The 7 Health Benefits of Saw Palmetto
The 7 Health Benefits of Saw Palmetto
What is Saw Palmetto?
Saw Palmetto (also known as Serenoa Repens) is a small palm plant that produces berry fruits which have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Native to Central and South America, saw palmetto grows in subtropical climates and can grow for 500-700 years. Native indigenous Americans used the berries for food, health benefits and harvested the leaves for weaving home essentials.
Today, saw palmetto is traditionally used in Western Herbal medicine and a dietary supplement may help support a variety of health benefits from hair growth to prostate gland function.
Benefits of Saw Palmetto (Summary)
Saw Palmetto may:
- Help prevent hair loss
- Reduce inflammation
- Support urinary tract function
- Improve prostate health
- Support testosterone levels
- Help lower hirsutism symptoms
- Help relieve symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Full Breakdown of Saw Palmetto Benefits
May Help Prevent Hair Loss
Hair loss is most prevalent as we age, can affect both men and women and factors such as genetics, hormone changes and medical conditions can play a part.
We most commonly suffer from hair loss when our DHT hormone levels are increased. DHT is a sex hormone we get by converting testosterone and it regulates sex organs and body fat. However, DHT can also shrink a hair follicle and shorten the growth cycle, causing thin and fragile hair to fall out quicker.
We typically convert 10% of our testosterone into DHT so the higher our testosterone levels, the higher level of DHT we produce. Men typically have greater testosterone levels to women and have a higher chance of experiencing hair loss, the most common female pattern baldness equates to hair thinning in patches.
Research suggests saw palmetto may reduce hair loss in two ways. It may block the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into DHT and it may also reduce the consumption of DHT by the hair follicle. If you have a higher level of testosterone or DHT, saw palmetto extract could help your body maintain a healthy level and reduce your chances of hair loss.
May reduce inflammation
A research study of saw palmetto suggested there are anti-inflammatory properties in the herbal medicine. The testing was completed on mice with an enlarged prostate and the effects of saw palmetto extract reduced inflammation and swelling.
The research on the anti-inflammation properties for humans is still limited.
May support urinary tract function
Urinary dysfunction such as difficulty in urinating, pain or incontinence, can affect older people. The medical condition, benign prostatic hyperplasia, can cause an enlarged prostate and generate urinary tract symptoms that affect urine flow.
Saw palmetto may relieve pressure on the tubes responsible for urine flow and may be used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia. A 12-week study concluded an increase in urine flow showing saw palmetto benefits in relieving lower urinary tract symptoms.
Benefits of Saw Palmetto for Men
May improve prostate health
The prostate gland sits between the bladder and penis and regulates the urinary tract function and sperm health. Some men may experience prostate enlargement as they age, and although research is not conclusive on the cause, there are suggestions that it is affected by the change in hormone levels.
Symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia causes urinary tract problems which may be treated with saw palmetto. Studies show that saw palmetto supports healthy prostate function butt is inconclusive on the mechanism of the activity.
It is recommended that those suffering from an enlarged prostate see a healthcare provider to rule out prostate cancer.
May support testosterone levels
Testosterone levels can manage muscle mass, sex drive, brain function and mood but levels can decrease with age. Just as it benefits hair growth, saw palmetto benefits testosterone levels by blocking the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme and reducing the amount it converts into DHT. As men age, there can be health benefits to taking saw palmetto supplements to keep testosterone levels steady.
Benefits of Saw Palmetto for Women
Help lower hirsutism symptoms
Hirsutism is a condition affecting women that causes excessive dark hair growth on the face, back and chest. It can affect many women, particularly those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Whilst the DHT hormone level will shrink the hair follicle on the head, it has the opposite effect on body hairs. Research shows women with PCOS are converting testosterone to DHT at a higher frequency than those without, which is why they are more susceptible to hirsutism.
Therefore, the benefits of saw palmetto in blocking the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme will help to reduce DHT levels in women suffering with hirsutism.
Relieve symptoms of PCOS
Women suffering from PCOS will have a higher level of the Estrogen hormone. This in turn will affect the balance of hormones LH and FSH which are necessary for a healthy menstrual cycle.
The effects of saw palmetto may regulate the progesterone receptors and help reduce estrogen levels in order to maintain a healthy hormonal balance.
How to take Saw Palmetto
The most widely accessible form is a saw palmetto supplement you can add to your daily diet. Often it is blended with other complimentary ingredients traditionally used in Western herbal medicine and the recommended daily amount is 160-320mg.
There are saw palmetto herbal blend teas and saw palmetto extract on the market but the doses will differ.
You should always consult your healthcare provider before taking dietary supplements to ensure they do not have adverse effects with other medication. Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals should not take a saw palmetto supplement as well as those taking hormone replacement therapy.
Saw Palmetto Side Affects
As with all herbs and minerals, there may be some side effects of saw palmetto which will affect individuals differently: