Herbal Care for Your Hair

Herbal Care for Your Hair
by Klaus Ferlow, HMH, HA

According to Wikipedia, the word “shampoo” dates back to 1762, being introduced to England via colonial India! An Anglo-Indian word “shampoo” is derived from Hindi,“champo”, meaning head massage. Champo in turn is derived from the Sanskrit/Hindi word “champa,” perhaps referring to the flowers of the plant, Michaelia champaca, which has traditionally been used to make fragrant hair oil.

The Indian treatment of champi (shampooing) or head massage was thought to be introduced in England by Bengali Sake Dean Mahomet, who was shampooing surgeon to both King George IV and King William IV.

It was only in the 1900s that shampooing referred to washing hair with soap, and in Germany where I come from, we used “Kernseife”, which worked very well. Sometimes, depending what kind of soap was used, a dull film was left in the hair, making it uncomfortable, irritating, and unhealthy looking. By boiling shaved soap in water and adding herbs, hair could be given shine and fragrance.

In India, herbs such as Neem, soap nut, fenugreek, buttermilk and aloe vera, have used for thousands of years in different shampoo formulas. The first modern non-soap shampoos were introduced in the 1930s and popped onto the North American market in the mid 1930s. Prior to that time, soap and shampoo, both being surfactants (a type of detergent), were used interchangeable.

People at the time typically shampooed anywhere from once every two to six weeks or longer. Only with an increase in marketing and advertising between 1930s – 1950s did frequent shampooing become more popular.

People believe that shampoo cleans the hair, however, the scalp is the principal target. Today, shampoo when lathered with water, is used for the removal of styling products, sebum (natural oils), dirt, skin particles, dandruff, psoriasis, environmental pollutants etc. that gradually over time built up in hair and scalp. It is suggested to use a quality Ayurveda hair & scalp oil before you wash your hair may be once a week and not more otherwise it strips your hair from the natural oil your body develops.

A good natural herbal shampoo without any harsh harmful chemical ingredients removes unwanted built-up without stripping out the natural oils (sebum) which lubricate the hair shaft to make the hair unmanageable and does not only a good cleansing of the scalp and hair but also minimizing frizz and beautifying hair. It is well known that chemical cleansers and lathering agents, such as sulphates are hard on hair. Shampooing is usually followed by applying conditioners to increase of combing and styling.

Try to avoid harsh chemicals

The typical commercial shampoo contains between 10 – 30 questionable harsh chemicals or more! Most of these chemicals have long names and some of them are even difficult to pronounce. If you are interested to learn more about hazardous, dangerous chemicals in personal care products check information at the reference list.

How to maintain healthier hair and scalp?

By shampooing too often you are stripping the hair and scalp of their healthy oils and create a vicious cycle, leading the skin to produce even more oil and your hair becomes very sticky and oily! By using less product, less often, and taking also less shorter showers with chlorinated water which drys your skin, you will be doing the environment and your wallet a favor.

People with very coarse and curly hair, such as those of African decent, should wash no more than once a week. Rinsing the hair can be either done with herbs such as nettle, baking soda or diluted apple cider vinegar, 10 parts water to one part vinegar, it can add body and shine and it is not recommended using a hair dryer! Brushing your hair from time to time might be useful.

Why herbal shampoos?

Today, herbal shampoos are available in a wide variety without any hazardous harsh chemicals such as SLS sodium lauryl and sodium laureth sulphate, phosphates, artificial colors and scent, coal tar, nitrosamines, methylisothiazoline (MT), paraben preservatives (butyl,ethyl, methyl, propyl) and other toxic ingredients. Several common chemicals have been known to cause health problems such as allergic reactions, including synthetic fragrances and parabens. Parabens are not necessary, they are also toxic to the environment and can be contaminated with carcinogens!

No wonder some of the most frequent complaints made to Health Canada and the FDA in the U.S. are about scalp and eye irritation, hair loss and hair damage caused by these dangerous chemicals. Natural health retailers and practitioners should read the ingredients on the labels and avoid recommending these unhealthy products to consumers!

A good herbal shampoo should have the following qualities:

  • easy rinsing
  • good finish after washing the hair
  • minimal or no skin/eye irritation
  • no damage to the hair, and hair loss
  • leaves hair feeling silky soft
  • pleasant smell (only genuine essential oils should be used, not synthetic fragrance oils)
  • no toxicity (good biodegradability)
  • be slightly acid (pH less than 7)
  • minimize breaking the disulphide bonds in hair keratin

What about hair loss?

I have noticed that a lot of people in North America in particularly young males have very little or no hair and if you ask them why their answer:”it is inherited” which I think in most cases it's wrong! When using a shampoo “loaded” with harsh hazardous dangerous chemicals and at the same time eating “junk food” drinking pop drinks, consume too much alcohol and may be even smoking...that is a recipe for disaster! I myself are 78 years young and still have most of my hair using a herbal Neem shampoo, sometimes a Neem soap and Neem conditioner, Neem oil blend and an Ayurveda hair & scalp oil with great results! You can do it too!

Hair consists primarily of protein, so for healthy hair with bounce and a glowing shine, adequate amounts of protein to maintain, shine, new tissues in the body and new hair follicles are needed. Good sources of protein include eggs, poultry, fish, meat, legumes, nut and some dairy products. A deficiency of these nutrients will be reflected in the condition of both hair and scalp. Scalp massage and brushing stimulates sebaceous glands distributing the scalps natural oils.

Words of Wisdom

In order to have a healthy hair you first need to have a healthy body!


Hunter Linda, Shampooing and hair care, Berwall Production, 1978
AitkenRead Lucy, Happy hair, Amazon Digital Service LLC, 2014
Halal John, Hair -care, product & ingredients dictionary, milady, 2003
Evans Trevor & Wickett R. Randall, Hair and hair care, Allured Pub. Corp., 2012

About Klaus Ferlow

Klaus Ferlow, HMH (Honorary Master Herbalist, Dominion Herbal College, Burnaby, B.C., est. 1926), HA (professional Herbal Advocate Canadian Herbalist's Association B.C., Victoria), is a traditional herbalist, innovator, lecturer, researcher, writer, founder of Ferlow Botanicals, Vancouver, B.C., www.ferlowbotanicals.com now retired and Peter Ferlow is acting President, manufacturing/distributing herbal medicinal and personal care products with no harmful chemical ingredients to holistic practitioners and selected stores in traditional medicine in Canada and parts of USA since 1993, the company was founded in 1975.

His educational articles about health, healing, herbs, nutrition have been published in health & women's magazines, newspapers, newsletter in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa in print and online and on the internet.

Klaus founded in 2013 NEEM RESEARCH, Mission,, B.C. to protect and promote the precious healing gift of the Neem tree from India to humanity and with over 23 years experience working with Neem he published in 2016 the book "Neem - Nature's Healing Gift to Humanity", www.neemresearch.ca and is also a co-author of the book "7stepsdentalhealth.com" and author of the book “Neem – Nature's Healing Gift to Humanity.”

He is a member of the National Health Federation, Monrovia, Ca., International Herb Association, Jacksonville, Fl, United Plant Savers, Rutland, OH, Neem Foundation, Bombay (Mumbai), India and he can be contacted via neemresearch1@gmail.com.

HMH – Honorary Master Herbalist, Dominion Herbal College
HA = Professional Herbal Advocate, Canadian Herbalist's Association of B.C.

Copyright @2016, all rights reserved

This information is summarized for it educational value and should not be used for the cure, diagnoses, treatment, or prevention of disease, please contact your health care practitioner!

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