The hair on our head is like a vegetable garden. How well it flourishes depends on what is happening beneath the surface. Just as poor quality produce is a symptom of soil deficiency, hair loss is a symptom of an unbalanced human organism.
Homeopaths believe that symptoms are simply the body’s way of expressing an imbalance in mental, emotional and physical energies. Hair loss is no different. Hair loss is merely a sign that a deeper problem exists. As such, homeopathic treatment for hair loss includes careful examination of the entire person, including symptoms, general health, emotional state and life circumstances. The prescribed remedy positively affects the entire person and as a result can reverse hair loss.
In Western cultures, a healthy head of hair is seen as a sign of physical beauty and is closely tied to self-esteem. Typically considered the curse of middle-aged men, hair loss affects approximately two thirds of all women at some point in their lives to varying degrees. For women, hair loss can be devastating.
THE HAIR CYCLE
Hair grows in three different phases: anagen (active growth), catagen (transition or regression), and telogen (resting).
Anagen — At any given time, approximately 90 per cent of hair on the head is in the anagen phase, which lasts anywhere from two to eight years. During this phase, the growth cells in the papilla (a small projection of tissue at the base of the hair) rapidly divide, producing the hair shaft which becomes keratinized as it pushes up and out of the hair follicle into the pore. At the same time, the hair follicle grows down into the deeper levels of the dermis (skin) to get nourishment.
Catagen — After Anagen, the hair enters into the Catagen or transition phase, which lasts about two to four weeks. During this phase, the hair follicle shrinks to one sixth of its original length. The lower part breaks apart, the dermal papilla breaks away, the bulb detaches from the blood supply, and the hair shaft is pushed up as the hair follicle finally disintegrates. The hair stops growing but does not fall out. In a normal cycle, only one to three per cent of hair is in this phase at any given time.
Telogen — The third phase is the Telogen or resting phase. Most of the hairs we lose when combing or shampooing are in this phase. Shedding is a normal process of replacing old hair with new. At the end of the Telogen phase, the hair follicle re-enters the Anagen or growth phase. If the old hair has not been shed, the new hair pushes it out and the growth cycle starts anew.
Hair loss occurs when the growth cycle of the follicle is disrupted – triggered by genetic predisposition coupled with physical or emotional trauma. The follicle begins to shrink, producing thinner and thinner hair each time. Eventually, the hair falls out and does not grow back.
HAIR LOSS IN WOMEN
Women experience two types of hair loss: Telogen effluvium and Alopecia areata.
Telogen effluvium — Commonly known as diffuse hair loss, Telogen effluvium is the main type of hair loss affecting women, especially during hormonal fluctuations such as childbirth or menopause. It is characterized by general thinning and loss of hair anywhere on the scalp. Diffuse hair loss happens when some form of trauma adversely affects the organism, forcing hair into the Telogen stage. In this stage the hair starts to thin. However, there can be a few months’ delay before the shedding actually begins.
Causes of diffuse hair loss include the following:
• Serious illness
• Psychological stress
• Hormonal changes
• Medication side effects
• Poor diet
• Heavy metal toxicity
Alopecia Areata — Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease and a common cause of hair loss in women. It is caused by white blood cells attacking hair follicles, which drastically reduces hair growth. The hair loss appears in various degrees of severity, from small round patches to chronic extensive hair loss of the entire scalp or body. Alopecia areata can happen at any age, affecting both men and women equally.
TWO CASES OF TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM (DIFFUSE HAIR LOSS)
Case 1: Perimenopause and menopause cause many biochemical changes that often lead to Telogen Effluvium. Such was the case for Susan, a 47-year-old who tried supplements, herbs, drugs and ointments to combat her thinning hair, to no avail. Over time, her hair loss became more and more noticeable, so she decided to try homeopathy.
Susan had numerous health complaints which she managed and palliated with various products. She suffered from heartburn after meals, interrupted sleep and nightmares, skin eruptions, occasional migraines, restlessness and general anxiety. She had ongoing emotional dealings with her ex-husband and disliked her job and several co-workers. Her emotional stresses, specific physical symptoms, fears and reactions to her life situations pointed to the homeopathic remedy Argentum metallicum.
At first Susan reported feeling much calmer and less restless while taking the remedy. She was able to handle her ex-husband with more confidence and detachment. After six months on the remedy, the migraines disappeared, her skin cleared up and the quality of her sleep improved. Over the course of the treatment, Susan’s hair loss abated and new hair began to grow.
Case 2: Three months after the birth of her third child, Lillian noticed an increase in hair thinning and hair loss. The part in her hair had widened and she found more hairs on her brush, the floor and the shower drain. Her friends and family members reassured her that the problem was a temporary response to hormonal changes related to childbirth. Lillian’s hair loss persisted, however, and worsened over time.
While her body had been able to regain normal functioning after her first two childbirths, the third triggered much more than just hair loss. Lillian was unable to lose her ‘baby weight’; she developed varicose veins on her lower legs; and she felt mildly depressed.
Lillian was prescribed Carbo Vegetabilis for overall health. Immediately after taking the remedy, Lillian’s depression lifted. Within one month, she lost half of the extra weight and the varicose veins became less visible. After four months on the homeopathic remedy, Lillian reported a 75 per cent reduction in hair loss. After six months, Lillian was back to a pre-pregnancy state of health.
A CASE OF ALOPECIA AREATA
Erika’s friends referred to her as a “health nut.” The 38-year-old fitness instructor was in great physical shape, ate organic foods only, didn’t smoke or drink, and took various nutritional supplements on a regular basis. Her reading material consisted of self-help and health-related books and journals.
Six months before Erika sought homeopathic treatment, her hairdresser had discovered a small round bald patch on the back of her head. Shortly afterward, Erika found a second, smaller patch closer to the top of her head.
Distressed by these discoveries, Erika saw several doctors and specialists and endured numerous blood tests, all of which came back “normal” or “negative” for various conditions. Finally, Alopecia Areata was diagnosed and topical and oral steroids prescribed. The medications did nothing to help the hair growth. Instead, they made her feel tired and depressed.
Erika’s only other physical problems were interrupted sleep and, on occasion, difficulty falling asleep. When I asked what was going on in her life during the months leading up to the hair loss, Erika’s eyes watered. She had gone through an emotionally difficult year after learning of her husband’s infidelity.
Within six weeks on the prescribed homeopathic remedy, Mercurius solubilis, Erica noticed new hair growth on the two bald spots. She was also pleasantly surprised to have improved quality of sleep thanks to the same remedy.
HOMEOPATHY AND THE VITAL FORCE
You may have heard the expression, “homeopathy treats the person, not the disease.” This simply means that remedies are prescribed according to individual symptoms and circumstances, rather than the disease label. The remedy Mercurius solubilis, given to the abovementioned patient, will not work in all cases of Alopecia areata. In fact, ten cases of Alopecia areata are likely to require ten different homeopathic remedies. The same is true for all types of hair loss and all types of illnesses.
In homeopathy, the vital force, which is also known as the healing power of the body, is the force of energy responsible for the healthy functioning of the body, coordinating its defences against disease. Illness results when this force is disturbed by stress, poor diet, hormonal changes, illness, hereditary problems, or environmental toxins.
The symptoms of illness, including hair loss, are the outward manifestation of the vital force’s attempt to redress imbalances and restore order. It is the homeopath’s task to administer a remedy, a potent form of energy, to help restore the efficiency of the organism so that it may regain its health.