Alopecia Areata is baldness in one or multiple areas and can occur anywhere hair grows but is often most problematic when it manifests as bald patches on the scalp. From a Western medicine perspective the cause is not fully understood but there may be a family connection and it may involve an autoimmune response. Some pharmaceutical medications such as those seen in chemotherapy can also cause hair loss. My experience also suggests that stress is a factor or trigger in some cases.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatment can be effective in treating alopecia, particularly when the Western medicine aetiology is unclear and no obvious pharmaceutical cause is known. The cause of alopecia according to TCM diagnosis is often one of a Blood Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation either of which may cause the hair to become malnourished and fall out. Some of the following signs and symptoms may also be present with these patterns such as dizziness, dryness, painful periods, tight neck and shoulders, a feeling of a lump (plum stone) in the throat, palpitations, tight chest, insomnia, vivid dreams, depression, restlessness, cold hands and feet.
Both men and women can suffer from alopecia however it tends to be predominately women I see as it is perhaps more traumatic for women, and women are more easily prone to Blood Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation due to their female nature, menstrual cycle and the modern lifestyle stresses.
Fortunately TCM treatment can be effective in restoring hair growth by addressing the underling patterns of Blood Deficiency and or Liver Qi Stagnation. Subject to diagnosis the following methods may be employed:
Dietary advice to help strengthen the Spleen function and smooth the Liver Qi, by a modest increase in Blood nourishing and Qi invigorating foods such as described by Debra Betts here. It is important to have a proper TCM pattern diagnosis before making changes to your diet as not all cases of hair loss are due to Blood Deficiency or Liver Qi Stagnations and there may be other underling patterns that are more important to address.
Acupuncture to tonify the Spleen function and help your body produce good Blood and Qi. Acupuncture to smooth the Liver Qi, de-stress and help Qi and Blood move effectively to the extremities. Acupuncture to stimulate the area of hair loss to draw Qi and Blood to the area and nourish the follicles.
Plum blossom needling (a special tapping technique using small needles) to invigorate the area of hair loss drawing Qi and Blood to the area to nourish the follicles.
Moxibustion (an external herbal warming technique) to stimulate the area of hair loss drawing Qi and Blood to the area to nourish the follicles.
I will often utilise a combination of these therapies and it may also be useful for the patient to apply fresh ginger to the area once or twice a day until it is hot and flushed, but not immediately following an acupuncture treatment.
*Patterns of disharmony: Also called pattern diagnosis and pattern discrimination are the diagnosis that traditional Chinese medicine practitioners give to the disharmonies that lead to disease; it is these patterns that are treated to return your body and mind to a proper and healthy balance. After your initial consultation and throughout your treatments I will discuss with you your particular pattern diagnoses, bear in mind that these patterns can change as your condition changes or if you contract new conditions, such as a common cold or stiff neck. There are dozens of pattern disharmonies and some more common examples are Spleen Qi Deficiency, Liver Qi Stagnation, Dampness, Heat, Coldness, Liver Blood Deficiency, Kidney Yang Deficiency, Kidney Yin Deficiency and Lung Qi Deficiency.
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