The Saw Palmetto tree (Serenoa repens) dots landscapes across the Southern United States, from Florida to California. Their distinctive spikey leaves bend in the breeze like giant fans, while their trunks can grow up to ten feet tall. This hearty palm has been useful to humans for hundreds of years – for basket weaving, oil and wax, and food and medicine – but does saw palmetto work to prevent hair loss?
Saw palmetto remains a common herbal supplement, be it in topical extracts or oral form. In fact, around 2 million men use a saw palmetto supplement for common issues – from supporting the health of their prostate to treating androgenetic alopecia (hair loss). We’ll explore the benefits, safety, and efficacy of saw palmetto – as well as its potential to reduce hair loss – in this article.
Benefits of Saw Palmetto
Saw palmetto is used worldwide to relieve a variety of ailments or concerns, such as:
- Prostate health
- Urinary tract health
- Decreasing inflammation
- Regulating testosterone
- Androgenetic alopecia
Prostate health is one of the most common applications of saw palmetto supplements. It is thought to relieve benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous prostate enlargement. BPH is a common condition as men get older and can cause uncomfortable urinary symptoms, such as blocking the flow of urine out of the bladder. It can also cause urinary tract or kidney problems.
Interestingly, the same mechanism that might allow saw palmetto to relieve prostate enlargement is what could also make it effective for hair loss. Enlarged prostate is the result of the production of 5-alpha reductase (5-AR), an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the prostate gland. DHT is also the hormone associated with androgenetic alopecia, so curbing its production could be beneficial in curbing pattern hair loss.
How Does Saw Palmetto Help with Hair Loss?
Androgenetic alopecia is caused by excess DHT production, so the same DHT that causes the prostate to swell could also cause hair loss. Saw palmetto is believed to work by stymieing the production of DHT and reducing the uptake of DHT into your hair follicles.
Blocking the enzyme 5α-reductase from converting testosterone to DHT slows down DHT production, and decreases the ability of DHT to bind to hormone receptors. This is how Finasteride – a proven DHT inhibitor – is so effective against hair loss. While more clinical research is needed, early studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that saw palmetto could slow down the balding process in a similar manner.
Does Saw Palmetto Really Work?
The research on saw palmetto is limited but promising. A review of several studies noted that saw palmetto, when taken orally or applied topically, can improve total hair count by 27% and hair density in 83% of men & women with pattern hair loss.
However, the benefits of saw palmetto on hair loss are mostly anecdotal, and there haven’t been enough studies to say definitively if saw palmetto is an effective treatment for hair loss. The studies that exist suggest that saw palmetto holds promise as a treatment for hair loss, but larger-scale clinical trials are needed.
While saw palmetto might inhibit DHT, the only drug that has proven to reduce DHT levels is Finasteride has been shown to improve prostate health, and the FDA has approved a lower dosage to aid in hair loss.
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Can Women Use Saw Palmetto?
Most of the studies conducted on saw palmetto have focused on men, so the safety and efficacy of saw palmetto on women hasn’t been studied extensively. It is considered generally safe to take unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are taking any medications or have chronic health issues, you should discuss it with your healthcare provider first.
Is Saw Palmetto Safe?
Saw palmetto is safe for most people, although you should avoid it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The most common side effects include diarrhea, headache, fatigue, decreased libido, nausea, vomiting, and vertigo. Aways consult a medical professional before starting any new medication or supplement.
Where Can I Find Saw Palmetto?
Saw palmetto supplements and extracts are widely available. Typically, these come in the form of oral capsules, isolated or as a blend, or in an oil-based topical extract.
BosleyMD BosRevive shampoo formula contains saw palmetto extract – along with that of other natural DHT inhibitors, like pumpkin seed and rosemary – to promote healthy hair growth. It is formulated for adults (men and women) and the effects are generally milder because it is administered topically rather than orally. While our products are generally deemed safe to use if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, it is recommended to consult your primary care physician prior to use.
Bosley also offers hair growth supplements for men that contain saw palmetto for oral use.
How Much Saw Palmetto Should I Take?
The BosleyMD Healthy Hair Growth Supplement for Men contains 160 mg of saw palmetto berry extract per capsule, which appears to be an effective dosage in men. The BosleyMD Healthy Hair Growth Supplement for Women formula does not contain saw palmetto, given that there is some, but not enough, scientific evidence on its oral safety and efficacy in women.
Evidence suggests that saw palmetto extract may be effective at slowing hair loss in men and women by inhibiting DHT, the hormone responsible for pattern hair loss. Many people swear by it in product reviews and online forums. However, since better solutions exist and have proven to be effective (think Finasteride), we recommend using saw palmetto as part of a regimen rather than on its own.
Hair loss can be difficult, but the good news is that it’s treatable. Some prefer oral medications like Finasteride and Minoxidil, some hair transplantation surgery, topical treatments, or oral supplements. Some feel best combining all the above! Our approach at Bosley is to make all these choices available and to find what’s right for you – and get you the results you want.
To learn about saw palmetto and other options, schedule a free consultation today with a Bosley Hair Restoration Specialist.