ALOPECIA (Baldness)

This term is usually used to describe temporary baldness, as a means of distinguishing between this and male pattern baldness, which is permanent, progressive, and unlikely to be influenced by any treatment. Temporary baldness, or severe hair loss, can often be helped considerably by aromatherapy and other means.

Temporary baldness may follow illness, or be a symptom of it; for example hair loss may be a sign of thyroid or pituitary deficiency, or defective functioning of the ovaries. Hair loss in such cases is gradual and general, causing thinning more or less evenly from all parts of the scalp. There are many well-documented cases of partial or complete loss of hair following shock, bereavement, accidents or a period of extreme stress. This is usually sudden and patchy, with one or more completely bald patches appearing, and is called alopecia areata. The hair may suddenly start growing again just as mysteriously as it stopped, but the very fact of becoming bald, or partly so, can create an extra element of stress which delays recovery.

Stress, shock and other mental and emotional problems are areas in which aromatherapy can be particularly effective, and hair growth will often start when the therapist has been able to help with the underlying cause. Local treatments to the scalp will mainly be concentrated on massage to increase the circulation and the general health of the skin of the scalp, since each hair grows from a 'root' or follicle in the dermis, or inner layer of skin. Rosemary, Lavender and Thyme are the oils which have been found to stimulate hair growth, both where the loss is total, or where there is severe thinning. If there is some hair remaining, any one of these oils, in a base of almond, olive or jojoba oil can be rubbed gently into it once or twice a week and left on for two hours or more before washing out with a gentle, natural shampoo. Hot towels can be wrapped round the head to aid absorption. This kind of treatment will improve the appearance of the remaining hair, giving an illusion of greater bulk, and this in itself can be a big boost to the morale of the unfortunate victim.

Aromatherapy treatments to help with stress and many kinds of trauma are discussed in other sections of this book, so I will only mention here that massage will be the most important, and can be backed up by aromatic baths. While these treatments are being carried out by the therapist, the person suffering hair loss should be shown how to massage his or her own scalp daily.

If physical illness seems to be a cause of hair loss, it may be necessary to combine aromatherapy treatments with help from a doctor, naturopath, acupuncturist or other suitably trained and qualified person. The actual treatment of the scalp should be as I have described above.

Complete or partial loss of hair is sometimes caused by a food allergy, or by a chemical irritant, such as hair dyes, perms, industrial chemicals or fumes, and then obviously the avoidance of the irritant food or chemical is the first necessity; but help with essential oils will often encourage hair growth once the irritant has been identified and removed.

The loss of hair is a side effect of some drugs, most notably those used in the treatment of cancer, and very recently aromatherapists in Norway have reported success in encouraging cancer patients' hair to grow again, particularly when using oil of Lavender. Good general nutrition is important to the health of the head and hair, in particular adequate protein, vegetable fats in small amounts, and vitamins of the B family.

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