Caffeine Shampoo and Rosemary Oil for Hair Growth

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I cover natural topical treatments for hair growth, including pumpkin seed oil, caffeine, green tea, pyrithione zinc, ginger, Chinese knotweed, and rosemary.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

I’ve done videos on drugs for hair growth, supplements for hair growth, and foods for hair growth. What about natural options that you can apply topically? I ended my food video on this study, suggesting consuming pumpkin seed oil could increase hair growth. What about just rubbing it on your scalp? It works in mice, but what about men? Or in this case, women: pumpkin seed oil (about a quarter teaspoon rubbed onto the scalp once a day) was tested head-to-head against minoxidil foam (5 percent once a day) for three months in women with age-related pattern hair loss. Both treatments worked, but the drug worked better––though at about five times the cost.

A similar experiment, comparing a topical 0.2 percent caffeine solution, which is about five times stronger than coffee, with 5 percent minoxidil, found they worked similarly well for balding men––though like in the pumpkin seed oil trial, there was no third placebo group to ensure they all weren’t just somehow getting better on their own (for example, due to seasonal influence, with typically greater hair shedding in the fall than the spring).

Dripping caffeine on human hair follicles growing in a petri dish enhances hair growth, and indeed, when finally put to the test against placebo, won out for both female and male pattern baldness, with 85 percent satisfied after unknowingly using the caffeine-containing shampoo for six months––compared to only 36 percent in the placebo shampoo group.

EGCG, one of the major constituents of green tea, also can promote human hair growth in vitro, and may help balding mice, but I failed to find any green tea clinical trials.

Pyrithione zinc shampoo, typically used for dandruff, beat out placebo for increasing hair density in balding men after 26 weeks––but not enough for the study subjects to notice any difference, working less than half as well as 5 percent minoxidil.

What about topical herbal treatments used since time immemorial? Ginger offers a good cautionary tale. Ginger has a long history of traditional use in Asia to halt hair loss and heighten hair growth. Do a quick search for “ginger shampoo,” and turn up more than a thousand entries. But when the Natural Science Foundation of China finally put it to the test, researchers were surprised it actually suppressed human hair growth. Given their results, they suggested ginger could instead be used for the removal of unwanted body hair.

Chinese knotweed, known in traditional Chinese medicine circles as He Shou Wu, is a flowering plant in the buckwheat family popularized as a hair tonic. Like green tea, there are promising in vitro and rodent studies, but no human clinical trials.

Rosemary, however, has been put to the test. One hundred balding men were randomized to twice a day minoxidil versus a rosemary lotion. It took six months, but eventually there were significant comparable improvements in hair counts in both groups. The rosemary lotion appeared to work as well as the drug. You can make it at home by mixing 10 drops of rosemary essential oil per fluid ounce to your favorite lotion and then rubbing a quarter teaspoon onto your scalp twice a day. That much rosemary oil would cost about a penny a week.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

I’ve done videos on drugs for hair growth, supplements for hair growth, and foods for hair growth. What about natural options that you can apply topically? I ended my food video on this study, suggesting consuming pumpkin seed oil could increase hair growth. What about just rubbing it on your scalp? It works in mice, but what about men? Or in this case, women: pumpkin seed oil (about a quarter teaspoon rubbed onto the scalp once a day) was tested head-to-head against minoxidil foam (5 percent once a day) for three months in women with age-related pattern hair loss. Both treatments worked, but the drug worked better––though at about five times the cost.

A similar experiment, comparing a topical 0.2 percent caffeine solution, which is about five times stronger than coffee, with 5 percent minoxidil, found they worked similarly well for balding men––though like in the pumpkin seed oil trial, there was no third placebo group to ensure they all weren’t just somehow getting better on their own (for example, due to seasonal influence, with typically greater hair shedding in the fall than the spring).

Dripping caffeine on human hair follicles growing in a petri dish enhances hair growth, and indeed, when finally put to the test against placebo, won out for both female and male pattern baldness, with 85 percent satisfied after unknowingly using the caffeine-containing shampoo for six months––compared to only 36 percent in the placebo shampoo group.

EGCG, one of the major constituents of green tea, also can promote human hair growth in vitro, and may help balding mice, but I failed to find any green tea clinical trials.

Pyrithione zinc shampoo, typically used for dandruff, beat out placebo for increasing hair density in balding men after 26 weeks––but not enough for the study subjects to notice any difference, working less than half as well as 5 percent minoxidil.

What about topical herbal treatments used since time immemorial? Ginger offers a good cautionary tale. Ginger has a long history of traditional use in Asia to halt hair loss and heighten hair growth. Do a quick search for “ginger shampoo,” and turn up more than a thousand entries. But when the Natural Science Foundation of China finally put it to the test, researchers were surprised it actually suppressed human hair growth. Given their results, they suggested ginger could instead be used for the removal of unwanted body hair.

Chinese knotweed, known in traditional Chinese medicine circles as He Shou Wu, is a flowering plant in the buckwheat family popularized as a hair tonic. Like green tea, there are promising in vitro and rodent studies, but no human clinical trials.

Rosemary, however, has been put to the test. One hundred balding men were randomized to twice a day minoxidil versus a rosemary lotion. It took six months, but eventually there were significant comparable improvements in hair counts in both groups. The rosemary lotion appeared to work as well as the drug. You can make it at home by mixing 10 drops of rosemary essential oil per fluid ounce to your favorite lotion and then rubbing a quarter teaspoon onto your scalp twice a day. That much rosemary oil would cost about a penny a week.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Doctor's Note

Here are the videos I’ve previously done on supplements, pills, and food for hair growth.

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