What is Rosemary?
Rosemary is a fragrant evergreen plant with needle-like leaves The ancients considered it to be a symbol of remembrance. The also celebrated the herb’s strong healing powers. References to rosemary are even found in literature, such as Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet which includes a well-known quote “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance, pray you love, remember.” Today, scientists are looking more closely at Rosemary oil for hair growth.
Using Rosemary Oil for Hair Growth – Is There Research Support?
Three intriguing studies link rosemary to the potential for better hair health. According to this research, Rosemary can help treat alopecia areata, block a key enzyme responsible for hair loss, and prevent inflammation (1, 2, 3).
Rosemary Essential Oil for Hair Growth in Alopecia Areata
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disorder that results in hair loss. White blood cells of the immune system mistakenly attack the hair follicles, causing them to diminish in size.
Because it involves the immune system, many people believe that genetic factors are the main cause of this condition.
However, there is evidence which seems to contradict this perspective. One review (published in the Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology) summarizes a 51-year effort to collect data on alopecia areata. Surprisingly, only 0-8.6% of the documented patients reported some type of family history.
The American Academy of Dermatology also released a publication suggesting that genes play a smaller role in alopecia areata than previously thought. In 11 sets of identical twins, only 55% percent of the subjects showed the condition in both siblings. Since identical twins have the exact same genes, this percentage was surprisingly low. Such findings suggest that environmental factors may also contribute to the development of alopecia areata.
In 1998 the Archives of Dermatology, published a study (1) where researchers used essential oils to improve hair growth in alopecia areata patients. They mixed Rosemary oil for hair growth with other essential oils like thyme, lavender, and cedarwood. 86 patients took part in the study which lasted 7 months.
Since these essential oils are very strong, they were mixed with carrier oils. The test group subjects massaged the mixture onto their scalp every day. The control group followed the same instructions with just the carrier oils.
The researchers measured hair growth improvements using two methods:
- six point scale
- computerized analysis
Based on these methods, 44% of the test group subjects (19 out of 43 patients) showed improvement. In the control group, only 15% (6 out of the 41 patients) revealed hair growth improvements.
The study concluded that essential oils provide a safe and effective treatment for alopecia areata (1).
Clearly, Rosemary oil was not the only factor responsible for observed hair growth in this study. The other essential oils also contributed to the final results. To determine the exact role of Rosemary oil in the improved hair growth in the studied alopecia areata patients, continued research is needed.
Using Rosemary Oil for Hair Loss – How the Plant Extract Blocks 5α-reductase
50 million men suffer from male pattern baldness in the US alone. This condition results from many different chemical pathways. The main one involves the interaction of DHT with sensitive hair follicles, causing them to shrink. Therefore, common drug treatments for pattern baldness (e.g. Finasteride) work to lower DHT levels in the blood.
An enzyme called 5α-reductase breaks testosterone down to form DHT. Chemically blocking this enzyme will lower this byproduct in the bloodstream. However, pharmaceutical drugs made for this purpose may incur dangerous side effects. This is why there is a growing interest to find more natural ways to inhibit the 5α enzyme.
A study conducted by Murata K, Noguchi K, Kondo M, et al. (2) suggests that rosemary oil may be able to fulfill this role.
In this experiment, researchers treated mice with testosterone to disrupt their hair growth cycles. Then, they shaved the dorsal areas of these mice. They then applied a topical formulation of rosemary leaf extract (RO-ext), every day. The researchers were curious to see if rosemary could actually regrow hair.
At the end of their study, the results showed that the Rosemary extract actually did foster the formation of new hair. The only way for this to occur was by inhibiting the 5α-reductase enzyme.
Although these results are quite significant, implying that Rosemary oil may work like Finasteride, scientists still need to conduct future studies to generalize these findings to humans.
Rosemary’s Anti-Microbial Properties
A research study performed by Sienkiewicz M, Łysakowska M, Pastuszka M, et al. , tested the antimicrobial effects of basil and rosemary oil. They wanted to see what would happen when different strains of Escherichia coli bacteria are exposed to these essential oils (3).
The researchers exposed the bacteria to rosemary oil on petri dishes. They found that both the rosemary and basil essential oils were very effective at killing all the strains of the Escherichia coli bacteria.
Based on these findings it is reasonable to surmise that Rosemary oil may negatively affect bacteria. This reduces the damaging effects of inflammation and minimizes the extent of hair loss.
The idea of using rosemary oil for hair growth is gaining increasing support from the scientific community. The essential oil promotes a healthier scalp which can then support healthier hair (2, 3).
Frequently Asked Questions: How to Use Rosemary Oil for Hair
What are some ways I can use rosemary oil for my hair and scalp?
If you look online, there are many DIY hair treatment recipes using rosemary oil. Here are a few examples:
To make your own rosemary oil scalp massage, choose a carrier oil such as jojoba oil or coconut oil. Use about 3-4 drops of rosemary oil for about every tablespoon of the carrier oil. Rub your mixture into the scalp for a few minutes. Then leave it on for about half an hour.
Hair and Scalp Cleanser
To give the cleansing properties of your shampoo a boost, add 3-4 drops of rosemary oil directly to the bottle and shake. Shampoo as usual, devoting more attention to your scalp and the roots of your hair.
If you are interested in making a more natural type of shampoo, there are many recipes available online. Typical ingredients often include baking soda and apple cider vinegar, mixed with water. Add just a few drops of rosemary oil to reap the benefits of this plant essence on your hair and scalp.
References – Rosemary Oil for Hair Growth
(1) Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD. Randomized trial of aromatherapy successful treatment for alopecia areata. Arch Dermatol 1998;134(11):1349-52.
(2) Murata K, Noguchi K, Kondo M, et al. Promotion of hair growth by Rosmarinus officinalis leaf extract. Phytother Res 2013;27(2):212-7
(3) Sienkiewicz M, Łysakowska M, Pastuszka M, et al. The potential use of basil and
rosemary essential oils as effective antibacterial agents. Molecules 2013;18(8):9334-51.