Is cayenne pepper good for your scalp?

JazzyFresh says…I read that cayenne pepper aids in circulation and stimulating blood flow. I’ve heard of many people adding cayenne pepper to hair oils (esp. Ayurvedic oils) and massaging it into the scalp to stimulate hair growth. I wonder if there is any science to this?

The Left Brain answers:

Surprisingly, there is some science linking pepper oil to hair growth, but it doesn’t work quite in the way you described.

Peppery Prose

According to a study entitled “Administration of capsaicin and isoflavone promotes hair growth by increasing insulin-like growth factor-I production in mice and in humans with alopecia,” researchers have hypothesized that capsaicin, the active ingredient in red pepper oil, can activate the insulin-like growth factors that help control hair growth. They tested this hypothesis by treating balding mice and humans with a mixture of capsaicin and isoflavone. The results showed that after 5 months the treatment not only boosted the correct biochemical markers (e.g., IGF-I) but also actually increased hair growth.

Here’s the catch: on mice the pepper/isoflavone mixture was administered subcutaneously (injected under the skin as opposed to applied topically) and in humans it was given orally. So the best research to date shows no indication that pepper oil is good for your scalp when it’s just rubbed on your skin. Of course this is just a single study, but it does give me hope that this could really work if we could just identify a way to enhance the penetration of capsaicin (perhaps using some type of nanosome).

Also it’s interesting to note that capsaicin has been shown to reduce symptoms of nasal congestion but it is not effective against chronic sinusitis.