All around the world, haircare herbs are added to formulations in order to bring plant-powered properties to our shampoos, conditioners and hair treatments. When Mintel did a review of the top treatment claims made in the global haircare industry a while ago, it was no surprise to any of us at Formula Botanica that the winner was ‘botanical / herbal’.
A wide range of active principles of various plants including vitamins, hormones, phyto-hormones, bioflavanoids, enzymes, tannic acid, fruit acids, amino acids, sugars, glycosides and essential oils can potentially be useful in organic haircare formulations. There are large numbers of plants which are reported to have beneficial effects on hair and are commonly used in haircare products.
In this blog post, we look at 10 of the best haircare herbs to use in our formulations.
1. Indian Gooseberry
Otherwise known as Amla, this traditional Indian herb is rich in Vitamin C, tannins and minerals such as phosphorus, iron and calcium. A fixed oil is obtained from the Indian Gooseberry, which is used to strengthen and promote hair growth. The dried fruit, which improves hair hygiene, has long been used as an important ingredient of traditional shampoos and hair oils.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) is a shrub widely cultivated in the tropics as an ornamental plant and has several forms with varying colours of flowers. We use the red variety in cosmetics (and medicine). Researchers have found that Hibiscus leaves and flowers are observed to be promoters of hair growth. Traditionally, Hibiscus leaves have also been used for their anti-greying properties.
Rosemary has been used in folk medicine to stimulate hair growth as a rinse for many centuries. The most important constituents of rosemary are thought to be caffeic acid and its derivatives such as rosmarinic acid; these compounds have antioxidant effects.
Rosmarinic acid is used against hair loss, since it promotes blood circulation and consequent potential hair growth. This plant is used against various hair and scalp disorders, such as early baldness or dandruff and is frequently used as a component of shampoos and conditioners.Learn about 10 of the best haircare herbs for your organic formulations with @FormulaBotanica. #greenbeauty #haircare #allnatural Click To Tweet
Eucalyptus has been found to increase both hair elasticity and hair gloss intensity. One study by Mamada et al. (2012) asked testers to use a scalp lotion which contained eucalyptus extract on a long-term basis. All testers recognised an improvement in hair lustre and bounce in the root part of the hair. Mainstream manufacturers use eucalyptus in ‘root awakening’ formulations.
One study also examined the use of eucalyptus (together with Mexican Mint) for its use in anti-dandruff formulations. Eucalyptus was found to have anti-fungal activities against the main fungus found in dandruff – Malassezia furfur.
5. Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba is thought to stimulate hair growth. When applied to the skin, the plant’s extract appears to promote microcirculation which is thought to be the main driver in stimulating hair growth. The plant also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial effects which may also play a role.
Guarana is primarily used in the treatment of cellulite, as it contains a high percentage of caffeine. Caffeine is a xanthine, a chemical compound that improves the drainage of dermal tissues.
According to a 2014 British study by Fischer et al. (2014), caffeine stimulates the hair shaft and helps it grow faster by blocking the effects of DHT, a chemical known to damage follicles. Researchers found that caffeine application enhanced hair shaft elongation, prolonged anagen duration and stimulated hair matrix keratinocyte proliferation.
Not just a tasty herb for our cooking, lemongrass can also be used as one of our amazing haircare herbs! One study by Wuthi-Udomlert et al. (2011) looked at the antifungal activity of lemongrass essential oil against Malassezia furfur, an opportunistic yeast associated with dandruff.
The oil was incorporated at different percentages into shampoo formulations which were kept at room temperature and under accelerated conditions (45 degrees Celsius). These shampoos were then tested for their antifungal activity and it was found that 2% lemongrass oil in shampoo provided good fungicidal properties.
Hydrolysed oat protein, due to its low molecular weight, will penetrate the hair shaft and form a thin protective film on hair and skin. Clinical testing (Wu, 2009) found that hair treated with formulas including oat protein were stronger and more elastic than untreated hair.
Peppermint is a plant native to Europe and has been used in cosmetic formulations as a fragrance component and skin conditioning agent. It is also one of our amazing haircare herbs!
Researchers have found that peppermint essential oil shows potential for hair growth effects, potentially leading to an increase in dermal thickness, follicle number and follicle depth.
Safflower florets have been traditionally used for hair growth promotion. Researchers in one study (Junlatat & Sripanidkulchai, 2014) found that the Safflower extract significantly stimulated hair growth- promoting genes, including vascular endothelial growth factor and keratinocyte growth factor. The extract also suppressed the expression of a hair loss-related gene. The study concluded that safflower can be used as a potential hair growth- promoting agent.
Want to learn more about formulating with haircare herbs and creating beautiful organic clarifying and conditioning shampoos, cleansing foams, leave-in and rinse-off conditioners, de-tangler butters, masks, deep treatments, styling putties and gels, texturising mists, de-frizzers, salt sprays and shine serums?
Sign up now for Formula Botanica’s award-winning online Diploma in Organic Haircare Formulation.
No article on haircare herbs would be complete without this small, but important, caveat. Most of these scientific studies were undertaken on animals. In virtually all cases where animals were used, the studies involved shaving the hair of rats or mice, and then applying herbal extracts to their skin to monitor re-growth. Formula Botanica views this research as unnecessary and cruel and we sincerely wish that there was more data available from clinical testing of haircare botanicals on human beings. We are sharing this information because we want to show how amazing plants can be for the hair, but we strongly condemn the way the information was obtained.
Aruoma, et al., 1996. An evaluation of the antioxidant and antiviral action of extracts of rosemary and Provencal herbs. Food Chem Toxicol 34: 499-456.
Adhirajan, et al., 2003. In vivo and in vitro evaluation of hair growth potential of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Linn. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 88 (2003) 235–239.
Fischer et al., 2014. Differential effects of caffeine on hair shaft elongation, matrix and outer root sheath keratinocyte proliferation, and transforming growth factor-β2/insulin-like growth factor-1-mediated regulation of the hair cycle in male and female human hair follicles in vitro. Br. J. Dermatol. 171(5):1031-43.
Junlatat, J. & Sripanidkulchai, B. 2014. Hair growth-promoting effect of Carthamus tinctorius floret extract. Phytother Res. 2014 Jul;28(7):1030-6.
Kobayashi, et al., 1993. Effect of leaves of Ginkgo biloba on hair regrowth in C3H strain mice. Yakugaku Zasshi 113: 718-24.
Murata et al., 2013. Promotion of hair growth by Rosmarinus officinalis leaf extract. Phytother Res. 2013 Feb; 27(2):212-7.
Oh et al., 2014. Peppermint Oil Promotes Hair Growth without Toxic Signs. Toxicol Res. 2014 Dec;30(4):297-304
Purwal et al., 2008. Development and Evaluation of Herbal Formulations for Hair Growth. E-Journal of Chemistry. 5(1): 34-38.
Wu, J. 2009. Cosmetic aspects of scalp and hair care in dermatology. Advances in the science of natural hair care. Skin & Ageing Supplement.
Wuthi-Udomlert, et al., 2011. Inhibitory effect of formulated lemongrass shampoo on Malassezia furfur: a yeast associated with dandruff. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 2011 Mar;42(2):363-9.
Yu et al., 2017. Preclinical and Clinical Studies Demonstrate That the Proprietary Herbal Extract DA-5512 Effectively Stimulates Hair Growth and Promotes Hair Health. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017; 2017: 4395638.
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Lorraine Dallmeier is a Biologist, Environmental Scientist and the Director of Formula Botanica, the award-winning online organic cosmetic science school. Read more about Lorraine and the Formula Botanica Team.