numbers, which is likely why so many people point to it when asked if rosemary oil can block DHT. Scientists found that rosemary oil inhibited 82.4% and 94.6% of 5-alpha reductase at 200 and 500 µg/mL respectively by potentially inhibiting DHT from binding to androgen receptors. These numbers would be very impressive if they could be replicated, but unfortunately this is the only study of its kind. The study was also conducted on mice and although there may be implications for humans, nothing is conclusive until human trials are done.
The truth is that there is entirely not enough research done on rosemary oils potential to block DHT. The one study that was done (hopefully) brought rosemary oil to scientists attention, but it should never be used as a replacement for finasteride if you are serious about treating your hair loss, at least not until more research becomes available. If you are worried about the potential side effects if finasteride there are natural alternatives that you can consider.
Studies have shown low blood flow to be associated with the onset of pattern hair loss. This is because blood carries vital oxygen and nutrients that your hair uses to grow healthy. If your hair is not receiving enough of these, not only will it appear unhealthy, but the anagen (growth)
phase may shorten.
The popular FDA approved hair loss treatment minoxidil is a vasodilator, meaning it helps increase blood flow to the scalp. By dilating, or opening blood vessels, minoxidil has earned a reputation as one of the most effective hair loss treatments with many studies proving its efficacy, and rosemary oil may work in the same way, or that’s the claim at least.
In fact, one study directly compared rosemary oil to minoxidil in humans, and is commonly referenced in articles about rosemary oil for hair loss. In the study people were given either rosemary oil or minoxidil for a period of 6 months. After the 6 months was over scientists found that the treatments were equally as effective in terms of an increase in overall hair count. Interestingly, the only perceived benefit of rosemary oil over minoxidil was a decrease in scalp itchiness (which may have strong implications for hair loss, more here).
(There is another study, and although it did show that rosemary oil increased circulation, it was conducted on mice and was not studied in relation to hair growth)
Ultimately this study was conducted on humans over an extended period of time, meaning the implications for increased circulation are definitely there. Again though, it is the only study of its kind and more research is needed to confirm the findings. If you are worried about, or have experienced the potential negative side effects of minoxidil, then rosemary oil may be a viable alternative, but minoxidil is still the front runner because it has much more research supporting it.
Inflammation occurs when your body produces antibodies in response to a perceived threat. Sometimes, especially in the case of hair loss, antibodies are produced when there is no threat and they end up attacking healthy hair cells. This may alter the normal hair growth process resulting in a shorter growth cycle, and subsequent hair damage or onset of pattern hair loss.
There have been no studies done on rosemary oil for scalp inflammation, though there have been several studies (1,2,3) showing that it does have strong anti-inflammatory properties elsewhere in the body. Why people so boldly make the claim that rosemary oil will stop scalp inflammation? I’m not sure. The results of those studies MAY have implications for reducing inflammation in the scalp, but that claim certainly should not be made with confidence.
Fortunately there are little-to-no side effects when using rosemary oil on your scalp (granted it’s diluted of course) so it couldn’t hurt to try it for inflammation, just go into it knowing it might not work.
Microorganisms are present all over your body, including your scalp. They actually help your body function properly, well most of them that is. Some can cause inflammation, dandruff, and other scalp conditions.
This study showed that rosemary oil is able to help reduce a certain kind of bacteria that causes inflammation in the scalp. Paired with its potential anti-inflammatory effects, and you may be doubling down on the protection of your hair against inflammation-related hair loss.
Dandruff is also caused by a microorganism, more specifically a fungus called malassezia. Though rosemary oil has never been studied for its benefits towards dandruff, it would seem that it may be able to help. But, if you read an article that says that rosemary oil can cure dandruff, close the tab right away. Use rosemary oil for dandruff with extreme skepticism, because although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of it working online, more research is needed.
How to use rosemary oil for hair loss
Now that we have cleared up misconceptions and given you a clearer picture of exactly how rosemary oil may be able to benefit your hair loss, make sure you use it right. You can either apply is directly to your scalp or mix it in with your shampoo.
If you apply it directly to your scalp make sure you dilute it, if you apply rosemary oil without diluting it you could be running the risk of irritation and possible chemical burns, it’s strong stuff. We recommend diluting it with a carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut oil. Take 5-10 drops of rosemary oil mixed with the carrier oil and massage it in. Leaving it on for at least 10 minutes, though some people like to leave it on overnight before washing it out.
Another way to apply it is by mixing it with your shampoo, and it’s pretty simple. Take 5-10 drops of rosemary oil and add it to your daily shampoo. Leave it in for 5 minutes and then continue showering as normal.
Both of these methods will provide you with all of the potential benefits that rosemary oil has to offer for hair loss.
There are a lot of claims floating around the internet about how rosemary oil can benefit hair loss, some of which are unfounded. Regarding all of the claims made: there is no where near enough evidence to make any conclusive statements, much more research is needed. Fortunately there aren’t any negative side effects of using rosemary oil on your scalp (although always consult with your doctor). My take? It’s worth a try as there is some evidence that makes rosemary oil worth a shot.
Bear in mind that, granted you are not concerned about the side effects, rosemary oil should not be used as a replacement for FDA approved hair loss treatments like finasteride and minoxidil. Your best course of action would probably be to just add it on top of your current hair loss regimen and see what kind of results you get, they could be great, but if they are not then you will not be disappointed.