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Does the herb Nettles have any clinical data backing it as a hair loss treatment?
Nettles is the common name for the herbal plant, Urtica dioica, also commonly
called Stinging Nettle. Just knowing the name alone tells me that it could be
a topical irritant and probably better used for treating alopecia areata. There
are a lot of topical irritant type products/medicinal agents used to treat alopecia
areata, and they are all very limited in effectiveness, but worthwhile trying.
If you have alopecia areata, you know what I’m talking about.
The medicinal parts of Nettles are the fresh and dried flowering plant and roots.
Nettle plants grow about 2-3 feet tall and have dark green leaves, where the flowers
are covered with tiny stinging hairs. These stinging hairs contain an irritant
that when in contact with human skin can cause irritation and possible allergic
Uses of Nettles:
Nettles has been used for years as a diuretic for those with enlarged prostates,
benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). It’s also been used for asthma, arthritis,
as an expectorant, astringent, and antispasmodic agent. Nettles has been used
to treat kidney and urinary tract infections. Because of the topical irritant
effect, applying extracts of Nettles to the scalp was “thought” to
stimulate hair growth.
I have not seen any clinical study reports of the effectiveness
for hair growth, whether it be in androgenetic alopecia (male pattern hair loss)
or for alopecia areata.
Components of Nettles:
The stinging reaction caused by the plant hairs is said to contain many active
ingredients, such as formic acid, like what ant’s inject when they bite
your skin and make you sting and burn, not to mention, itch. Other ingredients
include: histamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, hydroxytryptamine and other irritants.
So, many of these ingredients are neurotransmitters and affect nerve cells, so
this is probably why it gives such an irritant effect, and why it may be better
used for alopecia areata.
Other vitamin ingredients are Vitamins C and E, along with minerals, and rich
in chlorophyll when eating the cooked nettle shoots.
Proposed mechanism for Scalp Hair Growth:
Researchers, such as R. Hartmann, et al (1) demonstrated that extracts of nettle
root and another herbal agent, pygeum (in the next article), partially block 2
enzymes, 5a-reductase, which makes dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and aromatase enzyme,
which makes estrogens. Their studies showed that both root extracts were more
effective in inhibiting these 2 enzymes, than either one alone. The nettles root
extract was reported as effective only at high concentrations, while the pygeum
was better at lower doses. The combination product, Prostatonin, has been used
to treat BPH. It is hard to interpret “effectiveness” and how the
studies were conducted.
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