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Hair (general health)

General characteristics

General characteristics

Hair covers most of the body with the exception of the palms of the hand and the soles of the feet. We will focus here on the hair of the head and what it needs to be healthy and lustrous.

Hair is predominantly made of a protein (comprising the elements of oxygen, hydrogen, sulphur, carbon and nitrogen) called keratin, the same compound found in nails, skin and teeth enamel, and also has traces of magnesium, arsenic, iron, chromium and other minerals. The protein structure is held together by 3 different types of chemical bonds which can all be exploited and manipulated by cosmetic chemical processes such as perming, relaxing etc.

The hair grows from, and is rooted into, the skin via the follicle, a very complex little structure that is influenced by many factors such as blood flow, nutrition, hormones, age, genetics, nerve supply, drugs such as steroids, radiation, environmental factors, pesticides and herbicides, certain disease processes, stress, physical trauma and the immune system. Hair growth in itself is cyclical consisting of different phases based on growing, fixing, resting then shedding.

The function of human hair is to offer protection from environmental factors such as cold and bumps and scrapes. Body hair generally acts as a sensory feedback system between man and his environment (a bit like animal whiskers do), but click here for a fascinating article about how head hair can act as a sensory instrument.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Eat as much organic produce (animal and vegetable) as possible as non-organic produce has most often been drenched in pesticides and herbicides (plants) or pumped full of growth hormones (animals). All of these health robbing factors contribute to a lack of overall health and vitality throughout the entire body.

Avoid junk and processed foods.

Consume plenty of foods rich in iron, zinc and the trace minerals. Examples include seeds, apricots, dark leaves and most fresh fruit and veg.

Eat wholegrains and sprouted grains, seeds, nuts, beans and legumes regularly for their very high nutrient content (essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and trace minerals). Add a tablespoon of mixed seeds/grains etc to a glass of water and store overnight in a cool place. When they just begin to sprout, strain off the fluid and eat them straight off the spoon or add to muesli.

Drink alcohol in moderation and avoid cigarette smoke.

Eat a large portion of dark green leaves daily and add a sprinkle of seaweeds to your cooking weekly.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Herbs that are rich in minerals and vitamins include nettle, alfalfa, fenugreek, oatstraw and horsetail. Make a tea mix comprising of three parts of everything and one part horsetail. Drink daily or every other day as a tonic and nutrient boost.
Hops have also been shown to improve hair health and growth but use cautiously as they have oestrogenic effects. Internal dose would be half a teaspoon of hops per cup, one cup daily or better still use a stronger tea as a hair rinse.
There are many herbs that have positive effects on the hair and can be used as rinses to improve the health of the scalp and the look and feel of the hair. These include rosemary, nettle, gotu kola, burdock root, sage, horsetail, lavender, comfrey leaves, yarrow, ginkgo, thyme, cleavers, to name but a few. Make a strong tea using 2 or 3 herbs and massage through the hair, leaving in for a while before a good rinse with warm water.
Herbs to massage into the hair for their conditioning qualities include marshmallow root, jojoba oil, olive oil, aloe vera pulp or gel, burdock seed oil, castor oil, milk whey, eggs, chamomile and honey to name a few.
Ashwagandha root is reputed to prevent premature greying of the hair due to its stress reducing action and tonic effect on the bones and kidneys.
Natural dark hair dyes that enhance the darker tones include black walnut husk, sage, henna, rosemary, coffee, black tea, cider vinegar, raspberry leaf and elder berries amongst others. Make a strong tea and leave on hair for half an hour or so. You may want to do a small test first!
Herbs that enhance and brighten blonde hair include chamomile, lemon juice, mullein flowers, turmeric, saffron and marigold.
Herbs to increase and bring out the redness in hair include henna and hibiscus flowers.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Avoid using too much heat on your hair such as through tongs, straighteners and hairdryers. Use your dryer on the coolest setting.
Avoid the use of harsh shampoos and hair products.
Make your own shampoos and conditioners by adding essential oils such as thyme, rosemary, sage and the like to mild bases that are sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) free.
Do not use shampoos daily, rinsing with warm water and rubbing some lavender essential oil into your hair will also clean it without the harsh effects of shampoo.
Rinse your hair in cider vinegar weekly. Massage well into the scalp and leave on for half an hour or so before rinsing out thoroughly. Your scalp will be dandruff free and hair strong and shiny after regular treatment. Cider vinegar removes scaly projections from the hair shaft and makes hair appear shinier and feel softer.
An old folk tale says never to cut your hair when the moon is waning (from full to dark moon).
Rinsing the hair in a real ale containing hops will give strength and shine to the hair.

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