Saw palmetto supplements (or Serenoa repens , a plant native to North America) are generally used to maintain prostate and urinary tract health, but they gained prominence on the internet for a different purpose: to combat hair loss (more specifically in cases of androgenic alopecia ).
Its promise is to be a natural alternative to finasteride , one of the main drugs used to treat genetic baldness. The main advantage would be to achieve effective results such as those obtained with the drug, but with much less risk of side effects that occur to so many people in the treatment of this type of alopecia.
What caught our attention is that, beyond popular practice, there are already studies that give force to this promise.
Let’s take a look at what saw palmetto actually offers both in terms of risks and benefits, and investigate whether it may even be a good alternative natural remedy for hair loss.
What is saw palmetto?
Saw palmetto is the common name for a small American palm whose scientific name is Serenoa Repens (also referred to in some sources as Serenoa Serrulata or Sabal Serrulata ). It produces small clusters of fruits that darken when ripe: it is the extract of these partially dried fruits that is commonly found on the market.
What is it for?
Saw palmetto is popularly used for a wide variety of health conditions (from colds, bronchitis, asthma and headaches to diabetes and fertility and libido problems), although there is no solid scientific evidence on the efficacy of the product in such cases.
However, the main application of saw palmetto extract is related to the health of the prostate and the lower urinary tract (which involves the bladder and urethra). The product is considered the most popular natural treatment in the United States for benign prostatic hyperplasia (a condition associated with an enlarged prostate that can cause urinary problems), despite not being recognized as such by the Food and Drug Administration. US Drugs (FDA, the body that regulates the sale of drugs in the United States) – we will investigate this in a moment.
How does saw palmetto work?
Several studies have indicated that saw palmetto extract could inhibit the action of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase (which converts testosterone into DHT – we explain in this article how it interferes with baldness ), act as an androgen antagonist and estrogens (competing for hormone receptors in cells, as does the action of flutamide ) and have an anti-inflammatory function .
Some researchers mainly attribute these effects to the combination of various fatty acids (such as lauric acid, myristic acid and oleic acid) and phytosterols (beta-sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol) present in the extracts (according to this study , liquid extracts that contain the highest concentrations of these substances).
What we find intriguing is that some studies reported these good results with the use of saw palmetto as well as with finasteride (a drug frequently used in cases of benign prostatic hyperplasia, currently considered one of the main remedies to combat androgenic alopecia ).
The best part: Some of this research (links: 1 , 2 , 3 ) suggests that saw palmetto would be able to promote these benefits without causing significant changes in patients’ sexual function – a huge advantage considering that Many people avoid these drugs exactly because of these side effects.
Despite being one of the leading treatments currently available for treating genetic hair loss, finasteride is not very popular due to the side effects it can cause – to read our full article on this product, click here ).
However, while promising, the results to date are still considered insufficient to determine with certainty the efficacy of saw palmetto. Many of the product’s benefits were demonstrated in in vitro studies , but have not yet been replicated in vivo (directly in the body).
On the other hand, since there is no standardization in the production of extracts (each manufacturer has a different shape and the composition of the products can vary enormously), it cannot be said that the results obtained with a sample can be replicated by all varieties. available in the market.
Another point is that the focus of most studies is the effect observed on the prostate and lower urinary tract: however, there are many studies that investigate the action of the substance specifically on hair follicles or with topical formulations (which in theory could reduce the systemic absorption of the product, directing its action only to the hair of the treated areas) – one of the reasons why the addition of saw palmetto should not be allowed to formulas of cosmetics, perfumes and other articles for personal care.
Does saw palmetto really work?
In the various user opinions available on the internet, many say they have had positive effects with extracts of palm heart, both for conditions related to the prostate and urinary problems and as other cases (such as in the control of acne or sexual function ).
Regarding the effects on hair loss , the reports are controversial, we have seen several people who observed good results (including people who took the extract for another reason and who have also noticed the recovery of hair that had stopped growing since a long time ago) , but there are also many user reports that did not see any effect.
It is important that you remember that when we evaluate these types of testimonials, we cannot really determine which cases were due to the action of the product or a placebo effect, and that we do not know, for example, if people had other health problems that needed different treatments , so it is always good to review this information carefully.
Does saw palmetto have contraindications?
Although saw palmetto extract has been found to be quite safe in most studies, there are several important warnings to ask before using the product.
The American Urological Association (AUA) has issued a statement (deleted, but kept here forever) noting that several of the symptoms in the lower urinary tract are caused by serious diseases (including some potentially dangerous cancers ). Since saw palmetto can promote some improvement in these symptoms, the patient may not seek medical attention, which can delay diagnosis and treatment and greatly impair the chances of a cure.
Furthermore, the AUA statement says that as the composition of the extracts varies greatly, there is insufficient data to guarantee the safety of each individual state (especially considering the potential for drug interactions or effects on drugs). patients with other health problems).
With this information in mind, we recommend that you only use saw palmetto with the guidance of your doctor , and be sure to inform them of all medications, supplements and other products that you use regularly or have recently used, and any health problems. .
The recommendation is that all patients undergo a medical evaluation to rule out any suspicion of prostate cancer and problems in the urinary or renal tract before starting to use the product, and maintain regular medical surveillance throughout the treatment.
Forget the saying “what’s natural doesn’t hurt”: herbal medications should be treated with the same care and seriousness as everyone else, and they can cause serious side effects if used incorrectly.
In addition to reading the information on the product before buying it to identify the components to which you may have allergies or some type of hypersensitivity, it is important that you pay attention to some more specific restrictions:
- Saw palmetto is contraindicated in children and women (especially during pregnancy and lactation). Especially for those who use alert contraceptives , hormone replacement therapy or other treatments with hormones : as saw palmetto can interfere with the function of some hormones and reduce their action in the body, the effects of these drugs can be affected or need some dose adjustment.
- Who uses finasteride or other medications for benign prostatic hyperplasia should also inform the doctor before using saw palmetto, as the two substances can have similar effects.
- The product can also slow blood clotting and improve the effects of anticoagulant drugs (such as aspirin, diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, heparin, warfarin, among others, including natural products such as Gingko biloba, for example). Due to this effect, it is recommended to stop the use of saw palmetto weeks before undergoing procedures such as surgery , because there may be bleeding.
In short: do you have any health problems, are you going to undergo a medical procedure, are you taking medicines, pills, supplements, vitamins? Talk to your doctor before taking saw palmetto . Don’t have any of these restrictions? Talk to your doctor anyway.
What are the possible side effects of saw palmetto?
Saw palmetto can cause nausea, abdominal pain, stomach upset, constipation, and diarrhea (and in rare cases hypertension, decreased libido, impotence, headache, and urinary retention). Your doctor should be informed about any reaction that you present with the use of the product.
How to take it?
As the products have different presentations and concentrations, the use should be guided by the instructions of each manufacturer in the technical data sheet (your doctor may determine a different dose from that indicated on the package).
Where to buy it?
You can find saw palmetto at drugstores , pharmacies, and herbal and supplement stores . The online shops give you the opportunity to buy products without leaving home, but in this case it is necessary to calculate whether even with the price of transportation will be competitive with other options, check it out here .
- Saw Palmetto 3000mg | Helps maintain prostate health | Saw Palmetto Extract | 180 tablets | Simply Supplements
- Swanson – Saw Palmetto (Serenoa Repens) 540mg, 250 Capsules – Whole Berries Powder for Prostate Health (Sabal Palm, American Palm, Saw Palm – Whole Berries Powder Capsules)
- Saw Palmetto Serenoa Repens 450 mg 100 Capsules / Prostata Aphrodisiac
- Vitamins for Hair Growth with Biotin 10,000MCG for 6 months + Supply of 200 6mm tablets, the best supplement for hair loss, Best Beauty treatment for men and women – Complex with Biotin B7 Incite Nutrition better than shampoo, No 5000MCG capsules, healthy hair, nail growth and good for skin, made in the UK
- Saw Palmetto Extract 2500mg 90 Capsules – UK Manufactured – Saw Palmetto Hair Loss, Urinary Tract and Prostate Health Support Supplement for Men, Healthy Prostate Function in Men
- Sundown Naturals Saw Palmetto 450 mg, 250 Capsules by Sundown Naturals
- Natures Aid Saw Palmetto 500mg, 90 tablets. Suitable for Vegans .
How much does the Saw Palmetto supplement cost?
The prices of hearts of palm vary greatly depending on the type of extract (dry or fatty), the concentration of the product, the mixture with other components, the number of containers and the manufacturer (especially between domestic and imported).
We have seen formulas for approximate values of € 30 (30 capsules) to imported presentations of more than € 250 (600 capsules). Stores (physical and virtual) often make promotions and discounts, so it is important that you do your research before buying, although for that we have Amazon that we will always see the best prices in the market.
In the end, you must buy the product in the concentration measured by your doctor and the amount equivalent to the duration of your treatment. There is nothing to do based on price adjustments or any other criteria, okay? Did you find a cheaper version, mixed with other compounds or in a slightly different concentration than indicated? Talk to your doctor before buying the product and use it only if authorized.
Is saw palmetto worth using?
Although more studies are still needed for it to be recognized as a treatment for androgenic alopecia , saw palmetto is already prescribed by several doctors around the world in some cases, especially when there is no restriction on the use of finasteride .
The prospect of a more natural treatment, with a good safety profile and that can bring less serious side effects is quite encouraging, but it is essential that before trying saw palmetto you know that:
- Current studies are not considered 100% conclusive in relation to the benefits of the product for hair loss (that is, the efficacy of saw palmetto in these cases is not fully proven );
- The fact that it is a natural product does not mean that it is free of risks or contraindications , and therefore it should be treated with the same attention and care as any other medicine;
- The use of saw palmetto for hair loss is still considered off-label , so the responsibility for treatment rests entirely with the prescribing physician.
If you understand and agree to these conditions, the first step in starting saw palmetto treatment is to have a conversation with your doctor . Consider the pros and cons, state your concerns, clarify all your doubts before starting and commit to regularly monitoring your health during the period of use of the product.
After all, as promising as a new treatment may be, your health and safety should always be taken seriously and put first.
Kathie Sand always saw the world of beauty as the terrain on which to build her professional career, a goal that was clear to her when she was only 15 years old. Her great concern to expand knowledge led her to settle in Paris where she studied hand in hand with the best beauty professionals and with the most advanced techniques for skin care.