Most people who are familiar with shark cartilage know that it’s mainly used for joint health. But there may be other benefits, including hair growth. That being said, though, is it safe to take and really effective?
Dunnn-dunnn. Dunnn-dunnn. [Insert rest of the theme to the movie, Jaws here.]
Sharks elicit the ultimate primordial fear in humans. The number of average lethal shark attacks per year in the U.S. can be counted on two hands and two feet. Minus one digit; an offering for the shark. (There are 19 average deaths per year).
To put it in perspective how low that number is, consider there were more than twice as many deaths–39–by lighting strike in 2016. (SOURCE)
Despite the irrational fear many humans carry towards these pelagic apex predators, sharks may be an ally in the battle over thinning hair.
Shark cartilage supplements contain glucosamine. Along with chondroitin, glucosamine is a compound in connective tissue. Ingesting the connective tissue of other animals (from both the ocean and Earth) may benefit your own joints.
And for this reason, sales of supplements with glucosamine and/or chondroitin (supplements containing both are generally regarded as superior), such as exceed two billion dollars per year. (SOURCE)
The most common use for this supplement is joint health. The reason why this supplement might help with joint health is this… As you get older, the cushioning provided by your own cartilage around your joints starts to wear down. This breakdown is the main contributor to arthritis (along with inflammation.)
But shark for hair? Really?
Before discussing shark cartilage benefits for hair, hang on tight like you’re in a dinghy bobbing in the middle of the Pacific with sharks circling your small craft. First, though, let’s examine other uses….
Shark cartilage uses
Another popular use is cancer treatment.
The theory why this supplement works is via three main actions. First, it may prevent tumors by killing cancer cells. Second, it stimulates the immune system. And third, it prevents new blood vessels from growing. Tumors depend on new blood vessels to grow.
However, up until now, the research is not promising. This peer-reviewed summary from 2016 says that despite shark cartilage having been studied as a cancer treatment (and other chronic diseases) for more than 30 years, there’s no evidence it works.
“The results are inconclusive,” says the summary authors, adding that additional studies are underway. Hopefully, for people with cancer, the treatment will prove effective after all.
Shark cartilage benefits for hair
We’re safe on dry land. We can now discuss shark cartilage for hair….
Remember glucosamine, that joint-protecting compound? Well, it’s also the reason why shark might be good for your hair. That’s because glucosamine might stimulate inactive hair follicles.
According to an article in the Daily Mail, a British news site, a Swedish researcher is quoted as saying there have been numerous studies on shark cartilage for hair loss. And, the researcher adds, “There is no doubt it has a significant effect on hair growth.
However, a shark supplement may take some time to notice any results. According to the article, the researcher says that it can take up to six months to notice any difference.
Furthermore, don’t expect a miracle cure. You’re not going to regrow all your hair. The researcher estimates that best results are a fifty percent improvement. Still, if the researcher is correct, that level of improvement may indeed seem miraculous.
At least one study supports the researcher. The study analyzes a European supplement with shark cartilage called Viviscal. It’s specifically for women suffering from temporary thinning hair. Viviscal combines shark and mollusc powder. The authors of the study claim that both these marine creatures come from sustainable sources. And how the product works is it provides essential nutrients to nourish hair naturally. Another study on the same supplement suggests it can benefit men with hereditary alopecia. As for women, not only can they benefit from the supplement by having thicker hair. This study says women with skin damage from the sun can see positive results from this supplement. Other ingredients in Viviscal include biotin, vitamin C, zinc, millet seed extract, horsetail extract, iron, and Niacin
Shark powder side effects
A 2015 study looks at the efficacy of shark cartilage for joint health. The benefits, says the study, remains questionable. “There is a lack of sufficient reliable information on its effect … and the potential health risks involved have not been adequately assessed.”
Furthermore, the same study says that shark supplements can “pose a potential health risk for consumers, particularly those with underlying inflammatory disease such as irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis.”
Also, if you have liver disease, do not take the supplement. In fact, this study suggests it can lead to hepatitis.
In the book, The Complete Guide To Herbal Medicines, it says that the molecules in shark cartilage are too large for humans to fully digest and absorb. (Obviously, the authors aren’t implying that the reason you shouldn’t eat sharks is because you won’t be able to fit a whole shark in your mouth whole.)
“So it’s doubtful that taking shark cartilage orally can release usable compounds into the blood,” the book concludes.
Furthermore, contamination is a concern. This conclusion comes from the National Cancer Institute. The Institute was conducting a trial. But it was stopped once researchers realized the supplement contained heavy metals. And, to sully the reputation further, there’s no evidence that it benefits people with cancer.
Shark cartilage capsules
Not all supplements are of equal quality. Shark cartilage is no different. One problem with these supplements is unless you due your research, it’s difficult to know what the processing of the supplement entails. This includes the species of shark in the capsule. While one shark might benefit your joints at the suggested dose, another species may require more capsules. Therefore, there’s widely varying levels of active ingredients in shark supplements.
Moreover, there’s the environmental and humane aspect of shark fishing. A website that advocates for the end of the practice of shark finning, says the following:
“Even if there were health benefits, is it right to slaughter sharks – many of which are endangered – so that our animals can live more comfortably for another year or two?”
The question refers to shark cartilage supplements for pets. To illustrate the problem of sourcing, the organization contacted a leading brand of a powder supplement. Some of the species of sharks include bull, blue, nurse shark, blacktip, and reef. All these species are considered near threatened by the IUCN Red List.
Shark Cartilage: Conclusion
Try to find a sustainable source of shark cartilage, whether it’s for your hair or joints or other health concern. Otherwise, you can try other all natural ideas for hair growth including: marula oil, coffee oil, sesame oil, blackstrap molasses, avocado oil, and other natural hair growth remedies.