Dr Jolly D’Mello
Incidence of premature greying of hair is on a hike, attributing its cause to modern life style, mental stress and dietary imbalance. Homoeopathy being a holistic system of medicine is capable of exploring into the deep rooted causes for premature greying and provide effective treatment based on concept of individualisation and constitutional approach.
Key words-Premature greying, Homoeopathy, Antisyphilitic remedies
Abbreviation –PGH( Premature greying of hair)
Premature greying of hair (PGH) is defined as greying of hair before the age of 20 years in Caucasians and before 30 years in African American population. Greying of hair also called canities or achromotrichia occurs with normal aging. However, the age at which it occurs varies in different races.
Healthy hair is a sign of general well-being and youth. Unlike other animals, the function of hair in human beings is being debated. Nevertheless, hair serves as a great aesthetic tool and means of nonverbal communication. Hair colour and style can significantly alter the physical appearance of a person and thus alter his/her body image. As greying of hair is perceived as a sign of old age, premature greying of hair (PGH) can bear an adverse effect on the self-esteem of the individual.
Hair pigmentation is one of the most unique features in humans ranging from black, brown, and blonde to red. The colour of human hair is due to pigment melanin produced by melanocytes which are neural crest derivatives. Human hair follicles contain two types of melanin as follows: Eumelanin and Pheomelanin. The diversity of hair colour arises mostly from the quantity and ratio of black-brown eumelanin and reddish-brown pheomelanin. It has been hypothesized that the pH and cysteine level of melanosomes influences the phenotype of hair. As pH reduces, there is a progressive reduction in tyrosinase activity leading to increased pheomelanin and reddish or blonde hair.
There are various differences between pigmentation in the skin and that of hair. Each melanocyte is associated with five keratinocytes in the hair bulb forming a “hair follicle-melanin unit.” In contrast, each melanocyte in the skin is associated with 36 keratinocytes constituting an “epidermal-melanin unit.”
Unlike in the skin where pigment production is continuous, melanogenesis in the hair is closely associated with stages of the hair cycle. Hair is actively pigmented in the anagen phase and is “turned off” during the catagen phase and absent during telogen.
Aetiology of premature greying of hair
Aetiology of greying is incompletely understood. It is a complex multi-factorial process mainly considered to be interplay of nutritional, genetic and environmental factors.
- Nutritional deficiencies like vitamin B12 deficiency, severe iron deficiency, chronic protein loss, copper deficiency,low serum ferritin, and low serum calciumand vitamin D3 levels are often found associated with premature greying of hair .
- Premature greying of hair has been observed with greater frequency among certain families, suggesting a familial predisposition for the condition.May occur alone as an autosomal dominantcondition or in association with various autoimmune or premature aging syndromes. Down syndrome(trisomy 21) is characterized by features of accelerated ageing including premature greying of hair and deficient DNA repair .
- Stress causing over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system increases nor adrenaline release in hair follicles. This overproduction causes depletion of the melanocyte stem cellswhich are required to produce melanin, the pigment responsible for hair color. Numerous studies have demonstrated increased oxidative load due to psychological stress implying that even emotional factors play a role in premature graying.
- Smokingis another factor that is considered to be related to premature greying of hair. Smoking results in generation of huge amount of reactive oxygen species leading to increased oxidative stressculminating into damage to melanin producing cells, melanocytes.
- Oxidative stress can also be a result of ultraviolet (UV) rays, pollution, emotional factors, or inflammatory causes.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause PGH through unknown mechanism. About 55% of patients with pernicious anaemia had greying before 50 years as compared to 30% in the control group.
- Decreased thyroid hormones cause premature greying, alopecia, and changes in hair morphology. Thyroid hormones T3 and T4 act on hair follicles directly to increase melanogenesis.
- Diet -A person’s diet plays a part in preventing premature greying . Antioxidant-rich foods include: fresh fruits, vegetables, green tea, olive oil and fish.
- Addressing deficiencies-Individuals with premature greying resulting from a vitamin deficiency should consume foods loaded with those vitamins. Vitamin B12 -Seafood, eggs, and meats are good sources
- Vitamin D -Milk, salmon, and cheese are excellent sources
- Vitamin C-bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwis, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas, and papayas.
- Copper and zinc- Kidney beans, potatoes, lentils, mushrooms, raisins, cashew nuts, almonds, liver, and chocolates. Consume calcium, sodium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium and proteins to check hair loss & premature greying.
- Drink plenty of water – Aids to eliminate toxins and regulate metabolism.
- Lifestyle modification Quit smoking-Smoking is one of the sources of the free development of radicals in your body, which cause oxidative stress. This may lead to a decline in the pigmenting capacity and melanin, which result in greying of hairs. Researchers have found a link between the habit and loss of hair pigmentation
- Faulty diet: Consumption of junk food and processed food may increase oxidative stress and deposition of Advanced Glycation End products.
- Practice yoga and meditation –Promotes reduction of stress and anxiety thus improving physical and mental health.
- Natural remedies- They offer an alternative to slow down premature greying without harming the body or causing further hair pigment damage.
- Curry leaves: The medicinal use of curry leaves goes back to centuries. When combined with hair oil and applied to the scalp, curry leaves can slow premature greying.
- Bhringaraj: The false daisy or Bhringaraj will darken hair, it’s a trusted source. The juice of the leaves is boiled in coconut oilor sesame oil and massaged into the hair.
- Indian gooseberry. Also called Amla, this is an herbal supplement recognized for reversing premature greying by promoting pigmentation. Its effectiveness is believed to be because the gooseberry is rich in antioxidants and anti-aging properties.The powder can be mixed with coconut oil and applied directly to the scalp.
- Black tea. Black tea can make hair darker, shinier and softer. It can be used by steeping 3 to 5 tea bags in 2 cups of boiling water, cooling and adding to clean, wet hair. Tea can also be mixed with conditioner, left in the hair for 1 hour, and then rinsed out.
Homoeopathic constitutional medicines are individual specific; they control the further spread by treating the underlying cause. However in cases attributed to a hereditary cause greying cannot be reversed it can be effectively controlled. The effectiveness of the system lies in its holistic approach towards the sick individual through promotion of inner balance at mental, emotional, spiritual and physical levels. When premature gray hair is concerned there are many effective medicines available in Homoeopathy, but the selection depends upon the individuality of the patient, considering mental and physical symptoms. Along with treatment a good dietary guidance is very important
Maismatic correlation based on –The Principles and Art of Cure by H A Roberts.
Patient afflicted with the syphilitic taint suffers from structural changes; yet the emotional sphere in the purely syphilitic patient is not seriously affected. For this reason, in the syphilitic patient we find less subjective symptoms.
Grief, sorrow and worry are potent influences to develop these manifestations; or it may be exposure to the elements, a slight accident, stress of business relationship, or any one of many other causes, that starts the irritation; but unless this is met by the art of the similar antisyphilitic remedy, he passes his days in discomfort and distress and comes to a premature old age.
Lycopodium: Premature greying of hair in spots. An excellent antisyphilitic remedy for halting the process of greying of hair when the de-pigmentation of hair occurs in spots. All the patients for whom Lycopodium can be of great help usually suffer from gastric troubles like constipation and Flatulence.
Phosphoric acid: Antisyphilitic remedy for premature greying of hair resulting from grief and depression. It can be accompanied by thinning or falling out of hair. The patient feels very hopeless, sad, and becomes indifferent to all affairs of life. Extreme exhaustion and weakness are symptoms in all the persons requiring this Homoeopathic medicine. Phosphoric Acid helps both in making the patient come out of grief and restoring the pigmentation of hair that has been destroyed by the bad effects of grief.
Phosphorus: Excellent Antisyphilitic remedy acts wonderfully to prevent the further greying of hair. The greying of hair may be accompanied by hair fall or dandruff. The scalp is itchy. Peculiar desires in eating like cold drinks, juice and ice creams standout for using this Homoeopathic medicine.
Natrum Mur: Premature greying of hair of anaemic or weak persons. It helps to improve the general health of the patient and raise the immunity to combat the greying of hair. The persons who can greatly benefit from Natrum Mur may also suffer from severe headaches, which get worse in the heat of the sun. There may also be an unusual craving for salt in excess.
Silicea: Premature greying of hair with the improper digestive system. Beneficial for treating grey hair when the digestive power, mainly absorption power of intestines, is improper and weak. Due to weak absorption, the nutrients from food are not properly absorbed and utilized. Deficiency in the nutrients leads to many troubles and greying of hair is one outcome .Silicea improves the absorptive capacity of the intestines and assimilation of nutrients. Persons benefitting by Silicea have increased sweating on the scalp. Offensive sweat is seen on the feet and axillae.The feet may also have sweat with bad odour and Sensitivity to cold air.
Vinca minor: Premature greying of hair in spots of great help for halting the greying of hair. Best remedy when the hair has fallen in spots and replaced by grey hair. Vinca Minor acts naturally in pigmenting such hair also used for the treatment of eruptions on the scalp with discharges resulting in sticking of hair together.
Thyroidinum — Best for premature greying of hair and hair loss due to imbalance of thyroid hormones. Thyroidinum stops greying and falling of hair.
Homoeopathic system of medicine based on the concept of maismatic analysis and individualisation is beneficial in arresting the process of premature greying through holistic treatment in association with lifestyle and dietary modification .
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Dr Jolly D’Mello
Asst Prof, Dep of Physiology and Biochemistry
Fr Muller Homoeopathic Medical College, Deralakatte, Mangaluru