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Turmeric and Curcumin for Hair Growth | A Review of the Evidence

Tumeric is known as the golden spice. It’s widely used in the natural health world.

But, how does turmeric work? Can it promote hair growth?

The medicinal properties of turmeric and its constituents might just be your missing puzzle piece.

In this article, I will explore the research on turmeric, how its properties influence hair growth, and how you can use it to best impact the health of your hair.

Just keep reading!

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What Is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a medicinal root that is often dried and milled to turmeric powder. Traditionally, it has been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine.

Modern medicine is just beginning to understand this powerful root’s beneficial properties and how it can enhance health.

Powdered turmeric in a bowl

Clinical studies using turmeric suggest that it improves IBS symptoms, heals peptic ulcers, and possesses anti-cancer attributes (1). Researchers are also investigating its application for arthritis as well as brain, cardiac, kidney, and liver disorders.

These documented and potential effects are attributed to turmeric’s curcuminoids: curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. They have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may promote healthy hair growth.

Key Takeaways:

  • Turmeric has been effective for treating conditions in clinical trials and is under investigation for additional applications.
  • The benefits of turmeric are attributed to turmeric’s curcuminoids which possess power anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  • These properties may promote healthy hair growth.

Turmeric: A Potent Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Powerhouse

Inflammation and oxidative stress are interconnected and closely linked to hair loss.

Inflammation is an innate immune response that is stimulated by pro-inflammatory molecules. Oxidative stress is essentially the sum of all the free radical damage in the body.

Inflammatory molecules produce free radicals that contribute to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress activates the transcription factor NF-κB that increases the production of inflammatory molecules.

How Inflammation Impacts Hair Growth

Some of the inflammatory molecules relevant to hair are IFN-γ, IL-2, IL-1α, IL-1β, prostaglandin D2 (PGD2), and TNF-α.

In cell culture studies, IL-1α prevents DNA synthesis needed for the proliferation of hair follicle cells (2). The proliferation of dermal papilla cells (DPCs; the cells responsible for stimulating hair growth) and hair shaft cells are essential for hair growth. By inhibiting the DNA synthesis required to create new cells, IL-1α may prevent hair growth.

Inflammation at the hair follicles

IFN-γ and IL-2 are both elevated in patients with autoimmune hair loss known as Alopecia Areata (AA) (3, 4).

In human hair cell culture studies, IFN-γ is known to transition hair follicles from the anagen growth phase to the catagen shedding phase (5). IL-2 enhances IFN-γ activity and blocking IL-2 activity prevented the development of AA in mice (6).

IL-1β also stunts hair growth by impacting the signaling of DPCs (7). TNF-α activates NF-κB, the inflammatory transcription factor (8). Both of these inflammatory molecules are elevated in Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), a type of hair loss mediated by male hormones (9).

Although some prostaglandins like prostaglandin E2 and prostaglandin F2 are important for stimulating hair growth, PGD2 has the opposite effect and promotes the transition to the catagen phase (10). A balance between these prostaglandins is needed for proper hair growth. PGD2 is especially elevated in the scalps of men with AGA.

Preliminary research also suggests Telogen Effluvium (TE), a type of hair loss characterized by many hairs transitioning from the growing anagen phase to the resting telogen phase at once, might be caused by inflammatory molecules (11).

Key Takeaways:

  • Inflammatory molecules IFN-γ, IL-2, IL-1α, IL-1β, PGD2, and TNF-α all contribute to various forms of hair loss like AA, AGA, and TE.

How Oxidative Stress Impacts Hair Growth

Free radical damage leads to oxidative stress. Free radicals are produced by the mitochondria as a byproduct of energy production. Environmental pollutants can also cause free radical damage.

Markers of oxidative stress are elevated in both AA and AGA patients (12, 13). Additionally, lipid peroxides, fatty substances which have been oxidized by free radicals, are known to cause hair shedding (14).

Cells before and after free radicals
Free radicals can wreak havoc on the body’s cells, and this can impact hair growth.

Moreover, DPCs from balding scalps grow slower than DPCs from normal scalps. This impaired growth is directly correlated with higher levels of oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress can also stimulate inflammation through the activation of NF-κB (15).

For these reasons, free radical damage may seriously put a hamper on hair growth.

Key Takeaways:

  • Free radicals from mitochondrial energy production and environmental pollutants.
  • Oxidative stress can lead to hair shedding through the production of lipid peroxides.
  • Oxidative stress activates NF-κB, stimulating inflammation.
  • Markers of oxidative stress are elevated in both AA and AGA patients.
  • Free radical damage may seriously put a hamper on hair growth.

How Turmeric Can Help

Turmeric’s curcuminoids are powerful anti-inflammatories. It acts in a pleiotropic manner, meaning it targets various systems in the body that increase the production of inflammatory molecules (16). These mechanisms may have a beneficial impact on hair loss.

One way turmeric lowers inflammation is through reducing COX-2 enzyme activity. This is the enzyme that interacts with arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, to produce the precursors for prostaglandins like PGD2.

It also downregulates the expression of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), the enzyme that produces nitric oxide. This compound contributes to oxidative stress.

Researchers attribute this to turmeric’s ability to inhibit NF-κB activation.

Turmeric might also downregulate protein kinase C (PKC), a signaling protein that regulates IL-1β expression (17). Upregulation of PKC could result in enhanced IL-1β activity and subsequently stunt hair growth.

Curcuminoids in turmeric also activate the opposing transcription factor to NF-κB, Nrf2 (18). Nrf2 enhances the expression of antioxidant enzymes like glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase. These enzymes are the natural antioxidant systems of the body that help counterbalance oxidative stress.

Turmeric has even been shown to enhance liver detox pathways (19). These are enzymes in the liver that interact with chemicals and drugs to prevent damage to the body.

Some of the enzymes upregulated by turmeric are CYP1 and CYP2 enzymes. These enzymes are responsible for detoxifying carcinogens, drugs, hormones, and toxic chemicals in the environment. CYP2 enzymes also help metabolize fatty acids consumed in the diet.

Turmeric also promotes the activity of UGT enzymes. These are responsible for transporting detoxified compounds from the liver to be excreted by the digestive system.

Enhancing the activity of these liver detoxification enzymes prevents oxidative stress and inflammation that can result from circulating toxins.

By neutralizing oxidative stress and downregulating inflammatory molecule production, turmeric can help reduce some of the factors that contribute to hair loss.

Key Takeaways:

  • Turmeric works in a pleiotropic manner to lower inflammation and oxidative stress.
  • Turmeric reduces COX-2 enzyme activity, the enzyme that produces the precursors to prostaglandins like PGD2.
  • Turmeric downregulates the expression of iNOS that produces nitric oxide which contributes to oxidative stress.
  • PKC is downregulated by turmeric which could directly lower IL-1β expression.
  • Curcuminoids into turmeric activate Nrf2 which enhances the expression of our natural antioxidant systems.
  • Turmeric upregulates liver detoxification enzymes to prevent damage from toxins. This prevents oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Turmeric reduces oxidative stress and inflammatory molecules production to mitigate some of the factors involved in hair loss.

Clinical Studies of Turmeric for Hair Growth: Is It Proven?

Although inflammation is a contributing factor to hair loss, there are no clinical studies that have tested the effects of turmeric for hair growth.

So, despite the powerful anti-inflammatory action of turmeric, we don’t know exactly how it influences the hair follicle when taken orally or used topically.

However, turmeric’s properties warrant further investigation to assess its possible benefits for hair loss patients.

Key Takeaways: 

  • There are no clinical studies that have tested the effects of turmeric for hair growth.
  • Turmeric’s properties warrant further investigation to assess its possible benefits for hair loss patients.

How to Use Turmeric for Hair Growth

Turmeric can be used for hair growth in various ways.

Supplements, using turmeric as a spice in food, and topical application all seem to be viable ways to take advantage of turmeric’s healing properties.

Supplements: The Highest Absorption Turmeric

Turmeric is not well-absorbed by the body (16). Once ingested, it is absorbed by the liver and excreted with very little absorption elsewhere.

However, there are ways to boost the absorption of turmeric into the body, especially in supplementation. Combining turmeric with a constituent of black pepper, piperine, increases turmeric absorption 20-fold.

A new formulation of turmeric supplements has recently been studied, too. This formulation, termed Meriva®, contains turmeric extract bound to a phospholipid. This significantly enhances absorption.

Another formulation of turmeric called the C3 Complex® contains all three curcuminoids found in turmeric. This allows for better absorption because the curcuminoids work together synergistically and provide the most benefit.

IMPORTANT! Some turmeric sources have the potential to be contaminated with lead (20). For this reason, always source turmeric supplements from companies that can provide you with a certificate of analysis for their product. These certificates contain all the lab results for contaminants like lead.

Bottom line, you should invest time into researching the turmeric supplements you intend to purchase.

Key Takeaways:

  • Turmeric is not easily absorbed into the body.
  • Piperine from black pepper enhances turmeric absorption 20-fold.
  • A formulation of turmeric called Meriva® contains turmeric extract bound to a phospholipid to enhance absorption.
  • The C3 Complex® turmeric contains all three curcuminoids found in turmeric for synergistic activity.
  • Some turmeric sources are contaminated with lead. To ensure safety, purchase from a company that provides a certificate of analysis for their turmeric supplements.

Using Turmeric in Food

Turmeric can be used in various ways in food.

Turmeric is often used as a spice in traditional Indian dishes like curries.

It can also be consumed in golden milk lattes. This is a combination of dairy or non-dairy milk, turmeric powder, and ground black pepper. The presence of healthy fats in the milk and black pepper enhance the absorption of turmeric.

No matter which way you choose to consume turmeric, always include it with black pepper and healthy fats.

Key Takeaways:

  • Turmeric powder is often used in traditional Indian dishes like curries.
  • It can also be used to make golden milk lattes. This is a ombination of dairy or non-dairy milk, turmeric powder, and ground black pepper.
  • Fats and black pepper enhance absorption of turmeric.

Turmeric and Coconut Oil for Hair

Turmeric isn’t very well absorbed, however, you may be able to enhance absorption by using a few methods.

In one study, pre-treatment with terpineol or eugenol increased turmeric absorption (21). Terpineol is found in essential oils like pine oil. Eugenol is found in clove oil and cinnamon oil. However, the study was an animal study and did not specify the concentration used.

Coconuts with coconut oil
Turmeric can be added to a carrier oil, such as coconut, to increase its absorption rate.

Turmeric is best mixed with a carrier oil like coconut oil. Coconut oil is known to help preserve the protein content of the hair shaft and possesses antimicrobial properties to promote scalp health (22, 23).

Here’s how to make a turmeric coconut oil hair mask:

  1. Melt down coconut oil on low heat.
  2. Add turmeric and black pepper to the oil. Mix until combined.
  3. Transfer the oil mixture into an applicator bottle.
  4. Apply to scalp and massage to enhance penetration.
  5. Let the mixture sit on the scalp for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Rinse using your usual hair care routine.

This topical mixture could help lower inflammation on the scalp through turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties and coconut oil’s antimicrobial properties.

However, no studies have currently examined the effects of topical turmeric formulations on hair loss or hair growth.

Key Takeaways:

  • Pretreatment with essential oils that contain terpineol or eugenol may enhance the penetration of topical turmeric. However, studies examining this didn’t specify the concentration needed of these ingredients.
  • Coconut oil can be used as a carrier oil for a turmeric hair mask. It has antimicrobial properties and can preserve the protein content of hair.
  • This topical mixture could lower inflammation and promote microbial balance on the scalo.
  • However, no studies have currently examined the effects of topical turmeric formulations on hair loss or hair growth.

Turmeric for Facial Hair Removal

Some bloggers and turmeric users alike have reported on the ability of turmeric to remove facial hair with consistent use.

However, there is currently no data to support these claims. But, that doesn’t necesarily mean that it doesn’t work.

It’s unlikely that there will ever be studies conducted turmeric for hair removal. This is because removing facial hair with alternative modalities isn’t a pressing issue requiring research.

Key Takeaway: There is currently no data to support the use of turmeric for facial hair removal. It’s unlikely that there will ever be studies conducted on it because it isn’t a pressing issue requiring research.

The Verdict: Can You Use Turmeric for Hair Growth?

Inflammation and oxidative stress are undeniable contributors to hair loss. Turmeric acts on various systems in the body to effectively downregulate inflammation and neutralize free radicals.

Although turmeric is a considerably medicinal and healing herb, there are currently no trials available on turmeric for hair growth.

So, we can’t make any claims about how or if turmeric works to promote hair growth or reverse hair loss.

Nonetheless, turmeric is a health-promoting herb that can be used in various ways to support overall wellness!

Have you used turmeric consistently? Did you notice a difference? Leave a comment with your experience below.

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