Peppermin oil and Rosemary Oil were said to be proven to regrow hair.
They were said to be natural minoxidil and finasteride without any side effects.
It sounds too good to be true.
So what is the truth?
Let's Start with Peppermint Oil.
Some sellers claim that peppermint oil works much better than gold standard minoxidil by referring to a 2014 study by a Korean group , led by Young Chul Kim, in which the hair growth effect of Peppermint Oil was studied in comparison to the standard (3% minoxidil) (Toxicol Res. 2014 Dec; 30(4): 297–304. Full article can be downloaded here).
In this study, 6-week-old C57BL/6 mice were shaved and were randomized into 4 groups.
Four different solutions: saline (SA), jojoba oil (JO), 3% minoxidil (MXD), and 3% peppermint oil (PEO) were applied to the shaved dorsal area once a day.
The results are shown in Figure 1.
Peppermint oil appeared to be unbelievably effective at a first glance.
Nonetheless, if you take a close look at the data, you will see the results are very suspicious.
Why? the placebo group (saline solution) had no visuable hair growth after 4 weeks!
How could that be possible? Keep in mind that the mice were healthy without any balding issue.
Their hair was simply shaved. So why didn’t they grow any hair back naturally after 4 weeks?
The data must be wrong! which was ironically proved by another paper published by the same group 2 years later .
Young Chul Kim's group published another paper in 2016, in which the hair growth effect of Lavender Oil was studied (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4843973/ Full article can be downloaded here.).
The authors used the same mice model C57BL/6 and saline solution as placebo.
The results are shown in the Figure 2 below.
What you can see in Figure 2 is that the placebo group did grow hair gradually.
By week 4, the shaved area almost had full hair abeit somewhat less than the other groups.
This result was drastically different than what they published in 2014.
Dramatic difference was also shown for Jojob Oil between these two studies.
Apparently the study in 2014 was seriously flawed and most likely fabricated.
It is shocking to see how studies with such apparent flawed data could be published!
So does Peppermint Oil regrow hair? Absolutely not.
Note grow is different regrow.
To treat hair loss, you need to regrow hair to recover the lost hair.
So even if the data had not been flawed and the data had been true, the study still wouldn't demonstrate peppermint regrew hair.
It would have only meant it helped hair grow faster.
There is no other study, either with animal or human, to show peppermint oil grew or regrew hair.
It is safe to say Peppermint Oil has no comparison to minoxidil, the most popular hair regrowth product, that have gone through numerous not only animal but human clinic studies that proved it regrow hair.
Now let's review Rosemary Oil, a much better DHT blocker than finasteride per some sellers.
This bold claim of Rosemary Oil being a better DHT inhibitor than finasteride was made by referring to a Japanese 2013 study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22517595).
It stated that Rosemary oil inhibitited 5-alpha-reductase by 94.6% compared to 81.9% by finasteride.
The statement came from the tabe below.
If you take a close at the data, you will notice that the the concentration units of rosemary oil (µg/mL) and finasteride (nM) were different.
If you do the math, you will find out that 250 nM finasteride is equivalent to 0.093 µg/mL finasteride.
Then you will see the inhibition capability of finasteride at 0.093 µg/mL was actually comparable to that of rosemary oil at 200 µg/mL.
So what the data really tells is that finasteride is more than 2000 times more stronger than rosemary oil in inhibiting 5-alpha-reductatse.
To say Rosemary Oil is better than finasteride is like to say a turtle moves faster than an airplane just because the turtle crawls at full speed while the airplane happens to park on the ground.
(P.S. Similar misleading conclusion was made to other natural DHT blocker.
Some mistakenly claim azelaic acid is a better inhibitor than finasteride.
You can read Azelaic Acid vs Finasteride for Hair Loss, Which is better to find out the truth. )
Another natural ingredient pushed by some sellers is Oleuropein. It was included because it was reported by this 2015 article (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462586/) that it stimulated hair growth. This study was performed by another Korean group, led by Taesun Park.
Unfortunately, the data does not pass scrutiny either.
The mouse model used in the study was the same as those used in Peppermint oil mentioned above.
Again, the control group didn't grow any hair after 4 weeks, which can't be true as proved above.
If a study can't even get the control right, you can't trust the data.
Worth noting is that these articles were published in very low impact journals.
Authors need to pay the journals to publish their studies.
Thus it is in journals' best interest to publish as many articles possible, which unsurprisingly leads to the poor quality of the artricles.
The inclusion of Magenesium oil into some natural hair regrowth products was based on the belief it can help remove calcium, open the pores, and improve blood circulation.
I saw similar claims before when someone was trying to sell showerhead filters by claiming it could remov minerals from water and help with hair loss.
There is no evidence to back this up.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has been credited with all manner of health benefits, from aiding weight loss to stabilizing blood sugar levels based on anecdotal stories.
Claiming it can help hair growth is less common though.
According to the treatment specialist at the Belgravia Centre, there is little to substantiate the claims: "No matter what you do with it, apple cider vinegar will not cure or treat hair loss.
The reason it is often linked with hair care is because it is an ancient remedy for making hair shine and treating dandruff that is said to have been favoured by the Romans.". (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319396.php).
FREE OF SIDE EFFECTS?
Hair loss products based on ingredients discussed above are said to be safe per the seller, while the mainstream of hair loss treatment with minoxidil and finasteride are said to have too many side effects.
Is minoxidil or finasteride free of side effects? Absolutely not.
How bad are the side effects? They are definately not as bad as what HLR say.
Finasteride side effects at 1mg daily dosage were very well documented, acceptabile and reversible according to Merck.
Minoxidil has been approved for hair loss treatment for nearly 30 years. It's been the no.1 hair regrowth product for good reasons.
Creator of some natural hair regrowth products claimed their products are free of any side effects as only natural ingredients are used.
A lot of people believe that when it comes to treatment, “natural” is better, healthier, and safer than “unnatural” or synthetic chemicals.
This notion was debunked by Nation Institute of Health (NIH).
For example, Ephedra, an evergreen shrub-like plant had been used for centuries for colds, fever, and other conditions, was found to be associated with heart problems and risk of death.
In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids for safety reasons.
Now let's take a look at the side effects of Peppermint Oil, Rosemary Oil and some other natural natural ingredients.
Peppermint oil, when taken orally, may cause inflammation of the kidneys and lead to kidney failure.
It contains pulegone, a neurotoxic agent that may harm nerve tissue.
Pulegone is also toxic to the liver.
Additionally, use of the oil may worsen hernia and acid reflux symptoms.
Although topical use of peppermint oil in a short term is unlikely to cause these side effects.
But mixing peppermint oil with other ingredients like Apple cider vinegar in a concoction may enhance its absorption and make it difficult to predict its side effects.
Also the safety data of long term topical use of Peppermint oil is lacking.
Will it have the same side effects as oral use of peppermint oil? Nobody knows.
Topical Rosemary Oil can cause dermatitis, or other skin problems.
People who are allergic to it can develop a rash or even have an asthma attack.
Oleuropein can lower blood pressure as a vascudialator like Minoxidil, thus people with diabetes may suffer even lower blood pressure.
Apple cider vinegar can cause skin burn due to its strong acid nature.
NATURAL INGREDIENTS, MINOXIDIL OR FINASTERIDE?
The "proven natural ingredients" such as peppermint oil, rosemary oil were reported by one or two research studies with mice.
None of the resutls proved to be credible as discussed above.
Those ingredients are not secret weapon for fighting hair loss.
The fact that they are not known by general public is not because big pharm companies do not want people to know, simply because they do not work.
These individual ingredients are NOT free of serious side effects.
The safety of the concoction was never studied and side effects of longer term usage was never looked at.
Minoxidil and Finasteride are the only two FDA approved products for hair losst treatment.
Minoxidil, as the no.1 hair regrowth treatment worldwide, has been used for hair loss treatment for almost 30 years.
Minoxidil's possible side effects were studied by a number of clinical studies.
To have any systemic effect in the human body (such as chest pain, dizzness), minoxidil has to have a serum concentration of 20 ng/mL.
Minoxidil has 1.7% absorption rate from topical application.
Thus a 5% Minoxidil solution will result in 1.2 ng / mL of minoxidil in the serum.
So, there is more than a 16-fold safety margin from the use of 5% topical Minoxidil and a 5-fold safety margin even with the use of a 15% topical Minoxidil solution.
Sexual side effects from finasteride (1mg daily) were well studied by large scale clinical studies.
Side effects were observed among 3.8% people who took oral finasteride vs 2.1% people who took placebo in a clinical study involved with 1869 participants..
The side effects were reported to be reverisble after the discontinuation of the treatment.
Our human body is a precise machine, thus any efforts trying to fix one issue may cause a different issue (side effects).
The only way to avoid any side effects is to leave it alone: do nothing about it.
If you do decide to do anything, my recommendation is to start with something proven to work and backed up clinical studies.
That way, you have the best chance to be sucessful, and you know what possible side effects you may have.
If the proven products do not work for you, try something different.
Choosing something that was made based one person's personal experience due to the concern with possible sides effects of FDA approved products that are used by millions of people world wide is probably not a very smart.
It is important to start hair loss treatment early: The earlier, The better.
The more hair you lose, the harder battle you will fight.
There are numerous products for hair loss treatment. Nobody should spend years on trying different product to find the right product.
Start with FDA approved minoxidil and/or finasteride is a no-brainer.