It’s becoming increasingly common to see breakthrough research or anecdotal stories in the media about cannabis helping with cancer symptoms, epilepsy, PTSD and more. But some potential cannabis benefits fly below the radar, including the idea that cannabis may help fight hair loss.
Hair loss is incredibly common and can become a reality due to a whole laundry list of causes. Some of these causes, like male-pattern baldness, are completely natural and simply due to age or genetics. Others can result from health issues or as a byproduct of medical treatments. Health conditions that cause or are associated with hair loss include, but aren’t limited to:
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is an androgen, or male sex hormone, that’s found in both men and women. This form of testosterone is mostly produced in adrenal glands, the male prostate and testes, and hair follicles. DHT influences things like libido and hair growth.
Hair growth happens in three stages:
Once the cycle is complete, hair starts another cycle and begins to grow again.
When DHT levels increase beyond normal levels, it can reduce hair growth in both men and women. Researchers think that DHT causes hair follicles to shrink by inflaming the follicle, slowing down the anagen phase and increasing the length of the telogen phase. Most of the common, over-the-counter types of hair-loss treatments seek to reduce DHT levels to stop or reverse hair loss.
The short answer, as is so often the case with medical cannabis, is that more research must be done to definitively answer this question. The only real medical research looking into cannabis as a treatment for hair loss dates back to 1980.
Endocrinology’s September 1980 issue included a study observing whether “marihuana inhibits dihydrotestosterone binding to the androgen receptor.” This is the first and possibly the only study conducted on the topic. Researchers observed that DHT didn’t bind to hormone receptors in rodents treated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN).
Because lowering the amount and effectiveness of DHT is a major part of traditional hair-loss treatments, this study points to the potential for cannabis to halt hair loss. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any follow-up studies since.
There’s other cannabis-related research that could indirectly prove that the plant might successfully treat hair loss. It’s been found that scalp and hair follicle inflammation and irritation can also lead to hair loss. Cannabis can be incredibly effective at battling inflammation in humans by activating CB2 receptors.
Chronic stress is another major contributor to hair loss. And marijuana can alleviate stress by activating CB1 receptors throughout the nervous system, which in turn can calm and dull heightened stress.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. For those suffering from male-pattern baldness, alopecia and other conditions resulting in hair loss due to inflammation of the hair follicle, CBD could help. Consider high-CBD cannabis strains like Harlequin and Cannatonic, both of which could be good choices for fighting hair loss.
Because it’s high in vitamins C, B and E , jojoba oil has become a popular additive in hair and beauty products. It’s a versatile extract that’s also rich in copper and zinc. Because jojoba moisturizes hair follicles, it’s thought to prevent the dryness and shrinking that’s so often a precursor to hair loss.
A study published in the Journal of Dermatology shows pretty convincing evidence that onion juice can invigorate hair growth. Two groups, one using tap water and the other using crude onion juice, treated their hair twice a day. After two weeks of using onion juice, participants in the study saw the regrowth of terminal coarse hairs. Following four weeks of treatment, 17 patients saw hair regrowth, and after six weeks of treatment, 20 of the 23 patients saw hair regrowth.
As with many holistic treatments, there isn’t a wide body of medical research to confirm that licorice root stops or slows down hair loss in humans. But one study performed on rats did show some promising results.
Researchers evaluated licorice extract as a treatment for alopecia in female rats, compared to the widely marketed hair loss drug minoxidil, known to most of us as Rogaine. The researchers concluded that the use of just 2% licorice hydro-alcoholic extract showed better hair-growth results than the application of minoxidil did. It’s thought that licorice root can be taken orally or used topically to achieve results.
Besides licorice root, peppermint oil is one of the more studied holistic treatments for hair loss. In one study, researchers topically applied multiple potential hair loss solutions on mice. These included saline (the control group), jojoba oil, Minoxidil and peppermint oil. After four weeks, the researchers observed that of the four groups, the mice treated with peppermint oil saw the most “prominent hair growth effects.”
Hopefully, one day in the future we’ll have extensive research on whether cannabis can really help curb or reverse hair loss. Until then, let us know if any of these holistic treatments for hair loss work or have worked for you in the past.
Photo credit: Element5 Digital