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Mechanistic Studies on the Use of Polygonum multiflorum for the Treatment of Hai

Hair color is instantly recognized during human interactions, and hair graying is a sign of old age, ill health, and bodily decline, especially in Asian countries where black is the most common hair color. There is a strong desire to be young and vital, and thus premature graying has attracted many researchers. At the same time, the pharmaceutical or functional food industries are seeking targets for the prevention and treatment of hair graying. Despite the variety of products available with differing results and efficiencies, a completely satisfactory solution for hair graying remains incomplete.

In traditional Chinese medicine, preparations from Polygonum multiflorum have a long history of use for hair growth and blackening. Both oral and topical administration of P. multiflorum preparations were clinically used in the treatment of hair graying sometimes simultaneously in traditional application methods. RPM (Polygonum Multiflorum Radix, raw crude drug) and RPMP (Polygonum Multiflorum Radix Preparata, processed crude drug) were thought to be herbs that tonify the kidney and liver in traditional Chinese medicine theory, so that they could be used in the treatment of early graying of hair. Double blind, placebo-controlled studies lasting over 6 months have demonstrated marked beneficial effects of PMR on hair quality for pre- and postmenopausal women [5]. After taking extracts of P. multiflorum for 3 and 6 months, the surveys administered to the active treatment revealed a significant improvement of hair loss (25 in 26 participants, 97%) and perceived hair appearance (20 in 26 participants, %). Additionally, 77% of women in the P. multiflorum group reported “thicker hair,” which was rated as “significant” and “dramatic” improvement [5]. In another study employing 48, 30–60-year-old men () and women () with differing origins of hair loss (age-related, stress- and medication induced, and postpartum) received a standardized extract of PMR twice daily [6]. After 1 month of treatment, 91% of men and 87% of women reported improvement. Additionally, none of the study participants reported any side effects during the treatment period. However, the mechanisms by which PMR and PMRP exhibit these beneficial effects have yet to be elucidated.

We have studied P. multiflorum for decades. In our previous research [7], we found that both oral administration of PMR and topical administration of PMRP promoted hair growth. PMR was more suitable for oral administration, while PMRP showed greater effects in external use. The hair growth promotion effect of oral PMR was most likely mediated by the expression of fibroblast growth factor-7 (FGF-7). In this research, C57BL/6 mice hair fade induced by H2O2 was used to investigate hair pigmentogenesis promotion activity and a possible mechanism of PMR and PMRP. Their extractions were administered orally and/or topically. Hair pigmentogenesis promotion activities were investigated by hair color and total melanin contents. The regulation effects of several cytokines and enzymes such as POMC, α-MSH, MC1R, ASIP, MITF, tyrosinase, TRP-1, and TRP-2 were studied here.

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