Cimetidine is characterized by the Mayo Clinic as a histamine H2 antagonist. More often referred to as a histamine blocker, this oral medication reduces stomach acids, which can help treat both duodenal and gastric ulcers. It's also beneficial for heartburn and acid indigestion sufferers. When taken in higher doses, however, cimetidine can affect the level of male sex hormones in the body. This could encourage hair growth in women suffering from female pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia.
Female Pattern Baldness
Though a number of different factors can play a role in female-pattern baldness, one of the most common is dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, according to the American Hair Loss Association. When testosterone is exposed to the enzyme type II 5-alpha reductase, it's quickly converted into DHT. DHT binds itself to those follicles sensitive to this hormone, triggering miniaturization and subsequent hair loss.
The American Hair Loss Association explains that cimetidine acts as an antiandrogenetic in the body, meaning it inhibits the biological effects of male sex hormones. Daily use can lower testosterone levels in women and consequently lower DHT levels. With less DHT in the scalp, you should see a slowing in the progression of hair loss as well as experience hair regrowth. Cimetidine can also prevent DHT from binding to the hair follicles, which keeps them from shrinking and triggering hair loss.
Dosages to treat hair loss in women are much higher than used to treat gastrointestinal issues, so the over-the-counter medication isn't recommended to encourage hair growth. You'll need to talk to your doctor or dermatologist about a prescription. This prescription often varies from woman to woman. Always follow your doctor's orders when taking this or any other medication.
If cimetidine fails to provide results, or your doctor determines this medication isn't an appropriate treatment for your hair loss, there are other medications available that could encourage hair growth. Minoxidil, Spironolactone, oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy and ketoconazole have all shown promise in treating androgenetic alopecia in women.
Men shouldn't use cimetidine to encourage hair regrowth, warns the American Hair Loss Association. The higher doses needed to provide results could adversely affect men, causing feminization and sexual side effects. Discuss other options of treatment with your doctor or dermatologist.