Topical Safflower Extract for Hair Loss: Increases VEGF -

Topical Safflower Extract for Hair Loss: Increases VEGF

Safflower extract has been shown in at least one study to significantly increase the growth factors VEGF and keratinocyte, both of which play a key role in increasing hair growth.

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Last updated: Dec 7, 2023

The florets of Carthamus tinctorius L. have traditionally been used for hair growth promotion. This study aimed to examine the potential of hydroxysafflor yellow A-rich C. tinctorius extract (CTE) on hair growth both in vitro and in vivo. The effect of CTE on cell proliferation and hair growth-associated gene expression in dermal papilla cells and keratinocytes (HaCaT) was determined. In addition, hair follicles from mouse neonates were isolated and cultured in media supplemented with CTE. Moreover, CTE was applied topically on the hair-shaved skin of female C57BL/6 mice, and the histological profile of the skin was investigated. C. tinctorius floret ethanolic extract promoted the proliferation of both dermal papilla cells and HaCaT and significantly stimulated hair growth-promoting genes, including vascular endothelial growth factor and keratinocyte growth factor. In contrast, CTE suppressed the expression of transforming growth factor-β1 that is the hair loss-related gene. Furthermore, CTE treatment resulted in a significant increase in the length of cultured hair follicles and stimulated the growth of hair with local effects in mice. The results provided the preclinical data to support the potential use of CTE as a hair growth-promoting agent.

From: Pubmed

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) has been used for centuries as a way to extract vegetable oils from its seeds and to flavor dishes.

It was also used for medicinal purposes such as helping patients with irregular and painful menstrual cycles. However, it is contraindicated in the case of pregnancy.

During the past few years, Carthamus tinctorius extract (CTE) has been used to reverse hair loss in patients diagnosed with androgenetic alopecia (AA). CTE exerts its effects by inhibiting the action of 5α-reductase, but there is more to the story.

Research and results

In a 2014 paper published by the Phytotherapy Research, scientists from the Center for Research and Development of Herbal Health Products, Thailand, studied the effects of CTE on hair growth of mice.

The goal of the study was to identify the underlying mechanisms that promote hair growth and the possible toxicity of CTE use.

CTE was shown to stimulate the production of hair promoting substances such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and keratinocyte growth factor (KGF).

These two growth factors can stimulate hair growth by improving blood flow to dermal papilla where the stem cells for hair follicles are located.

Additionally, CTE seems to inhibit the enzyme 5α-reductase, leading to lower levels of dihydrotestosterone 5 or DHT-5, which is the main player in androgenic alopecia pathogenesis.

The study concluded the paper by stating:

CTE treatment resulted in a significant increase in the length of cultured hair follicles and stimulated the growth of hair with local effects in mice. The results provided the preclinical data to support the potential use of CTE as a hair growth-promoting agent.

How it works

Unlike other hair-promoting compounds that target one single enzyme or molecule, CTE exerts its functions on several cellular targets, including the promotion of VEGF and KGF while suppressing the action of the main enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT-5, which causes the regression of the hair follicles and prevent the transformation of stem cells into new hair follicles.

Although CTE showed high solubility in water, the skin permeability was rather low when using water as a vehicle. The preliminary results from the skin permeation study showed that the vehicle containing propylene glycol and ethanol promoted higher flux value and shorter lag time than those of the water.

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In other words, if CTE goes through the clinical trials, permeability will be a deciding factor in the efficacy of the drug.

What is VEGF and how does it increase hair growth?

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a signaling protein that plays a crucial role in the formation of new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. While VEGF is primarily associated with blood vessel development, it has also been implicated in hair growth.

Here’s how VEGF may contribute to increased hair growth:


VEGF stimulates angiogenesis, promoting the formation of new blood vessels. Improved blood circulation is vital for the delivery of oxygen, nutrients, and growth factors to the hair follicles. Adequate blood supply ensures that hair follicles receive the necessary resources for optimal function and growth.

Follicle Stem Cell Activation

VEGF has been suggested to play a role in the activation of hair follicle stem cells. Hair follicle stem cells are responsible for the regeneration and growth of hair. Activation of these stem cells can lead to the production of new hair strands.

Cell Proliferation

VEGF may contribute to the proliferation (multiplication) of cells involved in hair growth. This includes cells in the hair follicles, which go through cycles of growth (anagen), regression (catagen), and rest (telogen). Increased cell proliferation in the anagen phase supports the development of longer and thicker hair.

Anti-Apoptotic Effects

VEGF has anti-apoptotic (anti-cell death) effects, which may protect cells in the hair follicles from programmed cell death. This anti-apoptotic activity can contribute to the maintenance and longevity of hair follicles.

For more info in VEGF read:

How to Increase Scalp VEGF to Increase Hair Growth and Thickness


Unfortunately, all the studies conducted so far did not include any human clinical trials, hence the lack of evidence that CTE may actually promote hair growth in patients with androgenic alopecia.

Nevertheless, the preliminary results may be a good sign that we can conduct further studies and clinical trials to determine the efficacy of this substance and its possible side effects.