It's the Great Pumpkin

It's the Great Pumpkin

I am reaching that stage of my life where it sometimes seems I have more hair growing out of my ears and eyebrows than I do from top of my head. Baldness runs in the family and I am slowly looking more like my father. Grey hair is also hereditary; you get it from your children.

So it was with interest I saw “Effect of Pumpkin Seed Oil on Hair Growth in Men with Androgenetic Alopecia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” One never knows if a botanical is going to have an effect on a physiologic process, and, given the difference in hair between Linus and Charlie Brown,  perhaps there is something to it.

 

According to the Wikipedia, pumpkin seed oil has been used for benign prostatic hyperplasia and cholesterol while other sites have suggested more widespread uses:

Information can be found by searching the internet and on this website which relates to the positive effects of Pumpkin Seed Oil and or Seeds on:

Prostate Function Cholesterol Lowering Cystitis Treatment Kidney Function Anti Arthritic Diabetes Anti Parasitic Increasing mothers milk production Skin Care

As always with botanicals, there are many uses, all for diseases with drastically different underlying pathophysiology. It does not inspire confidence and a PubMed search results are thin gruel indeed.

Dr. Oz has touted the product, so it must be useless or over-rated: Dr. Oz Gets it Really Wrong About Pumpkin Seed Oil

Dr. Oz clearly does none of his own research before putting out this type of confusing and extremely misleading health information.

Now that’s a surprise. Dr. Oz wrong.

But for hair loss? The authors note that

Pumpkin seed oil (PSO) has been shown to block the action of 5-alpha reductase and to have antiandrogenic effects on rats.

and since hair loss is due to androgens, perhaps it would help the slow hair loss.

It was not a bad study. Patients were randomized to placebo or pumpkin seed oil twice a day and followed by both hair analysis by phototrichography and photographic changes in hair evaluated by

A blinded investigator (who) rated changes in scalp appearance relative to baseline (immediately prior to treatment commencement) in blinded fashion using a standardized 7-point rating scale.

And they showed improved hair growth in the pumpkin seed oil group at 12 and 24 weeks.

After 24 weeks of treatment, self-rated improvement score and self-rated satisfaction scores in the PSO-treated group were higher than in the placebo group (P = 0.013, 0.003). The PSO-treated group had more hair after treatment than at baseline, compared to the placebo group (P < 0.001). Mean hair count increases of 40% were observed in PSO-treated men at 24 weeks, whereas increases of 10% were observed in placebo-treated men (P < 0.001).

Small numbers of patients, they did not report if the blinding was successful, and

The final limitation is degree of accuracy when assessing changes of hair by phototrichography, even though hair analysis was performed with confirmation of recorded target area in baseline.

And oddly it was supported by a grant by the company who made the placebo; so what kind of bias could that introduce?

As the authors note

The study shows that PSO could improve AGA and that it should be considered a potential alternative treatment.

I point this paper out not so much as proof that pumpkin seed oil is an effective treatment for baldness but as an example of how a reasonably well done preliminary study might suggest efficacy for a botanical therapy. Although, as always, caution:

... replication will be needed in order to confirm the results of this first-stage study and additional studies are required to elucidate the mechanism responsible for the positive effects of PSO on AGA.

And I predict a flood of ads pushing pumpkin seed oil for baldness.  Who will be first to sell it for baldness,  Adams or Mercola?  Neither mentions it as of 5.28.14 and only one has hair.

Points of Interest: 05/29/2014
Points of Interest 5/28/2014