Mind Your Body, The Straits Times
August 23, 2013
Q: I am a 31-year-old woman. Since my childhood, my hair has been fine and has lacked volume. This could be due to genetics as my mother has fine hair too, though hers is thicker than mine.
During my teenage years, I kept my hair long and also experimented with hair colouring frequently.
Since starting work, I have cut it shorter and have been keeping it above shoulder length.
I have also stopped all chemical treatment. However, I realised that I have been losing more hair in the past 11/2 years after I switched to a deskbound job.
The strong air-conditioning in the office has caused my hair to be very brittle and dry.
I have tried various types of volumising and herbal shampoo and tonic, and biotin (vitamin B7) pills, but nothing works.
I feel very conscious of my hair and often feel envious of others with thick, luscious hair.
A: In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), hair loss is probably due to a deficiency in the spleen, liver and kidneys.
The kidneys manufacture blood and are responsible for the lustre of the hair. The liver is responsible for storing blood and qi (energy) circulation.
Good circulation of adequate blood and qi is required for good health.
Malfunction of the liver and kidneys – due to ageing, chronic diseases and negative emotions such as stress, anxiety and depression – can weaken their ability to produce sufficient blood to nourish the scalp.
As a result, hair will not be able to grow. This triggers thinning hair over a prolonged period, dizziness, insomnia, soreness and numbness of the limbs and/or lower back, and frequent urination at night.
The spleen converts nutrients from food into blood and qi.
When the spleen is weak – due to the intake of too much cold, spicy and oily food and alcohol – it will convert the nutrients into “heat” and “dampness” instead.
These will go upward to the head and erode the roots of the hair, triggering hair loss, redness and itchiness of the scalp, dandruff, a dry mouth and poor appetite.
In people with “blood heat constitution” – they are often thirsty and have a bright red tongue and a rapid pulse – when an external pathogenic (disease-causing) factor, such as “wind”, invades the body for a prolonged period, it can create internal “dryness” and dry up the blood.
When the blood cannot reach the head to nourish the scalp, it will trigger brittle and thinning hair, itchiness of the
Chinese medicine, acupuncture, tuina (TCM massage) and cupping therapy (placing heated cups on the skin to enhance qi and blood circulation) can improve your condition by strengthening your organs and dispelling pathogenic factors.
Chinese medicine such as Asiatic cornelian cherry fruit, barbary wolfberry fruit, glossy privet fruit, dodder seed, solomonseal rhizome and fleeceflower root are commonly prescribed to strengthen the liver and kidneys to reduce hair loss.
Aloe, virgate wormwood herb, dandelion, coix seed and oriental waterplantain rhizome are used to strengthen the spleen and reduce “heat” and “dampness”.
Fineleaf schizonepeta herb, tree peony bark, red peony root, red sage root, light yellow sophora root, rehmannia root and divaricate saposhnikovia root are used to dispel “heat” and “wind”.
Eat high-protein food, such as milk, eggs and fish, as well as fruit and vegetables, to strengthen your liver and kidneys, which can help produce more blood to nourish your hair.
You should also keep your scalp and hair clean.
Avoid long hours under the sun and having strong air-conditioning directed at your head.
Avoid having negative emotions, sleep early and do some light exercises – such as brisk walking, yoga and qigong – to enhance your qi and blood circulation, which can reduce your internal “heat”.
Ms Lim Lay Beng
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner at YS Healthcare TCM Clinic at The Adelphi