Loss or absence of hair, usually at the top and front of head.
What is Alopecia?
From Modern Western Medicine
There are different types of baldness, the most common of which is hereditary alopecia. Hair falls out at the temples and crown, usually in stages, the initial phase being the loss of normal hair that is replaced by tufts of finer, downy hair. This hair is also lost and not replaced, leaving a bald area. The bald area gradually becomes wider. Such male-pattern baldness is most common among men but, in fewer instances, also affects some women, especially those who have already passed through menopause.
A second type of baldness, which is very rare, is called generalized alopecia, and is characterized by loss of hair in large amounts, leaving short, fine hairs covering the entire scalp. Generalized baldness is usually caused by stress, illness, or chemotherapy.
Localized alopecia, in which hair loss is confined to one area of the head, is caused by damage to the skin from burns, radiation, or other forms of trauma. Fungal infections and some skin diseases can cause localized hair loss.
From Traditional Medicine
Americans have the greatest percentage of men with baldness of any country in the world. In Oriental medicine, the condition of the hair is a direct reflection of the blood (especially the amount of protein, acid, and fat in the bloodstream); the blood-cleansing organs (especially the kidneys); the sex organs; and the adrenal glands. The more toxicity in the blood, the poorer the condition of the hair follicles, which nourish the hair and support its growth. Prolonged or chronic stress can tax the adrenal glands significantly and cause hair loss. A traditional form of Oriental diagnosis suggests that hair that is frizzy and has spilt ends reflects poor condition of sex organs, as well.
The first step in hair loss is to improve the quality of the blood by taking the burden off the kidneys. The kidneys are most affected by excessive amounts of protein, which can damage them and weaken their ability to cleanse the blood. According to the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, excessive amounts of sweet foods make the hair at the top of the head fall out. The reason is that sweets, acidic blood, and oils all cause excessive rising energy (sometimes referred to as excessive fire), which escapes the body through the top of the head. This rising expansive energy causes the hair follicles to expand, thus forcing them to lose their grip on the hair and allowing it to fall out. Treatment includes drawing energy back into the body, especially the body’s vital center, known throughout the Orient as hara. This restores vitality to the hair follicles and allows them to regain their ability to contract tightly around the roots of the hair.
Many foods and certain physiotherapies cause the energy within the body to move downward and become housed within the vital center, or hara. Among the most effective foods are whole grains, root vegetables, and sea vegetables.
Foods to Eat
Foods to build spleen/pancreas qi:
- Brown rice
- Sweet rice and mochi (pounded sweet rice)
- Root vegetable, such as carrots, rutabagas, parsnips, ginger, turnips, and onions
- Winter squash
- Black beans
- Black pepper
- Brown rice syrup
To build or strengthen the blood:
- Seaweed (wakame, arame, hiziki), when consumed daily, can prevent hair loss for many
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Leafy, green vegetables
Foods to Avoid
- Cold foods and drinks
- Sugary foods and drinks
- Fatty food
- Animal protein
- Excessive raw foods
- Fruits, especially citrus
- Dairy products
Herbs to Treat Hair Loss
- Mulberries: In the West, they are viewed as a general tonic for the whole system. The Chinese view them as having tonic action on the kidneys, liver, and blood.
- Parsley: infuse as a tea to strengthen the kidneys
- Raspberry and blackberry leaves make a tea that is good for kidney qi
- Dermal hammer (also called seven star needle and plum-blossom needle) is an acupuncture tool with a long handle and a head that contains small individual acupuncture needles. The needles are dull. By lightly tapping the scalp, especially in the areas of baldness, the needles can stimulate the qi in the scalp and follicles, either by gently massaging them or by creating small punctures in the scalp and thus infusing the dermal layer of the scalp with life energy. The dermal hammer is not painful; instead, it provides a gentle massage that can be quite pleasurable (unless one strikes oneself too hard, of course). Dermal hammers can be purchased at an acupuncture supply store or by mail order from East West Herb Course, Box 712, Santa Cruz, CA 95061; or Oriental Medical Supplies, 1950 Washington Street, Braintree, MA 02184
- Harimake: a kind of cummerbund or wide cotton or wool band worn around the waist to protect the vital center, or hara, along with the kidneys, adrenals, bladder, and the root energies deep within the body. You can make your own harimake by wrapping cotton (for summer) or wool (for winter) tightly around the skin of your waist and kidney area. The harimake must cover the navel and much of the waist and kidney areas. Sew the ends together. A harimake draws the body’s vital energy, or qi, into the center of being (see kidney yin in the section on Chinese medicine) and can help many people slow or prevent hair loss.
- Psoralea seeds: eat 3 to 9 grams of the seeds daily. A study examining the effects of psoralea extracts and exposure to ultraviolet light in 45 bald men found that, within six months, hair was completely restored in 36% of the cases and there was a significant restoration in 30%.
- Oyster and clam shell, crushed or whole, can be purchased at Chinese herb stores. Crush and decoct onto a tea to increase kidney qi.