We are often asked about 2 Internet miracle cure remedies for hairfall: the application of Onion juice on scalp and the use of castor oil on hair for boosting hair growth and to treat alopecia and balding. Even when we suggest Krya products, a change in diet and lifestyle practices like Abhyanga and Yoga, we are asked if these home remedies can be continued along with our products and suggestions.
What is the cause of intense hairfall according to Ayurveda? Is there any scientific basis to some of these miracle cures? Why might they work / might not work according to Ayurveda? This post will explore whether there is a scientific basis behind onion juice for the scalp and what Ayurveda has to say about it.
Onion juice application on the scalp
Onion juice is a very popular hair growth remedy on the Internet. It is considered a miraculous hair growth boosting treatment supposed to boost micro circulation on the scalp, “rejuvenate follicles” and improve hair growth.
There is only one scientific study which has attempted to study the effects of onion juice on the scalp, and this study was performed on a very tiny sample of people in 2002. The study was published in the Journal of Dermatology in 2002.
Study design and sample size used:
Patients were divided into 2 groups. The control group had to apply plain tap water on their scalp. The second group had to apply onion juice onto the scalp. The control group had 15 patients (8 men and 7 women) and the second group had 23 patients (16 men and 7 women). After 4 weeks, hair growth was seen in 17 out of 23 patients and at 6 weeks among 20 out of 23 patients.
Scientific loopholes in the study :
The sample size is small and statistically insignificant and does not have a meaningful number of patients spanning ages. The average median age of both groups was between 18 – 22 years of age. The groups did not follow any fair patterns of selection like the same number, same composition of men and women and age groups.
The control group was treated with plain tap water. What is significant that even when the scalp was massaged with plain tap water, 2 out of the 15 patients experienced hair growth.
If we assume tap water to be a neutral hair growth ingredient, anything in comparison should give us good hair results, like a vegetable oil or any other herb. This study therefore does not do justice to the hype around onion juice as a miraculous hair growth ingredient, and does not form any kind of basis for the hundreds of websites now out there promoting onion juice.
Is there a chance it could work? What does Ayurveda say?
Onion juice is considered high in pitta as per Ayurveda. It is a natural anti bacterial and high sulphur containing herb. It is advised to be used in small quantities in the diet whenever pitta is required to be stimulated.
We typically need the properties of Pitta when we are trying to digest a heavy meal. Therefore onion and garlic are usually used when we cook meat to help us digest the meat better. Similarly we find the use of onions in making hard to digest lentils like rajma, chickpeas, etc. Additionally, if we are eating heavy meals or at odd times when pitta is naturally low, onion and garlic can be used. Onion and garlic is also used in very cold seasons where pitta is naturally low. This helps stimulate the digestive fire.
In cases where Pitta is already high, like in the case of hair thinning and premature greying brought on by excess Pitta, Ayurveda advises that we cut down on pitta stimulating foods like onion and garlic.
Sudden excessive hairfall in Ayurveda: Indralupta
Indralupta is the condition described in Ayurveda which is closest to alopecia. Here the texts describe that hair fall is both sudden and intense where the hair becomes weak rooted and falls on the slightest pressure. Indralupta is usually seen as a tridosha disorder where 2 things happen:
Aggravated Pitta and Vata enters into the hair follicle. The effect of these 2 doshas is twofold: Pitta heats the hair follicle, dries out moisture and thins it down and greys it. Vata sucks out oil and moisture and dries out the hair. It also weakens the root making it fall very easily. Kapha which produces Sleshma (oily and fatty layer giving strength) oozes below the scalp, blocking the follicles from sprouting new hair. Therefore you have 2 doshas weakening existing hair and making them fall and the third dosha preventing the growth of new hair.
Indralupta therefore sees symptoms attributed to derangement of all 3 doshas: deranged vata will cause dryness, whitish discoloration of scalp, and rough frizzy hair that breaks and falls. Deranged Pitta will cause premature greying and thinning and ring pattern balding. Deranged kapha will cause prevention of hair growth. Depending upon the dosha imbalance in the specific person, we could have Vataja Indralupta where the deranged Vata is very high, Kaphaja Indralupta, where Kapha derangement is highest and Pittaja Indralupta where Pitta derangement is highest.
Ayurvedic treatment for different kinds of intense hair loss (Indralupta)
Treatment given for each kind of Indralupta varies slightly. In Pittaja Indralupta, emphasis is given on cooling the whole body. So Milk and butter is prescribed and application of the paste of cooling and Madhura herbs like Mulethi and Amla is suggested.
In Vataja Indralupta, herbs like Sugarcane are added to nourish the body and citrus fruits are used in combination with wound healing herbs like Tulsi to reducing the itching and dryness associated with Vataja Indralupta.
Since many times there is a combination of doshas leading to imbalance, the texts advice using a combination of heating herbs to dissolve kleshma, sweet and astringent herbs to nourish and reduce Pitta and unctuous, healing and nourishing herbs to bring down Vata.
How Krya treats intense hairfall: varies as per dosha imbalance
At Krya, whenever we receive complaints of excessive hairfall, we try and analyse the dosha imbalance behind this hairfall. Based on this, we suggest either using the Krya Intense hair system alone or the intense hair oil with a combination of our other hair oils.
So for a Pittaja Indralupta, we may suggest Krya classic hair oil + Krya Intense hair Oil. For Kaphaja Indralupta, we may go along with Krya Intense hair Oil alone for the hair + body abhyanga to bring down Kapha as a whole. For Vataja Indralupta, we may suggest supplementation of milk and ghee along with combination of Krya conditioning hair oil + Krya Intense hair oil.
For mental stress based Vataja Indralupta, we have successfully tried a combination of Krya harmony hair oil + Krya Intense hair oil.
Ayurvedic approach: identify dosha imbalance behind hairloss and treat accordingly
The point being made here is that Ayurveda treats balding and hair loss as a combination of several factors. Depending upon the reason behind the hair loss, we have to use herbs in the right combination to treat the disorder.
Onion juice application may help in Kaphaja Indralupta as Onion juice can irritate the scalp, produce heat and help dissolve Kleshma. However, it cannot add nourishing substances or astringent factors and these are also required to support hair growth. It is also worth noting that the texts have not used onion juice application for the scalp at all, despite suggesting a very wide array of herbs of both plants, mineral and animal origin.
Krya verdict: to continue with onion juice or not?
As we have said above, unless we have identified the dosha imbalance behind the hairloss, we cannot adopt or suggest any single herb remedy. So if you have pitta or vata imbalanced Indralupta, onion juice will worsen the problem and not cure it.
When in doubt and facing a serious hair loss, it is far better to consult an Ayurvedic Vaidya and determine the cause behind hairfall then try out an internet remedy.
It is also important in the case of severe hair loss to seriously adopt health giving habits like the abhyanga, correct your diet, reduce stress and eat well. Ayurveda tells us always to choose the holistic, long term solution and choose good health. When we follow health giving habits and a diet, our imbalances are gently but steadily corrected.
There are subtle hints of Hemanta Ritucharya practices given in the Srimad Valmiki Ramayana. In the Aranya Kanda, Sarga 16, Lakshmana gives