Hair Care in Ayurveda

Human hair has had an important social significance for human beings throughout the history of mankind. It has been a symbol of love and respect in many traditions. In the Hindu tradition, the first born son tonsures his head on the death of his father or mother. This rite of tonsuring the head is done on the day of cremation. He also shaves off his mustache. The next day, the son is taken in procession from his home to the crematorium to take part in the rites and ceremonies performed at the crematorium. You can find this act of giving away of hair as a sign of respect, mourning and for various other reasons in different cultures throughout the world.

The biblical character Samson was said to have had his strength in his hair. When his hair was cut he lost his strength. He regained his strength when the hair grew back again.

Pictures of Lord Jesus depict him with shoulder length hair. The great gurus and rishis were said to have had thick lock of shoulder length hair. The great Fathers of the Church were always found with long hair and beard. The pictures of the great poet Thiruvalluvar show him with shoulder length hair which is tied at the top as a knot.

Devotees in India offer their hair as a token of love and thanksgiving to Lord Balaji in Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh. Men of certain religious faith like Orthodox Jews and Sikhs for example may never cut their hair or shave some or all of it. Womenfolk of orthodox Christianity and Judaism cover their heads using headscarves as a sign of modesty.

Cutting off hair or tonsuring in public was meted out as punishment. Heads were shaved in the concentration camps of Second World War. Long hair of women was cut as a sign of punishment.

More recently, Yoko Ono, wife of John Lennon cut her long hair on her husband’s assassination. She said “John loved my hair, so I gave it to him”. Hippies of the 60s and 70s grew long hair to show their antipathy towards the mainstream society.

Though hair is not considered necessary for survival, loss of hair or baldness does cause a lot of stress in most of the people.

Women tend to be more careful in the upkeep of their hair. Women with long hair clean it regularly and take extra care in maintaining it. Hair grows and stays well in a healthy body. Care should be taken to keep the scalp clean and free from dust. Frequent usage of shampoo with chemical contents can harm the scalp. Dry scalp is a fertile place for dandruff. Dandruff on scalp can lead to weakening of hair root and result in hair loss. It is very difficult to eradicate dandruff once it has set in. It can also lead to baldness.

Hair loss due to hereditary genetic condition like male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness can be can be reversed with judicious use of excellent herbs and oils. Ayurveda and Siddha manuscripts mention number of hair oils as well as oral preparations that help in restoring hair and preventing hair loss.

Mainstream system utilizes oral drugs like finasteride or minoxidil for hair growth. These drugs were originally meant for treating BPH and high blood pressure and the hair growth was a side effect. The side effect of using these drugs for hair growth remains to be seen. Finasteride is found to cause birth defects in unborn baby of pregnant women. This drug can be absorbed by the skin and so pregnant women should not handle this drug.

I will introduce you to some herbal preparations that help in hair growth as well as prevent hair loss in my subsequent posts.

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