A reader commented on my post on whether fungal infection causes male pattern baldness, and says that rosemary oil is making his hair grow back:
After reading some studies about rosemary essential oil being as effective as minoxidil for hair regrowth (and without the warnings about not letting my wife and kids touch it). I’ve been doing a self-experiment of applying a few drops of a homemade hair tonic consisting mainly of rosemary and lavender essential oils suspended in a carrier of sesame oil to my scalp and beard.
At the start of the experiment, in mid-Summer, the top of my head was a cue-ball with a few stray short hairs here and there. During the first week or so after I started, it was like an unnoticed whitish, salt-like crust came up off of the top of my scalp. Then, I noticed hair growth. At first, they were short, blonde baby hairs, but now I have extensive patches of brown hair on the top that need regular trimming.
My hair seems to be coming back in the reverse order that I originally “lost” it. It isn’t fully back yet though. But the progress has been surprising. I continue to use my normal shampoos and conditioners, or whatever partially-used mini bottles my wife asks me to help finish. Sometimes I wear hats, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I brush it, sometimes I don’t.
I haven’t used any other hair growth products or treatments during this time and haven’t tried anything else for 5+ years. I had basically resigned myself to look like my father.
Now, what is the rosemary changing on the top of my head, I don’t know. But by using it, my hair looks healthier. Also, my beard looks fuller.
He cited a couple of studies. One: Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: a randomized comparative trial. Rosemary oil was as effective as minoxidil (Rogaine).
“… both groups experienced a significant increase in hair count at the 6-month endpoint compared with the baseline and 3-month endpoint. No significant difference was found between the study groups regarding hair count either at month 3 or month 6.”
The essential oils obtained from five commercial samples of Sicilian aromatic plants, laurel, sage, oregano, rosemary and coriander were analyzed by GC/MS and assayed for their antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant activities. Twenty-five different genera of bacteria and one fungal species were used in this study as test organisms. The oils showed a high degree of inhibition against all the microorganisms tested.
Clove and rosemary oils in combination have synergistic effects against fungi and bacteria.
Totally makes sense, since many phytochemicals made by plants are there to be used for chemical warfare against other plants and against animal predators. In this case, fungi predate on plants, so the plants need to have anti-fungal defenses.
I don’t know whether the other essential oils besides rosemary will treat baldness, but I bet they would. In any case, the fact that rosemary oil does treat it, and is anti-fungal, adds further evidence to the cause of male pattern baldness.
I mentioned this in my article on acne: The use of iron chelators in biocidal compositions. Through the magic of SciHub, I got my hands on the full paper. The authors show that iron chelators potentiate acne medications such as salicylate and benzoyl peroxide from 4 to 250-fold.
Could you add an iron chelator to an acne med on your own? Maybe. Green tea extract or IP6 seem likely candidates. Topically applied IP6 penetrates the skin.
Essential oils also treat acne. Tea tree oil was as effective as benzoyl peroxide.
A number of essential oils are effective in killing the bacteria that causes acne, Propionibacterium acnes. The most effective were thyme, cinnamon, and rose oils.
The beauty of essential oils in this case are that their chemical nature makes them able to penetrate skin. However, I don’t know whether they might be irritating or toxic to skin.
Another skin condition is rosacea, characterized by red, inflamed skin on the face. It can range from mild to disfiguring. They still haven’t figured out the cause of it. The most effective treatment appears to be topical metronidazole.
Metronidazole is an interesting drug, the only one in current use that’s effective against both protozoan parasites (like Giardia or Plasmodium) and anaerobic bacteria. It’s been thought that this drug works against rosacea by killing Demodex, a skin mite. The problem is that it appears most people have Demodex; that doesn’t mean it’s not causative; most people seem to have Malassezia too, and that causes dandruff and maybe baldness.
However, rosacea patients have higher levels of ferritin in the skin of their lesions.
Serum peroxide levels were significantly higher and serum total antioxidative potential levels were significantly lower in patients with rosacea than in healthy control subjects (P < .05). Compared with control subjects, the number of ferritin-positive cells was significantly higher (P < .001) in skin samples from patients with rosacea, especially those with severe disease.
Ferritin is made in response to free iron, so this suggests that rosacea is associated with higher iron levels in the skin, causing oxidative stress and just maybe allowing for the growth of some microorganism, such as a fungus.
I was unable to find whether metronidazole successfully kills fungi; in any case, it isn’t used for that. But its structural resemblance to the anti-fungal drugs ketoconazole and fluconazole did not escape my attention. And ketoconazole chelates iron.
So it seems possible that metronidazole is either killing fungi in the skin and/or removing iron. (Either that or I’ve been looking at PubMed for too long and starting to see things.) A wastewater treatment for removing metronidazole uses iron particles, indicating iron chelation.
In summary, baldness, acne, and rosacea may have something in common: the presence of microorganisms. In turn, these microorganisms could get a perch on the skin by access to iron.
What we need is a study to see whether blood donors have fewer of these skin conditions. Rosacea typically starts after age 30, as does baldness, which could implicate iron. Obviously multiple factors, including genetic susceptibility, must be at work in all of these conditions.