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For over 8,000 years, Ayurvedic practitioners in India have harnessed the healing properties of one powerful root to soothe a wide variety of ailments. Discovered by the most ancient system of medical sciences, Ashwagandha, classified as an adaptogen, has been both ingested and used topically to treat many mental and physical health concerns.
Ashwagandha is commonly referred to as “Indian Winter cherry” or “Indian Ginseng.” The powder produced from the root of the Ashwagandha plant has been credited with boosting energy levels, reducing inflammation, easing anxiety, and improving the body’s defense against disease. It’s name is a nod to the equine smell of the root (“ashwa” meaning horse) and the horse-like strength that consuming it allegedly provides.
Stress can be a common cause of hair shedding and hair loss. By working to reduce stress in the body, adaptogens like ashwagandha can (in theory) prevent or stop hair loss. Ashwagandha can also fight inflammation, which can contribute to health issues from your skin to your joints. Despite the long history of its use, the connection between ashwagandha and hair loss is still being studied.
So to separate fact from fiction, we turned to certified trichologist and hair expert Shab Reslan, board-certified dermatologists Dr. Shari Sperling of Sperling Dermatology, and Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC for their takes on using ashwagandha to prevent hair loss.
Ashwagandha For Hair
Type of ingredient: Adaptogen (stress and inflammation reducer)
Main benefits: Reduces stress, eases anxiety, and can prevent hair loss
Who should use it: In general, anyone who is experiencing stress-related hair shedding or hair loss. It may interact with some medications, so a doctor should be consulted before use. Pregnant or nursing women, and those who are immunosuppressed, have diabetes, or have problems with their blood pressure or thyroid should not use ashwagandha.
How often can you use it: Ashwagandha can be taken daily as an oral capsule or sprinkled into water or coffee. You may also apply it directly to the scalp as a paste or mix it with your shampoo.
Works well with: A healthy diet and stress-reducing activities
Don’t use with: Certain medications—a doctor should always be consulted before beginning a new supplement.
Benefits of Ashwagandha for Hair
Ashwagandha can prevent hair loss by targeting one of its main sources: stress. By reducing inflammation, this root provides mood-boosting energy and alleviates anxiety. As Reslan explains, “Stress creates inflammation in the body and sends your body into repair mode, which causes the least important systems in the body (hair being one of them) to completely shut down until the more vital and essential systems are protected and regulated.”
However, the key phrasing here is that the ingredient can do these things. It is important to note that all three experts shared that the use of ashwagandha specifically for hair loss has not been substantiated.
Dr. Nazarian stresses that clinical data to support ashwagandha is solely for its ability to reduce stress. She counters that “The reality is that there is not sufficient evidence to support Ashwagandha for hair growth. It’s considered a supplement, which is not FDA-approved, and although many claims are made regarding its success with hair, they are all unsubstantiated and unregulated.”
- Stress-Reducer: Adaptogens, like ashwagandha, have long been used for their ability to reduce stress and cortisol levels in the body. Reslan notes that limiting stress helps to prevent inflammation in the body.
- Can Prevent Hair Loss: Stress is a common cause for hair shedding and hair loss. Dr. Nazarian explains that if stress is the source of a person’s thinning hair, taking ashwagandha could “potentially alleviate some of the symptoms associated with stress and anxiety, including minimizing hair loss.”
- Strengthens Hair: Ashwagandha can contribute to healthy hair as it contains antioxidants and amino acids that Dr. Sperling believes can help to strengthen the hair and minimize breakage.
- Alleviates Scalp Irritation: By reducing inflammation, ashwagandha can improve the overall appearance of your skin and “it can also help dandruff, psoriasis and scalp itch,” Dr. Sperling adds.
Hair Type Considerations
Our experts agree that ashwagandha would be appropriate for all hair types and textures, since every hair type is susceptible to stress shedding. Stress can contribute to hair shedding, hair loss, and a common type of hair loss called “telogen effluvium.” However, our experts all three agree that there are a number of medications and conditions that ashwagandha usage can interfere with. Before starting an ashwagandha supplement, you should absolutely consult a medical professional (especially if you take medications or have a medical condition).
How to Use Ashwagandha for Hair
Ashwagandha can be applied topically, however it is traditionally utilized as a capsule or powder for oral consumption. It is important to highlight that ashwagandha is a consistency product, meaning you will need to be fairly regular in your usage of it in order to notice results. “The important thing is the way you choose to incorporate it into your life and finding a realistic method that you’ll be able to continue everyday in order to calm your nerves,” Reslan suggests.
- Take it as an oral supplement: Reslan says that “Many hair supplements are now including ashwagandha in their formulation,” making it easier to incorporate an oral dosage of ashwagandha into your wellness regimen in the form of a capsule or gummy.
- Create a paste: Dr. Sperling recommends mixing powdered ashwagandha with water to create a paste that you can apply directly to your scalp in order to take advantage of the antioxidants that can improve scalp health.
- Stir it into your morning coffee: The ashwagandha powder can be mixed into your morning coffee or even a glass of water in order to attain the same benefits as taking an oral supplement. This method is less popular than oral supplements due to the distinct odor that ashwagandha has.
- Incorporate into shampoo: It can also be combined with your shampoo for topical application. Blend the powder with your normal shampoo and allow the mixture to sit on your scalp for a few minutes. However, Dr. Nazarian counters that there is “insufficient data to support the use topically for hair growth.”