Hair loss can be divided into two main types: sudden hair loss (alopecia), or gradual hair loss (thinning hair). Traditional names for these conditions include glossy scalp wind (yóu fēng 油风), ghost shaved head (gǔi tì tóu 鬼剃頭), and moth-eaten hair baldness (fā zhù tuō fà 发蛀脱发).
Zhu Renkang, a famous Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dermatologist from the middle of the last century, divides sudden hair loss into 4 clinical patterns: blood heat generating wind, qi and blood deficiency, liver and kidney deficiency, and blood stasis. He also divides thinning hair into 4 clinical patterns: blood heat with wind dryness, damp-heat steaming upward, blood deficiency with dryness, and liver and kidney deficiency.
Types of hair loss
1) Sudden hair loss: blood heat generating wind pattern.
More common in adolescents. Since young people are full of vigor and vitality, they have a tendency towards blood heat. If they are habitually irritable or easily angered, this can lead to blood heat. Blood heat generates wind, which stirs the leaves to drop (causes the hair to fall out). The scalp may have slight itching, there may be headache.
2) Sudden hair loss: qi and blood deficiency pattern.
Common after serious illness or postpartum. Because qi and blood cannot ascend, hair is not developed. The treatment method is to strongly build qi and blood.
3) Gradual hair loss: Damp-heat steaming upward pattern.
Due to sweet, rich, fatty food, the spleen and stomach fail to transform and transport. Damp-heat in the interior is generated, and steam rises. The scalp is greasy and sticky, the hair roots are loose, there is itching and the hair falls in clusters.
4) Gradual hair loss: Liver and kidney deficiency pattern.
More common in middle-aged people who overthink, and work day and night. The hair is yellow and dull, or white. There is dizziness and sore back and knees.
TCM also recognizes that mental and emotional factors can play a role in hair loss. “It is recommended that the patient maintain a happy spirit, have ease of mind, and work and study must not be overly stressful. This can accelerate the therapeutic effect of the medicine.” "In addition to herbal medicine, patients with hair loss should be light hearted and optimistic in order to get twice the result with half the effort."
Here is an example of a case study:
Alopecia Areata Case Study
A female, 46 years old, who has a medical history of cancer, came to me in March 2021 (see picture A) to seek acupuncture treatment for her sudden hair loss due to a lung infection which she was admitted into hospital a month ago. I suspect that it was due to stress and side effects from the antibiotics.
Alopecia Areata characterized by the sudden onset and circular patches, common in the middle aged. Patterns identified were Blood deficiency generating Wind.
The patient came for acupuncture sessions once or twice a week over a period of 12 months.
Local treatment – Plum-blossom tapping on the bald area for about 5 -10 minutes The Kou Ci (tapping) technique was used with consistent and even pressure. The force of tapping was adjusted according to individual skin conditions. Tapping lasted until the treated area was visibly flushed.
Needling – at each treatment needles were inserted around the periphery of the bald area obliquely and medially and were retained for 20 mins. Indirect moxibustion was also done at the bald areas of her head, to stimulate blood circulation and to increase surface temperature so as to stimulate hair growth.
Standard Acupuncture Points include Baihui (GV20), Touwei (ST8), Shuaigu (GB8), Hegu (LI4), Zhongwan (CV12), Tianshu (ST25), Xuehai (SP10), Taichong (LV3), Zusanli (ST36), Fenglong (ST40) and Sanyinjiao (SP6).
In the beginning, the initial patch that was completely devoid of any hair continued to grow bigger and hair started to drop at other areas as well due to insufficient nourishment. At the 8th month of her treatment course, hair started to grow at the top of her head (see picture B). Some hair that continued to grow was white initially but as the weeks progressed, the hair grew longer, stronger and darker around the edges of the large patch and just the bottom of the head and sides of her head has a few small patches that is slightly bald (see picture C).
As the treatment continues until now (around 12 months duration), her hair continues to grow and the bald patches has been filled up nicely (see picture D).
A healthy diet (less sugars, less spicy and fried food) was recommended. Regular meals intake at regular timings.
The success of this treatment is undoubtedly helped by the fact that the patient is committed and motivated to come for treatment once or twice weekly over the past 1 year.
Article by Physician Poh Yu Min (Joy)
Place of Practice: Joy TCM Clinic
Contact: +65 9190 0257 / email@example.com
Graduated from NTU Double Degree in Biomedical Sciences and TCM, Joy has gained experiences in both hospital and private practices. She went on to further her studies in Liaoning University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and graduated with a Masters in TCM (Basic Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine). Joy is currently the Consultant TCM Physician at NobleCare TCM Wellness Pte Ltd and her area of focus lies in Women’s Health and Fertility care, Slimming and Obesity management, Sub-Health management and Children Wellness Development.