At first we thought that this was a sort of homespun therapy only tried as an interesting last resort. But it does seem that it is a reasonably well accepted option.
What follows is an excerpt from the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, & Leprology (2001;67:188-188) in an article entitled ‘How I Manage Alopecia Areata’
by Thappa DM, Vijayikumar M
Department of Dermatology and STD, JIPMER, Pondicherry – 605006, India
(The doctors are describing their approaches to treating different patients who present with aa, and they mention that they use iodine as their first line of attack with children under 10 years old. If you would like to read the whole article you can click here. )
~Patients with less than 10 years of age: We use non-specific topical irritants like tincture iodine or non- specific immunomodulators like anthralin as the first line of management. Patients are asked to apply tincture iodine on areas of hair loss overnight to elicit irritant reaction. If no regrowth occurs after 2 months of therapy, short-contact anthralin therapy is tried.~
Dr. Mahmoud Hijazy writes in his book Principles of Pediatric Dermatology:
Many preparations are used to treat alopecia, where some of these have an effect sometimes, while others are used as a result of the advice of non-professionals. In certain cases complications and waist(sic) of time and money is the end result.
The simplest method is to paint the area with an irritant such as tincture iodine; Psoralenes lotion (Meladenin) that may cause irritation and erythema due to increased vascularity of the area. After improvement of irritation, hair may begin to grow.
Much of the evidence supporting the use of iodine as a treatment for aa is anecdotal. Here a couple of reported success stories pulled from a thread on the Homeopathy and Health Forum at ABC Homeopathy:
“My 17-year-old daughter has had alopecia areata since she was three years old. She had total hair loss on her head and it was not until she was in third grade did she get most (95%) of it back. This was a direct result of an elderly lady customer of my mother’s (she was a beautician, now retired) who happened to mention in conversation that her family had many members who had suffered with alopecia and they always used colorless (or white) iodine dabbed on the areas to reverse the process and get the hair to grow again!
So we tried it and sure enough… This very inexpensive treatment worked!!! It took about a week or so and we began to notice a light
growth of fuzz and she was growing new hair that stayed! She recovered 95% of her total head of hair and has to this day a slight band that encircles the outer edges or hairline that has had irregular recovery. But
she looks a sight better and feels so good about her hair. Since that original hair loss she has had two bouts where she began to notice hair fallout and we began rubbing the iodine in the first new spots. The fallout stopped within a day or so and she began regrowing hair within a couple of weeks! …”
“I have been suffering from hairloss for the last 7 years. I am now 35 years, healthy otherwise. I tried everything from rogain to hormone pills, other sorts of products until I run into this website and decided to follow a recipe Joe De Silva, among others suggested and supplemented it with topical application of decolorized iodine. My hairloss DRAMATICALLY decreased in three weeks of dedicated application. After about 6 weeks, I now have fewer than 15 hairs coming out when I comb my hair (it used to be so much that I dreaded to even look at the amount of hair that used to come out just as recent as 2 months ago. Also, most of the hair that came out was actually broken as opposed to what it was before, falling from the roots. I also saw significant regrowth in my frontal temple area where hair was receding. I havent noticed yet any regrown anywhere else but it is such great relief to see that my hair finally stopped falling out abnormally.”
A couple of interesting things to note on the full thread. On is the use of Arnica Mother Tinture by some of the thread participants. It’s interesting, so we’ll throw it up on the alternative treatments section for review. Also, while there are some who claimed that iodine slowed or stopped their hair-fall, and some who said that it promoted regrowth, some also stated that they experienced no change at all.
Now, on the Earth Clinic site, they have a “Folk Remedies and Holistic Cures” area, and this was posted there about iodine:
9/12/2006: Barb from Auckland, New Zealand writes, “Alopecia Areata is bald spots that occur all of a sudden on your scalp. I dab it on once a day on bald spots for a week to a fortnight – and then forget about it (if I can) and hope:) So far it seems to start the growth of hair again. It changes the scalp texture from red and irritable back to normal scalp. Within 6 weeks to 8 weeks usually spot is covering with little hairs. The iodine may even help the fatigue that comes when your hair falls out too – when a bald spot is occurring I tend to get deathly pale and feel exhausted.”
Nice, right? Well, then it goes on with a whole bunch of other folk remedies and such, and it’s put forth by one fellow that we have tiny little mycoplasma parasites and suggests borax, and another person has the idea to use an iodine and peroxide mixture, but someone suggests that that could blow-up….lol! It’s a great read! As with all folk remedies, they may be onto something, or they may not.
It seems that the general idea behind using iodine is for it to act as an irritant, and therefore give the over-active immune system something to do besides attacking healthy hair follicles. The Internet Health Library has the following to say on the topic of aa and irritants:
When irritants or allergens are applied to the scalp they cause an allergic reaction. This allergic reaction then draws the T-lymohcytes away from the hair follicle, thus allowing the hair a chance to start regrowing.
There are, of course, differing views on exactly how effective iodine is as a therapy for alopecia areata. If you have experience with iodine treatment, whether positive or negative, please take a moment to share your review with those who are considering it for themselves or their family member.