Hair loss and balding, or alopecia, typically refers to excessive hair loss from the scalp and can be experienced by men, women, and children of any age. There are many types of hair loss and balding, however the focus of this article is health-related hair loss rather than genetic hair loss such as receding hair line and baldness.
Health-related hair loss may include patch balding, sudden hair loss, or gradual hair thinning over time. Patch balding is a condition where hair loss occurs in patches the size of a coin, often occurring repeatedly, followed by hair regrowth. Sudden hair loss is a condition occurs when hair comes out in large tufts from all over the scalp, typically following a sudden emotional or physical shock to the system which disrupts the normal cycle of hair growth. Another type of hair loss is a gradual thinning of hair that occurs over a long period of time. These types of hair loss are caused by a disruption in the growth and resting cycles of hair growth. Certain factors can disrupt this natural cycle, leading to hair loss that lasts for a period of time. In Western medicine, hair loss is considered incurable, and treatments focus on promoting hair growth or hiding hair loss.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), hair loss is typically related to the blood, where there is poor blood quality and/or poor blood and energy circulation to the scalp. As we know, our blood circulates throughout our body delivering nutrients and oxygen; if the blood is not providing adequate supplies, cells will be undernourished, resulting in reduced functioning. Blood deficiency may arise from poor diet, stress, emotional upsets (including worry, anxiety, depression), excessive use of drugs, the aging process, and debilitating disease. This type of blood deficiency typically also occurs with a kidney deficiency and problems with circulation in the liver. The kidney and liver contribute to blood deficiency for two reasons: when the body experiences stressors over time, the liver can become blocked and have problems circulating energy and blood, and because the health of our hair is very closely tied to the health of our kidneys, any disruption or imbalance in the kidneys can lead to hair problems including graying, thinning, or balding.
Acupuncture treatment for health-related hair loss focuses on improving blood circulation to the scalp to ensure that nutrients are being properly transported, and on improving the blood quality. This may be done by strengthening the kidneys and removing blockages in the liver, or by focusing on strengthening blood directly and improving blood and energy flow throughout the body. This helps to improve blood circulation to the scalp, as well as to improve the quality and nourishment of the blood. By doing so we improve the scalp’s ability to regrow and to nourish the hair. Eating a healthy, nutritional diet can also help to improve the condition.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.