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Traditional Chinese Medicine: New Treatment/Prevention for Alopecia Areata, and possibly MPB
Mainstream medicine has no cure or even effective management strategy for those who suffer from autoimmune hair loss, such as Alopecia Areata or Alopecia Universalis. These types of hair loss are cosmetically devastating, and can appear in all ages and genders, including children.
Victims of Autoimmune hair loss are often injected monthly with scalp thinning corticosteroids, along with topical irritants such as Anthralin, with the scant hope that a remission of their hair loss may occur. The vast majority of those afflicted end up having to either shave their heads or opt for wigs. I can recount one particularly difficult situation, where an individual who had a hair transplant procedure was affected by autoimmune hair loss several years later. The randomly patchy hair loss caused most of his donor scars, and some of his recipient areas to be exposed, creating an aesthetic nightmare, that for him has been psychologically insurmountable.
Autoimmune hair loss, when the body actually attacks its own hair follicles, is among the most heart breaking of human conditions. Suicidality is all too often associated with its occurrence.
Associated genetic risk factors include families whose members have had asthma, hay fever, atopic eczema, or other autoimmune diseases such as early-onset diabetes, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
All autoimmune disorders, including Alopecia Areata, and to some degree Male and Female Pattern Hair Loss, share several common features: An imbalance in the immune system leading to deregulated inflammatory pathways, resulting in abnormally low numbers of inflammation suppressing, or regulatory cells. This causes a massive release of auto-antibodies which attack select tissues, in a process resembling organ rejection. These tissues in turn release a flood of inflammatory cytokines, causing rapid hair loss in targeted follicles.
Spontaneous remission does occasionally occur, however when it does, it typically results in a partial and short term remission, which still leaves a significant amount of ongoing cosmetic damage.
Conventional medical therapy focuses solely on managing and attempting to reduce inflammation, both topically and systemically, with corticosteroids, leaving the majority of patients with horrendous side effects, and an accelerated dermal aging due to skin thinning. Newer biological agents, such as Etanercept and Adalimumab, focus on immunosuppression, which can reduce inflammation as well, but can open the door to new diseases, including cancer. Interestingly, it was found years ago that a drug used to prevent organ rejection after transplants, Cyclosporine, also had hair growth stimulation effects. It’s immune suppressing properties though, preclude its long term use.
Fortunately, from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is a plant based, side effect free, health promoting drug, that has been proven to be the most effective treatment to date for a host of autoimmune disorders, including Alopecia Areata. It is the extract from the White Peony Root, and is often prescribed for both MPB and autoimmune hair loss in Tibetan, Indian and Chinese medical systems.
White Peony Root Extract, unlike Western pharmaceutical drugs, has multiple health promoting mechanisms of action, which in addition to its anti-inflammatory effects, includes immuno-modulatory properties that produce a re-balance between inflammatory cells and calming anti-inflammatory cells. This rebalance markedly reduces inflammatory cytokines, and breaks the cycle of ever increasing inflammation. This decrease in inflammatory cytokine levels has been documented in several trials.
In a trial published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, orally administered White Peony Root Extract was found to be 68% effective in patients with Alopecia Areata. These results far exceeed the success rate of any treatment for this vexing disease to date.
In addition to being a traditional time tested treatment for Alopecia Areata (where the incidence in China is a small fraction, compared to Western cultures), it has been used successfully in published clinical trials for Psoriasis, Atopic dermatitis, Lupus, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
There is also a strong rationale for the use of White Peony Extract as a treatment for MPB. Dr. Peter Proctor M.D., PhD, considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on hair loss treatment, states “Balding begins when male sex hormones do "something" to the scalp hair follicle which causes it to be read as a "foreign body". Your immune system then mounts an attack on the hair follicle. The main damage in pattern hair loss is immunologically-mediated.” “Organ rejection drugs (e.g., cyclosporin) reverse balding better than antiandrogens. This gives a rough indication of the relative importance of hormonal verses immunological factors in maintaining the balding state.”
Oral White Peony Extract, as mentioned, is typically prescribed in TCM as a treatment for MPB as well.
White Peony Extract works both singularly, and especially well in combination with other components of a hair loss treatment arsenal, such as low temperature processed Emu Oil.
Peony Immune White Peony Root Extract is a standardized Extract of active White Peony compounds that have been shown to both maintain the responsiveness and balance of a properly modulated immune system, and limit the production of hair loss inducing inflammatory cytokines.
Human clinical trials have demonstrated its effectiveness against a host of auto-immune disorders, including Alopecia Areata. Given the emergence of an autoimmune model for MPB, and its traditional use as a hair loss remedy in TCM, there is a clear rationale for its use for MPB as well.