Hair loss according to Chinese Medicine

Hair loss can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like hair loss here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here hair loss is often associated with tinnitus, hair graying and poor bone development in the pattern “Kidney Essence Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause hair loss.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of hair loss we’ve identified four herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat hair loss.

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause hair loss

In Chinese Medicine hair loss is a symptom for 3 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Essence Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue color: Red

Kidney Essence (Jing 精) Deficiency usually involves Deficiency of Kidney Yin and, to some extent, Kidney Yang. Its symptoms are typically in relation to growth, development, reproduction, sexuality, bones, marrow, the brain, teeth, memory and hair.

In addition to hair loss, other symptoms associated with Kidney Essence Deficiency include tinnitus, hair graying and poor bone development.

Kidney Essence Deficiency is often treated with Zuo Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Zuo Gui Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Yin".

Read more about Kidney Essence Deficiency here

Dong Quai (Dang Gui) is the king ingredient for Sheng Yu Tang, a formula used for Blood and Qi Deficiency

Blood and Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo), Fine (Xi)

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to hair loss, other symptoms associated with Blood and Qi Deficiency include fatigue, dizziness and insomnia.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood and Qi Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Menstrual Cramps or Absence Of Menstruation.

Blood and Qi Deficiency is often treated with Sheng Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Dong Quai - Dang Gui - as a key herb). Sheng Yu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi and Blood".

Read more about Blood and Qi Deficiency here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Deficiency of the Liver and Kidney Yin

Tongue color: Red

In addition to hair loss, other symptoms associated with Deficiency of the Liver and Kidney Yin include dizziness, insomnia and hair graying.

Deficiency of the Liver and Kidney Yin is often treated with Er Zhi Wan, a herbal formula made of 2 herbs (including Glossy Privet Fruits - Nu Zhen Zi - as a key herb). Er Zhi Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes Liver Yin".

Read more about Deficiency of the Liver and Kidney Yin here

Four herbal formulas that might help with hair loss

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Why might Zuo Gui Wan help with hair loss?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Essence Deficiency' of which hair loss is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney Essence Deficiency include tinnitus, hair graying and poor bone development.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan here

Si Wu Tang

Source date: 846 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Restores and nourishes Blood. Stimulates Blood circulation.

Why might Si Wu Tang help with hair loss?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood and Qi Deficiency' of which hair loss is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Blood and Qi Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Low Breast Milk Supply.

Read more about Si Wu Tang here

Er Zhi Wan

Source date: 1534 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Liver Yin. Nourishes Kidney Yin.

Why might Er Zhi Wan help with hair loss?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Deficiency of the Liver and Kidney Yin' of which hair loss is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Deficiency Of The Liver And Kidney Yin include dizziness, insomnia and hair graying.

Read more about Er Zhi Wan here

Tong Ru Dan

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies the Qi and Blood. Removes Stagnation from the breast connecting Meridians.

Why might Tong Ru Dan help with hair loss?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood and Qi Deficiency' of which hair loss is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Blood and Qi Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Low Breast Milk Supply.

Read more about Tong Ru Dan here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat hair loss

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with hair loss?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hair loss as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Wan or Si Wu Tang for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with hair loss?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hair loss as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Tong Ru Dan for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with hair loss?

Because it is a key herb in Tong Ru Dan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern '' (a pattern with hair loss as a symptom)

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit).

Read more about Ginseng here

Why might Eclipta Herb (Mo Han Lian) help with hair loss?

Because it is a key herb in Er Zhi Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Deficiency of the Liver and Kidney Yin' (a pattern with hair loss as a symptom)

Eclipta Herbs is a Cold herb that tastes Sour and Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies Yin of the Liver and Kidneys. Clears Blood Heat and stops bleeding.

Read more about Eclipta Herbs here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with hair loss?

Because it is a key herb in Si Wu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern '' (a pattern with hair loss as a symptom)

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Spleen and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here