Q: Are there any natural remedies for thinning hair?

A: Chances are, you can blame heredity (at least partly) for your thinning hair. Hormones may also play a role. (You may be surprised to learn that thinning hair more commonly affects women than men, who tend to get receding hairlines.)

In particular, hormonal changes such as those following pregnancy, menopause, or stopping use of birth control pills may be responsible. In such cases, taking hormone-balancing herbs may help. Consult a knowledgeable herbalist to determine which of the following are right for you: dong quai (Angelica sinensis), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), damiana (Turnera diffusa), black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), or sage (Salvia officinalis).

Other possible factors include stress, smoking, anemia, thyroid problems, and rapid weight loss from dieting.

As yet, there is no quick way to reverse thinning hair. A handful of studies show that applying essential oils and topical saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) can help. And taking certain supplements can strengthen brittle hair. Good ones include: essential fatty acids (fish, flax, or borage oils), the B vitamin biotin (50 to 2,000 mcg daily), and silicon (1 to 2 mg daily). Also consider taking zinc (25 to 50 mg daily); this mineral promotes hair growth.

This Q&A was written by Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH, a health journalist based in the Pacific Northwest, where she and her family enjoy hiking and cycling.