Cooling Pitta to Prevent Hair Loss from Chemotherapy
I saw this article today in the New York Times about Scalp-Cooling Caps that prevent hair loss as a side effect of chemotherapy. This is interesting, because Ayurveda has always attributed hair loss, especially when stress related, to Pitta rising up to the head. Pitta is the embodiment in a human being of all the qualities that fire has in nature.
Pitta elevation creates heat, first and foremost, and heat rises from the core of the body to the surface, where it causes hot type skin diseases like eczema, acne, and hives. But Pitta heat also tends to rise to the head. We see this with different kinds of Pitta, from the fire of anger to the Agni fire of digestion.
Another characteristic of Pitta elevation in Ayurveda is that it creates tension. This is associated with the fight aspect of the fight or flight response that makes our muscles and energy tense and tight.
The drugs in both chemotherapy and radiation therapy are very heat producing, so they do elevate Pitta, by definition, which in turn "burns" the hair follicles. This is how Ayurveda would explain the hair loss associated with chemotherapy, as well as stress related hair loss, and the propensity for Pitta types to go bald early, and to have thinning or prematurely grey hair.
All the therapies for hair loss and mental tension in Ayurveda involve cooling herbs, like Bacopa/Brahmi and Gotu Kola, as well as Eclipta and Shatavari, whether taken by mouth, or cooked in Coconut oil, which is itself cooling and Pitta pacifying, and then massaged into the scalp.
A very fine brand of oil of this type for scalp massage is Neelibringadi sold by Tri Health, my favorite source for Kerala style Ayurvedic products.
copyright Eyton J. Shalom, M.S., L.Ac. San Diego, CA All Rights Reserved, Use With Permission Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego http://www.bodymindwellnesscenter.com