Hold on to Your Hair
Ask the Expert with Vaidya Manohar
Q: What causes hair loss or balding?
Vaidya Manohar: One of the most worrying problems for any adult is hair loss. Because rich, lustrous hair boosts self esteem and confidence, contributing to a younger, more beautiful look, it is an important part of our self-image. Losing it can create fear and distress.
Unfortunately, hair loss has become more common in modern times. The stressful modern lifestyle, increasing environmental pollution, and unhealthy food habits are all factors that cause damage to your health and are reflected in the quality of your hair.
According to Maharishi Ayurveda, there are three main reasons for hair loss. First of all, anyone with an imbalance in Vata dosha, or a Vata body type, is more prone to hair loss. Vata dosha is responsible for movement and transportation of food nutrients through the empty channels and spaces of the body. Excessive or imbalanced Vata dosha can result in an obstruction in the flow of the food nutrients that supply nourishment to the hair cells, leading to dry scalp, dry hair, split ends, and finally, thin hair or hair loss.
Second, healthy hair also depends on healthy bones. This is because hair and nails are by-products of the process of transformation from food to bones.
The third reason for hair loss is old age, from 60 years on. According to ayurveda, the later time of life is governed by Vata dosha, which results in increased hair loss.
Other factors, also associated with Vata dosha, include: genetics/Vata body type; severe illness; post-pregnancy; rapid weight loss (which can result in slow but significant hair loss); worry, anxiety and stress; dry scalp, severe and uncontrollable dandruff; irregular routine, excess traveling, and irregular eating habits and lack of sleep; eating cold foods, deep-fried foods, or packaged, processed, canned or frozen foods; and eating too many sugary foods or foods with chemical additives. All of these disturb the digestion and can create digestive toxins and an increase in Vata dosha.
Other causes include smoking cigarettes; consuming excess alcohol; consuming too much vinegar, pickles, carbonated drinks and spicy foods; pulling your hair back into tight hairstyles; using hair rollers and hot blow-drying on your hair; using too many harsh hair dyes, chemical shampoos, setting gels and hair sprays; and using polluted water for drinking and hair washing.
Q: What kinds of foods or changes in lifestyle are recommended for helping healthy hair growth?
Vaidya Manohar: The main thing to remember is that health comes from within. Balanced nutrition, digestion, assimilation and elimination are important to overall heath and healthy hair. Here are some guidelines:
- Include lots of green leafy vegetables and sweet juicy fruits. Dairy products such as milk, fresh cheese, and lassi (a light yogurt drink) will also help. Fresh coconut, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts are considered excellent "hair food." Grate them and add them to your veggies. Whole grains and leafy greens such as kale, chard, collard, mustard greens, and arugula are also excellent for hair growth.
- Flavor your food with spices to aid digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Good spices for hair growth include curry leaves, cilantro, parsley, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper.
- Plan and manage your time and tasks to increase ease and efficiency and to minimize multi-tasking, which is a major cause of stress. Learn the Transcendental Meditation® technique to prevent stress. Exercise daily, and practice yoga asanas and breathing exercises (pranayama) to relieve mental and physical stress. Enjoy leisure time in nature to help restore balance to your mind. Listening to soothing, calming, music can also be therapeutic and reduce stress.
- Practice the ayurvedic daily routine (dinacharya), which includes waking up before 6:00 a.m., eating your main meal at lunch, and going to bed before 10:00 p.m. This is very important for balancing the three fundamental mind-body principles of Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
- Get adequate, good-quality sleep to help the natural process of rejuvenation, prevention of stress, balancing of Vata dosha and increase in energy levels.
- Give your hair a warm-oil scalp massage using 1-2 teaspoons of organic coconut, almond or olive oil infused with a drop of rosemary, rose, jasmine, or lavender essential oil. Apply the mildly-warmed oil to your hair and gently massage it into your scalp evenly with your fingertips. Leave on overnight if you can; if not, leave on for at least an hour or two, then rinse it out with an herbal shampoo. Do this scalp massage 2-3 times a week to aid sound sleep, promote relaxation, stimulate circulation, and moisturize the scalp.
- Use gentle, natural shampoos and hair products that do not contain harmful chemicals. Wash your hair with chlorine-filtered water (use a shower filter that can remove the chlorine).
- Brush your hair each night to stimulate the scalp and for healthy, lustrous hair. Brush in each direction — left to right, right to left, front to back and back to front. Use smooth, long strokes from scalp to hair tips. Use a wooden comb so it won't generate static electricity. If you can, let your hair dry naturally, then brush it into place.
- For dandruff prevention, mix almond oil, olive oil, or sesame oil with a few drops of lemon juice or neem oil. Massage it into the scalp and let it soak in for half an hour. Aroma oils such as sage, rosemary, lavender, and jojoba oils are also beneficial to hair growth.
- Other external ointments for the scalp can help prevent hair loss and gray hair. These include curry leaves (Murraya Koenigii), henna, Eclipta Alba, Tinctoria Indica, Amla, Triphala, black tea, coconut milk, fenugreek paste, and lassi made with fresh yogurt.
- There are also several Maharishi Ayurveda Rejuvenation (Panchakarma) treatments that help restore hair growth. These include:
- Shiroabhyanga — warm oil scalp massage to prevent dry scalp and enhance the lustrous nature in hair
- Nasya — an oil nasal administration to promote circulation
- Shirodhara — to prevent stress and strengthen the nervous system
- Shirolep — an herbal paste application using Triphala, Amalaki, Neeli, Bringaraj, etc.
Q: What dietary supplements are recommended?
Vaidya Manohar: To address the underlying causes of Vata imbalance and irregular digestion and malnutrition, take Herbal Di-Gest, Liver Balance and Organic Digest Tone. These help regulate digestion, the screening of toxins by the liver, and the elimination of toxins through the bowel. For better sleep, take Deep Rest and use Vata or Pitta aroma oil to balance the doshas.
To nourish the hair and nails, take Healthy Hair & Nails, a powerful herbal blend of Eclipta, Basil, Indian Tinospora, Licorice, Phyllanthus, Ashwagandha, Heart-Leaf Sida, and Indian Barberry. This formula works from the inside out, strengthening the liver and helping to flush out toxins that are harmful to hair growth. It also boosts resistance to day-to-day stress that can harm your hair.
For overall nourishment and strength, take Vital Lady or Vital Man, and Rejuvenation for Men or Rejuvenation for Ladies. Take Calcium Support to nourish the bone, hair and nails with protein, calcium, and other essential minerals.
Please note: This ayurvedic information is education. It does not replace medical advice or treatments.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.