The three herbs Cuscuta reflexa, Citrullus colocynthis and Eclipta alba have long been known for their hair growth-promoting potential and scientists at the Dr H.S. Gour University in Madhya Pradesh, India, have recently tested various formulations of these herbs on laboratory rats. Three different polyherbal creams were applied topically to the shaven dorsal skin of rats, the most effective of which outperformed minoxidil (2 per cent) the active ingredient in one of the leading hair loss treatments Rogaine, a product that claims to prevent further hair loss in four out of five men. Ram Kumar Roy and his team found that both the initiation and the completion of hair growth occurred earlier in rats treated with the most effective of the polyherbal formulations (day 4 and day 17 respectively) in comparison to those that had received topical applications of minoxidil (2 per cent) (day 6 and day 20) and control rats (day 12 and day 24). It appears that the treatment primarily causes the hair follicle to switch from the telogen (rest) phase to the anagen (growth) phase along with encouraging the retention of the late anagenic hair follicles. Furthermore the team noted the quality of the new growth as soft, silky and shiny, surprising as some of the previous tests of monoherbal fomulas containing C. reflexa and C. colocynthis had resulted in growth of coarse, rough hair, attributing this to the addition of the herb E. alba, similarly traditionally believed to improve the shine and texture of hair. This suggests that the formulations may be helpful in the treatment of alopecia, caused by hair follicles moving prematurely into the telogen phase where they are abruptly shed, the most common form of which being male patterns baldness suffered by 60 per cent of men, according to a study by scientists at Vancouver General Hospital. The biological mechanism that lies behind the success of this treatment is currently being investigated by the team, who are confident that the commercial applications of their formulations will be extensive. The worldwide market for hair loss treatments was estimated in 2006 at $1 bn and Euromonitor has identified the area as having potential for further growth as it taps into the burgeoning market for male grooming products. Mayank Thakur, a member of Roy's team stated that "the present work was based on the Ayurvedic literature where these herbs have been used for many years in order to treat hair related disorders and alopecia" thus appealing to the extensive consumer interest in personal care products containing plant extracts.