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Okay, okay, before you accuse us of falling for new-age mumbo-jumbo, let us explain. Ashwagandha may seem like some trendy adaptogenic herb that’s popular among the wellness girlies, but hear us out: There’s some research to back this little plant up.
This medicinal plant (also known as Indian winter cherry or Indian ginseng) has been used in India for Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It recently rose to mainstream popularity, thanks to its various health benefits.
But let’s get to what you’re really wondering: Does ashwagandha benefit hair?
We’ll dive into how it’s used and whether it’s actually effective, along with any potential side effects you should be aware of. Ashwagandha 101 is now in sesh!
If you’re dealing with hair thinning, you’ve probably been Googling different ways to help regrow hair.
While ashwagandha doesn’t stimulate hair growth directly, it can be used to help reduce stress — and stress can affect your hairline. Yes, for real — whether you have an insane boss or a shady partner, stress can lead to a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium.
Intrigued about what’s causing your hair to thin? Take a deeper dive with our guide on hair loss in women, which covers everything from root causes to treatments.
Back to ashwagandha for hair loss. Research has found that long-term stress can prevent new hair from growing and keep hair in the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. We’re all for some chill time, but we don’t want those strands just lying there and not growing for too long, right?
It’s thought that high cortisol (aka the stress hormone) levels can also impact the hair follicle. Generally, this type of hair loss is not permanent but rather something that can be reversed if the chronic stress is addressed.
This brings us back to ashwagandha. Since ashwagandha is thought to help with stress, you could say one of the benefits of ashwagandha is that it can help with stress-related hair loss.
Now, if you’re dealing with something genetic, such as female pattern baldness, you probably won’t find improvement with this herb.
Known by the Latin name Withania somnifera, ashwagandha is a super-plant with many potential health benefits.
Benefits of ashwagandha for hair include:
Damage protection. On the daily, your hair is exposed to a range of harmful factors, such as sunlight, pollution, hair care treatments, general styling and cleansing habits. Ashwagandha’s antioxidant powers have been shown to help fend off the damaging effects of these types of stressors.
Soothed inflammation. When your body experiences inflammation, it can create various issues, from arthritis to allergies. Inflammation of your hair follicles could lead to alopecia areata, a type of autoimmune disease-triggered hair loss. Taking ashwagandha may help with these issues, as it has some anti-inflammatory properties (which is also why some athletes are reported to favor it).
Stress reduction. A small study of 64 people found that taking a high concentration of ashwagandha root extract improved a person’s stress levels and quality of life. Since stress can lead to hair loss, reducing it with ashwagandha could be helpful if you’re experiencing telogen effluvium.
There typically aren’t a ton of trials done on supplements — because really, who’s paying for that study, The Vitamin Association? So there isn’t much research to show that ashwagandha can cause hair loss.
But if you’re noticing thinning after starting any supplements, speak with your healthcare provider to figure out what’s going on.
Ashwagandha supplements are sold in various forms, including capsules, powder, tea and other tinctures.
Root extracts typically come in standardized daily doses ranging from 300 to 500 milligrams. Still, be sure to follow the directions on any supplement you try. And if you have any medical conditions, speak to your healthcare provider to make sure it won’t interfere with your medications or health.
Before taking anything new, always consult with a healthcare professional. Though there are known benefits of ashwagandha, and it’s considered a medicinal plant, it may not be safe for everyone.
Talk to a professional about whether ashwagandha supplementation could negatively interact with other medications you’re taking (like thyroid medication) or if you have any conditions that could be aggravated by this adaptogenic herb.
Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years, which should be at least a tad bit reassuring. But like any supplement, there are potential side effects.
While there isn’t much research on the risks, one small study monitored 18 healthy participants after being given an ashwagandha supplement. They were given various doses throughout the study, ranging from 250 to 750 milligrams.
Most of the group tolerated ashwagandha without any adverse side effects. One of the volunteers showed increased libido and appetite, along with hallucinogenic effects with vertigo at the lowest dose and was withdrawn from study.
And some participants experienced positive side effects. Six subjects experienced an improvement in sleep quality. A few also had a noted decrease in total and LDL cholesterol, as well as a significant increase in muscle strength.
The trick to finding the right hair loss treatment is to first figure out the root cause. Whether you have hormonal hair loss or androgenetic alopecia, the cause will help you narrow down your options.
One of the gold standards for hair loss treatments, minoxidil is used to remedy various hair loss issues. It’s FDA-approved to treat male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss and may help with conditions like traction alopecia and telogen effluvium.
Minoxidil can promote hair growth by improving blood flow to the scalp and encouraging hairs to enter the growth phase. But keep in mind, you’ll need to continue using it daily to maintain these results.
Minoxidil drops. Applied with a dropper, this 2% strength formulation can be helpful for targeting bald patches or a wide part.
Minoxidil foam. This 5% strength foam can be easily distributed over larger areas of the scalp.
Oral minoxidil. Not looking to change up your haircare routine or hate residue? We get ya. Thankfully, minoxidil also comes in a once-daily pill. Studies have shown low-dose oral minoxidil to be an effective treatment for numerous hair disorders, including female pattern hair loss.
If stress isn’t the culprit behind your hair loss, hormonal imbalances could be. A prescription medication called spironolactone is a potential solution for hormonal hair.
It’s often used off-label to treat acne, hirsutism and hair loss. Spironolactone reduces the effects of hormones called androgens, including testosterone, to slow down shedding and encourage hair regrowth.
Finasteride can also be helpful for hormonal hair loss. Though it’s not FDA-approved, it can prevent your body from converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This testosterone to DHT conversion process could be causing your hair follicles to shrink, resulting in thinner hairs.
Try this topical finasteride and minoxidil spray to boost hair regrowth.
The scalp is the foundation for healthy hair growth. And if you’re on day eight of dry shampoo, your scalp may not be in the best shape.
Excess sebum and product buildup can lead to scalp irritation, so make sure to lather up every time your hair starts to feel oily. A volumizing shampoo and conditioner can add body and lightweight moisture to your strands.
And while you’re at it, make sure you have the right hair care products if you’re dealing with hair thinning.
Another cause of hair loss can be a nutritional deficiency. It’s ideal to eat a healthy diet with lots of whole foods rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Don’t get us wrong — we love Cool Ranch Doritos®, but they’re not going to help a bald spot.
If you think you might have a deficiency in biotin or another vitamin or mineral, talk to your healthcare provider to learn where you need to supplement.
Want more options? Learn about the best female hair loss treatments in our comprehensive guide.
Indian ginseng may be a helpful addition to your hair loss treatment regimen. Whether you opt for ashwagandha powder to throw in your smoothies or an oral supplement, you could see your hair health improve.
That was probably more information on ashwagandha than you thought we could cover in — checks notes — over 1,000 words. Whew!
But if you’re going to take anything away from this article, it should be:
Ashwagandha may help with stress-related hair loss.
The benefits of ashwagandha could reach beyond reducing hair fallout, potentially improving cortisol levels to help you feel a little more chill.
If ashwagandha doesn’t do the trick, plenty of effective hair loss treatments like minoxidil are worth a try.
Learn more about hair loss treatments that can help improve hair growth and give you that lush mane you’ve been dreaming of.
Ready to make a move now? Start a consultation today.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.
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