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.

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.

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.

4. Washing & Protective Styling

They didn’t wash their hair and mess with their hair everyday so this allowed their hair to relax which is very important for hair growth. If you are constantly messing with your hair can hinder the growth. Their hair is also always braided. This is a form of protective styling that helps to keep your hands out of your hair. They would take it out and dress and decorate their hair for different occasions but, you would normally see one big braid or a French braid in most Native Americans hair and this helped to protect their hair. This is another one of those simple things that can have a pretty drastic influence on healthy hair that so many people overlook, yet many Native Americans have been aware of it for centuries. When visiting a hair doctor, or getting a consultation at one of the companies that specialize in hair loss and hair restoration like Bosley Medical… aside from genetic and pattern baldness, time and time again that hair loss is often caused by people “exhausting” their hair by doing too much to it too often.

Danielle Ta'Sheena Finn, Lakota Hunkpapa and Assiniboine Sioux from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (Courtesy Danielle Ta’Sheena Finn)

5. Rosemary

This spice is known worldwide and used in many culinary delights; just like many other spices Rosemary has great benefits for the hair. It helps to promote hair growth by stimulating blood circulation in your scalp thus allowing the hair follicles to breathe and function well. Rosemary has also been known to reduce early graying. The herb was infused in oil, and the oil was rubbed into the scalp and then roots, and then the rest of the hair. 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.

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

  1. Anonymous says:

    Interesting....and why do the men look like the never have facial hair? I can't imagined they took time to shave.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think it had more to do with genes because look what happened when whites mixed with natives. Everything went down hill. More diseases were transmitted from europeans to natives as well as defective genes (that's why alot of them died out, from infectious european diseases). The majority of illnesses are caused by european genes along with chemicals being put in foods nowadays.

  3. My ex husband is native american. It had to be genes I'm guessing because he never grew facial hair.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry, but it's more about genes than anything listed in this article. Even today, Native men who do not follow traditional diets can have long strong hair (if they choose to grow it out) and do not suffer from hair loss or baldness. Similarly, facial hair is pretty uncommon, especially in those families which have higher blood quantums. It's about the DNA, not the aloe vera.

  5. Anonymous says:

    DNA is just a way of responding to the environment. If you live in an environment where people can and do use things to keep their hair in mint condition and people sexually select for that then you end up with a gene pool that's got great hair. Its never just DNA or Just the Environment its a complex dance between the two

  6. Anonymous says:

    Advice to those discussing genes and physical characteristics: Consider reading Dr. Weston Price's book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration

  7. Anonymous says:

    I guess the different plant use didn't pass on to my genes. I am going bald and have grey hair. :)

  8. Anonymous says:

    Native Americans have gorgeous long , thick hair.but they are not hairy in any other parts like legs or chest ..face ..genes

  9. Anonymous says:

    I'd love, at some time to get ideas as to a "recipe" for some of these things.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Native Americans just genetically don't grow much body hair.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I think that DNA is probably responsible for about 90 percent of why native peoples have such amazing hair.. if you look at people from Asia, China, India etc - people there have thick, dark hair with long growth cycles. Its a genetic result of environment that some how remained as a genetic trait when people first crossed into America. I have mixed European, Jewish, Romany (who came originally from the Punjab in India) and distant Asian DNA. My hair is fine but theres a lot of it, its also poker straight and grows very long .. my mother - from whom I get the Asian and Jewish DNA has very thick very straight hair that's pretty much identical to that youd find in Asia.. I oil my hair, don't style or use harsh chemicals etc - but although its shiney and healthy - its still fine and looks typically European.. lots of topical treatments have an effect - I oil my hair several times a week - but will never transform genetically fine European hair into thick long Asian hair for example .. if you hair is already thick and long - it will respond better to certain treatments - like oiling (Asian hair is prone to dryness) but those treatments aren't the sole reason the hair is like that ...

  12. It's both actually . I have native cousins who live on a reservation actually and they really do use aloe Vera all the time . And they are so damn healthy too , and so natural . Since them telling me about aloe Vera, I started using it in my hair a while back and I swear I feel like I have twice he amount of hair I had before , it's such an amazing plant :)

  13. J Sheehan says:

    Benny thanks for your comment! Would love to hear how you apply it. Do you extract the aloe straight from the plant or can one simply purchase the gel? Would love to hear about your process for using it. Thank you!

  14. V. Patrick says:

    yes benny please do share. I am interested in how to apply the aloe vera as well. I have fine crazy old lady hair! I will try anything to make my hair healthy for a change. This is a very interesting article.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I'd rather use Aloe Vera than spend tons of money on "conditioners" that are toxic to the hair and body; but that's a different story.

  16. I'd love to learn how to use all of the plants listed. Recipes please????
    My father always said that hair only grows in weak spots. I guess native american men are strong every where.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Majority of Natives do not grow body hair just head hair - it is genetics. Even if interracial genes may take after one of those ancestors not always Native.

    My family has practiced these traditions for generations; the one's with short and not so beautiful hair is due to a combination of things: interracial marriage, over use/abuse trying to do things like other ethnic groups

  18. Anonymous says:

    Gentics...Native Americans (US of America or North America) using Aloe Vera and Saw Palmetto....and in grows where in Canada, Alaska and the arctic. After all Inuit don't seem to have problems either.
    Genetics, not washing and drying it out everyday, allow the natural oils to do their job....

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