There are many medications on the market – including Rogaine and Propecia – that claim to treat hair loss. However, these drugs can come with their own risks and they may not be as successful as the manufacturers claim.
That’s not to say that traditional hair loss treatments don’t have their purpose. But what if I told you that a natural ingredient, one that you can likely find in your kitchen right now, may also help to regrow your hair?
In this article, I’ll introduce the concept of onion juice for hair growth. This will include a look at the various health benefits of onion and how they may contribute to hair health. I’ll then explain how you can begin using onion juice in your hair care routine.
Onions: A Brief History
There is much debate as to where onions were first cultivated with some researchers suggesting central Asia and others hypothesizing as far west as Pakistan.
But wherever they had their beginnings, it’s known that they’ve been used for more than 5000 years, and their use has spread around the globe (1).
Today, onions are most often known as a pungent ingredient added to a variety of dishes. However, they have had a wider variety of uses over the centuries.
As Pliny the Elder described, the Romans believed that onions could be useful in treating everything from toothaches and mouth sores to dysentery!
And these beliefs seem to have been prevalent in many ancient civilizations.
Of course, onions aren’t quite a miraculous as our ancestors may have believed. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a place in today’s world.
The Potential Benefits of Onion Juice for Hair
Are onions as beneficial as the Romans and other ancient societies believed? It’s very likely that the benefits of onions and its derivatives have been overblown.
However, research studies have helped to shed light on a few of onion’s greatest benefits. And some of these may even help with hair loss. Let’s take a look.
Onion Juice is Antimicrobial
Microbes – more specifically bacteria and fungi – are responsible for many infections that occur within the human body. And some of these microbes can even contribute to dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis (2).
These microbes alone may not be the main cause of hair loss, but the irritation and itching that occur can certainly contribute.
Onion extracts have been shown to be beneficial against a variety of microbes (3). This may not solve all of your hair problems, but onion can certainly help to keep your scalp healthy and free from infection.
Onion Juice Contains Antioxidants
Onion and onion juice are a surprising source of antioxidants (4). But before you can understand why this is good for your hair, it’s important to know what antioxidants are and what they do inside the body.
The body is made up of billions of cells which themselves are made up of molecules. However, it’s possible for these cells to become damaged in the course of your daily life.
In some instances, these damaged cells can result in what are known as free radicals, or unmatched molecules (5). The molecules will then move throughout the body and try to find a match by ‘stealing’ a molecule from an organ or tissue.
As you can imagine, it’s not good for free-roaming molecules to take molecules from other cells as they please. But this is exactly what free radicals do.
And if left unchecked, this can lead to signs of aging such as wrinkles, greying hair, and even hair thinning.
So, what can you do to combat free radicals? That’s where antioxidants come in.
Antioxidants are molecules that target free radicals in the body (6). They then donate their own molecules to be matched so as to protect the surrounding tissues from damage.
One type of antioxidants are flavonoids, and onions have been shown to have them in abundance. In fact, onion bulbs are “among the richest sources of dietary flavonoids and contribute to a large extent to the overall intake of flavonoids”.
Onion Juice Contains Sulfur
In first- and second-world countries, a dietary deficiency is not a common cause of hair loss. However, if you have a deficiency of sulfur – one of the most abundant natural minerals in the human body – then it certainly can lead to thinning and hair loss (7).
Sulfur, sometimes spelled sulphur, is an important component of many structures in the human body (8). This includes the protein keratin, which makes up the majority of hair, and the protein collagen.
A lack of sulfur in your diet can mean poor hair health. It can also be detrimental in those who are diabetic (as it’s necessary for insulin production) or those who are prone to arthritis.
So, where does onion come in?
Onion is one of many sulfur-rich foods that should be added to your diet to keep your sulfur levels at adequate levels. And while there isn’t a universally accepted recommendation for sulfur levels, it’s important to keep your diet balanced and varied.
Onion Juice is Anti-inflammatory
Inflammation is an immune response to an injury or illness and, as such, temporary inflammation plays a crucial role in keeping us healthy.
However, when inflammation becomes chronic, or long-term, it can have devastating effects on the body.
The most common inflammatory diseases are arthritis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. But inflammation can even happen at the hair follicle, and this leads to a process known as miniaturization.
When the follicle miniaturizes, it produces hairs that are too small to reach the scalp. Over time, this condition can even lead to permanent baldness as hair is no longer able to grow at all.
This is a common occurrence in men and women with pattern hair loss (9).
There are many factors that contribute to the development and, and progression of, pattern baldness. The most common one, though, is sensitivity to the androgen hormone DHT (10).
DHT is a product of testosterone (a sex steroid) and 5-alpha-reductase (an enzyme). It plays a major role in sexual development.
However, individuals with pattern hair loss are sensitive to this hormone. And when it attaches to the hair follicles, this leads to inflammation and eventual thinning.
There are drugs on the market – such as finasteride and dutasteride – that aim to reduce DHT levels. But this comes with its own risks and side effects (11).
Instead of blocking DHT, then, the next best thing is to treat the inflammation.
Onion juice has been shown to inhibit inflammation, and even chronic pain, when applied directly to rats (12). While there are no human studies on the subject, there is a good chance that the effects would be quite similar across species.
Onion Juice and Hair Growth: An Enlightening Study
Scientists can speculate on the potential benefits of onion juice for hair loss all day, but what you’re interested in knowing is whether there is any proof to these claims.
Fortunately, there is!
Alopecia areata is an inflammatory condition in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles (15). This leads to patchy bald spots on the scalp that can come and go based on many factors.
Researchers recruited 33 patients with confirmed AA. They were then split into two groups.
The first group (consisting of 16 males and 7 females) were instructed to apply onion juice to their scalps. This was to be done twice per day over a two-month period.
The second group (consisting of 8 males and 7 females) were instructed to apply tap water to their scalps. This was done in the same manner and for the same amount of time as the first group.
By the end of the eight-week study, there were just two participants in the tap water group who experienced noticeable hair growth.
In the onion juice group, though, there were 20 participants (or a whopping 86.9 percent of the group) who saw regrowth.
Can Onion Juice Treat Pattern Hair Loss?
The above study shows that onion juice can be helpful in triggering hair growth in patients with alopecia areata. But what about pattern hair loss, also known as Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA)?
As mentioned previously, pattern hair loss is a condition that is most commonly believed to be triggered by a sensitivity to DHT.
Unfortunately, there have not been any studies done which show the effects of onion juice in treating AGA. However, we do know that many of onion’s proven benefits can play a role in treating pattern balding.
Inflammation as a direct result of DHT sensitivity is believed to play the largest role in the progression of the condition. Therefore, an anti-inflammatory ingredient such as onion might be a beneficial addition to any pattern hair loss sufferers hair care routine.
The same can be said for onion’s antioxidants and antimicrobial properties, as both of these will contribute to a healthier scalp environment.
How to Use Onion Juice for Hair Growth
Onion is a common dietary ingredient across the globe. And while ingestion of onions may offer some benefits, you may want to find a more direct route when using it for hair growth.
Perhaps the easiest and most effective way to use onion juice is to apply it directly to the scalp.
To extract juice from the onion, you have two options.
The first option is to use a juicer.
A juicer is a specialized tool that extracts juice from fruits, vegetables, and herbs. If you intend to juice the onion, I recommend that you first peel it and then cut it into quarters.
You can insert each quarter of the onion into the juicer, and the machine will do all of the work. Once you’re done, you can then apply the onion juice to your scalp using your fingertips.
The second option is to use a garlic press.
As the name implies, a garlic press is a kitchen tool that crushes presses – or crushes – garlic.
Using this tool, you’ll first need to peel the onion and then cut it into small pieces that are about the size of a garlic clove.
Press the tool with the onion over a bowl or cup, and then use the extracted juice on your scalp.
For best results, you should apply onion juice to a clean, dry scalp. You can also use massage techniques to improve the delivery of the juice to all areas of the scalp.
Side Effects and Considerations
The most common side effect of using onion juice is irritation of the skin. Raw onions are very pungent and, in some cases, contact with skin can cause a burning sensation.
You should test onion juice on a small patch of skin (such as the inside of your wrist) before you apply it to your scalp.
If you suffer from any underlying medical conditions, or if you’re taking a prescription medication, it’s best to speak with your doctor before you begin supplementation.
It’s also a good idea to speak with your doctor if you intend to use onion juice alongside other topical treatments, such as minoxidil.
Natural hair loss treatments often get a bad reputation.
While onion juice or other similar treatment options aren’t a miracle cure, there is research to suggest they may be beneficial in treating hair loss. This is great news for anyone who is wary of more traditional options.
And best of all, onion juice and other natural options can often be combined with more conventional methods.
Do you have questions about onion juice and its potential for promoting hair growth? Leave a comment down below.