So far, no scientific evidence has been found linking kratom and hair loss, but it seems from several online forums that a very small percentage of American consumers are experiencing this bizarre side effect. Many also report that after discontinuing kratom, their hair grows back.
What could be the cause? I could find virtually no science on this topic specifically, only speculation from the internet with no studies to back it up. A Pubmed search of “kratom” and “hair loss” turns up no results. The purpose of this post is to explore the possible causes of this rare, strange phenomenon.
Hair loss doesn’t seem to occur in long-term use of traditionally prepared kratom
It doesn’t seem to make sense that kratom alone would cause hair loss, or this would have been noticed in the hundreds of years of traditional use. Dr. Darshan Singh, a scientist at the University of Science in Malaysia has been studying consumers of traditional kratom for several years. In Malaysia, freshly harvested kratom leaves are simmered in water for several hours to make a tea. This simple process of harvesting fresh leaves and then boiling them leaves very little room for contamination of any kind.
Dr. Singh told Kratom Science: “I’ve been working with kratom users who have been using kratom for 40 years, 50 years. I see they have a lot of hair on their head. I’ve not seen people who said ‘My hair is falling from kratom’. No such thing. But the reason for the hair loss could be the adulterated kratom products.”
Dr. Singh added that other rare side effects reported in the United States simply do not occur in Malaysia.
Another possibility is that the method of administration is different in America from traditional use. Americans consume mostly dried powder. Many swallow the dried leaf powder whole. Traditionally kratom has rarely been swallowed (it’s mostly been prepared as a tea or chewed in the countries where it originates), so the possibility for brand new side effects exist.. The oxidization process adds an oxygen molecule to mitragynine, adding more 7-hydroxymitragyinine than exists in fresh leaf, and the overall alkaloid profile is affected as well. But there is not sufficient evidence linking kratom in either fresh or dried form, no matter the alkaloid profile, to hair loss.
Is there hormonal or immunostimulant elements of kratom that lead to hair loss?
Again, there is not enough real scientific evidence that links kratom to hormonal or immunostimulant effects. A single case report of a man who used kratom and also had “mildly elevated” levels of the hormone prolactin (which can sometimes cause hair loss) caused the reporters to definitely declare in the title of their study “Kratom, an Emerging Drug of Abuse, Raises Prolactin and Causes Secondary Hypogonadism”. No other studies, let alone case reports, can be found that come to the same conclusion.
Traditionally, kratom has been used to relieve symptoms associated with the common cold like cough, runny nose, or lethargy. Some of kratom’s many alkaloids, many in very trace amounts in the leaf, have been shown to have immunostimulant properties. However, this does not mean there is enough evidence to definitively declare that “Kratom is an immunostimulant!”, and certainly not in ways that would directly lead to hair loss.
This fallacy probably comes from the fact that alopecia areta is an autoimmune disease that attacks hair follicles, and certain drugs can cause this. Even if kratom did elevate the immune system (which there isn’t enough evidence for), there’s no indication that elevated immunity means you have an autoimmune disease that causes your hair to fall out.
Could toxic metals in some kratom products cause hair loss?
A study by the highly respected pharmacology professor with a background in heavy metal toxicology, Dr. Walter Prozialeck, found disturbing levels of lead in some kratom products purchased in the Chicago area. In an interview with Kratom Science, Dr. Prozialeck said, “Heavy users can get up to 20 or 30 grams a day pretty easily. With levels of like 10 grams a day ingestion, for some of the products, would exceed the allowable daily intake of toxic metals, particularly lead, so there were a few of the products that I was really concerned about”. He pointed out that the one company whose products testing negative across the board were following Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) standards.
It’s unknown where these toxic metals originate. Scientists speculate that it could be shavings from old grinding equipment that end up in kratom powder. Others speculate it could be from volcanic soil in Indonesia, where most of the kratom consumed in the United States comes from.
There are some studies linking lead and other toxic metals with hair loss. However, other symptoms of lead poisoning would be present, like pain, mood disorders, and difficulty concentrating.
Further study needs to be done, such as a survey, to determine what is causing hair loss among a small fraction of kratom consumers.
Please share your thoughts in the comments!