Saw Palmetto

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 following problems:

  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia
  • 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 alopecia.

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 only.

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 Palmetto.

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.

Drug Interactions, 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.

 

Nutrabio.com Products Containing DHA:  Prostate Guard, MenRx, ProTest, Folicor

 

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