Hair is the crown that is worn by every human being which enhances the physical features and personality. Having strong, lustrous hair is the desire of every individual. Disorders like hair fall, dandruff, premature greying are commonly seen in young adults. Such conditions have a more psychological impact on society as minor hair issues can affect the self-esteem and confidence of an individual.
Modern medicine and its approach to hair problems
The subcategory of medicine which deals with the science of hair, scalp and associated problems is known as Trichology. It encompasses the study of the diseases of the human hair and scalp, as well as the assessment of the causes and treatment of these disorders. A Trichologist is a healthcare professional that helps to resolve hair and scalp problems.
Hair is made of 95% of a protein known as Keratin which is fibrous in nature and insoluble in water. Along with Keratin, other amino acids such as Arginine, Leucine, Cysteine etc are present in the hair which gives it an appropriate structure and resistance.
Common Hair and Scalp Conditions
- Hair fall and easy breakage.
- Dry, frizzy hair, loss of lustre.
- Hair loss – Alopecia Areata (male and female pattern baldness)
- Dandruff – Clinically known as Seborrhea, which is a result of various health conditions.
- Folliculitis – itchy scalp with flaking.
- Head lice – external infestation causes itching,
- Seborrheic eczema- inflammation, redness and flaking of scalp, along with severe itching.
- Scalp psoriasis – chronic inflammatory skin infection causing scaly scalp, redness, and severe itching. Sometimes even thick, red patches develop on the scalp.
Common Causes of Hair and Scalp Conditions
- Genetic causes – Male pattern baldness is commonly seen due to hereditary issues. Also, texture and thickness of hair is also known to be genetic.
- Nutritional deficiencies – Deficiency of essential minerals and vitamins such as protein deficiency Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Iron deficiency anemia etc. is seen as a reason for hair and scalp conditions.
- Autoimmune disorders – Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder which causes patchy baldness. Other autoimmune disorders such as Celiac disease, Lupus etc also cause above conditions.
- Metabolic disorders – Obesity, Diabetes, Thyroid dysfunction leads to malabsorption of nutrients causing hair fall and other conditions like dry and frizzy hair, brittle hair etc.
- Hormonal changes – Menopause, PCOD and other hormonal imbalances in women are the leading cause of hair and skin disorders.
- Lifestyle – Poor dietary choices such as untimely meals, lack of sleep, eating calorie rich foods and stress are commonly seen in the urban population which lead to poor hair and skin.
- Medications – Long term use of certain medications such as blood thinners, birth control pills etc. also have side effects on hair texture and growth.
Ayurvedic approach to Hair and scalp conditions
Ayurveda believes that healthy hair is the sign of a healthy body, especially Asthi Dhatu (Skeletal structure). Conditions such as dandruff, hair fall, premature greying are common in a person of Pitta Prakriti. Hair problems are not considered as a disease by themselves but a symptom of an underlying disorder that is due to Tridosha imbalance. To effectively treat the hair conditions, the root cause is determined and accordingly line of treatment is decided.
Hair is known as Kesha in Sanskrit, and the herbs which promote healthy scalp and hair are known as Kesha which means ‘benefits the hair’. Ayurveda physicians have a unique and detailed way of examination of the patient. They assess the condition by physical examination of hair and scalp, visually observing the patient and understanding their Prakriti, and asking questions related to their lifestyle, diet, and sleep quality. Such in-depth assessment leads to finding the root cause of hair disorders and accurate treatment.
Treatment modalities in Ayurveda for hair and scalp
Ayurveda has a holistic approach to Kesha Vikara (diseases of the hair and scalp) which includes,
Ayurvedic herbal formulations are used internally as well as for external applications. Various herbs which are Keshya in nature are used for therapeutic measures, some of them are:
Most of these herbs are used externally in the form of hair oil with a base oil like coconut or sesame seeds oil. Internal medicines and herbal supplements are prescribed based on a person’s Prakriti, health condition and the root cause of the disorder. For example, Neem is used in external applications as ointment or oil, as well as Neem capsules, are prescribed for consumption as being anti-bacterial.
Ayurveda has a set of five unique therapeutic procedures which help in the complete detoxification of the body. Tridosha balancing therapies that are useful for treatment are:
- Basti – Medicated enema is useful to balance vitiated Vata and cleanses the colon, which helps in better nutrient absorption.
- Virechana – Therapeutically induced purgation is used to remove excess Pitta from the body. It is incredibly useful for Psoriatic conditions, dandruff, and inflammations.
- Shirodhara – This method is localized treatment which involves placement of medicated oil or medicated buttermilk on the scalp in pendulum motion. Herbs used in infusion of oils or buttermilk help to relieve itching, inflammation, and flaking.
- Shirolepa – Application of medicated herbal pastes or ointment on the scalp is called Shirolepa. This paste is usually made with fresh herbs with a soothing base of sandalwood, vetiver etc and is cleaned off after it dries completely. This procedure is easy to do and sometimes even advised to be done at home for the patients.
Diet and lifestyle changes:
Adequate nutrition and following Dinacharya which is Ayurveda-based daily routine is the key to have healthy hair. Intake of essential nutrients especially micronutrients is recommended as their deficiency is common in the urban population. Malnutrition, especially a low intake of protein is also one of the reasons for the poor quality of hair. Protein is responsible for boosting amino acid production that provides lustre and strength to the hair follicles.
Important food items to be included in the diet:
- Eggs and poultry
- Fish such as Salmon
- Flaxseeds, Nuts
- Coconut oil
Lifestyle plays an important role to maintain good hair. Avoiding the use of harsh chemicals, frequent washing (more than 3 times a week), using hot water for hair wash, and excessive styling using heated appliances should be minimal.