As men age, there is a progressive thinning of the hair on their head. This is known as androgenetic alopecia or more commonly, male pattern baldness. Genetics, long term illness, chemotherapy, and psychological stress are some of the many causes of hair loss.
I’ve recently had a few male patients taking Finasteride. It is a medication used mainly to treat an enlarged prostate or in the cases I’m talking about, male pattern baldness.
What has surprised me, was that the desire for hair on the head, was more important than the loss of desire in the bed… In some cases, Finasteride causes short-term sexual dysfunction, with some men experiencing erectile dysfunction or loss of libido that persists long after discontinuation of the drug.
What I love about Chinese Medicine and its holistic approach to health is the side effects. They include: increased energy, improved sleep and mental clarity. To me, that sounds better than the “down” time some patients are facing.
Now it’s time for the tale of “Mr. He’s Black Hair/ He Shou Wu (which is a literal translation in Chinese). He Shou Wu (polygala vine/polygonum multiflorum) happens to be one of my favourite herbs. The short version (click here for a longer version) of this well known story is about Mr. He, who was a weak, grey haired 60-year-old man with no children. He found this root, drank the tea and became strong, his hair turned black, he fathered several children and lived to over 100 years old.
He Shou Wu is known as the “elixir of life” and for a long time it has been famous for its immortality. The Chinese have known the effects and the goodness of this herb. It is said to slow the signs of aging especially premature greying of the hair and hair loss. It is confirmed to stimulate hair growth as well as restore the colour and lustre of the hair. He Shou Wu is known to promote the growth of terminal hair rather than the baby-like vellus hair growth stimulated by drugs such as Minoxidil.
In Chinese Medicine, hair is closely related to the health of the blood, it is said to be an extension of the blood. There needs to be sufficient supply of nutrient rich blood and healthy, flowing circulation. Herbal medicine and acupuncture can be effective when treating hair loss as it will explore the underlying condition(s) which could be causing the hair loss. It would examine the supply of blood and if there is any obstruction (by cold, damp, phlegm or is there too much heat which could be “burning” the hair roots). As He Shou Wu is quite warning in nature for most Westerners, the herbal formula would be balanced with other herbs. The herbal formula would be focused on creating balance in the body by regulating hormones, strengthening the blood, improving circulation and directing qi and blood to the scalp. Patients would also be advised to avoid stress and a poor diet which takes its toll on the scalp, hair follicles and overall hair growth.