Natural DHT Blockers: Do They Really Work?
One of the major causes of male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is high levels of DHT in the body.
DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is a powerful androgen that is converted from testosterone. When men are young, higher levels help to improve masculine traits and performance. As time goes on, high levels can cause two key problems, prostate enlargement and male pattern baldness.
But it's not as simple as saying that reducing DHT levels in the body will reduce your chances of losing more hair. Right at the start of this it's important to tell you that lowering DHT levels will not guarantee stopping, or reversing, hair loss.
Think about it this way, if it was as simple as high levels of DHT causing hair loss then you would lose hair all over your body, not just on the scalp.
The truth is that pattern baldness has several causes, that often work together to weaken hair growth, and DHT is just one component.
But the great news is that evidence does point to lower DHT levels often reducing hair loss. But how can you attempt to achieve hair regeneration without side effects, and can you do it through only using natural DHT blockers?
Why Not Use Medical DHT Blockers?
The truth is that there are a multitude of high quality pharmaceutical products out there that can target DHT levels. Some of them, such as Propecia do have a high success rate, with Propecia achieving around a 70% reduction in DHT levels.
But although these pharmaceutical DHT blockers can be very effective in restoring hair health, they can have powerful side effects which often outweigh the benefits.
The bottom line here is that DHT is produced by testosterone. Reducing its levels can lead to men developing some quite startling and serious side effects:
- Lack of sex drive
- Finding it difficult to orgasm
- Gynecomastia (increase in breast tissue volume)
- Abnormal or absent ejaculation
So it's important that if you are determined to reduce your DHT levels to see if that is at the heart of your hair loss, then you have to investigate the safest ways to experiment first. For many people this means trying the proven, and not so proven, natural DHT blockers before resorting to medical products.
What Are The Best Natural DHT Blockers?
There are very few natural DHT blockers which have both scientific and anecdotal evidence to back up the claims made about them. However, some of this evidence is compelling and should be taken seriously.
So rather than deliver a huge list of natural DHT blockers that includes those with no evidence or only flimsy evidence, let's talk about the three which have the most publicity and largest solid evidence.
Natural DHT Blocker #1: Saw Palmetto
Let's start with the natural DHT blocker with the best reputation, Saw Palmetto, which is often called “Nature's Propecia”. Saw Palmetto is extracted from the berries of the Serenoa reopens palm, which most widely grows in the southern and eastern United States.
You will find evidence for the positive effects of Saw Palmetto in multiple scientific studies. Its active ingredients inhibit the function of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase type II. when this catchily-named enzyme is suppressed it has been found that prostatic DHT levels drop.
One key study found that Saw Palmetto had a very positive effect on the lowering of DHT levels. What made this study significant is that it one test group was given 320mg of Saw Palmetto and the other 1mg of finasteride (Propecia).
The study found that although Propecia was more aggressive and significant in its results on DHT levels, Saw Palmetto still achieved noticeable results:
The results showed that 38% of patients treated with Serenoa reopens has an increasing hair growth, while 68% of those treated with finasteride noted an improvement.
So although not as powerful as the pharmaceutical product, as pointed out by the study authors using the word “only”, this study alone does point to it being worth trying the natural DHT blocker Saw Palmetto first.
Natural DHT Blocker #2: Pumpkin Seed Oil/Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seed oil is created simply by cold pressing the seeds from pumpkins. Sometimes the seeds are roasted prior to being pressed, but evidence suggests this can remove some of the beneficial properties. So for this reason it is always better to go for cold pressed pumpkin oil if you wish to try it for reducing hair loss.
Although pumpkin seed oil will not be something that springs to mind when people think about hair regeneration, the truth is that there is quite a lot of quality evidence to suggest that it can act as a good natural DHT blocker due to it containing the steroid delta-7 stearine, which may compete with DHT production.
A key part of the evidence is that pumpkin seed oil is licensed in both the United States and Germany for the treatment of prostate disorders. Its key quality in the treatment of prostate disorders is that the evidence suggests that it reduces DHT production, which can be a key factor in prostate problems.
The only problem with the quality evidence available scientifically is that very little of it has been trialled with humans. For example, this study found that pumpkin seed oil reduced the size of the prostate in rats. It concluded that pumpkin seed oil blocks the production of DHT from converted testosterone.
Different scientific trials have also used very different dosages of pumpkin seed oil. So there is no clear point at which it becomes obviously ineffective, or so powerful that it is able to cause side effects. However, the general conclusion seems to be that side-effects are minimal below 1000mg.
Natural DHT Blocker #3: Beta Sitosterol
Found in nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits, beta-sitosterol is also known as plant sterol ester. You may be familiar with the second name as it is well-known for being included in special margarines and spreads that help to lower cholesterol.
It has been found in many scientific studies to reduce prostate inflammation. Because the prostate is also inflamed by testosterone DHT production, it is assumed that beta sitosterol must also block DHT formation as it has the ability to reduce inflammation of the prostate.
The problem is that the scientific evidence does not strongly confirm that beta sitosterol is responsible for reducing the level of DHT.
There is anecdotal evidence that lower cholesterol leads to lower levels of DHT production, but little research to back this up.
So although ingestion of beta sitosterol could have an effect on DHT levels, and therefore improved hair health, it's not the best supplement to take on its own. A few studies have found improved hair growth using a mix of beta sitosterol and Saw Palmetto, but the conclusions do not clearly show is beta sitosterol enhances the already proven DHT blocker Saw Palmetto.
Interestingly though, pumpkin seeds contain beta sitosterol, which on top of the steroid delta-7 stearine, means that they are certainly a good starting place if you are looking at a potential effective natural DHT blocker.
Foods That Can Naturally Block DHT
On top of the three natural DHT blockers we have already mentioned, a lot of common foods are also reputed to have the ability to lower DHT levels.
We have already covered the three main natural DHT blockers that seem to have at least some scientific evidence to back up their effectiveness, but in addition, these foods contain other ingredients which may help to combat high DHT.
First of all we should mention pumpkin seeds. As we have already covered, they are one of the key natural DHT blockers with evidence to support them. But they are also and easily consumable food and they can be easily included in your diet by sprinkling them on to other foods or eating them on their own.
Foods containing lycopene
Lycopene has been found in several studies to have beneficial effects links to lower DHT production:
Lycopene interfered with local testosterone activation by down-regulating 5-alpha-reductase.
So it seems that just like Saw Palmetto, foods containing lycopene can potentially inhibit the function of 5-alpha-reductase.
The key foods that contain lycopene are:
- Pink grapefruit
Unlike other nutrients, processing foods that contain lycopene actually increases its concentration. So eating concentrated tomato paste for example is a great way of getting lycopene.
Foods containing L-lysine
L-lysine is an essential amino acid. We don't produce it ourselves so we have to get it through the food we eat.
Studies have linked L-lysine to improved hair health. But although you will read misinformed blog articles online stating that L-lysine is a natural DHT blocker, that is not actually the case. But there is evidence to suggest that it can support the potency of natural DHT blockers.
It's difficult to pin down information on studies which prove that L-lysine can increase the effect of DHT blockers, but you will read from many sources online that these studies exist. However, there must be some truth in it because somebody has patented it within a hair therapy product.
The key foods which contain L-lysine are:
- Beef, chicken, pork and Turkey
Is Zinc A Natural DHT Blocker?
One key question that a lot of people ask in relation to finding natural DHT blockers is: can zinc help to regulate levels of DHT?
Unfortunately the evidence is mixed and the science contradictory.
On the one hand you will read that there is evidence that zinc can increase testosterone levels and therefore increase levels of DHT, which is obviously bad in relation to prostate and hair follicle health.
This study for example, found that “DHT rose significantly after oral administration of zinc”, which suggests that zinc can increase testosterone and DHT levels.
However, that's not the whole story. Zinc is well known for raising sperm counts and fertility. The evidence seems to suggest that if you have lower testosterone levels then zinc can help to improve them up to normal to maximum normal levels.
So if you already have a normal level of testosterone and DHT production then taking zinc will not increase DHT levels. And some evidence suggests that taking high doses of zinc when at a normal level of testosterone production can then start to reduce DHT levels.
Zinc is prescribed for acne that is caused by an overproduction of testosterone, and it works. On top of that, it is a proven 5-alpha reductase inhibitor. However, this appears to only be the case when high levels of zinc are taken by people with already normal levels of testosterone. So it appears to be about balance and the individual.
The bottom line seems to be that you should have zinc in your diet and be aware of your testosterone level if you are concerned about hair loss and are investigating natural DHT blockers.
The additional caution is if you are intending to increase zinc intake to try and lower DHT, then you need to be aware of the health risks around zinc supplements generally, and the uncertainty around whether elevated zinc levels always do equal lower DHT.
Natural DHT Blockers: Getting Perspective
The conclusion here has to be that natural DHT blockers are not as effective as manufactured pharmaceutical products. That is proven by multiple studies.
However, pharmaceutical DHT blockers can be very aggressive and have increased side effects which can outweigh any benefits they bring to the hair follicles and the hair they produce.
So if you're looking for a more natural way to start attempting to lower your DHT levels then getting educated on natural DHT blockers and starting to experiment with them will help.
Simply changing your diet and moving towards foods which can help to lower DHT could help. By then also supplementing this change in diet with Saw Palmetto you will be well on the way to exploring the available natural DHT lowering options available.
The final word has be one of caution however. It's always best to get educated and take medical advice before undertaking any dramatic changes in your diet or starting supplement intake.