The anthropology of hair loss. (Medical Anthropology)

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Author: Tim Batchelder
Date: May 2003
From: Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients(Issue 238)
Publisher: The Townsend Letter Group
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,094 words

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Hair loss and related scalp disorders are novel conditions of civilization that can be reversed or prevented by taking into account our evolutionary background. In this column I'll look at some of the cross cultural and evolutionary factors involved in hair loss and related disorders.

Ethnopharmaceuticals for Hair Loss

People in many traditional cultures have used medicinal plant and animal products to help prevent hair loss. Below are some common products in use along with their cultural source:

* Grape seed and vine: Native Americans used grape vine sap and grape seed extract applied to the scalp for hair loss. Grape seed and vine contains proanthocyanidins which are potent antioxidants and act as a smooth muscle relaxant in blood vessels and capillaries, preventing or offsetting damage to the hair follicle blood supply. A patent was issued in Japan for grape seed extract as a hair regrowth compound.

* Rosemary oil is used in North America and Europe for cleansing the scalp and stimulating the hair root while sage is used to thicken hair shafts and helps dissolve sebum deposits.

* Wild olive oil was used by the Greek herbalist of the 1st century AD Dioscorides and today Mediterranean people apply virgin olive oil to the hair and scalp.

* Emu oil was used by aboriginal people in Australia for dermatological and inflammatory disorders. Modern research shows that emu oil contains linolenic acid and oleic acid which act as an anti-inflammatory. Emu Oil is a 5-alpha-reductase (an enzyme related to hair loss) inhibitor. Hair restoration products which contain emu oil have been patented. The application of emu oil to the skin causes an increase in the synthesis of DNA in the epidermis and may increase the proliferative activity of the skin. Animals fed emu oil have an increased pigmentation and hair growth. The skin of the animals increases in thickness and the size of the hair follicle increases.

* Fish oil used by Arctic and Asian people for skin and hair care contains the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA (eicosapentaeionic acid and decohexaenoic acid) which have been shown to improve cholesterol profiles, and alleviate many forms of chronic inflammation which is a major factor in hair loss.

* Bilberry: Bilberry extracts have been shown to improve microcapillary circulation, and strengthen collagen throughout the body.

* Eucalyptus regulates sebum and reduces inflammation.

* Tea tree oil is anti-bacterial and is good for dandruff.

* Jojoba oil was used by Indians of the southwestern US for hair and skin problems and resembles the skin's own sebum.

* Aloe vera: Indigenous people in Mexico use aloe vera which contains proteolytic enzymes that slough off dead skin cells and open pores. A mucopolysacchnride known as Acemannan in aloe vera increases membrane fluidity and permeability and the outward flow of toxins and inward flow of nutrients.

* Cayenne is a powerful irritant and brings blood flow to the scalp and histamine release which stimulates cell division. Ginger also works in a similar way. To make a solution of both combine a pint of 100 proof vodka...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Batchelder, Tim. "The anthropology of hair loss. (Medical Anthropology)." Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, no. 238, May 2003, pp. 54+. Accessed 2 Oct. 2023.

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