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Saw Palmetto for Hair Loss: Do We Need It?

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If you have spent ten minutes looking for hair loss products, most likely you have found at least one that contains saw palmetto. That’s because the hair recovery market is full of shampoos, oils, and serums that contain this wonderful plant extract. In fact, even today, many manufactures benefit from the properties of saw palmetto to craft formulas that work effectively against alopecia. 

You most probably wonder if saw palmetto can actually stop hair loss, or it’s just a myth. Does it help in any way? Or it’s just a waste of time? And nevertheless, what’s the best way to apply saw palmetto? 

Well, guess what? We wondered exactly the same questions, and we got the right answers for you. 

What is saw palmetto?

Saw palmetto, also called serenoa repens, is a long-lived palm tree that can grow for 500-700 years, where 3 to 7 leaves grow every year. It’s natively coming from West Indies and is now growing in the United States, Central, North, and South America. The extract from this plant’s berries contains approximately 85-90% fatty acids and sterols and is commonly used in the food, pharmaceutical, medical, and cosmetics industries. 

In what forms can I use saw palmetto?

Today’s market offers multiple ways to use saw palmetto’s berries extract. You can try dietary supplements, tablets, powder capsules, and even whole dried berries. Tablets and capsules are commonly recommended, and the easiest to find pretty much are the only forms of saw palmetto that researchers tested. However, most importantly, before taking supplements, it’s better to consult your doctor about safe dosage amounts. For saw palmetto, experts recommend daily dosages of 160 – 320 milligrams.

Besides, you can try a tea made from the dried berries, or you can eat them directly, but that is unlikely to work for hair loss because the active compounds aren’t water-soluble.

There is another approach of using saw palmetto if you have to deal with hair loss, which proves to offers more noticeable results. 

Saw palmetto for hair loss

In the fight against androgenic alopecia, shampoos, masks, and rub-in compounds with extract of saw palmetto berries work best. Topical products containing this extract are also used in the prevention of hair loss and scalp conditioning. Also, oral supplements with saw palmetto have proven to increase the hair density in approximatively 83% cases after 6 months, with “greatly increased” density described by 26.7% of men and 33.3% of women.

Despite the small number of studies to show the benefits of saw palmetto in hair growth, this extract continues to be widely used for hair care, with so many founds in cosmetics products, such as shampoos, serums, and oils. The plant is considered anti-androgenic and is often compared with finasteride without considering the side effects. 

Very few evidence exists about saw palmetto and hair loss, and still many experts recommend and, and of course, a lot of people use it. Why? 

How saw palmetto helps stop hair loss?

One of the most frequent causes of hair loss is high levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) — a strong and active testosterone derivative. Research confirms that DHT contributes to the miniaturization of hair follicles, leading to a shortening of follicles’ lifespan and production rate. As a result, the hair becomes thinner and shorter, visibly associated with hair loss. 

Testosterone is transformed into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) with the help of an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase (5-AR), present in both men and women. 

What saw palmetto extract does against hair loss is reducing the testosterone conversion to DHT by inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase activity, which minimizes the conversion rate. Treatment of alopecia involves reducing DHT’s impact on the hair follicles, and besides drugs such as finasteride, products containing saw palmetto extract are a great alternative for this.

Does saw palmetto really combat hair loss?

We wouldn’t say it entirely combat or stop hair loss on its own, but it definitely helps. 

One case study has demonstrated that the treatment of androgenetic alopecia with topical products containing saw palmetto extract increased the average hair count in 50 male patients after 12 weeks. 

Similarly, several other studies have shown average hair regrowth using oral and topical saw palmetto products among people who suffer from hair loss and thinning hair. Most of them concluded an improvement in total hair count ranging from 3.4 to 27%, while increased hair density and overall boosted hair quality in up to 83.3% of patients.

Another research compared saw palmetto extract with finasteride, one of the very few treatments officially proven and recognized for treating hair loss, also a 5-AR inhibitor. The results showed that from 100 male patients, only 38% noted significant new hair count after treated with saw palmetto, while finasteride has shown to be effective in 68% cases. 

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Why should you use saw palmetto?

After all, saw palmetto might not be as effective as other medical-grade treatments for hair loss, so why should you bother using it? 

Because most people, and even experts, find it more convenient and easy to use thanks to the lack of side effects and the risk you are exposed to. The Australasian College of Dermatologists claims in one of their studies that “the topical application of saw palmetto extract could be an alternative treatment in hair loss patients who do not want or cannot tolerate the side-effects of standard medications.”

Saw palmetto blocks the DHT conversion, and it holds the potential for treating hair loss in men and women — as proven in studies. So like many other hair growth galvanizers, it may or may not make any difference. Until you don’t try it, you can’t be sure if it works or not. 

Does saw palmetto work for women?

While most of us think of testosterone as a male hormone, it’s also present in women. There’s a chance that DHT could affect your hair’s health and thickness. If that’s the case, and your doctor confirms it, then saw palmetto can be a great ally.

A case study precisely tested a hair growth supplement containing saw palmetto on 3 women with various hair loss patterns. They have been given Nutrafol oral supplements. By the end of the treatment, improvement in temple area coverage decreased shedding, and self-reported satisfaction were noticed. 


saw palmetto supplements

Nutrafol Women Hair Growth Supplement with Saw Palmetto

Trusted by specialists and multiple times award-winner, Nutrafol supplements got what you need to grow healthy and thick hair. Saw palmetto extract, hyaluronic acid, vitamins A, C, D, and black pepper extract, to name a few of the ingredients that’ll boost your hair’s health after the six months treatment.


Side effects 

It would be fair to say saw palmetto is generally safe, and side effects are rare, although it’s not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding or when using contraceptives. 

In rare cases, side effects such as mild dizziness and headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea may appear. However, these situations can be avoided by taking saw palmetto after food. 

Like other 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, saw palmetto might reduce PSA levels by 50% after 6 – 12 months of treatment. Thus, there is a risk of missing early detection of prostate cancer in patients self-treating with saw palmetto. 

It may also reduce blood coagulation and increase the chances of bleedings. That’s why you should always tell your doctor all of the medications you’re taking before starting any treatment or surgery.

Other remedies for hair loss

While minoxidil and finasteride are the only FDA-approved therapies for hair loss, their risks and side effects have inspired researchers to find alternative treatments for home use. 

Although saw palmetto remains a fundamental ingredient in many cosmetics and over-the-counter supplements for hair loss, there are many other therapies you can try at home. 

For instance, low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is believed to be one of the most effective ways to stimulate hair growth, and it’s also approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You can enjoy the benefits of LLLT by getting a laser hair growth device.

Capixyl and Redensyl are another two great ingredients commonly found in hair care products that have the ability to stop hair loss. 

Summary

There is not enough data for doctors and specialists to draw a conclusion about saw palmetto and its effects on hair loss. Despite this, the saw palmetto extract’s popularity continues to increase, and its benefits and proprieties are recognized by millions of people.

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Amanda Blake
Amanda Blake
Amanda Blake is a passionate woman sharing experience as a beauty advisor and content writer for over 5 years. Merging all the passion with much work, she established Women's Concept community, a place where women can seek and share everything about beauty and personal care.
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To our readers

The information from this article is not entirely medical-grade level and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. No one will know you, your medical history, the meds you’ve taken or are taking, your sensitivities and drug interactions, allergic reactions, and your lifestyle, but your doctor does.

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