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Aloe vera

5 Reasons Natives Have Lustrous Locks: Ancient, Indigenous Hair Remedies

Marie Miguel
6/19/14

Have you ever wondered why Native Americans had resilient hair? Or ever asked why, when you see the old pictures of their ancestors, not too many of the older people had gray hair? Or why their hair was so long? Or why even the men had such healthy hair? 

The answer is pretty simple and applies to every aspect of their life, which us as American Indians and Alaska Natives who we are. As a people, our ancestors saw their hair as a part of their identity. It was an embodiment of how they lived, just like everything that surrounded them. They gave respect to everything in nature, as you probably already know from history lessons.

For one they never used all these so-called “modern” hair care gadgets and products on their hair. They took pride in their hair and different hair styles represented different things in their life. Their hair was of great spiritual importance to them, and they took great pride in it. They had many natural hair care practices that kept their hair strong, thick, shiny and long. These include herbs, roots, teas, oils and infusions. Some of these are as follows:

1. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is a great natural moisturizer that was used in every day Native life for protecting the hair and the body from the sun and other harsh weather conditions, and also keeping the hair soft and silky. This was one of the main ways that they used to keep their hair healthy. Aloes are also edible and very good immune boosters and toxic cleansers. They also ate this in their daily life to help them stay fit. These are just a few of the benefits of using aloe vera, but for an even longer list of uses… there is a pretty good article here that list some 40 different uses. Although that article is pretty current, it seems that many Native Americans were already with familiar with many of them.

Aloe vera gel (Thinkstock)

2. Saw Palmetto

This herb is Indigenous to the Native lands and it formed part of their nutritional diets and also has very good medicinal value. The fruit Saw Palmetto is a scarlet red berry; they would dry it in the sun for days then grind it and infuse it into tinctures, teas and ointments which were applied to their hair to help strengthen it and also prevent scaly scalp – dandruff.  Saw Palmetto also has properties that suppress the hormone that causes baldness, so taking it orally and as a topical application is one of the ways the Native Americans hair was kept so beautiful.

Saw Palmetto (Thinkstock)

3. Stinging Nettle

Most male pattern baldness is caused by testosterone being converted into DHT. The Stinging Nettle has been found to have properties that stop testosterone from being converted into DHT; this is the hormone which is responsible for hair loss in many men and some women. This plant grows wild and in abundance in America. The Native Americans used it a lot which is why you don’t see too many Native Americans with hair loss problems or having to get hair transplants. Since it grows in the wild, they would just hand pick it, (of course paying attention to the stinging, because it has a spiny stem) and infuse it into oils to moisturize their hair. They would also brew it as a tea for drinking.  Stinging Nettle has K, B, and C vitamins and it also has a lot of amino acids and iron.  Amino acids help with protein formation in your body and the hair needs protein to grow strong and healthy. Vitamin B and C are also important for healthy hair.

Stinging nettle (Thinkstock)

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100IndigenousAmerican's picture
100IndigenousAm...
Submitted by 100IndigenousAm... on
It is Yucca Root for the finest in hair appearance in the four corners area in the Southwest United States. The root cleans splendidly, leaves a high shine and it is edible according to some of the finest culinary experts in our area. Oh yeah, it grows wild so it is truly organic. Remember, don't only take from mother earth; give her back another baby yucca plant.

Lynne McCreary
Lynne McCreary
Submitted by Lynne McCreary on
i am laughing because my guy uses no of this. fact is there has been great parts of his life that it was lucky it saw rain. At near 68 he has just got 1or 2 white hairs. And if you look at family of 12 the first thing you see is those who are 100% Native American are dark haired into their 60's so far. And those who are not went white long before. Guess it might have a lot to do with with the family blood line.

aliberaldoseofskepticism's picture
aliberaldoseofs...
Submitted by aliberaldoseofs... on
@Lynne: Yeah, it's actually more or less genetic. I also object to a few other points in this article: "Aloes are also edible and very good immune boosters and toxic cleansers." This is rather unfortunate, since autointoxication theory enjoyed roughly a 5000-year run, from ancient Egypt until we learned that I have a liver, a spleen, and two kidneys that handle all my detoxification needs; in fact, the large intestine, given such a central role in autointoxication, merely reabsorbs water and a few water-soluble minerals. The real problem with autointoxication theory, though, is colon irrigation, which can perforate the colon, leading to sepsis. "Saw Palmetto also has properties that suppress the hormone that causes baldness, so taking it orally and as a topical application is one of the ways the Native Americans hair was kept so beautiful." Dihydrotestosterone isn't just "the hormone that causes baldness (and some forms of cancer)", as it's portrayed in the mainstream media. It also literally separates the boys from the girls. And again, it only causes baldness if your genes tell it to cause baldness. "The Native Americans used it a lot" Traditional medicine wasn't about "just use this medicine for EVERYTHING". That can only happen when you have a credulous (and rich!) demographic and no real regulation, as is the case in the supplement industry today. Like modern medicine, traditional Lakota medicine at least was about matching particular remedies to particular illnesses. Now, these days, we can of course run large trials. "Amino acids help with protein formation in your body and the hair needs protein to grow strong and healthy." This is just unintentionally hilarious, since hair is pure protein, and protein is basically amino acids linked together. "Apart from the Native Americans, every part of the world has plants with natural properties that are medicinal and good for their health and once we realize that as humans we will value what we have and use what we have naturally growing around us to prevent us from the many common diseases that were unheard of back in the day." The first part I can agree with. Actually, a great number of modern medicines were initially discovered in plants. The second part, "unheard of back in the day", that might be because in the early 20th century at least, people were too busy dying of infections. But not to worry. Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and Bill Maher will be sure to help bring back that era by convincing everyone not to use vaccines.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
I wear my hair long (below my shoulders) and constantly have to put up with bizarre insinuations from some co-workers who think that I'm either A. a Heavy Metal head, B. a transvestite or C. a vampire wannabe. Few come upon the real reason in spite of my darker skin and the abundance of turquoise.

chahta ohoyo's picture
chahta ohoyo
Submitted by chahta ohoyo on
to Michael Madrid...thank you for your perceptions of your 'perceptions' by others...I am 67 and wear my hair short..first of all, I don't have the head of hair I had when I was 10...secondly, I don't want to spend hours in front of a mirror 'fixing' it...thirdly...I believe it keeps me tied to 'earthly' matters by being long and pointing towards the ground, and, fourthly, im getting mighty sick and tired of accusations of being gay, and, lastly, I keep it dyed a brilliant red because I look like a skunk if I don't....

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
To chahta ohoyo: I'm 61 and it amazes me how a grizzled old fart like myself can be accused of being gay, a metal-head or a vampire wannabe! I feel the people who categorize me thus have no roots in reality and are likely pretty shallow people anyway. I rarely spend more than five minutes on my hair which I either wear down or braided. The funny thing is, most of the gay people I know have short, styled hair so who knows where the stereotypical image that gays have long hair came from?

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
To chahta ohoyo: I'm 61 and it amazes me how a grizzled old fart like myself can be accused of being gay, a metal-head or a vampire wannabe! I feel the people who categorize me thus have no roots in reality and are likely pretty shallow people anyway. I rarely spend more than five minutes on my hair which I either wear down or braided. The funny thing is, most of the gay people I know have short, styled hair so who knows where the stereotypical image that gays have long hair came from?
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