Hirsutism and Ayurveda
Ayurveda which means “The science of life” in Sanskrit, originated in India more than 5000 years ago. Ayurveda uses many herbs found in the environment for healing purposes and places a great emphasis on prevention of diseases and maintenance of health. Ayurveda has come down through generations.
According to Ayurveda, 3 types of principle energies of the body are identified, which is thought to be present in all men and women. They are Vatta, Pitta and Kapha.
- Vatta – is the energy of movement
- Pitta – is the energy of digestion and metabolism
- Kapha – is the energy of structure and lubrication of the body
When the balance of these 3 energies is lost, cells do not function properly and leads to disease. So Ayurveda aims at restoring the balance of these energies.
While Ayurveda cannot achieve complete cure achieved by prescribing drugs and performing surgery as in western medicine, it can be used in conjunction with western medicine to make a person healthier and to come out of the disease soon. There are some instances where Ayurveda has completely cured illnesses which have been stated impossible to cure in western medicine.
What is Hirsutism?
Hirsutism is developing male pattern hair growth in females in unwanted areas such as face, chest and back. Your body hair will grow in excess and be thicker than usual too. The hair in these areas is dark and course. None of us want excess hair, especially not in our faces. Hirsutism can be a familial trait, a medical condition due to excess of androgens (mainly testosterone hormone) or occur due to certain long term medications.
How does Ayurveda Help Women with Hirsutism?
- There are natural anti-androgen supplements which are used in Ayurveda. They work by reducing the level of testosterone in the body or reducing its action. These will be effective when combined with western medicine techniques such as treating the underlying cause and use of hair removal procedures like electrolysis and LASER therapy. They cannot be suggested as stand- alone treatments.
Some of the anti- androgen supplements used in Ayurveda are;
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) –
This combination of herbs work together to normalize the pituitary hormones
Licorice blocks androgen receptors in women and found to reduce testosterone levels in the blood. Peony inhibits production of testosterone. Aromatase is the enzyme which converts testosterone to oestrogen in females. Peony has an effect of increasing activity of this enzyme.
- Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) – 5-alpha reductase is the enzyme which converts testosterone in to a more potent form Di hydro testosterone (DHT). Reishi mushroom inhibits the action of this enzyme.
- Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) – Like Reishi, this product reduces the action of 5- alpha reductase enzyme.
- DIM (Diindolyl methane) – This is a phytonutrient derived from certain vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, Kale and Brussels sprouts. It inhibits the enzyme aromatase and blocks androgen receptors. This is found to be effective in treating hirsutism as well as acne.
- Zinc – Zinc is known to improve function of ovaries. Zinc is found in beans, seeds, nuts and soya. It increases the hormone progesterone which is a natural androgen blocker. This reduces the action of androgens thus helping hirsutism.
- Vitex agnus-cactus – this is known to reduce prolactin levels in the body. Prolactin increases androgen levels which can lead to hirsutism.
- The most common cause of hirsutism in females of reproductive age is poly cystic ovarian syndrome. Chinese chaste tree (Nirgundi) used in Ayurveda is known to balance effects of PCOS and hirsutism is reduced.
- There are tonics in Ayurveda which promotes healthy function of ovaries and uterus (especially the inner lining called endometrium) Ex: Asoka (uterine tonic)
- Some Ayurvedic tonics or arishtas are used to reduce accumulation of toxins in the body and detoxify the organ systems. These preparations will take time to act.
- Certain Ayurveda products are used to reduce weight. Obesity is a main reason causing PCOS. When a healthy weight is maintained, effects of PCOS like hirsutism is also controlled.
- There are certain Ayurveda preparations used to remove hair. These treatments are time consuming to prepare and apply. But they are pleasant and soothing to skin. It is cheaper than western hair removal techniques. There are several combinations of natural herbs used to make these pastes or Ayurveda waxes.
- Some Ayurveda treatments are used to reduce stress which is a known aggravating factor of PCOS. Reducing stress via these healing processes reduces hirsutism.
Disadvantages of Ayurveda
- Some Ayurveda products used in ailments like arthritis and asthma may contain anabolic steroids, which can give rise to hirsutism.
- Some individuals can develop allergic reactions to certain ingredients in Ayurveda preparations.