Is Amla Oil Good for Hair Growth?

Amla, the Indian Gooseberry
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Amla oil is a natural substance often used to promote hair health. Sourced from the Indian gooseberry fruit (also known as Emblica officinalis or Phyllanthus emblica), the oil is said to fight hair loss, stimulate hair growth, and prevent prematurely gray hair. When used as a hair treatment, amla oil is typically applied directly to the scalp or facial hair such as the beard or eyebrows.

Long used in ayurveda, amla oil is traditionally made by immersing dried amla fruit in oil.

Coconut oil, mineral oil, or sesame oil are often used as the base oil. After a few days of soaking, the fruit are removed and the oil is filtered and purified. Other ingredients may be added (such as preservatives or scents).

Why Amla Oil Is Thought to Be Good for Hair

Featuring a number of essential fatty acids, amla oil is thought to strengthen hair follicles and condition hair. Proponents also claim that amla oil can promote hair growth and help treat dry, itchy scalp and dandruff.

Besides essential fatty acids, amla fruit are high in vitamin C, flavonoids, polyphenols, and also contain water, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

The Research on Amla for Hair

Although amla oil has a long history of use as a hair treatment, there is very little scientific evidence for its effectiveness as a treatment for hair loss, prematurely white or gray hair, or scalp-related health problems such as dandruff.

The available research includes a preliminary study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2012. In this animal study, researchers tested 17 plants grown in Thailand, including amla extract. They found that amla was the second most potent inhibitor of 5-alpha reductase (the oral medication finasteride, used for the treatment of male pattern hair loss, works by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase).

How Do You Use Amla Oil on Hair?

Amla oil is often applied after shampooing and used in place of a conditioner. When used in this manner, amla oil is typically massaged into the strands so that it completely covers hair (from the roots to the tips). It can be covered with a shower cap. After sitting for 15 minutes or more, the amla oil is then thoroughly rinsed from the hair with warm water.

According to ayurvedic practitioners, applying amla oil to the scalp can help with dandruff or soothe a dry, itchy scalp. The oil is massaged into the scalp daily and rinsed out after 15 minutes, or it can be left on the scalp overnight before being washed out. To prevent staining, pillows should be covered with old towels or an old t-shirt or a shower cap can be worn.

Amla oil can have a strong, musky smell, so it may not be suitable as a leave-in conditioner or styling product unless used sparingly.

Amla in Shampoo or Hair Powder

Although the pure oil is commonly used as a hair treatment, amla oil is also featured as an ingredient in shampoos. In addition, amla extract is available as an ingredient in a variety of hair powders.

Some people also create their own hair treatments by combining amla powder with warm water so that the blend achieves a paste-like consistency.

When applied to dry, clean hair as a hair treatment, this mixture is thought to increase hair's softness and thickness.

Possible Side Effects and Precautions

There is a lack of research on the safety of long-term or prolonged use of amla oil. Side effects can include skin irritation and allergy. A patch test is recommended.

Studies suggest that topical application of amla oil may lead to a rare skin condition known as lichen planus pigmentosus in some people.

Avoid getting amla oil in your eyes. Using the oil in the shower or bath can make the shower or tub floor slippery. Caution should be used to prevent falls.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may be contaminated. While consumers face such risks when purchasing any supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude in the purchase of ayurvedic products.

Where to Buy It

Widely available for purchase online, amla oil is sold in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in ayurvedic products.

Alternatives to Amla Oil

A number of other natural products are commonly used to promote hair health. For instance, biotin and saw palmetto are each said to stimulate hair growth. Orthosilicic acid has been explored for hair strength.

Like amla oil, products like coconut oilargan oilemu oil, almond oil, and rosehip oil are also said to strengthen and condition the hair.

Other traditional ayurvedic hair oils include neem oil and brahmi oil.

Essential oils applied topically have been explored for alopecia areata (sudden onset hair loss). Apple cider vinegar hair rinses are sometimes used to fight dandruff.

The Takeaway

Like many oils that are applied topically to hair (like argan and coconut oil), using a little amla oil on your hair may help to moisturize and smooth dry hair.

Although amla is sometimes said to encourage hair growth, there have only been a couple of small studies in animals. Evidence from clinical trials is needed to confirm these claims.

Sources:

Kumar N, Rungseevijitprapa W, Narkkhong NA, Suttajit M, Chaiyasut C. 5α-reductase inhibition and hair growth promotion of some Thai plants traditionally used for hair treatment. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Feb 15;139(3):765-71.

Yang G, Tan C. Lichen Planus Pigmentosus-like Reaction to Guasha. J Cutan Med Surg. 2016 Nov;20(6):586-588.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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