I thought it might be helpful to some of you out there who are totally new to the concept of using Ayurvedic herbs for hair health and growth, to put together a short guide to what the more common herbs are useful for – thin hair, bald spots, oily hair, dandruff, itchy scalp, premature greying, preventing split ends and more.
I’m still new to all of this myself and I have a long way to go before I would say I’m 100% confident in the health of my hair, but these herbs have been used in many cultures for centuries and so far I’m so happy with my own little concoctions that I feel fairly confident that the herbs below can help you too.
You can find most in powdered form to make your own shampoo pastes and rinses, and some come in oil form for more intensive treatments – or you could be totally radical and make your own powders, rinses and whatnot from the unprocessed plants yourself.
If you’d like to know where I buy these herbs from to make my DIY shampoos, I’ve published a guide for you here. A quick Google should also help you track ingredients down, or I would recommend looking for local natural health food shops or Asian grocery stores.
I’ve started buying a lot of these herbs from Ecco Verde who have really thorough descriptions to help you, so even if you don’t end up buying from them they’re a useful resource.
I’ve only tried a few ways of preparing these cleansing and conditioning treatments, and as always I’m no expert and have so much to learn, but you can mix and match pretty much all of these herbs to make your own tailored recipes; get a few more ideas on how to apply these natural remedies from Style Craze’s great guide and from Googling around.
Translation: “fruit for hair” err yum.
Hair benefits: rich in antioxidants, Vitamin C and D for hair growth and nourishment, low pH levels so it’s mild, won’t strip your hair of its natural oils, detangles hair, reduces hair fall, reduces dandruff, conditions hair, relieves itchy scalp, provides volume.
Cons: caution needed for blondes and those with bleached hair. To be honest I think it lightens my hair but that might not be the case for everyone.
I loved shikakai for a long time, but I’ve recently switched it for neem in my ‘shikakai, amla and reetha’ shampoo mix and I have to admit that the neem feels less drying while I’m massaging it into my scalp, so I’ll probably use smaller amounts of shikakai going forward.
Also known as: Amalaki, or the Indian Gooseberry.
Hair benefits: prevents dandruff, natural conditioner, helps prevent grey hair, helps prevent hair loss, good for oily scalps, reduces itchy scalp, rich in Vitamin C and can apparently be eaten for hair and blood health.
Cons: not a hair dye by itself, but when used with shikakai can leave a brown tone on blonde hair – I still do this now and then anyway though because I like the coppery tones that it brings out in my own hair, especially in the winter. What’s life without a little whimsy, eh?
Also known as: ritha, soap nuts, soapnuts.
Hair benefits: promotes hair growth, makes hair thick and beautiful, can be used as an everyday shampoo without damaging your hair.
Cons: personally I find it can be a little drying, but it’s an effective detergent-like cleanser so I like to use it with more conditioning herbs like amla, neem and shikakai to make sure my scalp feels cleansed.
Hair benefits: improves blood circulation, natural remedy for head lice, mainly used for hair loss; reduces the damage caused to the roots from dandruff, dryness, scaliness, eczema, psoriasis and excessive sebum.
Have I tried it? As I mention in the shikakai section above, I’ve been using neem in my shampoo mix instead of shikakai and I absolutely love it – it leaves my hair with a wonderfully fresh scent and it’s less drying while I’m massaging it through my scalp.
Also known as: “neutral henna” (used as a base for natural hair dyes like actual henna or indigo. I’m reluctant to write about henna and indigo for dyeing the hair red or black as I wouldn’t ever dye my hair again, but please do look into them online for a strengthening and non-toxic alternative to hair dye).
Hair benefits: conditioning, restorative, thicker hair, smoother hair, shinier hair, great for strengthening.
Cons: can leave a yellowish tinge on grey hair.
Personally I use cassia now and then to deep condition and blonde up my hair by mixing it with amla, chamomile tea and lemon peel, stuff like that, and I always like the very subtle results. Experiment and have fun!
Also known as: fenugreek seed powder.
Hair benefits: soothes itchiness and irritations, reduces dandruff, reduces premature hair loss, activates cell renewal, promotes healthy hair growth.
Have I tried it? A much more soothing alternative to cassia obovata if you’re looking for a nice natural conditioner – methi power needs a *lot* of water to hydrate it and it goes hella lumpy but it ends up in the most wonderfully slippery and slimy texture, which I love.
When I’ve used methi in a pre-shampoo conditioning treatment, my hair doesn’t last quite as long before it goes a little limp, but I’m working on the “recipe” to make it work for my hair and it’s great for when my hair is feeling dry and unloved.
Note: As I talk about in my shikakai/amla and reetha shampoo recipe post, I would agree with all of the claims made about the herbs above for hair health.
My hair is thicker, more voluminous, softer, shinier, feels stronger, holds onto moisture more easily, takes longer to get greasy and, providing I don’t go OTT with the reetha or shikakai, I don’t get an itchy scalp.
I also think that the wiry, white hairs that had started to spring up on the top of my head have stopped coming through, which is pretty amazing – I’ve only heard of ashwagandha stimulating the melanin (colour pigment) in hair, so it could be more from my diet than from the herbs.
My layers are a lot tamer from using the neem, and I also do hot oil deep conditioning treatments once or twice a fortnight – I don’t get as many days out of my hair after an oil treatment but it’s *super* soft and then the next wash is always good – I’ll be posting more on this soon.
Here are some more herbs that I’m yet to review fully:
Also known as: Bacopa monnieri.
Hair benefits: strengthens hair, promotes hair growth, provides nourishment to the roots, promotes new follicle growth, reduces dandruff, reduces itchy scalp, reduces the occurrence of new split ends, covers hair follicles with a protective layer to make hair shiny and thick.
Have I tried it? I’ve used it as a conditioner throughout the length of my hair as I’m interested in its use for preventing split ends, but my observations aren’t really good enough yet to comment.
Hair benefits: strengthens hair, promotes hair growth, good for thin, fragile, fine hair; has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, rich in vitamin A and essential fatty acids.
Have I tried it? Like the brahmi, I’ve used this a couple of times but I’m not sure how it affects my hair yet – I need a few more tries to figure it out.
Translation: “King of hair” (I mean, how could you not want to use it after hearing that?) Also known as bringraj, bringaraj, or the false daisy.
Hair benefits: rejuvenating, promotes hair growth, reverses balding; treats hair loss and thinning hair, can prevent premature greying, natural conditioner; provides softness and suppleness, oil massaged on your scalp before bed promotes restful sleep.
Cons: not good for blondes as it has a dark dyeing effect, so I won’t be trying it myself.
Also known as: the Indian Winter Cherry.
Hair benefits: hair rejuvenation, reduces hair loss because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol, increases antioxidants, helps scalp circulation, reduces dandruff, stimulates the production of melanin for hair growth.
Have I tried it? I’ve ordered some and am yet to try it out – I’ll report back eventually 🙂
Mixing your herbal powders with floral waters to make shampoo paste
So one of the ways you can use these herbal powders, which I’ve been doing, is to mix them with liquid to make a paste of yoghurt consistency and using that to massage your wet scalp and leaving it in for a little while before rinsing.
You can mix your herbal powders with normal water if you like and they will work perfectly fine – warm water helps to loosen it up more quickly than cold water.
Personally I like to jazz things up a bit, so I use floral waters with healthful properties which also get a lovely scent into my hair, which is something a lot of people worry they’ll miss out on when they go no ‘poo.
They’re pretty pricey, but as you need such a tiny amount I like to think it’s worth it – you can always half and half a floral water with normal water, or I sometimes like to half and half floral water with chamomile/lemon peel tea for blonding.
There are absolutely tons of choices so I’ll maybe save those for another post, but just quickly these are the ones I either use or have bought to try out:
Helps to regenerate dry and brittle hair whilst soothing dry and cracked skin. I started using this recently and so far it actually helps my hair to last even longer before starting to get greasy – I’m up to about 4-5 days now which I’m pretty pleased with!
A calming hair tonic, close to the hair’s pH balance, reduces dandruff and repairs your hair’s porosity. I’ve been using rose water for ages now and I love it, I really think it helped with my hair’s ability to retain moisture.
Graeme also loves the smell of it, personally I find it a little sickly so maybe I’ll try another brand and see how I get on.
Perfect for bringing out natural blonde tones, I’ve been mixing my powders with freshly brewed chamomile tea lately but I also have a floral water to try out. It’s also softening and has skin soothing properties.
Stimulates the scalp to promote hair growth. Plus, well, y’know – it’s like all seductive and that. Scratch that – it smells SO strong. Dang.
Other Things I Do For Hair Health And Growth
A lot of people ask me if my hair’s always been this thick. I always had thin hair but a lot of it, if that makes sense.
Since using these Ayurvedic herbs my hair health has come along leaps and bounds, but here are a few other bits I do to make sure my skin, hair and nails stay in good condition:
- I only use a wide tooth comb when my hair is wet or dry to reduce breakage. I try to let it dry completely before bed so it doesn’t snag and break in the night, and I use heat tools on it once every few months. My point is, be gentle with your hair!
- I don’t smoke, drink alcohol or eat any processed foods – nothing deep fried, no lunch meats, no refined sugar or carbs. You want food in its original, natural state wherever possible.
- On the point of diet, I roughly follow a ketogenic diet. This means really high fat (the saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated kind, none of that hydrogenated and trans fat bollocks), moderate-high protein from animal products and very little-to almost zero natural sugar and carbs – I don’t eat fruit and I eat very few vegetables (yuh, vegetables are carbs).
- I drink around 2 litres of water a day, depending on thirst (read: listening to my cues from my body, it’s hard at first but it gets easier).
- I get around 7-7 1/2 hours sleep a night – we all know how important our beauty sleep is, but if you have trouble sleeping, the diet I follow really helped me with that as my blood sugar stopped rollercoastering. I also turn all my devices off an hour before bed as blue light keeps you awake, and I don’t consume any caffeine at all. I know right, I’m such a wholesome little shit! Also – yoga. Ofc.
Anyway I hope this helps some of you on your paths to long, strong, swishing curtains of beautiful hair, you gorgeous sexy beasts!