Natural Remedies for Thinning Hair
If you’re looking for natural options for regrowing or slowing down hair loss, there are lots of options! From vitamins to foods to natural oils and hair products, you can get to the root cause (no pun intended) and try these methods.
1. Nutrients and Vitamins
We are what we eat and the same is true for our hair. A stressed and malnourished body can’t keep a healthy scalp and thick locks. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements recommends the following nutrients for healthy, thick hair:
- Iron – Red blood cells need iron to work and shuttle nutrients to the scalp for healthy hair. Heme iron from animal sources in much better absorbed than non-heme iron from plants. Iron-containing foods from plants are poorly absorbed because they also contain iron inhibitors that prevent us from absorbing iron. Good sources of iron include grass-fed red meat and oysters.
- Vitamin C – This antioxidant is a must for proper iron absorption. Most people think of orange juice when they think vitamin C, but peppers are actually a much higher source. Vitamin C is also found in rose hips, camu-camu powder, citrus fruit, and kiwi. You can also get vitamin C from a high quality supplement.
- Vitamin A – Our scalp needs vitamin A to make sebum, the thick liquid that conditions and moisturizes hair. Orange and red vegetables have beta-carotene, not preformed vitamin A. Many of us have issues effectively converting beta-carotene to usable vitamin A. The highest sources of preformed vitamin A include grass-fed meats, cod liver oil, pastured milk, and free-range eggs.
- Biotin – This B vitamin helps keep hair strong to prevent breakage and thinning. Biotin is highest in beef liver, egg yolk, and salmon.
- Zinc – The mineral zinc helps with tissue growth and repair, including hair. Grass-fed beef and pumpkin seeds are good sources.
- Avoid Bad Fats – Unhealthy trans fats and processed foods increase inflammation and contribute to hormone imbalances, like high DHT. Too much DHT can mean hair loss. It’s best to avoid processed vegetable oils, like canola, soy, and corn. Real olive oil is full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids that keep our body (and hair) at its best. A 2009 research article in Chemistry and Biodiversity found healthy saturated fats actually block extra DHT from forming.
2. Herbal Remedies
Herbs are powerful and have been used for millennia! Try:
According to Dr. Sharol Tilgner’s 2009 book Herbal Medicine, gotu kola can help with thinning hair. This herb can help the body cope with stress, reduces inflammation, speeds healing time, and stimulates circulation for hair growth.
Be careful though, since pregnant mamas should avoid this herb.
Horsetail and Oatstraw
Both of these herbs are high in the nutrient silica for strong hair and nails. Horsetail can be used on the scalp or taken as a tea or tincture, but there are more safety precautions when it’s ingested. Dr. Tilgner warns that taking horsetail supplements all the time can cause a B1 deficiency and it’s not safe to ingest while pregnant.
Ginkgo strengthens hair, stimulates blood flow to the scalp, and boosts antioxidants according to the Herbal Academy of New England. This herb may interfere with certain medications so talk with your healthcare provider before using ginkgo if you take prescription meds. Ginkgo is available as a tea, standardized capsules, or in tincture form.
Saw palmetto herb is commonly used in men, but it can help reverse thinning hair too. This herb balances testosterone levels to help fix thinning hair due to a hormone imbalance.
Research from 2009 tracked men and women applying saw palmetto lotion and shampoo for three months. Over a third of the people in the study had thicker hair after using the saw palmetto products. Nearly 40% of men who took saw palmetto capsules every day for 2 years had more hair growth.
Researchers found the herb was more effective for mild and moderate hair loss than the hair loss drug finasteride. PCOS can cause hair loss, but saw palmetto is used to treat both thinning hair and other PCOS symptoms.
Panax or American ginseng is anti-inflammatory, boosts circulation, and helps reduce hair loss. Unfortunately ginseng’s popularity has caused overharvesting and it is an endangered plant.
Ethically sourced ginseng can be taken as a tincture or 1 gram in capsules twice daily according to the Winston and Maimes book, Adaptogens.
Hibiscus makes a delicious tea, but it may also help reverse thinning hair. A 2003 study found hibiscus salve improved hair growth.
Hibiscus tea is high in vitamin C and can be used as a hair rinse or drank to help hair growth. I do think it might get messy to rub hibiscus salve on your hair like in the study!
Exercise helps keep the body in shape and running at its best, but it also helps thinning hair. When we exercise it reduces stress and boosts circulation, both of which are important for hair growth.
Red light therapy or LLLT can help keep hair looking its best. A 2019 article reported positive results. In all eleven of the light therapy trials, participants saw improvement in hair loss and thickness compared to the control group.
5. Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seed oil has phytosterols that reduce hormone imbalances that can lead to hair loss. In one study, people who took 400 mg of pumpkin seed oil every day for 24 weeks saw a 40% improvement in hair thickness.
6. Castor Oil
Castor oil is a thick, sticky liquid that’s fabulous for hair growth. It’s antibacterial and antifungal to help keep the scalp healthy. Even better castor oil has ricinoleic acid to boost circulation for thicker, stronger hair. Certain hair products (including overly alkaline no-poo options) can damage the scalp, but castor oil helps restore pH balance. Here’s how I use castor oil for fast hair growth.
7. Onion Juice
Yes, really! Who knows what prompted people to rub onion juice on their heads but I’m glad they did!
A 2012 article examined onion juice for hair loss. In this study men and women applied onion juice twice a day and saw hair growth after just 2 weeks. By week six 71 percent of women and nearly 94 percent of men had hair re-growth compared to just 13 percent in the control group.
Onions are rich in the antioxidant quercetin. In this animal study, researchers injected mice with quercetin to effectively treat and prevent hair loss caused by inflammation and autoimmune disease.
8. Green Tea
While I don’t drink green tea all the time (here’s why), it’s rich in antioxidant phytosterols that have been shown to prevent and treat thinning hair. A 2007 article found it can help with hair growth. These phytosterols lower inflammation and help inhibit hormone activity that leads to hair loss.
Also known as vitamin B3 Niacin is essential for a healthy scalp and hair. A 2005 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology examined this vitamin. The study involved 60 women with genetic hair loss. Niacin supplementation greatly increased the women’s hair fullness over a 6 month period.
This vitamin (along with hair nourishing biotin) is rich in egg yolks. Grandma was onto something with her egg shampoo!
10. Essential Oils for Thinning Hair
Rosemary essential oil went head to head with a common hair loss drug and came out on top. Research from Skinmedyielded surprising results. In the study, rosemary essential oil increased scalp circulation and worked as well as the drug, but with less scalp irritation.
A 1998 study in JAMA Dermatology also looked at essential oils for hair loss. Study participants used a blend of cedarwood, lavender, and rosemary on their scalps. Compared to the control group, the essential oil group saw significant improvement in hair growth and thickness.
The Plant Therapy blog (one of my favorite brands) suggests the following essential oils for hair growth:
2 drops of Frankincense Carteri Essential Oil
2 drops of Geranium Essential Oil
1 tsp of Argan Carrier Oil
1 tsp of Evening Primrose Carrier Oil
11. Hair Shampoo & Products
Heavy hair care products weigh hair down and contribute to breakage. Conventional hair products are loaded with toxins that can contribute to hormone imbalances that make thinning hair worse.
Even many no-poo options aren’t pH balanced for the scalp and over time can cause hair loss. Here are some scalp healthy, natural options for those with thinning hair: