Propecia For Hair Loss versus Its Natural Substitutes

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It may not sound revealing but at this moment there are only two medicinal treatments that have received approval from the FDA in the US (Food and Drug Administration) for treating androgenic alopecia - topical minoxidil (trade name Rogaine in the US/Regaine in Europe) and oral finasteride (Propecia). Topical minoxidil is suitable for both sexes and it can be also used to treat non-androgenic forms of hair loss whereas finasteride can only be prescribed to male patients and only for hereditary form of baldness. Minoxidil is a vasodilator, originally used to treat high blood pressure, which was later found to stimulate hair growth when applied topically to the scalp twice daily. Finasteride is an antiandrogen that was first used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as prostate enlargement. It acts by inhibiting conversion of the male hormone testosterone which is also present in females to the follicle-harming metabolite dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The discovery of finasteride’s positive effects on hair growth led to finding the true cause of hereditary baldness, which are the harmful attacks of DHT on susceptible hair follicles. Finasteride was found to significantly halt hair loss in 85% of patients while two thirds responded with renewed hair growth in the anterior and vertex area of the scalp. Since making this discovery, a quest for other alternative DHT blockers has begun, especially amongst antiandrogen drugs and herbs that have, in the past, been used to treat urinary problems and thus also prostate enlargement. Prostate enlargement happens to have the same cause as hereditary baldness which are the negative effects of DHT.

There are two other medicinal drugs often prescribed off-label to treat hair loss that need to be mentioned before we get to the natural substitutes of Propecia.

Dutasteride (Avodart) is an antiandrogen medication similar to finasteride in its chemical structure and mode of action and has been studied extensively for treating hair loss. It has recently completed phase III of clinical testing conducted by its originator GlaxoSmithKline to explore its efficacy and safety in the treatment of male pattern baldness and the study results are pending. Like finasteride this drug is also used for treating BPH. Dutasteride is believed by many to be a more potent hair loss drug than finasteride, especially when it comes to protecting hair follicles in the frontal area of the scalp but potentially with longer-lasting side effects. It acts by inhibiting both isoforms of 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone to DHT. Hence, it is called a dual DHT inhibitor and is believed to reduce DHT levels in the body more significantly than finasteride (Propecia). One of the possible reasons why the final study results of dutasteride have not been yet released is its potential for causing longer-lasting side effects.

Spironolactone (Aldactone) is a blood pressure lowering diuretic and an antiandrogen medication (reducing androgen activity in the body) that works by binding to androgen receptors in hair follicles, competing there with DHT and thus keeping it at bay. It is being prescribed off-label to women to treat hormonal acne, seborrhea, hair loss and excess body hair and although there are some generic topical applications for the treatment of male pattern baldness which contain spironolactone, it has never been approved to treat hair loss in men and should better be avoided because of its potentially strong feminizing effects on male body. For women, spironolactone can be considered as a reasonable alternative to the men’s best hair-loss pill, finasteride, which cannot be used in women. Unfortunately, this powerful hair loss medication needs doctor’s prescription and a few doctors are willing to prescribe it to their female hair loss patients for treating baldness in adequate dosages that could effect hair regrowth.

As discussed earlier, following the discovery of harmful DHT attacks on hair follicles being the true cause of hereditary baldness, herbalists started looking for possible natural alternatives to finasteride among plants that have been traditionally used to treat urinary problems and, more specifically, enlarged prostates. Although no herb has been shown to help treat any form of hair loss to day, there are some that might deserve our closer attention.

Saw palmetto (serenoa repens) is indisputably the most popular herb used in natural hair loss remedies. Dried fruits of this small palm tree have been used for decades to treat prostate enlargement and it is one of the few natural substances that has been subjected to some sort of scientific research in regards to its potential for treating BPH. However, no serious clinical research has been done to date in regards to its ability to treat baldness. Its supporters assume that saw palmetto extract works by inhibiting the conversion of the male hormone testosterone into prostate and follicle-harming DHT but no study has yet confirmed this working mechanism. Despite that, saw palmetto is widely used in natural hair los cures as well as alone by millions of hair loss sufferers as a safe natural alternative to finasteride.

Extract from the bark of the evergreen tree pygeum africanum is another popular herbal ingredient found in numerous natural hair-loss treatments and many herbalists believe it is yet more potent in treating hair loss than saw palmetto. Its rise to fame is due to the general assumption that this plant, used in folk medicine for treating problems related to prostate enlargement, should be also effective in treating hair loss in men. Pygeum africanum has been less well studied than saw palmetto and it has never been used in any serious clinical study for treating BPH, let alone for treating baldness. Since pygeum africanum is a relatively rare tree, its bark extract is quite expensive and sounds exotic enough to serve as a big selling point used to promote herbal hair loss cures that contain it.

The third most popular herbal ingredient used in natural hair-loss cures is nettle root extract. However, it needs to be mentioned here that this substance, although extremely inexpensive, is known to cause allergic reactions in sensitive persons and is, therefore, less popular than saw palmetto and pygeum africanum. This herbal drug is derived from the root of the stinging nettle, a popular medicinal weed found in temperate and subtropical zones of the northern hemisphere. It is supposed to help shrink enlarged prostates in older men and is thus thought to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Like the two aforementioned herbal extracts, nettle has never been subjected to any clinical study, whether for treating enlarged prostates or baldness.

The fact that herbal extracts have never been subjected to any serious clinical testing and nobody really knows if they can shrink enlarged prostates or reduce hair loss is not their only weakness. Although many herbalists claim they are not only more effective in treating certain conditions than medicinal drugs but they also posses no negative side effects, medical science and empirical evidence to such claims are missing. The second problem is to establish their daily dosage as they contain a number of different substances in unknown quantities. And since they often cause allergic reactions as well as other side effects it is not advisable to buy and try any of these herbal substitutes without first consulting your doctor. By the same token a great care is advised for anybody who decides to self-medicate and buy generic Propecia online in one of many existing offshore pharmacies. Treating hair loss, though not a life threatening health condition, needs to be approached professionally, so always get the first advice from a dermatologist or hair restoration doctor. Only your doctor can explain the potential benefits to you and asses the risks of using any medicinal or herbal drug to treat baldness.