There is nothing more alarming than finding wads of hair in your brush or in your bath tub drain. For women, in particular, the thought of going bald is simply not acceptable. Men, on the other hand, can simply shave their heads, get an ear pierced, and voilà....they look sexy. A woman's hair defines her femininity. The style, color, and cut tells the world what she thinks and feels about herself on a daily basis and in general. When your hair begins to thin, it is usually a symptom of some imbalance in the body.
In Chinese medicine, the causes of thinning hair can be attributed to a number of different imbalances, or what we refer to as "Patterns". Some of the primary patterns are Blood Deficiency, Kidney Deficiency, and/or Jing Deficiency.
In Chinese medicine, Blood Deficiency is not the same thing as anemia. A person who is blood deficient can have anemia, but not always. The symptoms of blood deficiency can include poor sleep, dream-disturbed sleep, dry skin, brittle nails, pale complexion, palpitations, fatigue, spots in field of vision, thinning of hair, premature graying, and trembling or numbness in the arms and hands. Blood Deficiency can be caused by a number of things:
The treatment of Blood Deficiency will vary depending on what the cause is. There is no "one treatment treats all" in Chinese medicine. Once the cause has been identified, then a treatment protocol can be designed. This will include choosing the appropriate points to needle, blood building herbs, improving digestion, and choosing appropriate blood building foods.
When the Kidneys are out of balance, it will effect just about every physiological process in the body. A Kidney Yin Deficiency will present as a low level heat in the body that dries out the fluids in the body. A lack of Kidney fire (Kidney Yang Deficiency) will create coldness in the body which will impede proper digestion, cause poor circulation, and create an accumulation of dampness (fluid) in the body - all of which can directly affect hair growth.
Jing Qi Deficiency
a Jing Deficiency is another pattern associated with Kidney imbalances. Hair thinning due to a Jing Deficiency is related more to lifestyle habits and the aging process. Our Jing Qi is received at conception and is stored in our Kidneys. Our Jing Qi is our "Life Force" that can be diminished through poor sleep habits, poor eating habits, rapid weight loss, pregnancy, stress, overwork, excess sex, and long term use of alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs, and other intoxicants. As we age, our Jing Qi slowly dissipates - there is nothing we can do about that. Loss of Jing Qi due to lifestyle factors can be replenished through good lifestyle practices.
The treatment for a Jing Qi Deficiency will incorporate various Chinese healing modalities such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, nutritional evaluation, accessory techniques such as moxibustion, cupping, guasha, and massage. In addition, a close look at lifestyle habits are a given.
External Healing Remedies
Increasing blood circulation to the scalp will also help to promote hair growth. Self-massage to the scalp using some stimulating herbs is one of the simplest methods. Here are some recipes:
1" chunk of fresh ginger root, skin removed
2 tablespoons of oil (olive or jojoba are good choices)
Using a garlic press, press the ginger root juice into a bowl. Discard the ginger root pulp. Add the oil and blend well. If you like, you can heat this oil up in the microwave - just make sure it is not too hot. Using your finger tips, gently massage the oil into your scalp where the thinning is occurring. Place a shower cap over your hair and leave on for 30 minutes. Be sure to wipe off any oil that may drip onto your forehead to avoid contact with your eyes. Wash your hair as usual. Fresh ginger root has warming properties.
2 drops of essential oil of peppermint
2 tablespoons of jojoba oil
Blend the peppermint oil and jojoba oil well. Gently massage into your scalp where the thinning is occurring. Place a shower cap over your hair and wipe any excess off to avoid contact with your eyes. Leave on for 30 minutes. Wash hair as usual. Peppermint has cooling, invigorating properties.
Warning: If you have any open sores on your scalp, avoid using any herbs until it has healed.
Importance of Circulation
Good circulation to the scalp is important. Equally important is that the blood being circulated is rich in nutrients. Good quality blood can only come from eating good quality foods and good assimilation of nutrients. A tool we use in Chinese medicine to promote circulation is called a Plum Blossom Tool. We gently tap the surface skin without breaking the skin.
Most people when they think of Chinese medicine commonly think "acupuncture". Yet acupuncture is only one of many effective healing modalities used in Chinese medicine. Other commonly used modalities include Chinese herbs, massage, cupping, moxibustion, guasha, electrical stimulation, Chinese diet therapy, and Qi gong. The effectiveness of a treatment plan lies in the skillful integration of these modalities along with consistent treatment.
A Practical System
Traditional Chinese medicine is a very practical system that encourages healing in the body and helps the organ systems in the body to work synergistically with one another. There is nothing magical or mysterious about how it works. Half the battle is figuring out what has caused the problem in the first place. The next step is to address the causative factors (root problem) and then treat the symptoms. If the root cause in not addressed the symptoms will keep reoccurring.
A Case Study
About a year ago, I treated a man (I'll call him Bob) who initially came in with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Bob was also overweight and borderline diabetic, had high cholesterol, experienced intermittent chest pain, and suffered from chronic fatigue. I treated Bob for three months (two times per week) using acupuncture, massage, cupping, and moxibustion. In addition, I used Chinese diet therapy and herbal therapy as part of his treatment plan. Bob was extremely compliant with his treatment plan both in and out of the office. After three months he went back to his doctor for blood work and a regular check-up. His blood sugar level and cholesterol were back in the normal range, he lost 40 lbs., and no longer suffered from bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, and his energy returned.
Lifestyle Changes: a must
An important part of Bob's healing process were the lifestyle changes he made. Bob was ready and willing to make those changes. My experience over the years has been that the patients who are the most compliant see the greatest change. Healing is a three-part process that involves awareness, implementation, and participation. There are no shortcuts to true healing. True healing is about respecting and nurturing the body's innate wisdom so that you may live a healthy, happy life.
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