Uncontrolled stress,in addition to a pandora’s box of health problems.can also trigger an increased rate of hair loss. It is not uncommon for many to describe significantly pronounced shedding during major emotional/health/life events Cortisol the ‘stress hormone“has been conclusively implicated in the pathogenesis of Androgenetic Alopecia. 

      Studies have shown that cortisol is elevated in those with MPB vs. Controls, even in the absence of identifiable stressors, (in my opinion though, MPB itself *is* an identifiable stressor) Stress has always been known to cause an “effluvium” or acute shedding in many in response to various highly stressful events. In the absence of intervention, this stress induced hair loss doesn’t always come back, particularly in those with coexisting MPB. 

Hormonal Parameters in Androgenetic Hair Loss in the Male

J.B. Schmidta, A. Lindmaiera, J. Sponab

Department of Dermatology II and Division of Molecular Endocrinology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology I, University of Vienna, and Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Prenatal and Experimental Genome Analysis, Vienna, Austria

Dermatologica 1991;182:214-217


Alopecia in the male is considered as a genetically determined disorder. Increased local androgen metabolism and androgen receptor binding in the balding areas confirm the importance of the target organ hair follicle as regulative of androgen influences. In our study the hormonal parameters of 65 male patients with male pattern hair loss with a mean age of 24.31 years were compared with those of 58 age-matched controls. Determinations of the androgens, sex-hormone-binding globulin, the hypophyseal hormones luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone and prolactin, 17β-estradiol and cortisol were performed by standard radioimmunoassay. Significant differences in serum levels of androstenedione cortisol 17β-estradiol and luteinizing hormone were noted between hair loss patients and control subjects. Suprarenal stimulation as well as hypophyseal feedback mechanisms therefore seem to be involved in male pattern alopecia

      Many think its all about DHT. This study, among others, conclusively shows that Androstenedione,(which can be readily reduced with Flax or Norway Spruce lignans), Estrogen,( increased by Propecia,can be reduced/managed with Tea and Grape Seed Extracts) and Cortisol are all significantly elevated in those with MPB. 

      Reducing stress and lowering cortisol has been hypothesized for years as a possibly viable intervention for both stress induced hair loss and MPB. Anecdotal accounts of hair growth using cortisol reducing agents such as Phosphitidyl Serine and Rhodiola have been around for years, with no real data ascertaining their actual effectiveness in this regard. As detailed in a prior update on the hair growth effects of an oral combination of Resveratrol/Curcumin, it was posited by the research team that discovered these effects that the mechanism of action of this combination was its apparent curative effects on Neurogenic Inflammation, a type of inflammation unique to stress that is also present in MPB, independent of stressors. 

      The following article from Reuters gives us some long awaited data on the real world effects of systemically blocking the effects of stress hormones on hair growth in a mammalian model. The results while hardly surprising, are encouraging to say the least.

Stress-blocking drug restores hair in bald mice
Stress-blocking drug restores hair in bald mice

CHICAGO — US researchers studying the effects of stress on the gut may have stumbled on a chemical compound that stimulates hair growth.

By blocking a stress-related hormone linked with hair loss, mutant mice that made too much of the hormone were able to regrow hair they had lost, the team reported in February in the online journal PLO One. 

“Almost 100% of the mice responded. The hair grows back fully. It is a very dramatic effect,” Million Mulugeta of the University of California at Los Angeles, who worked on the study, said in a telephone interview. 

Moulage said the findings could open new areas of research on hair loss in humans, especially in people whose hair loss is caused by stress and aging. 

The team, which included researchers from the Veterans Administration and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, had been experimenting on mice that were genetically altered to overproduce a stress hormone called corticotrophin-releasing factor or CRF. 

As these chronically stressed mice age, their hair turns gray and eventually falls off their backs. 

Mulugeta likens the effect to watching a US president age over the course of two four-year terms in the White House. 

The team injected these mice with a stress-blocking chemical compound called astressin-B, which blocks the action of the stress hormone CRF.

The mutant mice got a daily injection of the compound over five days, then the team measured the effects of this drug on their colons and put the mice back in their cages. 

“When we came back three months later, their hair had all grown back. 

“They were not distinguishable from their littermates who were not genetically altered,” Mulugeta said. 

“It was totally unexpected.” 

The effect lasted up to four months, a relatively long time in the life span of a mouse, Mulugeta said. 

Follow-up studies confirmed the findings. 

The team also tested the compound in younger, mutant mice that had not yet lost their hair, and found astressin-B kept them from going bald. 

“Not only does it restore hair, but it also prevents hair loss,” Mulugeta said. 

Mulugeta said it is likely that this same process occurs in humans, who also have CRF receptors in their skin. 

Given that current treatments for hair loss only offer short-term, modest results, Mulugeta said the findings should be pursued in further studies. — Reuters 

Fortunately ASTRESSIN is not the only way to reduce CRF.

What you need to know:

      *Increased shedding are most apparent when internal factors such as emotional stress, hormonal influences and oxidative stress and inflammation compromise the skin’s integrity. 

      *The influence of emotional stress can damage the skin and hair follicles with a tidal wave of free radicals, stress hormones such as cortisol and associated CRF release, and other substances that encourage the development of a number of allergic and inflammatory reactions, exacerbating shedding. 

      *Phosphatidyl Serine, and the adaptogenic herbs ashwagandha relieve the damage that emotional stress can inflict on the skin and hair.

      *Temporary blockade of the CRF receptors could thus be a breakthrough therapy for alopecia for patients in both acute (chemotherapy, traumatic stressful events) and chronic stress settings, and MPB 

      One of the best known and most effective ways to lower excess cortisol levels is with the nutrient Phosphatidylserine (PS) Phosphatidylserine is also useful for preventing short-term memory loss, age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. PS is widely used as a smart drug for its cognitive enhancing benefits. Its only drawback is that it is relatively expensive, typically costing $50.00 US a month. Cost notwithstanding, many claim to have quickly reduce shedding with its usage.

      A much more cost effective and well documented approach to ameliorating the effects of stress on skin and hair, not to mention overall functioning, are the herbs Rhodiola and Ashwagandha. 

      Rhodiola, an adaptogenic herb from Asia has been shown in several studies to reliably reduce cortisol and block CRF.

      In studies, Rhodiola rosea has been shown to reduce various stress-induced chemicals in the body to normal levels, and alleviate general and mental fatigue. Rhodiola lowers levels of CRF specifically, enabling the body and mind to recuperate and establish normal function. In cases of stress-induced loss of libido and diminished sexual function, Rhodiola rosea can help to bring the near dead back to vibrant life. 

Phytomedicine. 2010 Jun;17(7):481-93. Epub 2010 Apr 7.

Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy.

Panossian A, Wikman G, Sarris J

Swedish Herbal Institute Research and Development, Askloster, Sweden.


The aim of this review article was to summarize accumulated information related to chemical composition, pharmacological activity, traditional and official use of Rhodiola rosea L. in medicine. In total approximately 140 compounds were isolated from roots and rhizome – monoterpene alcohols and their glycosides, cyanogenic glycosides, aryl glycosides, phenylethanoids, phenylpropanoids and their glycosides, flavonoids, flavonlignans, proanthocyanidins and gallic acid derivatives. Studies on isolated organs, tissues, cells and enzymes have revealed that Rhodiola preparations exhibit adaptogenic effect including, neuroprotective, cardioprotectiv e, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic, nootropic, life-span increasing effects and CNS stimulating activity. A number of clinical trials demonstrate that repeated administration of R. rosea extract SHR-5 exerts an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental performance (particularly the ability to concentrate in healthy subjects), and reduces burnout in patients with fatigue syndrome. Encouraging results exist for the use of Rhodiola in mild to moderate depression, and generalized anxiety. Several mechanisms of action possibly contributing to the clinical effect have been identified for Rhodiola extracts. They include interactions with HPA-system (cortisol-reducing), protein kinases p-JNK, nitric oxide, and defense mechanism proteins (e.g. heat shock proteins Hsp 70 and FoxO/DAF-16). Lack of interaction with other drugs and adverse effects in the course of clinical trials make it potentially attractive for use as a safe medication. In conclusion, Rhodiola rosea has robust traditional and pharmacological evidence of use in fatigue, and emerging evidence supporting cognition and mood.

      Ashwagandha has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine and other Asian healing systems to treat stress-related diseases. Rich in flavonoids and steroidal lactones called withanolides, ashwagandha has a number of beneficial properties for safely combating stress and enhancing mood and cognition as seen in a recent human clinical trials. 

Although the exact mechanism of how Ashwaghanda works are not fully understood, an important action is its ability to lower blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Since cortisol competes with the anti-aging substance DHEA in the body, simply reducing excess cortisol has an anti-aging effect. After 60 days, a group taking ashwagandha 125 mg once a day showed a 14.5% reduction in cortisol levels and a 13.2% increase in DHEA levels compared with placebo, while the other two active treatment groups reported even greater benefits.

      In addition, studies have found taking the herbal extract produces a pronounced drop in the blood levels of C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation within the body. In sum the “daily use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) would benefit people who are shedding hair from the effects of stress and anxiety without any adverse effects. 

      Rhodiola and Ashwagandha can either be used singularly or in combination. The stress relieving, cortisol reducing effects for both are fortunately immediate, and don’t require weeks or longer to accrue benefits.

      Both Rhodiola and Ashwaghanda are highly cost effective interventions. Rhodiola Extract cost $11.75 for a month’s supply at the recommended dose, Ashwaghanda cost $10.00 for a 1 month supply. 

      High dose Vitamin C, (10,000 plus mg/day), L-Ornithine, (3-5 grams a day), and DHEA are viable treatments for stress as well, however women with hair loss should avoid DHEA. 

      Whatever intervention or combination of interventions you choose, remember that even if the source of stress cannot be removed, the effects of stress on health and hair growth can be readily addressed in a variety of ways.