Green Tea, Does it Stop Hair Loss? (Updated!)

Green tea packs more health punch than most other drinks, but does it supply any ammo for the battle against hair loss? Amongst the many goodies in green tea are substances called polyphenol catechins. Evidence indicates that these polyphenols block the action of a specific enzyme that sparks male hair loss. As ever in hair loss studies nothing is straight forward — there are two types of this enzyme, cunningly named Type I and Type II. The Type II enzyme is the hair killing critter, yet a recent study showed that green tea only blocked the Type I enzyme:

The green tea catechins, (-)epigallocatechin-3-gallate and (-)epicatechin-3-gallate, but not (-)epicatechin and (-)epigallocatechin, are strong inhibitors of type 1 but not type 2 5 alpha-reductase.

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1995 Sep 25;214(3):833-8.

The polyphenols don’t block the type of enzyme more heavily involved in hair loss. So, sadly, green tea isn’t the hair loss supplement that many had hoped it would be. (Update: See the section below for good news about green tea) Nevertheless, inhibiting the Type I enzyme *may* help balance levels of male sex hormones. This in turn could have a small effect on minimising balding.

Don’t let this put you off drinking green tea, there are too many good reasons not to. Polyphenols are also souped up antioxidants, more potent than either vitamin C or E. They help protect against heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s — although it’s no panacea, it is excellent addition to beef up a healthy diet. Some may see this as irrelevant to hair loss, they couldn’t be more wrong — a healthier body ultimately means healthier hair. This is why I neck one or two cups of the stuff every day.

Update: Green Tea May Prevent Hair Loss

Until now there had been no direct research about the effect of green tea on hair loss, but a recent study revealed some tasty results. In the study mice with identical hair loss were selected and then split into two groups: group A received green tea in their drinking water, group B received only regular drinking water. The results showed that green tea halted hair loss in *all* of the test group and even triggered new hair growth in some of the mice. Significantly, some of the mice who were not invited to the tea party showed continued hair loss.

We observed hair regrowth among 33% of the mice that received green tea extract and did not observe any spontaneous remission or hair regrowth among the controls. Eight percent of these controls of showed progressive hair loss during the period of our study, whereas none of the mice who received polyphenoline extract showed any progressive hair loss.

Published 22 July 2005 in J Natl Med Assoc, 97(6): 816-8.

What might surprise a few people is the study concluded that green tea didn’t stop hair loss by blocking DHT, as many had originally speculated. Instead hair loss was prevented by the “anti-inflammatory” properties of green tea. Whereas blocking DHT is only of use to men, anti-inflammatories are beneficial to the hair loss of both men and women. So ladies, drink up too.

There is abundant evidence that polyphenolic sub-stances are considered as anti-inflammatory and have stress inhibitory characteristics, and there is evidence that stress inhibits hair growth.

Before you rush to put the kettle on you’ll need to temper your enthusiasm — quite how much green tea we’d need to drink to get similar levels the mice received, I don’t know exactly. The green tea water that the mice supped on had colossal concentrations of polyphenols. Of course, they would be drinking much less quantity, but then you have to consider we are relative monsters in size compared to mice. Unless you want to spend all day in the bathroom, trying to get equivalent levels of green tea just wouldn’t be practical, you’d need to guzzle down dozens of cups day to get alike amounts.

If you’re not adverse to pill popping then supplementation may fill the gap, with many brands of extracted green teas available in capsule form. The problem is the bulk of the research has been done with actual tea, the effects that concentrated polyphenols in supplements have on the body isn’t well documented. But there is a third option…

White is the New Green

There’s a lesser known tea available and it’s not black or green. It’s white. Whereas green tea comes from more matured parts of the tea plant, white tea is made from new growth buds and young leaves and is steamed and processed more quickly. As a result white tea has the most polyphenols of all types of tea — as much a three times the amount compared to green tea. So if you’re looking best bang for you buck with regards polyhpenol levels from natural sources, white tea is the top dog.

So, is it worth drinking green or white tea for hair loss still? Hell yeh. You will get one or two modest hair related perks, plus plenty of added health benefits. There is no real reason not to be drinking a cup or two a day. Just don’t expect any miracles — unless you’re small, white and furry and like cheese.

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This article was written on March 20, 2006 was posted in these categories DHT Blockers, Hair Nutrition .