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Turmeric (Curcumin) For Hair Regrowth? Big Claims, Limited Data

Turmeric is a common spice derived from the root of the plant Curcuma longa. It is thought to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and blood pressure-regulating properties amongst other things. These properties can be attributed to an active component of turmeric called curcumin.[1]Kocaadam, B., Sanlier, N. (2017). Curcumin, an active component of turmeric (Curcuma longa), and its effects on health. Critical Reviews in Food and Science Nutrition. 57(13). 2889-2895. Available … Continue reading In this article, we will be delving into the science behind turmeric, whether there is any evidence to support its use in hair loss disorders, and whom turmeric might benefit.

Key Takeaways

  • What is it? Turmeric is a spice derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant that contains a bioactive compound called curcumin. Curcumin is thought to have many properties including anti-inflammatory and anti-modulatory properties. Some studies suggest that curcumin treatment could have a testosterone/dihydrotestosterone-reducing effect, however, these were only completed in cells and mouse prostate tissue. Further research in mice suggests curcumin treatment might help with stress-related hair loss, however, this also has not been examined in humans. 
  • Evidence Quality: The evidence quality is 4/100 based on our metrics.
  • Clinical Data: There is no clinical data to suggest that curcumin can improve hair loss outcomes by itself. 
  • Safety: Turmeric/curcumin is considered to be safe, and studies show that it can be tolerated orally at concentrations of 6 g/day.
  • Who Might Turmeric Benefit? From the limited data available, turmeric may benefit those with androgenetic alopecia or stress-induced hair loss, however, due to the lack of clinical data, we do not recommend the usage of turmeric alone. 

Turmeric is a naturally occurring compound derived from the root of the Curcuma longa family that has been utilized for thousands of years as a herbal medicine, coloring agent, spice, and food additive in many different areas of the world, particularly in Asian countries.[2]Akaberi, M., Sahebkar, A., Emami, S.A., (2021). Turmeric and curcumin: from traditional to modern medicine. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 1291. 15-39. Available at: … Continue reading

Most recognized for its anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties, curcumin has the potential to benefit those who suffer from inflammation-related hair loss disorders (such as alopecia areata). For example, curcumin down-regulates inflammatory pathways including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). Furthermore, it inhibits the transcription factor NF-κB (which is a key inducer of the inflammatory response) and has broad antioxidant activity, upregulating the transcription factor Nrf-2 which subsequently increases the synthesis of antioxidants within the body.[3]Farris, P, K., Rogers, N., McMichael, A., Kogan, S. (2017). A novel multi-targeting approach to treating hair loss, using standardized nutraceuticals. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 16(11). 141. … Continue reading

But what evidence is there that turmeric or its derivative curcumin can actually affect hair follicle biology?

Is There Evidence for an Effect of Turmeric on Hair Follicles?

One study in prostate cancer cell lines LNCaP and 22Rv1 was conducted, in which cells were treated with either 10 µmol/L, 25 µmol/L or 50 µmol/L of curcumin or control for 24 hours.[4]Ide, H., Lu, Y., Noguchi, T., Muto, S., Okada, H., Kawato, S., Horie, S. (2018). Modulation of AKR1C2 by curcumin decreases testosterone production in prostate cancer. Cancer Science. 109(4). … Continue reading All curcumin treatments were found to significantly reduce the levels of both testosterone and dihydrotestosterone compared to the control-treated cells (Figure 1).

Curcumin Treatment effects
Figure 1: Effect of curcumin treatment on testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. Adapted from:[5]Ide, H., Lu, Y., Noguchi, T., Muto, S., Okada, H., Kawato, S., Horie, S. (2018). Modulation of AKR1C2 by curcumin decreases testosterone production in prostate cancer. Cancer Science. 109(4). … Continue reading

Curcumin was also found to increase protein and gene expression of AKR1C2. AKR1C2 is a key protein involved in androgen metabolism as it is a dihydrotestosterone reductase, meaning that it metabolizes dihydrotestosterone.[6]Ji, Q., Chang, L., VanDenBerg, D., Stanczyk, F.Z., Stolz, A. (2003). Selective reduction in AKR1C2 in prostate cancer and its role in DHT metabolism. The Prostate. 54. 275-289. Available at: … Continue reading This is different from other treatments of androgenetic alopecia – for example, finasteride inhibits 5α-reductase, and flutamide binds to androgen receptors to stop androgens from exerting their effects.

So, AKR1C2 expression and activity appear to increase with curcumin treatment leading to a subsequent decrease in dihydrotestosterone levels (and also testosterone, although the reason why has not been elucidated). This experiment was also conducted in mice treated orally with 200 mg/kg of curcumin for 30 days, and then harvested for experiments on the prostate tissue (Figure 2). Similar to the cell experiments, AKR1C2 protein expression was upregulated and testosterone was down-regulated, but dihydrotestosterone levels did not change.

Curcumin Effect on T and DHT
Figure 2: Effect of curcumin treatment on levels of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, and protein levels of AKR1C2 in rat prostate tissue. Adapted from:[7]Ide, H., Lu, Y., Noguchi, T., Muto, S., Okada, H., Kawato, S., Horie, S. (2018). Modulation of AKR1C2 by curcumin decreases testosterone production in prostate cancer. Cancer Science. 109(4). … Continue reading

These findings show a potential inhibitory effect of curcumin treatment on testosterone and/or dihydrotestosterone. However, these effects were observed in prostate cancer cells and prostate tissue, and not examined in the context of hair loss. Because of this, we cannot say whether curcumin might actually be able to treat androgenetic alopecia.

So are there any other studies to give us more information?

Unfortunately, there has not been a lot of research into the actual effect that turmeric or curcumin might have on hair follicles. After a lengthy search of journals, we were able to find one article completed in mice that actually investigates the effects of curcumin on hair follicles published in 2010 in an online journal.

This study was conducted in six to eight-week mice with stress-induced alopecia.[8]Vyas, N., Keservani, R.K., Nayak, A., Jain, S., Singhal, M. (2010). Effect of Tamarindus indica and Curcuma longa on stress-induced alopecia. Pharmacologyonline. 1. 377-384. Available at: … Continue reading The researchers induced the growing stage of the hair follicle cycle in mice using depilation and then split them into four treatment groups:

  1. Control group (no treatment)
  2. Negative control (receives sonic stress but without any drug treatment)
  3. Oral treatment of T.indica at 300 mg/kg after sonic stress treatment (5 days)
  4. Oral treatment of C. longa at 300 mg/kg after sonic stress treatment (5 days)

Sonic stress was given by a rodent-repellant device at a frequency of 300 Hertz in intervals of 15 seconds. Hairs were counted in a specific 1mm2 area 20 days after the initial treatment. The number of hair follicles in each stage of the hair cycle was measured (however it doesn’t specifically say how they measured it). Additionally, blood was taken on days 16, 18, and 20 for alkaline phosphatase activity measurement and measurement of lymphocytes (mast cells – a type of immune cell) as a measurement of stress. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity is a good indicator of the hair cycle stage. During the growing stage of the hair cycle, ALP is at its highest in the early growing stage (early anagen) a subsequent decrease in mid-anagen, and its lowest level in the transition (catagen) period.[9]Iida, M., Ihara, S., Matsuzaki, T. (2007). Hair cycle-dependent changes of alkaline phosphatase activity in the mesenchyme and epithelium in mouse vibrissal follicles. Development, Growth & … Continue reading

Sonic stress alone (negative control) increased the percentage of lymphocytes and decreased ALP levels and hair density (Figure 3). The C. longa treatment did rescue lymphocyte count (from 24.16 – 20.16) however it was not a total rescue back to the control level. Furthermore, the C. longa treatment increased alkaline phosphatase levels to a higher level than the control group (97.16 µl), and there was a slight improvement in hair density (15.16 mm2), however, it did not rescue back hair density back to the control level.

Lymphocyte count
Figure 3: Lymphocyte count, alkaline phosphatase level, and hair density in mice treated with either a control (no treatment), negative control (sonic stress alone), Capilia longa (plus sonic stress), and Tamarindus indica (plus sonic stress). Adapted from:[10]Vyas, N., Keservani, R.K., Nayak, A., Jain, S., Singhal, M. (2010). Effect of Tamarindus indica and Curcuma longa on stress-induced alopecia. Pharmacologyonline. 1. 377-384. Available at: … Continue reading

The researchers also calculated the percentage number of hairs in each stage of the cell cycle for each of the treatment groups. Compared to the negative control group, C.longa increased the percentage of hairs in the anagen stage (57%), decreased the number of hairs in catagen (2.5%), and decreased the number of telogen hairs (57%). However, these effects did not restore numbers to the control level. Furthermore, the researchers did not state how they worked out the number of hairs in each stage so we do not really know how much we can actually trust this data.

hair cycle
Figure 4: Effect of different treatments on hair cycle stage. Anagen = growing stage. Catagen = transition stage. Telogen = non-growing stage. Adapted from:[11]Vyas, N., Keservani, R.K., Nayak, A., Jain, S., Singhal, M. (2010). Effect of Tamarindus indica and Curcuma longa on stress-induced alopecia. Pharmacologyonline. 1. 377-384. Available at: … Continue reading

So, we would say that the evidence is pretty shaky right now on how curcumin might affect hair follicle growth. But is there any evidence in humans suggesting that curcumin might be a good treatment for hair loss?

Clinical Data

Unfortunately, no clinical data support the use of turmeric or curcumin alone. However, it has been used as an ingredient in nutraceutical supplements targeted toward hair loss. Some clinical trials have been completed for these, but because curcumin was just one ingredient among many, we cannot say if any positive effect was from the curcumin.

Is Turmeric Supplementation Safe?

Turmeric/curcumin is generally considered to be a safe substance, and human studies have shown that it can be safe at a dose of up to 6 g/day orally for 4-7 weeks. However, some people have reported gastrointestinal side effects at this concentration. Furthermore, some limited studies have found that oral formulations of curcumin were safe for human use at a dose of 500 mg twice daily for 30 days, however, these need to be investigated further.[12]Soleimani, V., Sahebkar, A., Hosseinzadeh, H. (2018). Turmeric (Curcuma longa) and its major constituent (curcumin) as nontoxic and safe substances: Review. Phytotherapy Research. 32(6). 985-995. … Continue reading

Who might benefit from Turmeric Supplementation?

Although there is no clinical evidence to support the benefits of turmeric or curcumin for individuals with hair loss disorders, the mechanism of action suggests that it may be helpful for those with androgenetic alopecia. The research in mice also shows that it may offset some negative effects of stress-induced senescence. Nevertheless, due to the lack of clinical data in humans, we do not advise using it as a standalone treatment.

References

References
1 Kocaadam, B., Sanlier, N. (2017). Curcumin, an active component of turmeric (Curcuma longa), and its effects on health. Critical Reviews in Food and Science Nutrition. 57(13). 2889-2895. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2015.1077195
2 Akaberi, M., Sahebkar, A., Emami, S.A., (2021). Turmeric and curcumin: from traditional to modern medicine. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 1291. 15-39. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56153-6_2.
3 Farris, P, K., Rogers, N., McMichael, A., Kogan, S. (2017). A novel multi-targeting approach to treating hair loss, using standardized nutraceuticals. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 16(11). 141. Available at: PMID 29141069
4, 5, 7 Ide, H., Lu, Y., Noguchi, T., Muto, S., Okada, H., Kawato, S., Horie, S. (2018). Modulation of AKR1C2 by curcumin decreases testosterone production in prostate cancer. Cancer Science. 109(4). 1230-1238. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/cas.13517
6 Ji, Q., Chang, L., VanDenBerg, D., Stanczyk, F.Z., Stolz, A. (2003). Selective reduction in AKR1C2 in prostate cancer and its role in DHT metabolism. The Prostate. 54. 275-289. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/pros.10192
8, 10, 11 Vyas, N., Keservani, R.K., Nayak, A., Jain, S., Singhal, M. (2010). Effect of Tamarindus indica and Curcuma longa on stress-induced alopecia. Pharmacologyonline. 1. 377-384. Available at: https://pharmacologyonline.silae.it/files/archives/2010/vol1/39.Narendra.pdf (Accessed: 09 May 2023)
9 Iida, M., Ihara, S., Matsuzaki, T. (2007). Hair cycle-dependent changes of alkaline phosphatase activity in the mesenchyme and epithelium in mouse vibrissal follicles. Development, Growth & Differentiation. 49(3). 185-195. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-169X.2007.00907.x
12 Soleimani, V., Sahebkar, A., Hosseinzadeh, H. (2018). Turmeric (Curcuma longa) and its major constituent (curcumin) as nontoxic and safe substances: Review. Phytotherapy Research. 32(6). 985-995. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6054

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