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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Lim Sock Ling and Dr Jessica Gunawan on October 17, 2022

Healthy Hair Tips To Help You Deal With Alopecia Areata

As an autoimmune condition, alopecia areata is not curable. However, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent hair loss from worsening.

Alopecia min scaled

Are you one of the 6.8 million people in the United States who suffer from alopecia areata? If you’ve ever seen Jada Pinkett Smith on the red carpet with a bald head, then you’ve seen the condition in action.

Do know that you can still look beautiful with no hair! Despite this, hair loss can be very difficult to accept. Understanding the causes can help you seek the best treatment options.

In this guide, we’ll discuss what alopecia areata is and how to use Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) remedies as well as Western medicine to put a stop to hair loss.

What Is Alopecia Areata?

Hair loss due to alopecia is not curable but can be managed using holistic remedies.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your hair follicles. This causes hair loss.

While the condition can occur in anyone, the risk is higher in a person with a family history of the condition. It’s also more common if you have asthma, hay fever or other allergic disorders, pernicious anemia, thyroid disease, vitiligo, Down syndrome, or are undergoing chemotherapy.

Many treatments are available; however, the condition is not curable and often recurs. 

What causes it?

TCM attributes hair loss to Blood Deficiency, Stagnation, and Heatiness. According to TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling, the TCM treatment principle emphasizes nourishing Blood, removing Wind and Stagnation, and clearing the mind. 

Alopecia Areata Treatment Options

Depending on the duration and severity of your condition, your doctor may advise you to wait and watch before starting treatment.

Western medicine’s treatment of alopecia areata includes taking steroids and other medications like minoxidil.

You may decide to go for natural therapies though, as they have fewer side effects when taken under the guidance of a registered practitioner.

TCM practitioners believe that a person’s hair (or lack thereof) reflects their overall health. An example of this notion is that a lack of Blood in the body is the primary cause of hair loss. Given that the Liver and Spleen govern blood, TCM states that hair loss is associated with problems in these organs.

Here are some treatment options that can help:

Adopt a healthy lifestyle

“A healthy lifestyle is a foundation for preventing hair loss,” advises Physician Lim.

“Maintain your work-life balance, manage stress, and have a physically active lifestyle. Focus on your emotional well-being as well. Avoid unnecessary negative emotions, such as frustration, unhappiness, and anger. Stress causes Liver Qi Stagnation, leading to Blood Stasis,” Physician Lim continued.” 

If you are experiencing hair loss after giving birth, take time from your busy schedule for some self-care, such as incorporating more warming herbs (like ginger and ginseng) in your diet. After giving birth, it is important to nourish Blood with a Blood Nourishing tea to compensate for the loss during childbirth. 

Eat a healthy diet

Eating a colorful diet from a wide variety of foods can help provide nutrients that enrich blood to promote hair growth.

As the saying goes, you are what you eat. “TCM advocates eating in balance and moderation. Try to eat from all food groups and all colors. In particular, eat a balanced diet from foods that contain the colors red, yellow, white, black, and green to nourish all the organs,” Physician Lim says. 

“Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables over frozen and processed ones to gain maximum benefit from your food. Adding red dates (Hong Zao), goji berries (Gou Qi), black sesame (Hei Zhi Ma), and black beans to dishes can help prevent alopecia or hair loss,” recommends Physician Lim.

You may opt for the easier and more convenient way of supplementing your diet with ready-prepared herbal hair tonics to prevent hair loss.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture under the guidance of a registered TCM practitioner could be the answer to quick hair loss reversal. The treatment helps stimulate hair follicles using needles inserted into the scalp.

Different acupoints are used depending on the type of deficiency or toxicity that is responsible for hair loss. Physician Lim generally uses the following acupoints based on her assessment of the pathology:

  • Acupoints Gan Shu (BL18), Shen Shu (BL23), and Zu San Li (ST36) help invigorate qi (vital energy), nourish Blood, and regulate hormonal levels when used together. This helps in patients with Blood Deficiency. 
  • Patients with Blood Stagnation benefit from stimulating the Tai Chong (LR3) acupoint, which helps regulate qi and promote blood flow. San Yin Jiao (SP6) is also used to control blood and promote women’s general health.  
  • Blood Heatiness can be resolved by activating the acupoint Feng Chi (GB20), which helps remove Wind, thus improving itching. Xue Hai (SP10) is another acupoint that helps remove Heat from the blood and regulate circulation.  

However, remember that individuals with blood disorders or on blood-thinning medication should be cautious of bleeding after acupuncture. You should inform your TCM practitioner of any underlying medical condition or treatment that you may be taking. 

Try a head massage

Head massages stimulate blood circulation to the scalp. The numerous acupoints on the scalp help with general wellness when massaged.

This includes improving active energy, concentration, and memory, enhancing sleep quality, aiding relaxation, and reducing stress.

Increasing blood flow to the hair follicles improves hair loss as well as the health of the scalp and hair. 

Consider moxibustion 

Moxibustion on patches of alopecia areata may help hair regrowth in those areas. 

Alopecia areata can be quite disheartening. But before you consider a short haircut, try these natural remedies to beat hair loss.

Remember that traditional remedies take time before any effects are seen. With time, patience and self-care, it won’t be long before you start seeing more of your hair and less of your scalp. 

References

  1. National Alopecia Areata Foundation. What you need to know about alopecia areata.
  2. NIH. Alopecia Areata 
  3. American Academy of Dermatology. Hair loss types: Alopecia areata causes  
  4. American Academy of Dermatology. Hair loss in new moms  

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