Male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss, collectively known as androgenetic alopecia, are the leading causes of hair loss among both women and men. Approximately 40% of women develop female pattern hair loss by the age of 50, and men over 50 have a 50% risk of developing male pattern hair loss.1 Androgenetic alopecia is not considered a life-threatening disease but losing your hair can have a debilitating impact on one’s mental health, self-esteem, self-image, and general quality of life.2
Our Lurv hair care serum is packed full of potent, organic extracts that help reduce hair loss and encourage new hair growth. In this article we have compiled current, scientific research on the serum’s eight active ingredients: Antrodia cinnamomea, Clitoria ternatea, Eclipta prostrata, Saw palmetto, Rhinacanthus nasutus, Indigo naturalis, Morus alba, and Acanthus ebracteatus. We will present a comprehensive summary of each ingredient’s background, medicinal properties, and effects on hair loss.
Antrodia cinnamomea, known as 牛樟芝 or “Niu-Chang-Chih” in Chinese, is a medicinal mushroom endemic to Taiwan.3 This edible, medicinal mushroom gained popularity in the West almost 30 year ago but has been widely used in Asian ethnomedicine for more than 2000 years.4 A. cinnamomea has yellowish orange to brownish orange fruiting bodies that grow on the tree trunks of only one species: Cinnamomum kanehirae, the small-flowered camphor tree.3,5
Since the early 1990s a large number of phytochemical studies have been carried out on Antrodia cinnamomea.5 These studies have identified 78 active compounds in A. cinnamomea, which have been tested both topically and internally, in vitro and in vivo.3,6 Extracts from the mushroom’s mycelium and fruiting body have been proven to prevent liver damage, fight cancer cells, improve insulin resistance, stimulate the immune system, and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in cells.5
Inflammation and oxidative stress have long been considered as contributing factors to both male and female pattern hair loss.1-2,7 Researchers have tested tissue samples from patients with androgenetic alopecia and discovered that hair loss can be caused by several types of moderate, severe, or chronic inflammation in the body.1 Targeting and treating inflammation with anti-inflammatory ingredients like Antrodia cinnamomea can slow down hair loss and further the efficacy of other active ingredients used in hair loss management.1
Oxidative stress is the imbalance between reactive oxygen species (free radicals) that damage proteins, lipids and DNA, and the body’s ability to detoxify these free radicals or repair the resulting damage.7 Oxidative stress can cause hair loss by damaging both the pre-emerging hair fibre in the scalp and the visible, post-emerging hair fibre. Antrodia cinnamomea is an effective antioxidant that can reduce oxidative stress,5 and research has shown that treating human hair topically with antioxidants can reduce breakage and lower degradation of colour and shine.8 Treating hair with A. cinnamomea can therefore reduce or prevent oxidative stress, which in turn reduces hair loss.
To learn even more about the potent ingredient Antrodia cinnamomea, read our article Antrodia cinnamomea and Its Effects on Hair Loss.
Clitoria ternatea extract
Clitoria ternatea, commonly known as butterfly pea, is a perennial climbing plant with distinct deep blue flowers with light yellow markings.9 C. ternatea grows in tropical and subtropical environments across Australia, southeast Asia, India, southern and eastern Africa, and the Americas.9 C. ternatea has been widely used in ethnomedicine as a supplement to enhance cognitive function and as a treatment for fever, inflammation, pain, and diabetes.9
Research on Clitoria ternatea began in the 1950s. In the numerous studies and clinical trials conducted since, researchers have reported that extracts of C. ternatea have nootropic, analgesic, antipyretic, antiasthmatic, antidiabetic, anti-arthritic, antilipidemic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.9 C. ternatea flowers get their blue colour from anthocyanins called ternatins.9 These ternatins are water-soluble substances that work as natural PH-indicators and have been proven to have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.10 These anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties could help reduce hair loss in a similar way to Antrodia cinnamomea.
Androgenetic alopecia is caused by excessive activity of the 5α-reductase enzyme in hair follicles.11 The 5α-reductase enzyme plays a major role in the reduction of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).11 High levels of DHT causes hair follicle miniaturization, which reduces the amount of hair on the scalp and leads to thinning hair and balding.2,11
A 2012 study showed that applying Clitoria ternatea extract on the scalp successfully inhibits the 5α-reductase activity, reduces hair loss, and promotes hair growth at a rate 35.6% higher than topically applied 2% Minoxidil (prescription medication for hair loss).11 Furthermore, the study concluded that Clitoria ternatea extract is safe to use on the scalp and has none of the side effects that are common in Minoxidil (redness, drying, scaling and erythema).11
Eclipta prostrata extract
Eclipta prostrata, also known as Eclipta alba, false daisy, bhringraj, and 旱蓮草 or ”Han Lian Cao” in Chinese, is an erect and perennial medicinal plant with small white or yellow flowers.12,13 E. prostrata belongs to the Asteraceae family of medicinal plants and has been widely used in Indian and Chinese ethnomedicine to treat gastrointestinal disorders, liver disorders, respiratory diseases (e.g. asthma), fever, hepatitis, snake venom poisoning, cuts and wounds, hair loss, and greying hair.12,13 In Asia E. prostrata has been called “Kesharaja”, a Sanskrit term meaning the “King of hair vitalizing herbs”.14
Various studies have been conducted on Eclipta prostrata and researchers have determined that E. prostrata extract has hepaprotective, antimicrobial, antivenom, antiviral, antitumor, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.13 Researchers have also isolated and identified several important phytochemicals, such as wedelolactone, β-sitosterol, α-amyrin, ursolic and oleanolic acid, luteolin, and apigenin.12
Studies have found that the phytosterol β-sitosterol inhibits the 5α-reductase activity that leads to androgenetic alopecia, and a 2008 study confirmed that applying Eclipta prostrata extract reduces hair loss and promotes new hair growth on par with a 2% Minoxidil control group.14 The study also concluded that E. prostrata extract is up to 14% better at retaining hair follicles in the anagenic (growth) phase compared to the 2% Minoxidil control group.14
Saw palmetto extract
Saw palmetto, also known as Serenoa repens or Sabal serrulata, is a small and slow-growing shrublike palm native to the southeastern part of the United States. Saw palmetto has been used in several types of ethnomedicine.15 Native Americans used the fruit to treat urinary and reproductive disorders, the Mayans drank Saw palmetto extract as a tonic, and American medical practitioners have used Saw palmetto extract for at least 200 years to treat various conditions such as asthenia and urogenital disorders, and to aid in recovery from major illness.15
Saw palmetto extract is composed of saturated fatty acids called lauric and miristic acid, and a monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid.16 Saw palmetto extract also contains the phytosterol called β-sitosterol.17 Lauric acid, oleic acid, and β-sitosterol have all been proven to reduce hair loss by inhibiting the 5α-reductase enzyme activity in the hair follicle.16,17 Just like Clitora ternatea extract and Eclipta prostrata extract, Saw palmetto extract is used to treat androgenetic alopecia by acting as a competitive, non-selective inhibitor of 5α-reductase activity.16
Clinical trials on Saw palmetto extract as a topical treatment for hair loss have been conducted since the early 2000s.18 A 2012 study on 100 male patients with androgenetic alopecia further confirmed that Saw palmetto extract helps stabilize hair loss and promote new hair growth.16 The study also concluded that side effects of Saw palmetto extract are uncommon, and that Saw palmetto extract is suitable as a more natural, low-risk alternative to using treatments such as Minoxidil or Finasteride.16
Rhinacanthus nasutus extract
Rhinacanthus nasutus, also known as Rhinacanthus rottlerianus or snake jasmine, is a medicinal herb native to Thailand and southeast Asia.19 R. nasutus is a small and slender shrub with white flowers, that grows to a height of 0.6 to 1.2 meters. This medicinal plant is well known for its antioxidant properties, and the roots of R. nasutus have been used in ethnomedicine to treat snakebites – hence the name snake jasmine.19 Traditionally the leaves and roots have been ground into a balm for treating a range of diseases, such as ringworm, eczema, and various inflammatory disorders.19,20
Researchers have found that Rhinacanthus nasutus extract has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anticancer, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidative properties.19,20 Using potent extracts like R. nasutus to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress on the hair and scalp can help reduce hair loss, similar to the effect of Antrodia cinnamomea. R. nasutus extract also contains the phytosterol β-sitosterol,19 which reduces hair loss by inhibiting the 5α-reductase enzyme activity in the hair follicle, and preventing follicle miniturization.11,16
Indigo naturalis extract
Indigo naturalis, also known as 青黛 or “Qing Dai” in Chinese, is a dried medicinal powder or paste processed from the leaves and stems of Indigofera tinctoria (true indigo), Pesicaria tinctoria (Japanese indigo or Chinese indigo), Isatis tinctoria (woad), or Strobilanthes cusia (Assam indigo).21 Indigo naturalis has been used in Asian ethnomedicine for thousands of years to treat bruises, wounds, infections, eczema, and psoriasis, reduce fever, and detoxify blood.21
The manufacturing process of indigo naturalis starts with collecting stems and leaves from suitable plants and soaking them in water for 3 – 8 days to release potent phytochemicals and produce indole phenol, the source of indigo and indirubin.21 The leaves and stems are then removed, and lime slurry is added under constant stirring. Eventually the solid, crude indigo naturalis extract separates from the liquid and collects at the bottom, before being separated, purified, and dried into the final medicinal powder or paste.21
Recent studies have found that indigo and indirubin, the main components of indigo naturalis, have potent antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antitumor effects.21,22 Indigo naturalis acts as an antioxidant by scavenging free radicals, inhibiting the increase of free radicals in cells, and inhibiting lipid peroxidation and oxidative damage to cell membranes.21 Treating your hair and scalp with indigo naturalis extract can therefore reduce hair loss by preventing oxidative stress in the hair follicles and hair fibres, and reducing inflammation in the scalp.1,7
Morus alba extract
Morus alba, commonly known as mulberry and 桑树 or “Sang Shu” in Chinese, is a fast-growing tree that can grow up to 20 meters in height.23 M. alba is native to the temperate and subtropical regions of China, but the tree is also widely cultivated in Japan and Korea.23 The glossy and green mulberry foliage is the primary food source for silkworms, and M. alba has supported the silk industry for several centuries.23
Leaves, fruits, and bark of Morus alba have long been used in ethnomedicine to treat fever and liver damage, strengthen joints, improve eyesight, lower blood pressure, and balance blood sugar levels.23 Recent phytochemical research has identified over 150 active compounds in M. alba, including flavonoids, anthocyanins, terpenoids, and phenolic acids.23,24 Several studies have shown that these active compounds give M. alba extract antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, cardioprotective, anti-hyperlipidemic, anti-diabetic, and hepaprotective effects.23,24
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties of Morus alba extract can help reduce hair loss in a similar way to Antrodia cinnamomea, Clitoria tenatea, and indigo naturalis. The phenolic compounds, flavonoids, and anthocyanins act as antioxidants and have a stronger free radical scavenging activity than for example vitamin C.23,24 The flavonoids present in M. alba extract also have an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing serum lipids and inflammatory cytokines, and preventing oxidative stress related to inflammation.24 By reducing the inflammation and oxidative stress in the scalp and hair fibres, M. alba extract can help reduce hair loss and further the efficacy of other ingredients used to combat hair loss.1,7
Acanthus ebracteatus extract
Acanthus ebracteatus, known as sea holly, holly mangrove, or jeruju hitam, is a shrubby mangrove plant native to southeast Asia.25 The A. ebracteatus plant has long been used in Asian ethnomedicine as a treatment for various diseases and ailments.26
In India the plant is used as an astringent, expectorant, and stimulant, and the roots are used as a cough remedy.26 In China both the stems and roots are used to treat coughs, chronic fever, paralysis, asthma, hepatosplenomegaly, hepatitis, and lymphoma.25,26 In Thailand the plant is used as an anti-inflammatory agent in arthritis, and the root and stem are used for treating various rashes and skin diseases.25,26 In Malaysia the plant is used to treat snakebites, coughs, and boils, and extracts from the leaves are used to prevent and reduce hair loss.26
Studies have shown that Acanthus ebracteatus extract has anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, antibacterial, antitumor, antiangiogenic, and immunopotentiating effects.25,26 Like Antrodia cinnamomea or Clitoria ternatea, the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects of A. ebracteatus extract may help reduce hair loss. A. ebracteatus extract also contains β-sitosterol, the phytosterol that reduces hair loss by inhibiting the 5α-reductase activity that leads to androgenetic alopecia.14,26
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Nair, V., Bang, W. Y., Schreckinger, E., Andarwulan, N. & Cisneros-Zevallos, L. (2015). Protective Role of Ternatin Anthocyanins and Querceting Glycosides from Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea Leguminosae) Blue Flower Petals against Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-Induced Inflammation in Macrophage Cells. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 63, 28, 6355–6365.
Kumar, N., Rungseevijitprapa, W., Narkkhong, N-A., Suttajit, M. & Chaiyasut, C. (2012). 5α-reductase inhibition and hair growth promotion of some Thai plants traditionally used for hair treatment. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 139, 3, 765–771.
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Rossi, A., Mari, E., Scarnò, M., Garelli, V., Maxia, C., Scali, E., Iorio, A. & Carlesimo, M. (2012). Comparitive Effectiveness of Finasteride vs Serenoa repens in Male Androgenetic Alopecia: A Two-Year Study. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, vol. 25, 4, 1167–1173.
Wessagowit, V., Tangjaturonrusamee, C., Kootiratrakarn, T., Bunnag, T., Pimonrat, T., Muangdang, N. & Pichai, P. (2016). Treatment of male androgenetic alopecia with topical products containing Serenoa repens extract. Australasian Journal of Dermatology, vol. 57, 3, 76–82.
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