Between heat styling, bleach, dye, and the wide range of styling products we use on our hair, we sometimes treat our hair like the body’s punching bag, But the truth is, our hair is highly responsive to the health of our bodies.That’s why it’s so important to treat it with love, care, and respect just as we would any other body part. To do that, we recommend looking for products with the best combination of clinically-proven and natural ingredients, ideally with anti-inflammatory properties.
That’s where ashwagandha comes in.
You may have heard of ashwagandha in the context of energy, sex drive, and stress, but did you know that ashwagandha can help support healthy hair and scalp (particularly through a supplement)?
In this post, we’ll outline the benefits of ashwagandha, plus some tips for how you can integrate it into your hair care routine with ease.
If you’ve never heard of ashwagandha before, here are its roots (get it?) and origins.
Ashwagandha is a small evergreen shrub native to India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. Also known as Indian ginseng, winter cherry, or Withania somnifera, people have been using the root of the ashwagandha herb for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
The name itself is based on the Indian word for equine, meaning horse, because of the smell and the supposed strength of the powder-based supplement. It’s particularly favored by advocates of the Ayurvedic practice of diet and healthcare.
As ashwagandha’s popularity in the West has grown, we’re starting to see some more studies on the efficacy and benefits of the root, but it’s important to note that the science is still evolving.
Currently, we have a limited understanding of what ashwagandha does for the body and how our cells and internal systems react to it. Still, the initial evidence is incredibly promising.
Now, let’s get into some of the ways ashwagandha can help support a healthy scalp and healthy looking hair.
First up, and perhaps most importantly, is how ashwagandha interacts with redness and swelling.
Swollen areas of the scalp are frequently a reaction associated with various skin conditions. Sometimes, it’s a reaction to synthetic ingredients found in products, and other times, we’re simply left without much insight. Time and time again, we’ve seen that natural ingredients help relieve discomfort on the scalp and soothe irritation. Some studies suggest that ashwagandha has natural anti-inflammatory properties, indicating that the supplement could help reduce redness and swelling on the scalp.
Stress on the body is difficult to manage. When we’re stressed out, our bodies produce cortisol to trigger our ‘fight or flight’ hormones. These make us more on guard and alert and provide us with more energy if we need to run long distances or lift something heavy.
It’s an old evolutionary trait that acts as the body’s alert and survival system if a predator or danger is present. In these scenarios, cortisol is essential and helpful.
The issue is that we still experience stress in non-life-threatening situations. Difficulty in work, excessive or obsessive exercise, uncomfortable social situations, and trauma can all lead to chronic stress, which can take a toll on the body, including the scalp and hair.
Outside of medical treatments, stress is one of the most significant contributors to hair loss. Unexpected trauma, medical conditions (including COVID), and chronic work-related stress are proven to stifle hair growth and increase hair loss.
The best thing you can do to support your hair is reduce your stress levels, which brings us back to ashwagandha. One study found that people who took a daily ashwagandha supplement of 250mg experienced reduced perceived stress and tension levels and enjoyed a more restful sleep. Another study found decreased levels of cortisol associated with daily ashwagandha intake.
We love when supplements work double duty, treating both our bodies and minds, and ashwagandha is proven to help do just that. By taking care of your hair, you’ll also be taking care of your anxiety levels and sleep issues.
...ashwagandha has also been linked with helping to fortify and strengthen hair due to its natural antioxidant properties.
In addition to helping curb hair loss, ashwagandha has also been linked with helping to fortify and strengthen hair due to its natural antioxidant properties.
‘Antioxidant’ is one of those terms we hear all the time, but you may not be clear on what it means. We’ll break it down for you.
Every day, our bodies create and are exposed to compounds known as ‘free radicals.’
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, free radicals are essential for helping your immune system fight infections. Like all things in the body, it comes down to a balance. The right balance of free radicals and antioxidants will help your body self-manage and stay well.
Too many free radicals lead to oxidative stress. Prolonged oxidative stress can lead to cell death, which increases your risk of cancer and is thought to speed up the process of aging.
This is especially important when it comes to hair and skin health. Free radicals can indeed speed up the aging process of hair, leading to thinner, weaker, and more coarse hair strands.
As we mentioned, free radicals are naturally produced in the body (especially after eating), but there are ways your body can get more exposure to them, leading to an imbalance.
These are typically lifestyle-related. Smoke inhalation, air pollution, excessive alcohol intake, high ingestion of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and radiation (excessive sunbathing) can all lead to increased free radicals.
Many of these exposures are avoidable, but many are not, so it’s a good idea to integrate antioxidants both into your diet and the topical products you use. Ashwagandha is rich in antioxidants, helping to protect hair strands from cell damage and slow the process of aging.
If you’re interested in other supplements that can help support healthy hair growth, check out our list of recommended vitamins. In addition to ashwagandha, did you know that turmeric and a root called Gotu Kola can also aid in stress relief and hair rejuvenation?
Relatedly, ashwagandha can help supplement collagen production. Essentially, collagen is a protein that accounts for much of our tissues and cells' framework. It’s found in connective tissue, skin, tendons, bones, and cartilage and is responsible for tissue repair, cellular communication and migration, and immune responses.
Young people have collagen in spades, so their skin tends to be more elastic and resilient. As we age, we produce less collagen, and our skin is more prone to wrinkling and sagging. While perfectly normal, many people prefer to add to their collagen levels with pill supplements and powders in an attempt to slow the effects of aging. Ashwagandha helps stimulate DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) production, which boosts the production of collagen and sebum on your scalp. Sebum is your scalp’s natural oil, produced by hair follicles. When we’re experiencing a dry and itchy scalp, we’re typically also experiencing an imbalanced scalp suffering from not having enough sebum.
This could be due to the products we use or the natural effects of aging, but with supplements like ashwagandha, we can help bring back some vitality and strength to our hair strands.
By now, we’re sure you’re interested in trying out ashwagandha and seeing how it can help support healthy and happy hair and skin. Here’s how you can do it.
First and foremost, you must do some research and find the supplement that is best for you.
You may have an allergy that you’re unaware of, so monitor the effects as your use becomes more regular. If you’re using it topically, do a test strip before applying it to your whole scalp. This is particularly useful if you have sensitive skin.
In the same breath, we generally don’t recommend using/applying the product in its natural state; instead, look to products that have gone through stringent testing and/or professional formulation processes to avoid any negative effects.
One of the easiest ways to ensure compliance is by orally ingesting ashwagandha - either on its own or as part of a general scalp supplement that might contain other healthy and beneficial ingredients like biotin and turmeric.
Ashwagandha has a long legacy of helping our bodies fight redness, swelling, and premature signs of aging. Taken in the right form, and formulated by a reputable source, it can be remarkably effective in promoting scalp health. Just don’t forget to pair it with other scalp-healthy hair care products. We might have a recommendation or two. ;)
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