In this ‘Ultimate Guide‘ I’m going to show you the most effective DHT blockers I’ve ever discovered after 4 years of research into the causes and natural treatments for hair loss.
Some blockers you can apply topically, some can be taken internally, and finally I’ll show you my favorite and number one way to block DHT naturally.
My final method won’t involve any drugs or any expensive supplements that you need to take every day. It involves a systematic biochemical change in your body – that powerfully balances your DHT levels over time – helping you stop any further hair loss.
Now, before I dig into the main point of this article, I’d first like to discuss DHT blockers and the role they play in the prevention of hair loss.
There are two ways to supplement with DHT inhibitors: topically and internally. Of course, each method of supplementation will have its own mechanisms behind their efficacy.
However, it’s first important to understand why blocking DHT works to prevent hair loss and promote hair growth in the first place.
NOTE: The majority of DHT blockers in this article have NOT been tested on humans. There is no clear evidence that these natural DHT blockers causes hair regrowth in humans, more studies are needed in this area. This is unlikely to help. This is not an FDA approved treatment. Do see a doctor before you proceed with treatment.
DHT: The Cause Of Male-Pattern Baldness?
Male-pattern baldness is a common condition, accounting for 95 percent of hair loss seen in men (1). But what causes male-pattern baldness, and can it be reversed?
It’s commonly believed that the main culprit behind male-pattern balding is DHT (2). This stands for Dihydrotestosterone, and it’s an androgen sex hormone that is produced from testosterone.
Essentially, testosterone, the sex hormone responsible for your “maleness”, combines with 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme involved in steroid metabolism.
This results in the production of DHT, a compound which can wreak havoc throughout your body, especially your scalp.
Once there, DHT connects to the androgen receptors at the base of the hair follicles. For those who are sensitive to DHT, this leads to miniaturization of the hair follicles and, eventually, hair thinning and loss.
So, perhaps you’re thinking, why not just block testosterone?
Essentially, blocking testosterone will lead to a decrease in the characteristics that make you male.
What’s the next best step?
Fortunately, there are two other components of the process, both of which can be inhibited with little to no ill effects: 5-alpha-reductase and DHT.
Below, you’ll find a list of dihydrotestosterone blockers. This is a bit of a misnomer, as some of the ingredients block DHT, while others inhibit the activities of 5-alpha-reductase, thereby preventing the production of DHT to begin with.
However, all of the listed ingredients can be a beneficial addition to your hair loss treatment routine, and I recommend you experiment with them to find the one that works best for you.
5 Topical DHT Blockers
When you have a condition – whether severe or not – it’s common to treat the underlying cause in order to reduce symptoms and treat the condition effectively.
For individuals with Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), doesn’t it make sense then to treat the condition at the source (scalp) and block DHT present within the scalp before it’s able to do damage?
That’s the logic behind topical DHT blockers, and why I recommend their use in combination with internal blockers.
Topical All-Natural Blockers
Let’s look at five topical DHT blockers that you can start using today.
1: Saw Palmetto
This is a berry-producing plant native to the Americas, and one which is believed to inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase (6). This is the enzyme responsible for the conversion of testosterone to DHT, and therefore acts as a preemptive DHT blocker.
Unlike the majority of the other substances that inhibit DHT on this list, saw palmetto works most effectively at reducing DHT present in the body and scalp.
This was shown in a 2016 study performed by Opoku-Acheampong et. al., when saw palmetto was combined with either testosterone or DHT in syrian hamster flank organs (7).
As shown by the above photo comparison, saw palmetto combined with testosterone was better at reducing pigmentation of the flank organ (a sign of androgen activities) than the saw palmetto-DHT combination.
This is because saw palmetto works best by inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase as opposed to stopping the activities of DHT.
NOTE: Do keep in mind that this study was performed on hamsters. However, this treatment may still prove beneficial for humans, too.
2: Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle is a plant indigenous to parts of North America, Europe, and Asia, and it’s well-known for its ‘stinging’ effects when touched. What you may not have known, however, is that stinging nettle extract is an excellent topical DHT blocker (8).
A 2011 research study which considered the effects of stinging nettle on BPH found that it decreased prostate size, a strong indicator of its 5-alpha-reductase inhibitory effects (9).
While this first study was done on rats, a previous study performed by Safarinejad studied stinging nettle’s effects on BPH in human patients (10).
In fact, this was a large-scale study with 620 patients in total.
The study was performed over a period of 6 months, and the results were collected using various models and techniques. These included:
- International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS);
- Maximum urinary flow rate (Qmax);
- Postvoid Residual Urine Volume (PVR);
- Serum Pros-tatic-Specific Antigen (PSA);
- Testosterone levels; and
- Prostate size
After 6 months, both the IPSS and Qmax decreased significantly in the stinging nettle group. For example, the IPSS decreased from 19.8 down to 11.8. In the placebo group, it only decreased from 19.2 to 17.7.
What does this mean for hair loss sufferers?
Stinging nettle has been shown to inhibit 5AR’s activities, which is great for men and women with AGA.
3: Reishi Mushroom
As a newly-discovered DHT blocker, reishi mushroom is still gaining traction in the world of hair loss treatment and hair growth.
That doesn’t mean it’s any less effective at treating the underlying cause of AGA, though, and is an excellent addition to your topical hair care routine.
In a 2005 study, the DHT-blocking abilities of 19 different mushrooms was tested (11). While the majority of the tested mushrooms did inhibit the activity of 5-alpha-reductase, Ganoderma lucidum (reishi) was the clear winner:
It actually had an inhibitory percentage of over 70 percent, which was significantly better than the other mushrooms in the study.
By inhibiting 5AR’s activities, reishi is comparable to finasteride in that both inhibit 5AR and, as a result, reduce the amount of DHT that attaches to the hair follicles.
4: Rosemary Oil and Extract
As an analgesic oil with antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties (just to name a few), rosemary oil is a helpful addition to any hair loss sufferers hair care routine (12, 13, 14).
On the topic of DHT blocking, specifically, topical application of rosemary extract has been proven to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase. As a result, this blocks DHT from connecting to the scalp’s androgen receptors and prevents hair loss and hair follicle miniaturization.
But just how much of an effect does rosemary extract have on the inhibition of 5-alpha-reductase?
According to a 2013 study, topical applications of 200 mg/mL and 500 mg/mL inhibited the conversion of 5-alpha-reductase by 82.4 percent and 94.6 percent, respectively (15).
That’s better than finasteride’s inhibition percentage (81.9 percent) in the same study.
5: Ecklonia Cava
An alga that’s found off the coasts of Japan and Korea, E. Cava is a promising new lead when it comes to the cessation of hair loss and growth of new hair.
While E. Cava may make a delicious addition to your soups, its topical use has been proven to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase and, therefore, DHT (18). When applied as a whole, E. Cava was shown to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase up to 61.5 percent. Even better, though, was the inhibition results of the polyphenol extract dieckol:
Dieckol is found in abundance within the alga. The highest concentration tested (100 mg/mL) actually proved to be just as effective as finasteride:
This means that E. Cava and its extracts are a good option to consider if you’re looking to block DHT and even contribute to the proliferation of new dermal papilla cells (19).
5 Internal DHT Blockers
While topically reducing DHT certainly have their place in the treatment of hair loss and promotion of hair growth, internal DHT inhibition can be more beneficial than topical blockers in the long term.
Internal All-Natural Blockers
Let’s look at five internal DHT blockers that you can start using today.
1: Green Tea
Green tea is commonly touted as a cure-all, but did you know that green tea extract can actually be used to block DHT and treat the source of male-pattern baldness?
Green tea is a source of epigallocatechins (EGCG) (20). These are catechins, a type of plant phenol with a variety of beneficial properties.
One such property of epigallocatechins is its proven ability to inhibit the activity of 5-alpha-reducatase (21).
To reap the benefits of green tea supplementation, you could of course increase your tea intake or add in a green tea supplement.
Two studies were performed on animals, both showing the benefits associated with flaxseed supplementation.
The first study, performed in 2013, measured the effects of various plant-based lignans on DHT (23). These plants included flaxseed, sesame, safflower, and soy, and were administered orally either in powdered form or in a petroleum extract.
The study was performed on castrated male rats, with a focus on prostate weight (as lowered weight indicates less androgenic activity).
Flax (both the powdered and ethanol extract) proved to decrease prostate weight, as well as lower testosterone levels. These are both strong indicators of 5-alpha-reductase inhibition.
The second study, performed in 2014, looked specifically to flaxseed’s hair growth benefits (24).
To quickly summarize, 16 rabbits were split into groups of two. The first group received regular rabbit feed (control), while the second group received a feed infused with crushed flax (test).
Over a period of three months, a section on the rabbits’ backs were shaved once per month. Measurements were taken each time, and these were the results:
As shown above, the group that received flaxseed supplementation (LSI) saw improved length, width, and weight of hair.
Scientists couldn’t exactly pinpoint the reason for such results. However, I think it’s safe to say that DHT blocking (as shown above in the first study) is one of the main contributors.
One of the easiest ways to work it into your routine is by adding it (milled or powdered) to your smoothies. This adds a nice boost of fiber, as well as adds a slightly nutty depth.
You can also sprinkle it on your salads, add to stir frys, and even make your own flaxseed dressing with a bit of honey and lemon!
3: Sesame Seeds
In the 2013 study on flaxseed mentioned above, sesame seeds were another plant-based lignan studied (27). In fact, the ethanol extract of sesame seeds were shown to be incredibly effective at reducing prostate weight and testosterone levels in the tested rats.
And, similar to flax, sesame seeds are very easy to incorporate into your diet.
Mix a few drops of sesame oil into your smoothies, soups, and salads. Or, use it in place of canola or olive oil while cooking. Add a few sesame seeds to your favorite dishes, including chicken, fish, and pork for a slightly nutty flavor.
There’s plenty of ways to add this healthy supplement to your daily diet. Take a look at some of my favorite hair loss supplements here.
Pygeum is a bark from the Pygeum Africanum tree, believed to significantly relieve the symptoms of men who suffer from Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) (31).
BPH is an enlargement of the prostate, and can lead to obstructive and irritative lower urinary tract symptoms (32).
DHT is a well-known aggravator of BPH, meaning that its inhibition contributes to a shrinking of the enlarged prostate and a reduction in the painful and irritating symptoms associated with the condition (33).
This was shown in a 1998 review study, which considered the role that pygeum bark played in the reduction of BPH symptoms (34).
As proven, men treated with pygeum bark were twice as likely than the placebo group to report symptom and improvement.
In addition, nocturnal urination was reduced by 19 percent, residual urine volume (urine remaining in the bladder) was reduced by 24 percent, and peak urine flow was increased by 23 percent.
To supplement with pygeum, I recommend adding high-quality supplement to your day. A dosage of 100mg/day is a typical recommendation (35).
5: Pumpkin Seed Oil
Of course, pumpkin seed oil can be applied topically. This provides gentle cleansing and is an excellent way to maintain a healthy scalp.
However, for those looking to treat male-pattern baldness, pumpkin seed oil is most effective when ingested. Why? Pumpkin seed oil is believed to inhibit the activity of 5-alpha-reductase. When done internally, this is the most effective method for inhibition.
How effective is this method?
In 2014, scientists in Korea asked this very question (38). To answer their question, they recruited 76 male subjects with mild to moderate AGA. Half received a supplement containing PSO (400 mg per day) while the other half received a placebo capsule.
At the end of the 24-week study, 44.1 percent of the men in the supplement group saw a mild-moderate improvement in hair growth. This same improvement was seen in only 7.7 percent of the placebo group.
And here’s the visual evidence that supplements containing PSO can be effective DHT blockers:
One thing to point out is that PSO was not the only ingredient within the supplement. However, it very likely did contribute to the hair growth effects as shown above. How can I know this? Well, consider all of the benefits of PSO. These include anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic (39, 40).
So, how can you add PSO to your daily routine?
Pumpkin seeds are a great snack by themselves. You can eat them by the handful, or toss them onto salads, into soups, and even blended into smoothies and juices.
How to Use Topical and Internal DHT Blockers
If you’d like to add topical and/or internal DHT blockers to your hair care routine, there are a few options for doing so.
The most common way to use DHT blockers is topically. This includes in shampoos and solutions, but sometimes even directly.
There are many products already on the market with DHT-blocking ingredients. These include our very own line – Hairguard.
Such products can have positive effects on the hair follicles, and they’re less likely to produce side effects as with internal blockers.
But there are also ways to add internal blockers to your routine if you so wish.
Perhaps the easiest way is with supplements.
Over-the-counter supplements will often contain the recommended daily dose (or close to it) of a variety of vitamins and nutrients. And some of these can even be DHT blockers, such as those containing green tea, pumpkin seed oil, and flaxseed.
You can also add many of the internal ingredients mentioned above to your smoothies, juices, and other recipes.
Now, with all of the above said, it’s time to discuss the number one DHT blocker method. Without further ado…
The Ultimate DHT Blocker – Introducing The Acid/Alkaline Balance
In this section of the article I’m going to explain a concept that will change everything that I’ve just written above.
See, the problem with simply “blocking” DHT is that you’re not fixing the underlying causes. You’re simply reducing the amount of DHT in your body and expecting that this will help your hair.
Although there may be less side-effects when blocking DHT naturally (like I’ve shown you how to do above) when compared to finasteride, it’s still not the best way to reverse hair loss.
Now what I want to show you is a better, perhaps more effective, way to do it…
Using the concept of acid/alkaline balance.
The foods we eat, after they have been metabolized leave in our body what is known as metabolic waste.
Depending on the type of food that we eat the metabolic ‘ash’ will either have a net acidic or net alkaline effect on our bodies.
That means every food we eat will make our bodies more acidic or more alkaline.
Having the correct pH (pH is a measure of acidity and alkalinity like Celsius and Fahrenheit are a measure of temperature) in our bodies is crucial to strong health because our cells, hormones, mitochondria, and just about everything in our bodies work much more efficiently in the right conditions.
Our natural and healthy pH is a slightly alkaline 7.4 (41).
Useful enzymes and hormones must have precise alkaline conditions to be effective, whilst destructive enzymes, hormones, and diseases thrive under acidic conditions (42).
This is even true for 5-alpha-reductase which is more effective at a pH of 5 (43).
It quickly becomes apparent that the typical Western diet consists largely of foods that have a net acidic value.
That’s not to say that alkaline foods aren’t included in this diet, it’s just the bulk of the foods are acidic.
The so called ‘balanced’ diet that is known to be the pinnacle of health to the majority of the population is heavily weighted on the acidic side.
How does this affect hair loss, you might be asking? In terms of pH balance this affects our hairlines both directly and indirectly.
First, let’s discuss the indirect effects of acidosis (too much acidity in the blood, cells, and tissues). As our bodies become more acidic due to our food choices, diseases such as microbes and bacteria thrive.
When our bodies are coping with illnesses caused by the acidosis, our bodies don’t have the energy and resources to grow hair for the purpose of conspicuous consumption so new hair growth slowly ceases.
We can turn this around and use it to our favor by alkalizing our bodies so much that diseases and bacteria simply can’t survive in these conditions.
The resources are now freed up for maximum potential hair growth.
Now let’s look at how acidosis directly affects the strength, thickness, coverage, and color of our hair. As the body tries to maintain its ideal pH balance (pH 7.4) under the onslaught of net acidic foods it must take back (leach) parts of our body to buffer (cancel out) the acidity.
Remember from chemistry class that acid and alkaline cancel each other out (i.e. neutralize each other).
Crucially for us the body buffers the acidity (i.e. it neutralises it with net alkaline parts) by leaching (stealing) nutrients from less important parts of our body.
The best way to buffer the acidity in an attempt to preserve our health is to leach nitrogen and calcium.
One of the best sources of nitrogen is protein, such as the specific protein found in head hair called keratin (44). This amino acid forms the majority of the hair molecule.
The result in most people is a gradual slowing down of the rate that their hair grows, a reduction in color and saturation, strength and thickness, and then recession of the hair line.
However the acidosis manifests itself, these short term symptoms should be warning signs that more severe diseases are on the way. Luckily the answer is simple.
Restore the natural growth of your hair by returning your body to its natural pH.
Unfortunately, or maybe it is fortunate because it’s a warning sign, whenever we revert back to an acidic diet their hair soon starts to suffer as the pH drops to acidic and the body must once again buffer the acidity using keratin from hair follicles in an attempt to prevent disease overgrowth.
So you will need to create a habit around your new alkaline diet so that it’s easy to maintain.
How To Alkalize Your Body Quickly
Eat foods that make the body more alkaline, that way your body won’t need to ‘eat’ its own hair to stay healthy.
The most effective and easy way to start immediately alkalizing the body is to consume vegetable juice. Buy a juicer and make carrot, celery, broccoli, cucumber, spinach…..etc., juice daily.
Juicing is an unbelievably good way to get amazing quantities of enzymes nutrients and minerals into the body without expending large amounts of time and energy digesting the fiber.
It will help to quickly restore your natural pH, as long as you don’t have too many acidic foods in your diet.
An interesting point to remember is that as your body becomes more and more alkaline, vegetables and particularly vegetable juices become more pleasing to the palate. Literally the more alkaline you become the more you enjoy alkaline foods.
The takeaway point here is that you must maximize your intake of net alkaline-producing food and minimize acid-producing food.
How Does The Acid/Alkaline Balance Directly Block DHT?
You may already know about the enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase (5αR). In case you didn’t already know 5αR is an enzyme that changes testosterone into dihydrotestosterone.
Some interesting research has been carried out recently which found that the enzyme type 2 5αR is localized in the vertex and frontal scalp (the bits of the head most affected by hair loss.)
However, it wasn’t present in the occipital region (the lower back of the head where most bald men still have some hair).
This basically shows that type 2 5αR is primarily responsible for the pattern in male pattern baldness. Where type 2 5αR is found, so DHT will be produced here and loss of hair will be the result.
What a different study discovered was that specifically type 2 5αR works best in a very specific optimum pH range (45).
Outside of this pH range this particular enzyme simply can’t function and do its job of binding to testosterone to make DHT. The optimum pH range for type 2 5-alpha-reductase is pH 5-5.5.
5 alpha-reductase activity was determined at pH 5 (optimal for the type 2 isozyme) and pH 7 (optimal for the type 1 isozyme) in isolated infrainfundibular segments from sebaceous and vellus follicles…
It means that if our bodies are more acidic, pH 7 or below, then the enzyme type 2, 5-alpha-reductase functions much more efficiently, creates more DHT, and consequently we lose more hair.
On the other hand, when we alkalize our bodies, the pH in our scalp becomes greater than 7. The enzyme can’t do its work of converting T to DHT, DHT isn’t produced and we don’t lose our hair as a result.
Our bodies evolved so that the foods we ate most often (fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts legumes, fish, meat….) created the best conditions for our bodies and specifically our enzymes to function in.
When we eat foods that we didn’t evolve eating (processed and pasteurized foods like grains and dairy, which you’ll notice are all highly acidic) then our bodies are pushed out of balance and the enzymes start doing weird things like producing excessive DHT resulting in hair loss.
Let me quickly emphasize this point because it is very important for actually getting results and re-growing your hair:
The precise enzyme which scientific studies have found to be responsible for hair loss cannot function in an alkaline cellular environment.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much current research on whether an alkaline diet will alkalize the blood and, therefore, the scalp. But we do know of its many benefits, including (41):
Increased fruits and vegetables in an alkaline diet would improve the K/Na ratio and may benefit bone health, reduce muscle wasting, as well as mitigate other chronic diseases such as hypertension and strokes.
The resultant increase in growth hormone with an alkaline diet may improve many outcomes from cardiovascular health to memory and cognition.
An increase in intracellular magnesium, which is required for the function of many enzyme systems, is another added benefit of the alkaline diet. Available magnesium, which is required to activate vitamin D, would result in numerous added benefits in the vitamin D apocrine/exocrine systems.
Alkalinity may result in added benefit for some chemotherapeutic agents that require a higher pH.
So even if you don’t believe that an alkaline diet will directly grow hair, the proven benefits above may contribute to a healthier environment.
Important! Why You Must Know About DHT Sensitivity
You’ve now learnt about the most powerful (and safe) natural DHT blocker in the world, but this is only a small part of the story, because high DHT levels are not the sole cause of hair loss.
In fact, there is something that is much more important than blocking DHT, and that’s DHT sensitivity. Or to be more precise, hair follicle DHT sensitivity.
Because when you reduce the sensitivity of your hair follicles to DHT you protect yourself against hair lose permanently. Men with pattern baldness don’t have particularly high levels of DHT, however they are more sensitive to it.
There are a few natural and powerful ways to reduce your DHT sensitivity. I will do a quick overview of them now.
The Balance Of Good And Bad Bacteria
In every body there is a balance between good and bad bacteria. In fact, there are more bacterial cells making up the human body than human cells, which is why it is so important that these bacteria are beneficial to your health.
These billions of bacteria cells that make up part of us are called the ‘microbiome’ (46).
However, modern life has waged a war on bacteria in the form of antibiotics, preservatives (designed to kill bacteria), chlorides and fluorides in water, processed foods lacking fiber, antibacterial hygiene products, and packaged food and drinks that have been processed, microwaved, and pasteurized.
You may be able to see with all these how our microbiome has been damaged and can easily get out of balance.
One of the side-effects of this damaged microbiome is that autoimmune problems start arising, with the body beginning to attack itself in strange and unusual ways. Think about it, have you ever wondered why your own hormone (DHT) would start attacking your own hair follicles?
This is an autoimmune problem that leads to DHT sensitivity.
Luckily, there is a lot you can do to optimize your microbiome to reduce DHT sensitivity, including adding specific strains of probiotic bacteria to your diet, as well as specially made drinks that reduce bad bacteria.
(Learn more about the microbiome, and its effects on hair loss, here.)
Delayed Allergic Reactions To Food
Most of us are aware that some people are allergic to some specific foods, such as seafood or peanuts, for example. But fewer people know that allergic reactions can also be delayed and, therefore, less obvious.
Because they are less obvious it’s harder to catch delayed allergic reactions and we may be in a constant state of inflammation which can cause autoimmune problems from these reactions.
For example, some people are sensitive to gluten while others are sensitive to the nightshade family including tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.
It’s hard to tell what your body might not be responding well to if you aren’t aware of this. You may just feel bloated, fatigued, and under slept and not understand why.
You can work out which foods you are sensitive to (if any) with an elimination diet (47). This is a highly restrictive diet which is best performed under the watch of a trained physician.
Mechanical Tension of the Scalp
Perhaps one of the more interesting theories regarding male-pattern baldness is the one that implicates mechanical tension of the scalp as a major contributor.
Let me explain.
Just as with the skin, there are multiple layers of the scalp that play different roles. From outermost to innermost, these layers are: skin, subcutaneous, galea, subgalea, and pericranium.
The galea is a fibrous, connective tissue that covers the entirety of the scalp from just above the eyebrows (the frontalis muscle) to behind the ears (the occipitalis muscle) (48). And this tissue may actually be responsible for the progression of pattern balding (49).
The tension theory states that activation of the Hic-5 protein, an androgen receptor co-activator which improves the function of a cell’s androgen receptors, may be triggered by mechanical tension of the galea.
But why would activation of Hic-5 mean hair loss? Because as an androgen receptor co-activator, this protein has been shown to induce androgen sensitivity in the hair follicles (50).
So, what’s the solution? Reducing scalp tension!
By reducing tension, you can reduce your need for DHT blockers such as those mentioned above.
There’s no doubt that sensitivity to DHT plays a role in pattern hair loss. As such, by blocking DHT you may be able to stop hair loss and even promote growth.
However, this will only treat the problem temporarily.
This is why I urge you to find out the underlying cause of your hair loss, and then target it directly. You can do so by alkalizing your diet, but also by improving gut health, eliminating sensitivities, and reducing scalp tension.
If you have any questions or comments. please feel free to leave them in the comment box below which I’ll answer as soon as possible.
*This article was reviewed by Dr. Anil Simhadri