The traditional Chinese understanding of how to keep hair healthy and shiny is quite different to the Western viewpoint, but has stood the test of time for thousands of years. Read on to learn how Chinese medicine can help support and nourish your hair, at any age.
How does traditional Chinese medicine view hair health?
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the condition of your hair is believed to reflect the state of key aspects of your health, and specifically, the status of your Kidney organ-meridian system and whether or not you have adequate levels of Blood and other fluids.
If that seems counter-intuitive, bear in mind that the traditional Chinese concept of the Kidney organ-meridian system and its role in the body encompasses far more than the Western medical understanding of what the kidneys do.
Both systems of medicine agree that the kidneys play a critical role in maintaining the body’s fluid balance. But in TCM, the Kidney organ-meridian (written with an upper-case K to distinguish it from the kidneys themselves) is also involved in growth, development, reproduction, bone health and breathing.
Furthermore, your Kidney organ-meridian is the storage vessel for Jing, a form of Qi (life force energy) that governs the growth of the hair and is transformed into Blood, which in turn is required to nourish the scalp and hair follicles and keep the tissues and organs moist.
From this perspective, having a full, healthy head of strong, shiny hair indicates an abundance of Jing (also known as Kidney essence or Kidney energy) and Blood.
As ancient Chinese scholars explained it more than 2000 years ago, “The Kidney is in tune with the bones; its prosperity is reflected in the lustre and moisture of the head hair.”
On the other hand, hair that is dull and lifeless, prematurely greying, or that falls out easily may suggest Kidney deficiency, Blood deficiency, or the depletion of Jing (which starts to occur naturally from mid-life onwards, but may be exacerbated in those who’ve led stressful lives or burned the candle at both ends).
In addition, hair or nails that are dry and brittle may indicate that an excess of Dryness is present in the body.
Chinese herbs to nourish the hair
Based on this understanding, the traditional Chinese herbal approach to addressing hair issues focuses on supporting the functioning of the Kidney organ-meridian, replenishing the Jing, and nourishing the Blood.
Fallopia: a traditional hair tonic
Fallopia is a Chinese herb traditionally used to support healthy hair follicle function by strengthening the Kidney organ-meridian system, replenishing the Jing and nourishing the Blood.
The Chinese name for Fallopia is Ho-shou-wu, which translated into English, means, 'Mr. Ho's hair is black'. It's a reference to an ancient legend that tells the story of Mr. Ho, whose previously grey hair turned black after he started taking the herb when he was in his late 50s.
That story is over 1200 years old, so we can’t verify its authenticity, nor would we expect other people to experience the same results - especially given that Mr. Ho is also said to have lived to be 160 years old and fathered 19 children in the process!
However, we do know that Fallopia has a long history of use in Chinese medicine for the treatment of hair issues - ranging from general thinning and poor condition of the hair, all the way through to more significant conditions such as pattern hair loss and alopecia.
From a scientific perspective, Fallopia may work by increasing the proportion of normal healthy hair follicles that are in a growth phase, and reactivating those that are resting.
In addition, it may help to preserve the hair pigment (thus helping to inhibit premature greying) and protect the hair follicles from the effects of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a potent form of testosterone that’s been implicated in pattern hair loss in both men and women.
In Australia, Fallopia is popularly taken as Fusion® Health’s proprietary extract Phytofol®, which we’ve carefully developed to harness the herb’s optimal therapeutic benefits. It’s suitable for adults, teenagers and children , but should only be taken during infancy, pregnancy or breastfeeding under the guidance of your healthcare professional.
Other hair tonic herbs
Fallopia is rarely taken alone, and is usually combined with other herbal hair tonics that support the Kidney organ-meridian and stimulate the Blood and circulation, such as Rehmannia (which may aid the management of premature greying), Dong Quai (which has traditionally been used for poor hair condition, including split ends, dryness and hair that is weak and prone to breakage), and others including Chinese Licorice, Ligusticum and White Peony.
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