There has been a lot of chatter about using green tea to reduce hair loss, and as a potential DHT blocker. In this article I’ll review the scientific evidence to see if you should be adding green tea to your daily supplement list.
Green tea was originally grown in China, but now is grown in other places as well. It can be used either as a drink or an extract. The claims about what makes green tea effective is that it contains polyphenols and flavonoids.
The percentage of flavonoids in green tea is higher than can be found in most vegetables, fruits, or wine, all of which have fairly large amounts.
Flavonoids in particular are what gives green tea antioxidant and anticarcinogenic qualities. Green tea also contains vitamins A, E, and C, as well as zinc, selenium, chromium and manganese.
(Learn more about vitamins and the role they can play in hair growth here!)
It is packed full of things that are recommended to improve the overall quality of your health, and possibly the quality of your hair.
What Could Make It Work?
Many people who have used green tea to reverse their hair loss problems attribute the effects to the high levels of antioxidants. Other ways in which it could contribute to hair regrowth and prevention of hair loss are:
- Improves circulation of hormones and improves blood flow
- Helps stimulate testosterone and interferes with the conversion to DHT.
- Contains a potent antioxidant called EGCG.
Does It Really Work? Is There Scientific Evidence?
Saitama Prefecture, Japan
Researchers from the Saitama Cancer Center have published a paper that showed that a tumor that is implicated in cancer and arthritic diseases, the Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha, also has effects on the hair and can result in hair loss.
Play with the slider below to see before and after.
Green tea is able to suppress the production and development of TNF-alpha, which as a result might make it a cure for hair loss.
Additionally the paper included information on hair growth as a result of drinking a lot of green tea and the effect this has on DHT, the latter being linked to baldness and hair growth in puberty.
California, USA (2005)
A more direct study was performed in 2005, and it tested the effects of drinking green tea (and more specifically, it’s polyphenic compounds) on hair growth in mice.
The mice recruited for the study were all female, and all had suffered spontaneous hair loss on the head, neck, and dorsal regions. The 60 mice were split into two groups:
- Group A received 50% fraction of polyphenol extract from dehydrated green tea in their drinking water for six months; and
- Group B received regular drinking water.
Otherwise, both groups of mice were fed the same diet, and lived in similar environments.
At the end of the study, researchers found that 33% of mice in Group A had significant hair growth during the six months of treatment.
No hair growth at all was seen in Group B, the control group.
Massachusetts, USA (2003)
Prostate cancer isn’t often discussed, but its incidence is concerning. In fact, 1 man out of every 9 will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime.
With this in mind, researchers from Boston, Massachusetts decided to investigate the factors that reduce the prevalence of prostate cancer in Asian countries. To start, they looked at diet.
Soy products and tea (such as green and black) are consumed much more regularly in Asia than other parts of the world. As such, researchers focused on these products (and their compounds), to determine if they had an impact on androgen-sensitive human prostate cancer (as studied in mice).
Ninety-six mice were used in this study, and they were split into six groups:
- Soy Phytochemical Extract (SPC);
- Black tea;
- Green tea;
- SPC and black tea; and
- SPC and green tea
The mice were inoculated with human prostate cancer cells, and serum PSA levels were taken at four and eight weeks to determine tumor-take rate and tumor size. At the end of the 10-week study, the tumors were excised and weighed and blood samples were taken. These were the results:
The results show that all groups except the control and green tea group, significantly reduced final tumor weight. Green tea alone did reduce final tumor weight by 22%, but not as drastically as the other active groups.
Overall, the combination groups (SPC + black tea and SPC + green tea) performed best. They reduced final tumor weight by 93% and 88%, respectively.
Serum levels of DHT were also taken, which is what we’re most interested in.
The black tea treatment group had greater serum testosterone concentrations (34.4%) and 72% lower DHT concentration than control. This suggests that black tea may contain components that inhibit 5AR.
On the other hand, green tea increased serum testosterone and DHT levels by 73.8% and 194%, respectively. The combination of SPC and green tea did reduce DHT levels, though.
So, what does this mean?
Interestingly, this study contracts the results of the previous two studies. However, further research should be carried out before any final conclusions.
A common theme in the research is that green tea’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties seem to be very important in supporting the growth of new hair by supporting overall health.
Here’s my article on theaflavin extract for hair loss.
In order to get 250 mg per day of catechins, one needs 3 to 5 cups of green tea per day. The supplement form (extract) should not be taken on an empty stomach because there is some concern over liver injury (hepatotoxicity).
It is unlikely for this to occur when drinking the leaves brewed as a tea, but the extract form is much more potent.
There doesn’t seem to be an established recommended amount of how many milligrams per day are needed to improve hair growth, but 3 to 5 cups of tea per day is considered safe for most adults, unless you have an underlying liver problem.
If you do have liver issues you should speak to your physician before using green tea for hair regrowth. A high dosage is defined as 10 to 29 milligrams of green tea extract per kilogram of body weight per day.
Are There Any Known Side Effects Of Green Tea?
There have been no reported cases of toxicity from people who drink green tea. Toxicity can occur when using green tea extract, though.
Green tea leaves contain polyphenols, and EGCG has the highest concentration of all the polyphenols.
This doesn’t cause any problems if you’re just drinking the tea, but an extract taken as a supplement contains a much higher concentration than just hot brewed tea.
It has been documented that high doses of EGCG can lead to liver damage and aggravate any existing liver problems.
As such, green tea extract should be taken with food and never on an empty stomach.
If you are using green tea extract and develop any symptoms associated with liver damage (abdominal pain, unusual colored, dark urine, or if you develop signs of jaundice), discontinue using it and see your doctor.
The Correlation between Green Tea and DHT
Dihydrotestosterone is a sex steroid and androgen hormone. It is synthesized from testosterone in three different places in the body: the testicles, the prostate, and the hair follicles.
DHT is also the main culprit when it comes to gradual, natural hair loss.
The problem is that this hormone basically sticks to the follicle and piles up on it, slowly suffocating the hair follicle. When that happens, hair loss is not far behind.
Luckily the process is usually reversible and once the problem is handled, the hair often grows back.
The reason why green tea could actually play a part in all that has a lot to do with the fact that its main compound is known for its ability to inhabit certain enzymes.
In this case, the enzyme that is responsible for the storage of dietary fat.
That is the main reason why Green Tea is so popular among dieters, and it does have some medically proven qualities that can actually play a big part in the fat loss process.
It also needs to be mentioned that it can lower cholesterol levels. Its ability to prevent cancer is highly debated though, and at the very least, questionable, but as a dietary tool, green tea is excellent and there is no question about that.
Could It Actually Effect Testosterone?
The compounds in green tea can inhibit aromatase too, which is an enzyme that turns androgens (male hormones like testosterone) into estrogen.
Contrary to the popular belief, men do have estrogen in their bodies, just as women have testosterone.
There is research out there which suggests that green tea’s compounds could inhibit 5-alpha reductase, the very compound that can synthesize DHT, the hormone that causes male pattern baldness.
The reason why many people question the legitimacy of that study, is the fact that the subjects drank a ridiculous amount of green tea, which would be practically impossible in real life, at least in the long run.
There are also scientists that suggest that consuming small amount of green tea could actually have the opposite effect, increasing the level of DHT, which is not a good thing when it comes to natural hair loss.
The studies seem to suggest that drinking excessive amounts of green tea can reduce testosterone levels, while small amounts can increase it.
How Can You Get More Green Tea into Your Diet?
In order to get real, measurable benefits from green tea, you will need to use it consistently and daily. It is recommended that you use it at least twice daily, in some form.
Brewing the tea leaves is the most common way of consuming it.
Depending on the quality of the leaves, brewing time can vary. If you use high quality leaves, they can be steeped in water that is less hot (about 69 degrees Celsius, 160 degrees Fahrenheit), for about 30 seconds.
If you’re using “spent” leaves (lower quality), the brewing time needs to be a bit longer-the recommended time is two to three minutes, at 87 degrees Celsius, which is 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
Other Ways to Consume Green Tea
Most people will consume hot green tea, but there are other ways to use it:
- Cold green tea
- Green tea in a pill or capsule form (an extract)
- Shampoos or conditioners that contain green tea, or lotion that contains it
- Blended into smoothies
Since green tea is less potent than other hair loss remedies, it’s best to incorporate more than one of these strategies into your daily routine.
For example, you could consume two cups of green tea daily, use a green tea extract supplement, and also use a hair product that contains green tea.
How To Make A Delicious Matcha Tea
Are There Any Alternatives To Green Tea?
There are a number of alternatives that can help to block DHT, which you should consider trying instead.
Keep in mind that blocking DHT is NOT the most important part of reversing hair loss. It is DHT sensitivity that is really the crucial difference that leads to hair follicle miniaturization.
So, instead of focusing on lowering your DHT levels, focus on lowering sensitivity.
Here are a few quick green tea alternatives:
Pumpkin Seed Oil (PSO)
However, PSO has also been proven to increase hair count when used as a supplement after 24 weeks.
This study was performed with the help of 76 male participants, all of which had mild to moderate AGA. The participants were split into two groups.
The first group received a 400mg daily dose of a supplement (which contained PSO, among other ingredients). The second group was a placebo which was also taken daily.
The researchers used a process known as phototrichography to analyze hair changes, including hair counts and diameters.
These were the results:
And here are the visual results from the study:
As you can see, the PSO supplement had a beneficial impact on hair growth. Keep in mind that other ingredients were within the supplement (including Gamma linolenic acid and Lycopene). So, while we can’t say with 100% certainty that PSO was responsible for the changes, it’s other health benefits can still be useful in hair regrowth.
You can see the results below:
However, you should keep something in mind; even though you may be blocking the DHT production ‘naturally’ ie. using plants, there can still be side-effects associated with this.
That’s why I suggest you focus on DHT sensitivity instead. Here’s an article I wrote which I highly recommend you read about the best natural DHT blocker.
Saw palmetto is a berry-producing plant found in the Americas, and it’s believed to work by inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, a precursor to DHT. As such, it can block DHT preemptively.
To show you how saw palmetto works, let’s take a look at a recent study.
In 2016, researchers from the US conducted a study to help them better understand the effects of saw palmetto on androgen-sensitive cells. This was done with the use of syrian hamsters.
Testosterone, saw palmetto, or a combination of the two was introduced to syrian hamster flank organs. The pigmentation of the area was then tracked, as this is an indicator of angdrogen activity.
When combined with testosterone, saw palmetto was successful at reducing pigmentation in the organs than when it was combined with DHT. This is because saw palmetto works by inhibiting 5AR (which stops the production of DHT), and is less effective at blocking DHT directly.
As such, saw palmetto can be a good topical option for men and women who are looking to put a stop to 5AR’s activities and, as a result, reduce DHT levels.
Stinging nettle is another plant native to the Americas, but also found in Europe and Asia. It’s known for its ‘stinging’ effects when touched, but it can also be used topically by AGA sufferers to block DHT.
How do we know this?
A 2011 research study found that stinging nettle, in the treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) in rats, reduced the prostate’s size significnalty. This is a good indicator of its anti-androgen effects.
But is there further research to back these claims?
Yes, and there’s even been human research!
In 2009, a researcher from Tehran, Iran tested stinging nettle’s androgen effects on humans.
He recruited 620 patients in total, and performed the research over a six-month period. The results were then collected using various models and techniques, such as:
- International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS);
- Maximum urinary flow rate (Qmax);
- Postvoid Residual Urine Volume (PVR);
- Serum Pros-tatic-Specific Antigen (PSA);
- Testosterone levels; and
- Prostate size
After six months of treatment, these were the findings.
The IPSS and Qmax oth decreased significantly in the stinging nettle group. IPSS decreased from 19.8 down to 11.8, while in the placebo group it only decreased from 19.2 to 17.7.
What does this mean for hair loss sufferers?
Stinging nettle has been shown to inhibit 5AR’s activities, which is great for men and women with AGA. After all, the less 5AR, the less DHT is produced.
We’ve learned that green tea contains high levels of polyphenols and flavonoids. Flavonoids and an antioxidant called EGCG are what make green tea effective in boosting the immune system.
In order to benefit the most from using green tea, it’s best to not only ingest it, but to include topical products as well on a regular basis.
We see that drinking green tea (or consuming it in any recipe) prevents the problem of reaching a level of toxicity, as can be experienced when using green tea extract, so drinking it or eating it might be the safer way to go, especially if you are aware you might have liver issues.
The reviews on the efficacy of green tea are mixed, but overall there seem to be more positive outcomes than negative ones.
It has also been demonstrated that the use of green tea increases metabolism and contributes to improvements in a person’s general health and well-being but no firm evidence has shown it to be valuable enough to add to a daily hair care regime.
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