There are several effective home remedies for gray hair available, which include the use of natural ingredients such as Indian gooseberries, neem oil, henna, amaranth, black tea and salt, ginger and honey, sesame, and chyawanprash. Other home remedies include a healthy intake of food containing protein, iron, vitamins, and the application of oils like coconut oil.
What Constitutes Hair?
Before we understand why hair turns gray, it is important to know about the structure of hair to fully grasp the mechanism behind the graying of hair.
Hair is a biomaterial composed of a protein called keratin. Hair grows in follicles in the dermis layer of skin. Hair color in humans is found in the hair follicles because of the presence of two types of melanin, namely eumelanin and pheomelanin. Generally, more the melanin, darker the hair color.
Normally, it is seen that hair begins to gray on the head, then on the face and slowly progresses to other places like the chest and the armpits. This process of graying begins at an average age of 35 years or more and the graying progresses gradually over the years. In some people, the age at which graying starts can differ. For some, graying might begin at an early age and for some, it might begin after 40. The difference in the age of graying is dependent on genetics and other factors.
The majority of people consider gray hair as an indication of old age setting in. However, if you have gray hair at an early age, remember it is not the body that defines the age, it is the mindset.
What Causes Gray Hair?
The dilution of eumelanin and pheomelanin pigments result in graying of hair. To be precise, the melanocytes inside the hair follicles stop producing melanin and this results in graying of hair. Recent research has shown that a decrease in melanin is due to the decrease of an enzyme in the body called catalase. Catalase breaks down hydrogen peroxide buildup in the body. When there is a reduction in the count of catalase, hydrogen peroxide suppresses the growth of melanin, resulting in the graying of hair.
Significant amount of gray hair can appear in younger people too. This phenomenon is called premature graying. Some of the known causes of graying of hair include:
Genetic Graying: Sometimes, genetics do have a role to play in premature graying of hair. Premature graying can be seen in children as young as 12. In some cases, the hair might gray for some time and then turn back into black or natural color as the years pass. However, in most cases, graying of hair continues.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency: A vitamin B12 deficiency can also be responsible for the graying of your hair. This happens when your body is unable to absorb ample quantities of vitamin B12 nutrient as a result of pernicious anemia. This condition leads to early and faster graying of hair.
Smoking: Research shows that those who smoke have a very higher chance of experiencing graying of hair in their early 30’s than those who don’t smoke. This is attributed to the release of free radicals in the body caused by smoking. Free radicals cause oxidative stress, which in turn reduces the pigmentation capacity of melanin and directly lead to graying of hair.
Pollution: This is another factor that leads to oxidative stress, thereby causing graying of hair.
Hydrogen Peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide is the chemical used in bleaching. It is also naturally produced by our body. When this starts interfering with melanin (pigments that give color to skin and hair), the hair turns gray.
Emotional Stress: Emotional stress can lead to premature graying of the hair. Research studies have shown that the release of adrenaline for a sustained period of time had a damaging effect on the DNA, causing it to develop abnormalities. This is also believed to play a major role in graying of hair.
Diseases: Premature graying is seen in the presence of certain diseases related to the thyroid gland such as Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s disease, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, anemic conditions, and can also appear in skin areas affected by leucoderma. Some people with the condition of vitiligo, where irregular white patches form on the skin have been known to develop early gray hair.
Improper Diet: An improper diet can also be attributed to premature graying of hair. Lack of vitamin-12, iron, and iodine are considered to be the causes for early graying of hair. Lack of healthy protein intake is also attributed to early graying of hair. Excessive tea & coffee consumption and smoking may also contribute to early graying.
Hair Dyes & Hot Water: Use of chemical hair dyes and extremely hot water for hair are also considered to cause early graying of hair.
Age: Every decade after the age of 30, the chances of graying hair stand at 10 to 20%.
Home Remedies & Treatments for Gray Hair
There are several home remedies for gray hair that can be easily undertaken without burning a hole in your pocket. These home remedies include:
As hair is made up of a protein called keratin, a protein-rich diet will help increase its production and will improve hair growth. Protein is found in meat, eggs, and cereals, such as whole wheat and lentils.
Vitamin and Mineral Intake
Vitamin A, vitamin B12, iron, copper, and zinc are some of the very important nutrients. Lack of these nutrients may also catalyze graying of hair. Food such as meat, poultry, fish (including shellfish), nuts, legumes, raisins, and prunes are good sources of these vitamins and minerals.
Iodine is a must, to stop graying of hair. Iodine is the element that influences the thyroid gland. Any diseases of the thyroid gland such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can result in graying of hair. Iodine is not only found in salt, but also in other foods such as bananas, carrots, and fish.
Mix three teaspoons of lemon juice with coconut oil then apply it to hair. Let your hair absorb it for around an hour and then wash your hair with a shampoo. Repeat the same process weekly and see improvement.
You can also use potato peel to darken your hair, as potato peel has starch in it, which directly helps in this process.
As we have already discussed in the causes how smoking leads to graying of hair, it is very important that you completely get rid of smoking from your life. This will not only be beneficial in reversing gray hair but will also have a good impact on your overall health.
Indian gooseberry, also known as amla in Hindi, is considered a wonder fruit. It is used to treat a variety of ailments in Ayurveda. The dried powder of Indian gooseberry mixed with coconut oil applied on the scalp can be good for reversing gray hair. Consumption of Indian gooseberry improves hair growth and is also good for digestion, respiratory disorders, diabetes, heart diseases, diarrhea, and dysentery. Excessive intake of raw Indian gooseberry is to be avoided. The best way to have it is in powdered form.
The leaves of amaranth or amaranthus are known to be one of the best home remedies for gray hair. The extract from its leaves is helpful in restoring hair color. Apply juice of amaranth leaves to hair after shampooing and then rinse.
Black Tea with Salt
Applying black tea along with salt is a recommended remedy for gray hair. Take a cup of strong black tea and add a teaspoon of salt. Cool down this solution and apply it to hair roots. Leave it for an hour and then rinse off. Do not shampoo it.
Many people think this is grandma’s old trick, but studies have shown that the regular application of oils such as coconut oil help in reducing hair damage and slowing down graying of hair.
Stress is also related to graying of hair. Avoiding or overcoming stress is very important in slowing down the process of graying. Regular exercise, meditation, spending quality time with family and friends can also help.
Application of henna paste on hair is another popular home remedy for gray hair. A natural henna paste can be made directly by making a paste of henna leaves with yogurt and fenugreek seed paste. This paste can then be applied to the hair. It is also used for natural skin dying with no side effects that are usually associated with artificial hair colors.
In Ayurveda, the ancient science of Indian medicine is stated that a dried powdered mix of Bhringaraja (Eclipta alba), black sesame seeds, and Indian gooseberry in 2:1:1 proportion is good for the hair. This powder must be taken along with milk twice daily for positive results.
Ginger with Honey
A ribbed gourd is another remedy for gray hair. The vegetable should first be cut into pieces, should be shade-dried and boiled with coconut oil and the remaining black residue can be applied on hair roots.
Butter made from cow’s milk is believed to be an effective cure for gray hair. Apply it to the hair roots. The enzymes in cow’s milk and butter are believed to prevent and reverse the process of graying.
Neem or Azadirachta indica tree is of great significance in Ayurveda. Essential oil obtained from neem can be used as a remedy for various problems including gray hair. The oil is also helpful to eliminate head lice and dandruff.
Sesame seeds, particularly black sesame seeds and sesame oil are also considered good for reversing gray hair, according to Ayurveda. Massage sesame oil on your scalp regularly. One can also include sesame seeds in their diet.
Chyawanprash is an Ayurvedic preparation said to be prepared by a sage named Chyawan. It has fruit jam-like consistency. Up to 50 herbal, fruit, oil, and spices are added to this mixture. The final product gives various benefits including hair growth. A study conducted by Parle M and Bansal N has emphasized on the benefits of chyawanprash.
Things to Avoid: Smoking, excessive tea, and coffee consumption, using strong detergents, very hot water and hot dryers on hair, and hair dyes at an early age are some of the things that can be avoided to prevent early hair graying.
With such remedies in hand, one can make sure that gray hair is a thing of the past.