Saturday, May 29, 2010

Baldness (Alopecia) and Alopacia Areata and its Ayurvedic Management

Hair loss or baldness is usually caused because of genetics (inherited tendency), disease, medications, stress, injury or damage to the hair. Generalized hair loss is termed Alopecia whereas small, circular bald patches are termed as Alopecia Areata. The two conditions have been clubbed here together because of similarity of symptoms, and the Ayurvedic principles of treatment for both are described here. It is noteworthy to mention here that treatment is usually effective for premature hair loss, and where the cause is amenable to treatment.

In Ayurveda, baldness is termed as "Khalitya" in Ayurveda. Alopecia areata is termed as "Indralupta". Ayurvedic herbal treatment is aimed at treating known causes, immuno-restoration, treating the local scalp condition and reducing stress.
Ayurveda Treatment:

1. Local Treatment
Medicated oils are used for local application. Some of the commonly used oils are: Vranashodhan oil, Bhrungraj (Eclipta alba) oil, Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) oil, Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) oil, Jaswand (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) oil, Vatajatadi oil and Bhallatak (Semicarpus anacardium) oil. Some Ayurvedic physicians use leech therapy at the bald spots before using the above mentioned local medications. Some advise a course of enemas of medicated milk (called as "Tikta-Ksheer Basti") in conditions of extensive hair loss.

2. Immunomodulators

Some medicines which are used orally are: Arogya Vardhini, Gandhak Rasayan, Laxadi Guggulu, Rasayan [ a combination of Gokshur(Tribulus terrestris), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) and Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia)].

Ayurveda believes hair to originate from the "Asthi" or bone tissue, and therefore, to treat hair loss, medicines to strengthen bone are given orally on a long-term basis. Some medicines used for this purpose are: Pancha Tikta Ghruta, Mahatikta Ghruta, Praval Panchamruta, Laxa and Asthishrunkhla (Cissus quadrangularis). Milk and black gram are advised for consumption in large quantities.

Medicines like Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi), Shankhapushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis) and Vacha(Acorus calamus) are given orally to reduce stress.

3. Detoxification (Panchakarma) Treatment

It is believed that regular application of medicated oils in the nose (a procedure called "Pratimarsha Nasya") has an important role to play in preventing premature baldness and graying of hair. Anu oil and Panchendriya Vardhan oil are usually used for this procedure.

Indian Board of Alternative Medicine
80, Chowringhee Road
Calcutta - 700002

Anti-Cancer Herbs

Triphala :

How It Works

Bottom Line: The anticancer effect of Triphala has not been confirmed in humans.

Triphala is an herbal formulation used in the Indian medicinal system of Ayurveda for the treatment of various ailments. It consists of three medicinal plants: Emblica officinalis, Terminalia chebula, and Terminalia belerica. It is used for anemia, jaundice, constipation, asthma, fever, chronic ulcers, inflammation, obesity and to strengthen the immune system against infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and AIDS. Triphala was shown to have beneficial effects in studies done in laboratory and in animals. However human data are lacking.

Purported Uses

• To treat Infections. Studies done in mice showed that Triphala can reduce infections. No studies have been done in humans.
• To decrease high levels of cholesterol. Triphala was shown to reduce cholesterol levels in rats with high cholesterol. However, this has not been studied in humans.
• To strengthen the immune system. Studies in rats have shown that Triphala can improve immune function but human data are lacking.
Research Evidence

Several laboratory studies have shown that Triphala has beneficial effects. However, it has not been studied in humans.

Side Effects

Intestinal gas Stomach upset Diarrhea.


Amla (Emblica officinalis) Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) Belleric Myrobalan (Terminalia belerica).

Mechanism of Action

The exact mechanism of action is not known although the polyphenols and flavonoids are thought to be responsible for many of Triphala's effects. Gallic acid, a major polyphenol in Triphala, has antioxidant property. Triphala also increased the reactive oxygen species (ROS) in breast cancer cells (MCF-7 and T-47D), resulting in apoptosis. Terminalia chebula, one of the components of Triphala, was shown to be a potent hyaluronidase and collagenase inhibitor that prevented degradation of cartilage. Triphala also protected mice from radiation-induced mortality. Oral administration of Triphala enhanced the immune functions in rats.

Adverse Reactions
Intestinal gas, stomach upset, diarrhea.

Ashwagandha : How It Works

Bottom Line: While ashwagandha has shown an ability to hinder the growth of cancer cells in laboratory tests and enhance radiation therapy in animals, it is unknown if these effects can be replicated in humans.

A popular Ayurvedic medicinal substance derived from the root and berry of the plant. Ashwagandha contains numerous biologically active components. It is thought that some of these components can influence potent hormone-like substances that cause arthritis inflammation. Extracts of the root also increase the number of red and white blood cells and platelets in the blood. Ashwagandha has been shown to relax the central nervous system in animals. Studies in laboratories have shown that extracts of ashwagandha kill some cancer cells and enhance some immune cells. It is thought that the structure of ashwagandha extracts may damage the cancer cells ability to generate the energy it needs to reproduce. Ashwagandha also reduces the level of glutathione, an antioxidant, in tumor cells which may enhance the effects of radiation therapy against those cells. Studies in animals have demonstrated possible toxicity, however comparable effects have not been observed in humans.

Purported Uses

To treat cancer

While ashwagandha has shown promise in animal and laboratory studies, few trials have demonstrated an effect in humans.

To treat diabetes
No scientific evidence supports this use.

To treat epilepsy
No scientific evidence supports this use.

To reduce fatigue
Ashwagandha has been shown to increase blood cell counts in the lab, however it is unclear if this will reduce fatigue in humans.

To treat digestive disorders
No scientific evidence supports this use.

To maintain health
Ashwagandha has antioxidant properties in lab tests, however it is unclear if it will have any effect on humans.

To reduce pain
Ashwagandha has been shown to have a tranquilizing effect in animals. It is unclear if this will reduce pain in humans.

To treat rheumatoid arthritis
A clinical trial showed effectiveness of a herbomineral formula containing ashwagandha. To what extent ashwagandha played a role in the reduction in pain severity and disability is unclear.

As a sedative
Ashwagandha has been shown to have a tranquilizing effect in animals. It is unclear if it has a similar effect in humans.

To treat skin infections
No scientific evidence supports this use.

To relieve stress
Ashwagandha has been shown to have a tranquilizing effect in animals. It is unclear if it has a similar effect in humans.

Research Evidence

Arthritis Pain:

Forty-two volunteers with osteoarthritis participated in a trial of a herbomineral formula containing ashwagandha. Volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either a combination of herbs and minerals or placebo for three months. After a fifteen-day washout period, treatments were reversed. Volunteers in the treatment group reported significant drops in pain severity and disability score with few side effects. Because a combination of herbs was used, it is unclear if ashwagandha played an important role in the results.

Warnings: Do Not Take If

You are pregnant.
(Ashwagandha may induce abortion.)

You are You are taking sedatives.
(Ashwagandha may increase sedative effects.)

Scientific Name : Withania somnifera.

Family: Solanaceae


Alkanoids: isopelletierine, anaferine
Steroidal lactones: withanolides, withaferins
Saponins: sitoindoside VII and VIII Iron

Mechanism of Action

Alkaloids, steroidal lactones, saponins and withanolides are thought to be the biologically active components. Studies have pointed to cyclooxygenase inhibition as the cause of the herb's anti-arthritis properties. Ashwagandha's anti-inflammatory effects were comparable to hydrocortisone sodium succinate in rats. The root extract of the herb produced significant increases in hemoglobin concentration, red blood cell count, white blood cell count and platelet count. Ashwagandha has been shown to exhibit antioxidant effects in the brain and to have a tranquilizing effect on the central nervous system in animals. In vitro, isolates from the root of the plant have cytotoxic properties against H-460, HCT-116, SF-268 and MCF-7 cell lines. Ashwagandha increase cytotoxic T lymphocyte production. Other studies show ashwagandha's cytotoxicity is related to its structure and that it enhances ATPase and inhibits succinate dehydrogenase activity, impairing oxidative phosphorylation. In animal studies, ashwagandha can increase the effects of radiation therapy and inhibits tumor growth. The herb also reduces tumor GSH levels which may contribute to the enhancement of radiation response. Ashwagandha can reverse paclitaxel induced neutropenia in mice. Significant toxicity was observed at high doses in animal studies, however, toxicity studies in humans are limited.

Indian Board of Alternative Medicine
80, Chowringhee Road
Calcutta - 700002