After going through this web site and reading your blog comments, I have come to believe that you are closed minded and inflexible when it comes to using homeopathic, natural herbs and other natural remidies for treating hair loss. Are you just unwilling to show flexibility and open mindedness?
Natural supplements and homeopathic medicine may be a great alternative means to treat a condition or an ailment. Unfortunately, these supplements are not well regulated by the FDA, so claims that are made can not be often substantiated, except by rumor mills and word of mouth communications that tend to praise the remedies more than criticize them. You can’t truly know what chemicals are included in the supplements that may have been used to process the product that you are buying. What the FDA calls Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) may not be adhered to with food, naturopathic herbs, or potions and lotions sold over the counter in natural food stores. Furthermore, these products may not be covered in the regulatory process that confirms the dosages and the purity of such product, including the safety and efficacy of them. The research and studies that show efficacy are often funded by the manufacturers of the supplements which may bias the reported results. Finally the proper dosage for such products seem arbitrary. Just because the friendly neighborhood natural food outlet, their sales rep, or a salesman in a white lab coat can attest to its efficacy, does not mean that these are safe and/or effective.
For example, Vitamin A is one of the few vitamins that when taken in high doses, can cause hair loss. I have read that this vitamin is recommended for hair loss, so many people think that if a little is good, more may be better. In the case of Vitamin A, excess doses (overdoses) can cause death, so who cares about hair loss when you overdosed on this vitamin? Vitamin C, when taken in low doses is an antioxidant that theoretically prevents heart disease, but when taken in high doses (according to a UCLA published study) it accelerates coronary atherosclerosis (heart disease). Saw Palmetto, which is believed to be a DHT blocker for the treatment of hair loss, may compete with Propecia for the enzyme block that stops DHT production, making it less effective. What is not commonly known, however, is that Saw Palmetto was used by the military in WWII as a sex drive reducer for our troops. It was added to our soldier’s food supply. In studies performed by an independent agency, the dose of Saw Palmetto varied widely by the manufacturers. As such, some people get poor response from the drug as a DHT blocker (it is a weak blocker) while others get sexual side effects, reducing a man’s sex drive as the dose is possibly too high.
Kava is a widely used herb root in Polynesia that can be used to treat anxiety. There are case reports that this herbal supplement has caused liver failure that eventually led to a liver transplant as a life saving procedure, when used on someone who could not tolerate it. Did she lose hair? Possibly so. As part of our medical education, doctors learn that fava beans are harmless, yet they can cause death in very small quantities in those people who carry a rare genetic defect . People who carry a defect in the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, can not process the fava bean toxin. This toxin then poisons the red blood cells of the body. This is a genetic defect passed from mother to child. In the Mediterranean, where fava beans long have been a dietary staple and where the genetic mutation is more common than in the U.S., physicians frequently test children for the enzyme deficiency. The fava bean’s effect on hair loss is not as well known but on a positive side, look at the statement made by Hannibal Lecter in the movie “Silence of the Lambs” who recommended it by saying: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” I guess that Hannibal Lecter did not have the enzyme defect I just discussed and it made his meal memorable.
The question I am posing here in answer to your somewhat caustic challenge to me, is that I tend to protect my patients from the unknown. When I do not know something as a fact, I might ask myself: “How many undocumented side effects or enzyme defects float around that are either caused by natural herbs that could threaten a person’s health or life that are not researched or understood?” Arsenic is a natural substance used historically to treat syphilis, but as I have said before, I would not recommend arsenic as an alternative to penicillin, which is safe and well tested (also FDA regulated through GMP standards) and accepted world-wide.
The answer to this blog entry was partly written by Jae Pak, M.D., an emergency room physician with great interests in hair loss and hair surgery. He has worked with me for almost 9 years.