Serenoa repens is the medical name for the
herb saw palmetto. The deep red fruit of this small palm grows wild in warm
climates such as those found in the Southeastern United States. The liposerolic
extract of the fruit of Saw Palmetto is the most popular herbal supplement for
the promotion of prostate health in Europe.
Saw palmetto may help with the
Hirsutism (too much hair in the wrong places)
Male pattern baldness or hair loss.
Research has shown that the herb Saw Palmetto has
the same effects as Finasteride in treating patients with benign prostate
enlargement. In fact, the herb is very popular and common in Germany and is
available as an over-the-counter medication. There are many research and studies
in Germany that confirm the effectiveness of Saw Palmetto in treating patients
with prostatic disease.
Studies have shown that saw palmetto is an
effective anti-androgen. It acts in a similar way that Propecia does. Firstly it
lowers levels of DHT in the body by Blocking 5 alpha-reductase. Secondly Saw
Palmetto block receptor sites on cell membranes required for cells to absorb
DHT. Although no studies have been carried out on saw palmetto and its relation
to hair growth. Studies have been performed on the use of Saw palmetto in the
treatment of benign prostatic disease which similar to Androgenetic Alopecia
also depends on the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). All of the studies
that have been performed to date show that Saw palmetto is an effective
anti-androgen and has shown conclusively to be effective in the treatment of
benign prostate disease.
More and more people around the globe are
starting to use Saw palmetto in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia
and in the treatment of Androgenetic alopecia. One may assume from this that
since Saw palmetto is an effective anti-androgen and is used in the treatment of
prostatic disease then it may also be effective in the treatment of Androgenetic
Some studies have shown that saw palmetto may
have the same effect as the drug Finasteride in treating hair loss and prostate
enlargement diseases. It has been suggested that both hair loss and prostate
disease are related to the hormone DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) which is formed
when the enzyme 5-alpha reductase interacts with the male hormone testosterone.
Finasteride works as an 5-alpha reductase
inhibitor. It reduces the amount of 5-alpha reductase in our body and thereby
reduces the formation of DHT, which is the main cause for hair loss and
prostatic disease. DHT is formed when 5-alpha reductase interacts with the male
hormone testosterone. DHT is a derivate of testosterone but is many times more
potent. Hair follicles that are sensitive to DHT tend to fall off when exposed
to the hormone.
Finasteride is marketed as Proscar® (5 mg
finasteride) or Propecia™ (1 mg finasteride) by the Merck & Co. Both Proscar and
Propecia are oral medication and has been approved by the FDA in the United
States. Proscar is usually prescribed for people with benign prostate
enlargement. Propecia was approved by the FDA in December 1997 as the first ever
anti-baldness pill. Both Proscar and Propecia are available by prescription
Since both hair loss and prostatic disease are
related to DHT, many suggest that Saw Palmetto will also be effective in
treating people with hair loss by reducing the amount of DHT in our body and
around the hair follicles. Although there is no formal study or testing to
confirm the effectiveness of Saw Palmetto in treating hair loss, many companies
are already preparing topical hair lotions that are formulated with Saw
Saw Palmetto Extract for Hirsutism
Women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) tend to have
higher levels of testosterone and DHT than other women. One of the most
troubling symptoms of women with PCOS is hirsutism (too much hair, in the wrong
places). Hirsutism is thought to be mostly due to excessive levels of androgenic
hormones. Examples of androgens are testosterone, androstenedione, and DHEA.
Testosterone is the main androgen we’re concerned about. It’s
normal for men to have a lot of testosterone and for women to have some.
Actually, testosterone is not the problem, it's the fact that in both men and
women, testosterone is converted into a more potent hormone called DHT
(dihydrotestosterone). DHT is the hormone in your skin that stimulates
hirsutism, which is male pattern hair growth. If you can reduce DHT, you may be
able to reduce hirsutism (hair growing where you don't want it) or male pattern
hair loss (restoring hair where you do want it). Testosterone is converted into
DHT by an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. 5-alpha-reductase is inhibited by saw
palmetto, and thus less DHT is produced and hirsutism may be reduced.
Saw palmetto appears to reduce DHT in three different ways:
- Inhibits DHT production;
- Inhibits the binding of DHT to its cell receptors;
- Promotes the breakdown of DHT.
Saw palmetto may be helpful in another way. A high level of
estrogen may inhibit the elimination of DHT. Some women with PCOS have estrogen
levels that are too high. It is reported to have an anti-estrogenic effect, thus
helping with the removal of DHT.
There have been many studies of men with testosterone disorders
that demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of saw palmetto. There aren’t yet
any studies of hirsute PCOS women. However, naturopathic physicians using these
herbs for PCOS are seeing consistently favorable results.
Side Effects and Precautions
No significant side effects have been noted in clinical trials
with this herbal extract, except for rare headache or stomach upset if taken on
an empty stomach. Because of possible hormonal activity, it is not recommended
for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
The active extracts of Saw Palmetto have
alpha-adrenergic blocking activity that may alter the effects of these
medications: Prazosin, Terazosin, Doxazosin Mesylate, Tamsulosin. It may
have an additive effect if taken with anti-androgen drugs that reduce the levels
of male sex hormones, such as finasteride (Prosca, Propecia) or flutamide (Eulexin).
In theory, it could interfere with birth control pills or hormone replacement
therapy in women. If you're taking any of these drugs, check with your doctor or
naturopathic physician before taking saw palmetto.