How to Treat Premature Gray Hair

Woman beginning to get premature gray hair.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, premature gray hair is a body’s warning sign. (Image: Cunaplus via Dreamstime)

Premature gray hair is a common phenomenon. But what causes it? According to traditional Chinese medicine, premature gray hair is a warning sign of the body. It usually indicates that the kidney qi is on the decline. The most common causes of premature gray hair are: 

  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Unbalanced diet 
  • Overwork
  • Obesity 
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption

During a process called melanogenesis, melanocytes produce melanin. This pigment is found in the skin, hair, eyes, nasal cavity, and inner ear. Stress, lack of sleep, and an unbalanced diet can affect the body’s ability to produce melanin. Consequently, blood circulation will deteriorate in the long run, including blood flow to the scalp. With poor blood circulation, hair follicles will age prematurely.

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Liver qi stagnation and loss of kidney essence

According to traditional Chinese medicine, stress can cause liver qi stagnation, preventing liver blood from circulating to the head. Poor sleep, nutrition, and overwork will also accelerate the loss of kidney essence. The liver and kidneys can mutually affect one another.

Dr. Yang Zong Han, an attending physician at Ming Yue Chinese Medicine Clinic in Taiwan, noted that kidney energy is ample before 35. The main reasons for premature gray hair are stress, poor sleep, and irregular meals. They “cause liver qi stagnation and a decrease in spleen and stomach functions over time.”

Kidney yin deficiency may also be caused by a constitutional tendency, which means old age or ill health. Another reason for kidney yin deficiency may be that the yin has been damaged. And since the kidney is connected to the hair, depletion of kidney yin qi may result in premature gray hair.

Stressed woman at work.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, stress can cause liver qi stagnation, preventing liver blood from circulating to the head. (Image: Anyaberkut via Dreamstime)

Can premature gray hair be avoided?

A healthy lifestyle, sufficient rest, and ample nutrition are the best remedy to avoid premature gray hair. To ensure the kidneys and the liver are well-nourished, do the following:

  1. Drink thin fluids — water, herbal tea, clear soups, and fluid-rich fruits
  1. Add some salt to your food (health permitting) to retain water
  1. Add raw vegetables (not in the evenings) to your diet to cool the body
  1. Use acupressure to improve kidney yin

The problem of premature gray hair can also be improved by promoting blood circulation in the scalp. Dr. Yang Zong Han points out that when blood circulation becomes better, hair follicles can get the necessary nutrients for healthy hair growth.

To promote blood circulation in the scalp, comb from front to back 5 to 10 times, and then comb from back to front 5 to 10 times. Do this once in the morning and the evening, and increase the frequency when you feel tired. Also, the following head and foot acupuncture points can help to nourish the hair:

  • Fengchi point: Located at the back of the head, below the occipital bone, in the depression near the top of the hairline, one on each side
  • Shuaigu point: Two fingers’ width up from the tip of the ear
  • Baihui point: Located at the top of the head just behind the center
  • Sishenchong points: Located at the top of the head in the middle, a distance of 1 inch from the front and back as well as left and right of the Baihui point, a total of four points
  • Taichong point: Between the big toe and second toe, 1 inch upward (about a thumb’s width across) in the depression of the bone junction
  • Taixi point: In the depression, about 1 inch on the backside of the inner ankle of the foot

Food therapy

Food therapy is also another way to replenish kidney qi. Hair will become dense and lustrous only when the kidney qi is sufficient. Traditional Chinese medicine talks about “black for black.” This means that black and dark foods replenish the kidney energy and are beneficial to black hair.

Dark foods contain the much-needed element anthocyanins. Anthocyanins (flavonoids) are a type of pigment found in plants. They offer antioxidant effects that fight unstable molecules (radicals), damage cells, and increase the risk of certain diseases.

These are some of the most accessible dark foods you can find in almost any grocery store: 

  • black sesame
  • black beans
  • black rice
  • black fungus
  • black dates
Black and dark food replenishes the kidney energy and is beneficial to help premature gray hair.
Black and dark food replenishes the kidney energy and is beneficial to help premature gray hair. (Image: Milacroft via Dreamstime)

In addition, the healthy growth of hair also requires high-quality protein and zinc. Zinc plays an essential role in hair tissue growth and repair. Here are some of the most accessible zinc sources:

  • Crustacean seafoods such as oysters and shrimp 
  • Liver
  • Red meat
  • Nuts such as pumpkin seeds and almonds
  • Dairy products
  • Eggplants

It’s great to know what foods to eat to prevent premature gray hair. But how should these foods be prepared? To kick-start and inspire some nutritional change, here is a tasty dish that you can prepare to obtain hair health benefits.

Tuber fleece flower root and black-bone chicken soup



  1. Rinse the herbs, wash the chicken, and quick-boil it to remove any oil
  2. Put all the ingredients into a stew pot, turn on high heat, and bring to a boil
  3. Turn down the heat and stew for an hour until the chicken is cooked, and season to taste

The ingredients in the soup all have a kidney tonic effect, and the black-bone chicken can also provide quality protein needed to nourish your hair.

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