If you live in the southeastern United States, you are likely familiar with a native palm, the saw palmetto (Serenoa repens).
The berries from the plant are used in supplements to help balance hormone levels, prevent male hair loss and improve prostate health.
There may be other benefits to using saw palmetto, including reducing inflammation and improving urinary function.
The following five benefits and uses of saw palmetto can be considered:
1. Preventing Hair Loss
- Hair loss can be caused by many underlying factors, from genetics to hormonal changes and medical conditions. It may also be caused by the use of medications, including blood thinners and stimulants1.
- The use of saw palmetto in supplements is often to fight hair loss and to balance hormones.
- One review showed that the use of saw palmetto may block the activity of an enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone.
- Saw palmetto may help prevent2 hair loss by reducing the uptake of dihydrotestosterone into the hair follicles. In turn, it decreases the ability of DHT to bind to some of your hormone receptors.
- According to one study3, the use of saw palmetto improved hair growth in 60% of men who suffer from male pattern baldness and were between the ages of 23-64.
- 62 adults used in another study4 showed how using topical saw palmetto for three months resulted in a 35% increase in hair density.
2. Good for Urinary Tract Function
- It is not out of the ordinary for older men to suffer from urinary tract symptoms5, including the difficulty urinating and incontinence.
- Any urinary symptoms associated with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) may be benefited by the use of saw palmetto. BPH is associated with an enlargement of the prostate gland and can decrease the flow of urine.
- 92 men were involved in a 12 week study6 in which they took two capsules of Prostataplex daily. Those capsules included saw palmetto and other herbal supplements. The men taking the supplement in the study saw an improvement in urinary tract symptoms from BPH.
- 85 men over the age of 45 were involved in another study7 and were treated with 160 mg of saw palmetto twice on a daily basis. Those men also benefited, seeing fewer urinary tract symptoms, an increase in urine flow and an improvement in their overall quality of life. Those men were part of the study for six months.
- Additional research is necessary to see how saw palmetto can improve urinary tract function in other individuals, including those who don't have problems with their prostate.
3. Supports Prostate Health
- The prostate is between the bladder and the penis in man. It is a small gland that is responsible for maintaining the health8 of sperm.
- According to some research, the use of saw palmetto may help with prostate health and stop certain issues, including prostate cancer and BPH.
- A test tube study9 using saw palmetto berry extract reduced the growth of prostate cancer cells.
- Saw palmetto was also used in another test tube study10 to show how it would work with blocking prostate cancer cell growth. It seems as if it deactivated receptors associated with the cancer development.
4. Could Reduce Inflammation
- The antioxidants epicatechin and methyl gallate found in saw palmetto may prevent cellular damage and reduce inflammation. It may also help prevent chronic disease11,12.
- According to some research13, saw palmetto may reduce inflammation, which could benefit those with certain conditions. As an example, one study showed how saw palmetto extract helped mice with enlarged prostate glands by decreasing swelling and inflammation.
- Inflammation was also reduced in another study14 involving obese rats with BPH.
5. May Regulate Testosterone Levels
- Saw palmetto is a common supplement for men who want to increase their levels of testosterone naturally. When you improve15 your testosterone levels, it can improve your overall health, sex drive, body composition, cognition and mood.
- Our levels of testosterone tend to decline16 as we get older and it could lead to heart disease and other conditions.
- 5α-R is an enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The use of saw palmetto may decrease17 the activity of that enzyme.
- According to a test tube study18, saw palmetto extract was effective at preserving testosterone levels compared to Finasteride. Finasteride is a medication used for the treatment of hair loss and BPH.
- 40 men were involved in another study that showed how saw palmetto decreased DHT levels by 32% after six months. This showed how saw palmetto may help to regulate testosterone levels.
Saw Palmetto is included in the Prostate Health Blend found in the Whole Food Multivitamin for Men 50+.
1. Hair Loss: Common Causes and Treatment, 2017 Sep 15;96(6):371-378
2. Serenoa Repens: Does It have Any Role in the Management of Androgenetic Alopecia?, 2009 Jan-Jun; 2(1): 31–32
3. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of botanically derived inhibitors of 5-alpha-reductase in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia., 2002 Apr;8(2):143-52
4. Serenoa Repens: Does It have Any Role in the Management of Androgenetic Alopecia?, 2009 Jan-Jun; 2(1): 31–32
5. Lower urinary tract symptoms., 2010 May;26(2):249-60. doi: 10.1016/j.cger.2010.02.006
6. Effect of saw palmetto soft gel capsule on lower urinary tract symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia: a randomized trial in Shanghai, China, 2008 Feb;179(2):610-5. Epub 2007 Dec 21
7. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of saw palmetto in men with lower urinary tract symptoms., 2001 Dec;58(6):960-4; discussion 964-5
8. The role of the prostate in male fertility, health and disease., 2016 Jul;13(7):379-86. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2016.89. Epub 2016 Jun 1
9. Saw palmetto berry extract inhibits cell growth and Cox-2 expression in prostatic cancer cells., 2001;25(11):1117-24
10. Saw Palmetto induces growth arrest and apoptosis of androgen-dependent prostate cancer LNCaP cells via inactivation of STAT 3 and androgen receptor signaling., 2007 Sep;31(3):593-600
11. New chalcanonol glycoside from the seeds of saw palmetto: antiproliferative and antioxidant effects., 2015;29(10):926-32. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2014.960413. Epub 2014 Sep 18
12. Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health, 2008 Jun; 4(2): 89–96
13. Anti-inflammatory properties of Lipidosterolic extract of Serenoa repens (Permixon®) in a mouse model of prostate hyperplasia., 2015 May;75(7):706-22. doi: 10.1002/pros.22953. Epub 2015 Feb 14
14. Effect of Serenoa Repens on Oxidative Stress, Inflammatory and Growth Factors in Obese Wistar Rats with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia., 2015 Oct;29(10):1525-31. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5406. Epub 2015 Jun 24.
15. The many faces of testosterone, 2007 Dec; 2(4): 567–576
16. Testosterone deficiency in the aging male, 2016 Feb; 8(1): 47–60
17. Saw Palmetto Berry as a Treatment for BPH, 2001 Summer; 3(3): 134–138
18. Determination of the potency of a novel saw palmetto supercritical CO2 extract (SPSE) for 5α-reductase isoform II inhibition using a cell-free in vitro test system, 2016 Apr 21