Even though it’s rather obvious I will prefix this post by pointing out that this list is neither exhaustive nor an absolute classification. My initial goal was to explore some of the most common Ayurveda herbs (there’s more to Ayurveda hair care than just the herbs) but that journey led to a discovery of even more hair care herbs from other cultures –Chinese, Japanese and South American. So consider this list as work in progress that will most definitely evolve as I explore more herbs.
Because of the sheer numbers of herbs that I have been exposed to, it became increasingly important to try and group them in order to figure out how best to use them and in which combinations. I have been using individual herbs for the past 8 or 9 months, which gave me good intel on how my hair feels about each of these herbs. Since the key is to understand how your hair reacts to the herb (and no two heads of hair are 100% alike), take categories as suggested guidelines rather than the absolute ideals. I expect there will be discrepancies and that’s okay. What affects my hair in one way may affect yours in another. For example my hair is in conflict with Kapoor Kachli but I have come across other people who swear by the herb. In the end, my goal is not to dictate what products (natural or otherwise) you should use on your hair but to give ideas especially to those beginning with herbal hair care. The number of herbs available is overwhelming but strategic organization easily counters that.
In order to be listed in the cleansing category, the herb had to have one or more of the following properties:
- Exfoliants (Mostly herbs with larger particles, they don’t cling well to the hair but they are great scalp exfoliants. Examples – hibiscus, kapoor kachli, tulsi)
- Oil absorbing (herbs that stripped all the pre-treatment oil from my hair. Example – tulsi, neem, orange)
There is no such thing as entirely black or white with herbs; there’s a lot of gray. That means being in the cleansing category does not automatically disqualify the herb from any other category. Hibiscus is one great example. My hair felt stripped afterwards but it also has a very soothing sensation on my scalp (especially in areas where my scalp was tender due to braiding stress) so even though I have it in the cleansing category, I am fully aware that there is more to hibiscus than just cleansing. And this is why it was important for me to use the herbs individually and document in detail how my hair reacted during and after.
Finally, I intentionally avoided the growth category. Growth is a natural result of proper hair care and I feel it’s easy to become unhappy with my growth rate if it’s all I am focusing on all the time and especially in light of the fact that my rate is at a humble .25 (probably slightly more) inches per month. My strategy is to focus on my scalp because it’s the critical fabric that holds everything together and also fortifying the existing strands to ensure they remain until it’s time to shed. Growth (or length if you like) then becomes an inevitable outcome.
Even though I haven’t nailed it down to specific herbs (I may never because I like the idea of switching them around) my hair regimen is plant based. I switch herbs the same way other people switch, say, conditioners. My hair has thrived with this method but even more importantly I have picked up so much knowledge on not only hair but all kinds of herbs as well.
PS: The latin botanical names are important because they are the only way to truly know what herb you are using and also identify herbs (that may be labelled in latin) in other products.
Nupur by Gorej out of Mumbai is a product that contains 9 of the herbs listed in this post. I highly recommend this brand if you would like to test how Ayurveda herbs might work for your hair. The only precaution is the product contains henna, which might add unwanted highlights. I found the dye to be very orangish. If you are wary of henna, mix with water or conditioner right before using and let mixture sit on hair for 40 minutes max. You could also use this product as a dye by mixing with a citrus liquid and letting the dye release overnight then applying generously from root to tip of strands then finally leaving the mixture in hair for at least 6 hours.