Far back into the reaches of history and across cultures, hair has been an important part of one’s personal appearance. No physical feature of our bodies can be more easily changed.
Hair is a very important part of American culture. Generally, men love long hair on women and many women love men with long hair. No matter what length you prefer, people love hair and are willing to go to great lengths to enhance it, preserve it, or bring it back after it’s gone. St. Paul apparently didn’t approve of women’s “crowning glory.” He admonished women to cover their heads so as not to be a distraction.
Note the variety in hairstyles. Some people wear their hair long, some short, and some shave it off entirely. We wear it in braids, bobs, bangs, ringlets, straight, curly, spiked, in poufs, pony tails, buns, French twists, Mohawks, corn rows, and in all colors. It is teased, ratted, bleached, dyed, and streaked. Some people are bald naturally and reluctantly.
The ancient Egyptians shaved their heads. To look their most ferocious, wild warriors of old spiked theirs, so twentieth-century youngsters’ spiked hairstyles aren’t new. Our forefathers wore powdered wigs. The broken shafts of their long clay pipes were recycled and used to make the horizontal curls on the sides of their wigs.
Fair-skinned Scandinavians wore braids, as did red-skinned Native Americans and black-skinned people. Renaissance women wore towering hairdos, bedecked with all sorts of decorations, including on occasion a complete model of a ship. Louis XIV wore a periwig of dark, cascading curls.
Enhancing your hair
Before each strand of hair is pushed through the surface of a human scalp, the cells in the shaft are already dead. Yet what we want is to keep our hair looking alive and lively! How do we do this? How do we best care for the 100,000 hairs the average person has on his or her head? What can we do to make our hair as clean, healthy, lustrous, long-lasting and lively appearing as we can? How can we enhance, preserve, and, where necessary, restore it?
Let’s start with diet
Diet is, as noted throughout this book, vitally important. Hair can be one of the first areas to benefit or suffer by our choice of diet. This fact is underscored by women with anorexia who lose their hair after months of self-imposed extreme dieting which results in nutritional deficiencies. A healthy diet is essential for healthy hair.
Whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, brewer’s yeast, cold-pressed olive oil, organic vinegar, nuts, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, cauliflower, and lentils are said to be necessary for hair’s health, as are biotin and essential fatty acids. Some suggest kelp and wakame, two types of seaweed, as well.
Brushing is an easy addition to our hair-enhancing regimen. Brushing removes dirt and increases circulation. Each of your 100,000 strands of hair has its own tiny artery just beneath the scalp’s surface to feed the hair follicle. Stimulate them by brushing. One hundred brush strokes per day for lustrous hair was the rule my mother followed, as did her mother before her. Brushing also spreads the natural oils of the scalp throughout your hair.
Dry hair seems to require a little more maintenance. I have dry hair and I often do kukui hot oil hair treatments. I use my brand of kukui oil with essential oils of lavender and lily, comfrey, and calendula. I simply oil down my hair with the oil, apply heat for five minutes with a blow dryer, put a towel over my pillow, go to sleep, and wash it the following morning. Sometimes I use our seven exotic oils, a blend of oils including primrose oil, rosehip seed oil, almond oil, kukui oil, wheat germ, vitamin E, and essential oil of lavender.
You can make your own by using all of the above; other oils such as olive oil are also perfect, as is any blend you enjoy. You can slowly and watchfully heat the oil on a very low heat (most safely done in a doubleboiler), remove from heat, and put comfrey, coltsfoot, elder flowers, or horsetail in the oil. Soak for four hours and then strain the herbs out and apply the mixture to your hair. You can blend them with the essential oils of frankincense, chamomile, lavender, or rosemary. You can also simply add these essential oils to your shampoo. For dry hair, it is also beneficial to take one or two tablespoons of high-quality unrefined olive oil internally daily.
Dyeing our hair is nothing new; people did it as early as 3000 BC The Babylonian women are said to have preferred to dye their hair red, while the women during the Roman Empire preferred blonde.
Dr. Paul Eck of the Eck Institute of Applied Nutrition and Bioenergetics, Ltd., theorizes that “Gray hair is a warning signal that your body is decreasing its supply of energy.” Furthermore, he states that it isn’t a matter of aging; it is a matter of a depletion of minerals in the body. He states, “The cause of gray hair is chronic fatigue and exhaustion. Gray hair is nature’s way of warning us that we are running out of energy.” Interestingly, he states, “Calcium is white. So is zinc. In fact, zinc oxide is a popular white pigment. It is used, for instance, in the white ointment that lifeguards use to protect their noses from sunburn. As these two minerals accumulate in your tissues, and therefore, in your hair, the hair then turns the same color as the minerals in it, in this case, white.” [The Healthview Newsletter, Issue #27-29, 612 Rio Road West, Box 6670, Charlottesville, VA 22906, p. 9.]
Joy, a wonderful older woman who works at a Vitamin Cottage in Englewood, Colorado, has a beautiful head of long hair that is its rich, dark brown, original color. She has less gray than most thirty-five-year olds. She contributes it to fo-ti, the Chinese herb. She says taken over long periods of time, it will retain your natural hair color. My mother recently said she met a woman well into her 80s with the most beautiful hair and skin; the woman said it was from drinking kombachi tea.
Aubrey Hampton, author of What’s in Your Cosmetics? [Aubrey Hampton, What’s in Your Cosmetics? A Complete Consumer’s Guide to Natural and Synthetic Ingredients, Tucson, AZ: Odonian Press, 1995, p. 176.], says that walnut extract from the husk of the walnut (Juglans regia) is superior to artificial hair-coloring chemicals. It is said to dye hair a natural deep brown color and it can be combined with henna and coffee to make a deep red-brown. Hampton further states that henna can turn hair orange unless it is mixed with indigo and logwood. For long-lasting results, a 5.5 pH must be obtained by adding citric acid. Non-coloring henna makes an excellent ingredient for shampoos and neutral rinses.
Light Mountain Henna is a company that makes 100% henna dyes in eight colors, which are available in most health food stores.
Preserving your hair
It’s possible to wash your hair too often. I wash my hair as little as possible; if I don’t have to go anywhere that day, I don’t wash it, in order to preserve the natural oils as much as possible. Even the nicest shampoos can be harsh to your hair by their very nature. Use warm water and as little shampoo as possible; brush your hair first, and massage the shampoo into your scalp.
I refuse to use any shampoos that contain sodium laurel sulfate or anything that even sounds like that; so you have to be an ingredient reader to get a quality shampoo. Aubrey Organics makes clean shampoos that people with dry hair especially like.
A perfect hair-growth shampoo should contain yarrow and rosemary. Mrs. Grieve, in A Modern Herbal [Mrs. Maud Grieve, A Modern Herbal: The Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-Lore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs &Trees With All Their Modern Scientific Uses, Vol. II, reprint, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1982, p. 683.] suggests that “an infusion of the dried plants (both leaves and flowers) combined with borax and used when cold, makes one of the best hair-washes known. It forms an effectual remedy for the prevention of scurf and dandruff.”
For a dry, quick shampoo, sprinkle cornmeal through your hair and then brush out with 100 strokes. The dry cornmeal absorbs oil and soil.
And from your kitchen
You can make a good shampoo at home. Infuse the desired herbs in water. After straining, mix with a good soap, rosehip seed oil, rosemary and lavender essential oils. It will not need a preservative if you use it within a week.
To make your own shampoo, try:
1 cup water
1/4 cup horsetail, dried or fresh herb
10 drops rosemary essential oil
10 drops primrose oil
1/4 cup castile soap
1 teaspoon molasses
Bring the water to a boil. Add the horsetail and lower the heat, let simmer for twenty minutes. Cool and then strain the herbs out, and add the soap to the water. Stir in the rosemary, primrose oil, and molasses; use and then store in a jar in the refrigerator. Use within a week.
To make eight ounces of shampoo, add three-fourths cup of any of the above-mentioned herbs to two cups water in a nonmetal pan. Gently bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for ten minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit until cool. Strain the herbs out and add one-fourth cup of soap flakes. Cook together until emulsified. Then add one tablespoon of rosehip seed oil and five drops rosemary oil. Store in the refrigerator for one week.
For a pure herbal product try:
1/2 ounce soapwort root
1 1/2 pints water
Powder the soapwort root. Pour boiling water over the soapwort root and allow to steep for one hour. Strain the soapwort out, and use the liquid as your shampoo.
Dry-hair shampoo is another item you can make at home. It can contain any or all of the following herbs: comfrey, elder flowers, calendula, aloe, chamomile, witch hazel, horsetail, and coltsfoot.
Native Americans used a member of the lily family called chlorogalum for a shampoo. Yucca was also used like the soapwort shampoo.
For a wonderful vinegar rinse base for all hair types, add two tablespoons vinegar to one cup purified water. Simply pour this over your hair after shampooing. Caution: Do not use this on chemically treated hair.
Try applying aloe juice or gel directly to cleansed hair and leave in for an hour and then rinse out. Try putting ten drops rosemary oil into eight ounces of water and rinse through your hair.
For split ends, Jessica B. Harris, author of the World Beauty Book [Jessica B. Harris, The World Beauty Book, San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995.], recommends “scorch[ing a] corncob over a flame: then use it to brush the ends of your hair. The cob will remove split ends.”
I have long hair so I need serious detangling. Try this oregano hair detangler:
In a small pan, heat one cup of water and one-half cup fresh oregano. Make a tea and let steep for 45 minutes. After cooling, strain out the oregano, add five drops rosemary, and put in a spray bottle. After washing and conditioning your hair, spray on your hair and don’t rinse out.
A healthy scalp
I like to stand on my head every morning to increase the circulation of my scalp (among other benefits). This is only recommended for the more athletic among you and only with specific training. You can benefit from lying on a slantboard as well.
For dandruff, try putting warm cider vinegar all over your scalp and hair and then wrap a towel around your head, leave on for an hour and then wash. Do this twice a week until the dandruff stops.
Another interesting application for dandruff is the fresh juice from an apple applied to the hair; massage in for ten minutes and then rinse out with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in one cup of water. Rinse. Use this method once a week.
Some suggestions that others have found helpful:
- Take PABA supplements daily
- Take vitamin B
- Take zinc
- Take brewer’s yeast daily with spirulina and wheat grass in apple juice
- Take vitamin E internally
- Apply vitamin E to your scalp and leave on overnight
- When drying your hair, burn your favorite incense or dry your hair out in the warm sunshine and gentle breeze
Hair loss and baldness
Bringing your hair back after it’s gone
The ancient Roman Emperor Domitian, who reigned from 81-96 A.D., wrote a book on hair, according to the History Channel’s program on Roman Emperors, which aired April 13, 1998. (He was losing his.) Thus, we learn that losing one’s hair has a long history of causing concern.
The cause of hair loss for men is usually a genetic predisposition, related to pattern baldness. Hair loss for women is usually diffused through the scalp, rather than concentrated in one area. The hair loss with women is usually genetic, too. A condition called androgenic alopecia affects most women with hair loss; the hair falls out at normal levels of 50 to 100 strands per day but does not grow back. Women are not as likely to experience early hair loss due to estrogen, which fights other hormones’ negative effect on the hair. After menopause, many women have thinning hair, due to estrogen levels decreasing.
Women and hair loss
Hair loss in women can also be caused by severe stress on the body, giving birth, high fever, divorce, sickness, drug abuse, or alcoholism. Antibiotics and blood thinners are also said to cause hair loss. It is said a thyroid hormone deficiency is another reason hair may continue to thin with age.
Culpeper, author of Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician, recommends taking kernels of peaches, bruising them, and boiling in vinegar. Apply to the affected area. He enthusiastically states: “It marvelously makes the hair grow again in bald paxes or where it is too thin.” [Nicholas Culpeper, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician Enlarged, (London, 1814), reprint ed., Glenwood, IL: Meyerbooks, Publisher, 1990.]
Alfalfa juice or tablets are said to stimulate hair growth; I have heard that anything that sprouts is good for “sprouting” hair. Many say receding hairlines can be helped by eating germinating foods such as raw wheat germ or raw sunflower seeds, and by eating onions.
Some recommend rubbing the juice of an onion on your head and going out into the sun. Many aromatherapists recommend mixtures of essential oils of sandalwood, cedarwood, sage, tea tree, and rosemary with almond oil applied to the head. Lavender and rosemary oil rubbed into the hair roots stimulate growth. Other essential oils that are beneficial include birch, cedarwood, clary sage, juniper, lavender, sage, and thyme.
According to The Complete Book of Natural Cosmetics by Beatrice Travern, “Baldness remedies based on garlic juice have been advocated for centuries, usually mixed with bay rum and olive oil.” [Beatrice Travern, The Complete Book of Natural Cosmetics, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1974, p. 138.] Simmer the garlic in the oil and apply to the area.
Aubrey Hampton, author of What’s in Your Cosmetics, states that products with PABA are said to help prevent hair loss and protect the hair from the sun. [Aubrey Hampton, What’s in Your Cosmetics?, p. 127.] He also recommends combining coltsfoot and ginseng for the scalp; scalps that are low in silica acid, sulfur, and cystine reportedly have a higher hair loss.
- Castor oil applied topically
- Drinking licorice tea
- Cider vinegar mixed with sage and nettle tea applied topically
- Zinc, B vitamins, and supplements specifically made for hair
For more information and beauty tips you can purchase Beauty, Health and Happiness–A way of life an online version for only $2.99!