Foods & Herbs for Healthy Hair
Nourishment for healthy hair
What we eat literally creates the building blocks of who we are, from the inside out. Our diet has an enormous impact on the health of every part of our body, from our internal organs to our skin, nails, and hair. A balanced diet is absolutely essential to healthy hair.
Focus on the following foods to give your hair a healthy boost:
Protein: is one of the building blocks of our hair, and deficiencies can lead to weak, brittle hair.
Best sources: bone broth, lean organic meats, pastured eggs, legumes such as kidney beans and green lentils, spirulina, and chlorella.
Whole grains: are rich in zinc, iron, B vitamins, and biotin, which is well known for its role in promoting strong and healthy hair, skin and nails.
Best sources: oats, amaranth, buckwheat, brown rice, millet, and quinoa.
EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids): bring moisture to the scalp and hair from the inside. They help to support healthy oil production and lubricate the hair shaft to promote growth.
Best sources: wild-caught fatty fish (such as salmon, anchovies, sardines, and mackerel), raw nuts like walnuts, and seeds such as flax and chia. You can also take DHA and EPA supplements daily.
Ghee: loaded with vitamins (A, D & E) and healthy fats, ghee is clarified butter and is amazing for the hair, skin, digestion, reducing inflammation, and even strong bones and teeth. It can be taken internally with meals or snacks (like ghee + dates & walnuts) or used on the hair and scalp as a deep conditioning mask.
Best sources: you can make your own but there are many great companies such Ancient Organics and 4th & heart. Look for pasture raised + organic options.
Iron: low levels are related to low red blood cell counts, which can result in hair loss. Low Iron is also associated with a lack of oxygen and nutrients being transported to the hair follicles, which inhibits growth and strength of the hair.
Best sources: spinach and other dark leafy greens, nettle leaf, nuts & seeds, blackstrap molasses, spirulina, and organic grass-fed beef & lamb.
Vitamin A: is required for the growth of cells, and the production of sebum on the scalp which keeps hair healthy and not too dry.
Best sources: carrots, cod liver oil, sweet potato, butter, eggs, spinach, leafy greens, pumpkin.
Biotin: is essential for body tissue, assisting with hair, skin and nails. Individuals who hope to increase hair growth may benefit from taking a biotin supplement. It is a B complex vitamin and has been shown to also assist with hair loss and brittle nails.
Best source: eggs, almonds, cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet potato, and spinach
Vitamin C: is required for the absorption of iron in the body and other benefits such as collagen production and strengthening the immune system.
Best sources: red peppers, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, papayas, citrus fruits including limes, lemons and oranges
Vitamin E: can maintain pH and oil levels as well as improve blood circulation, all of which promotes growth while preventing follicles from clogging and becoming damaged.
Best sources: avocado, extra virgin olive oil, raw nuts and seeds including almonds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts
Selenium: is an amazing antioxidant that is important to include in the diet for many reasons. Its anti-inflammatory properties can promote a healthy scalp, and it encourages hair growth by assisting in the conversion[synthesis] of proteins.
Best sources: Brazil nuts, seafood, chicken, eggs and legumes
Zinc: is essential for skin health and supports the skin on our scalp, which supports hair follicle health. Zinc also prevents excess shedding of the hair.
Best sources: oysters, chickpeas, cashews, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and dark chocolate.
The best herbs for combating hair loss
Brahmi: an Ayurvedic herb which increases circulation on the scalp and promotes health of hair follicles.
Use: Daily in powder or supplement form.
Amla berry: is one of the highest natural vitamin C sources, which supports collagen production for hair and skin health. Vitamin C is a powerhouse antioxidant needed for the binding of collagen in the hair. Collagen gives hair its strength. It also combats free radicals that would cause DNA mutation and lead to the wrong replication of cells.
Use: Can be taken in powder or tincture form.
Rhodiola – an adaptogenic herb that helps fight stress and enhance hair growth. Stress has a catabolic effect on the body, causing the body to use nutrients only for the most necessary functions to survive. As hair growth is not the highest priority, nutrients will be diverted to more necessary functions resulting in weak hair.
Use: a daily supplement or in powder form. *may be stimulating for some, so best taken earlier in the day.
Peppermint oil- The methanol in peppermint oil promotes circulation, and when applied to the scalp can increase hair strength and hair growth. Peppermint oil application increases scalp stimulation and growth factor which is necessary for hair follicle regeneration.
Use: Hair mask- dilute 4-5 drops of peppermint oil, in a solution of 1-part Castor oil or coconut oil and 2-parts olive oil. Massage onto the scalp and leave in there for 30+ mins. In the morning wash hair as normal.
Best herbs for growing hair
Nettle leaf: High in minerals essential for healthy hair growth. Specifically, high in calcium, silica, and sulfur which can boost collagen production.
Use: Drink nettle leaf as an infusion daily for 30 days and watch your hair transform!
Oat straw: Also high in minerals, especially silica which can also help with thinning hair. Oat straw will also assist with itchiness and dandruff!
Use: Drink oat straw tea + it can also be applied directly to the scalp!
A simple recipe - Nettle, Oatstraw & Peppermint tea:
1-part nettle, 1-part oatstraw & a pinch or two of peppermint. Make an infusion by adding 4 tbsp to a quart mason jar - cover with hot water, top lightly with a lid & steep for 4-8 hours (or overnight) drink room temp or chilled. *best used within 24-48 hours
Collagen & hair nourishment
Collagen is the protein that strengthens our bones, teeth, nails, hair, and skin. It is abundant in our body, but as we age, beginning in our 20’s, collagen production begins to decline (think wrinkles and sagging skin). Collagen formation is dependent on macro and micronutrients such as protein, vitamin C, copper, lysine, and silicon, all of which can be obtained through a healthy diet. However, collagen can also be supplemented in the form of powder, liquid, or capsule, which come from either bovine/cow or marine/fish sources. Vegan options contain plant-based nutrient building blocks of collagen.
Collagen peptide powder: one scoop of powder added to water or smoothies daily can assist with healthy skin, nails, and hair growth. Collagen contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, which are also excellent for digestion and joint health.
Sea buckthorn: from the buckwheat family is known it’s high protein content, while also saturated with plenty of fatty acids and vitamins that promote healthy hair and skin (tip: best used as a leave in oil for your hair, directly strengthening the hair follicles)
He Shou Wu: high in zinc it has beneficial effects for hair growth. Has various benefits with the endocrine system (hormonal balance) which, as explained above, aids in healthy locks
Horsetail: is a powerhouse of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium and silica which are needed along with the amino acids to build collagen
Gynostemma: is an adaptogen with powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are required to keep hair healthy by disarming any damaging cells
Stinging Nettle: will boost up collagen receptors with the various minerals available such as calcium, silica and sulfur.
Supplements that are helpful for maintaining long hair
Silica: helps to synthesize collagen, which is important for the health of skin. Collagen adds fullness to the skin, including on the scalp, and supports the health of hair follicles.
Found in: watermelon, cucumber, oats, flaxseed
Hyaluronic acid - is naturally produced by the body. It holds moisture in the body, primarily in the skin, joints and eyes. Ingested internally, hyaluronic acid acts on the skin, hair, nails, joints and eyes to increase moisture.
Try: a daily supplement of hyaluronic acid.
*Note: Always consult with a holistic practitioner prior to taking or combining herbs & supplements.
Adaptogens and hair health
Adaptogenic herbs are a group of plants that help to fight fatigue, boost immunity, and rejuvenate + rebalance the body & mind. They work by helping the body adapt to stress and have the ability to help support, sustain, and heal our nervous systems, which can become overworked due to chronic stress. Stress can be very damaging to hair growth and health, leading to brittle and slow growing hair. Adaptogens are also beneficial in restoring a sense of femininity due to their role in helping to rebalance the hormones. They are ideal ingredients to include in tonics and elixirs specifically formulated for women.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb praised for its ability to help the body cope and adapt with stress. Ashwagandha strengthens the endocrine system by encouraging hormonal balance. Adaptogenic herbs act in this way by increasing the body’s resistance to physical, chemical, and biological stressors. Adaptogenic herbs, such as ashwagandha, work with the body to reduce cortisol levels, balance hormones, and manage stress in the body and the mind.
Ashwagandha and hair health - Both chronic stress and hormonal imbalances are main causes of hair loss in women, so adding an adaptogenic herb such as ashwagandha into the diet will promote strong, healthy hair, while reducing hair loss and damage. Specifically, ashwagandha helps to manage cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is raised during times of stress. Consistently raised cortisol levels can affect the function and regulation of hair follicles, leading to damage and hair loss. Reducing/stabilizing cortisol levels with an adaptogenic herb and other lifestyle practices will reduce the risk of hair loss and damage.
Ashwagandha is best taken in powder or tincture form. In powder form, you can add it to tonics, smoothies or your coffee. As a tincture, it can be taken in a splash of water.
Other tips, ingredients, & remedies for hair growth
Try going longer between washes as often as possible. The best thing to support healthy hair is to let its natural oils absorb, which will add natural softness to the hair over time. Shampooing too frequently strips the hair of these beneficial oils.
Coconut oil & scalp massage helps to stimulate hair follicles and can promote growth. Try massaging your hair with oil 1-2 times per week and letting it sit (for anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours) before washing it out.
Use the following oils to heal damage to the hair:
Sea buckthorn oil (best used mixed in a carrier oil as it is quite expensive)
Apple cider vinegar, when diluted with water, can balance the pH of the hair and leave it shiny, smooth, and healthy. Using an apple cider vinegar hair rinse a couple times a month or week is a great way to restore balance after days of damage from styling and using products.
2-4 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
16 oz water
optional: 1-2 drops essential oil (lavender, rosemary, or a mix of both)
Mix all ingredients into a bottle (spray, tincture, or any bottle you have on hand)
Shampoo and rinse hair as normal (even better to use a natural product)
Lean head back, avoiding the eyes (it will sting!), and cover hair and scalp in the mixture
Let mixture sit in hair for about 1-2 mins
Rinse out completely
This can be repeated 1-2 times a week for thicker hair, or 1-2 times a month for thinner hair. Experiment and see what works best with your hair!
Hormones and their role in hair health
When hormones are off balance, our hair tends to be dry and thinning. For example, women with thyroid imbalances, new mothers, or menopausal women may experience hair loss due to a drop in levels of estrogen.
Androgen hormones like testosterone and DHEA are the major hormones that dictate hair growth. In women, the ovaries and adrenals are responsible for producing these hormones from cholesterol. An excess in these hormones can lead to unwanted hair growth on the face and body, but not having enough can lead to thinning and dull hair.
Optimal levels of estrogen help to grow full thick hair, while low estrogen levels lead to thin and stalled hair growth, which eventually leads to hair loss. Through the years, a woman will go through various cycles of highs and lows in estrogen levels. Puberty is typically associated with high estrogen levels as a woman starts to cycle through menstruation. Pregnancy typically increases hormone production, but once the baby has been delivered the mother can experience a drop in estrogen levels, which can result in thinning and loss of hair. Typically, this corrects itself as the woman's body heals and hormonal regulation returns to normal. The largest decline in estrogen levels is during menopause. Estrogen is secreted through the ovaries and adrenal glands. When a woman hits menopause, the ovaries’ estrogen production is significantly diminished, which puts an excess burden on the adrenals to produce it. However, as the adrenals are typically overburdened due to stress, symptoms of menopauses like hair loss and hot flashes occur prematurely and excessively for some. Nourishing the body and balancing stress levels will support gentle and graceful transitions.
Insulin regulation is also a big factor in hair health, as an imbalance can lead to various hormonal effects. Insulin helps to regulate blood sugar levels, which effects fat storage and hormone balance. Fat storage and hormone balance play a role in hair growth because fat storages will secrete excess estrogen in the body and can desensitize hormone signals.
Natural remedies that are helpful for regulating hormones
Optimal elimination is a necessity for hormonal balance. When we are constipated, we are unable to eliminate excess hormones from our system. Adequate fiber, water intake, and liver support are necessary for proper clearance:
Fiber- Eating leafy vegetables, and a variety of fruits helps to bulk stool and supports elimination. Foods like chia and flax bind to toxins and pull moisture into the stools so that it can easily pass.
Water- is essential for proper hydration and moves stool through the intestine. When we are dehydrated, this leads to constipation as our bowels become dry and are unable to function with ease.
Liver support- is necessary to eliminate unneeded wastes from the body. Everything we take in is processed through the liver and toxins are broken down into water soluble byproducts so they can be moved into the intestine and pulled into the stool for elimination. Foods like cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, collard greens) and lemon support the liver detox pathways. Herbs like milk thistle, dandelion root, and burdock root help to support liver cleansing.
Stress and hormones
Stress reduction may be the most important step to hormonal balance. Stress, whether it be mental, physical or emotional all takes a toll on how balanced our hormones are. Find a relaxation activity you enjoy and practice it daily. Some examples are yoga, meditating, walking in nature, and deep breathing.
Adaptogenic herbs are some of the most supportive remedies for stress and hormone regulation.