Saw palmetto is a very popular plant extract used as a treatment for hair loss, among other things.
Featured as the star ingredient in a variety of supplements, shampoos, serums, oils and conditioners, most of its popularity stems from anecdotes rather than scientific evidence. And herein lies one of the biggest issues with saw palmetto for hair loss.
Despite some promising research on its effectiveness for different types of hair loss, there’s simply not enough evidence to make any definitive conclusions.
False and deceptive marketing is a huge problem when it comes to hair loss supplements. So, you have to take many of the claims with a grain of salt.
What Is Saw Palmetto?
Saw palmetto (serenoa repens) is a type of palm tree that is native to the southeastern United States. Medicinal extracts are obtained from dark berries it grows.
Around 90% of it is just fatty acids and sterols. However, it also contains beta-carotene, poly-carbohydrates and flavonoids.
Over the years, this plant has been used for:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (improving urinary symptoms)
- Reducing cough
- Chronic pelvic pain syndrome
- Chronic bronchitis
- Increasing sperm volume
- Improving sex drive
- Prostate cancer
- Thyroid disorders
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Boosting hair growth
This list is not exhaustive. However, there have only been a few (not as significant) animal and human studies conducted on its various use.
In short, there’s not enough scientific evidence to recommend saw palmetto as a primary course of treatment for anything.
Does Saw Palmetto Grow Hair?
Saw palmetto is believed to help with hair growth because of its anti-androgenic properties. It’s suggested that it blocks the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT is the hormone that plays a major role in the development of pattern hair loss. Therefore, by blocking the conversion of testosterone into its by-product, it has the potential to stop hair miniaturisation and permanent loss.
Additionally, according to a review published in Skin Appendage Disorders, saw palmetto also negatively affects the ability of the androgen receptors to bind with DHT by almost 50%.
Keep in mind that the sensitivity of the DHT receptors is also responsible for pattern hair loss. So, essentially, in theory, saw palmetto can kill two birds with one stone.
But it goes even further than that. Because research also suggests that saw palmetto converts DHT to a steroid. So, saw palmetto is believed to work in different ways to help stop hair loss and grow hair.
Some also propose that saw palmetto has an anti-inflammatory effect (because it’s high in antioxidants), which can also help the hair grow.
According to a study published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, the “liposterolic extract” and “beta sitosterol” in saw palmetto are thought to help with androgenetic alopecia. However, some studies also show that it helps with telogen effluvium.
Despite that, there are a lot of questions about the effectiveness of this plant extract for hair loss. For instance, the review published in Skin and Appendage Disorders pointed out a lot of problems with the studies on saw palmetto.
They had confounding or research biases, issues with the methodology, small sample sizes, and a lack of control groups, among other things.
Therefore, much of the research on saw palmetto for hair loss isn’t statistically significant or reliable enough to make a definitive claim.
Does Saw Palmetto Cause Hair Loss?
There are a few anecdotal reports of saw palmetto causing hair loss. While there’s no scientific evidence that suggests it causes hair loss, it may have the potential to do so.
According to WebMD, saw palmetto can decrease the oestrogen levels in the body. And low oestrogen has been linked to thinning and hair loss (as seen after menopause). So, a hormonal imbalance may cause hair loss.
Still, if you’re experiencing hair loss while taking or applying saw palmetto, you should first consult a medical professional. It would be better to get a consult before you even start using this plant extract.
Keep in mind that hair loss can occur due to a variety of reasons. It’s possible that your hair loss is occurring due to a completely different reason.
Saw Palmetto Dosage For Hair Loss
Typically, the recommended dosage for saw palmetto is 320mg/day. When taken orally, it’s better to take it after having something to eat. Otherwise, it can cause some digestive issues.
As far as the topical application of the ingredient is concerned, it can vary depending on the product. For instance, in shampoos, you might be recommended daily usage. However, if you’re using a serum, you might be recommended to apply it just twice or so a week.
There’s no saying when you’ll see results. Some claim that the benefits of saw palmetto for hair loss become visible after a few months. But, again, there’s not enough evidence to suggest that it starts working after a certain amount of time.
Benefits Of Saw Palmetto
The following benefits of saw palmetto have been suggested among men and women:
Saw Palmetto Benefits For Men
There are some studies that suggest the benefits of saw palmetto for men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). But the results are mixed.
According to a review published in the National Journal of Andrology, saw palmetto can help with BPH and even prostate cancer.
Additionally, an animal model study published in Urology also suggests that saw palmetto can treat or even prevent erectile dysfunction.
Of course, saw palmetto has also been researched for the treatment of male pattern hair loss.
In a study published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, researchers compared the efficacy of saw palmetto against finasteride (because it also blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone).
Males with androgenetic alopecia were divided into two groups. One group took 320mg of saw palmetto every day for 24 months. And the other group took 1mg of finasteride every day for 24 months.
In the end, finasteride resulted in hair growth in 68% of the patients and saw palmetto in just 38% of the patients.
So, while it may help, there are better (and proven) alternative treatments that you can consider for your hair loss.
Saw Palmetto Benefits Female
Saw palmetto for women has also been considered quite beneficial. It is believed to help with:
- Lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Balancing hormones
- Female pattern hair loss
Again, there’s not enough evidence to suggest that saw palmetto actually helps with any of these.
A few of these “benefits” have only become popular through anecdotal reports. For instance, on acne, there’s no scientific research that shows saw palmetto can help.
Women are also advised against using saw palmetto while they’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Saw Palmetto And Hair Loss Treatment
There’s not enough evidence on the use of saw palmetto as a treatment for hair loss. While it’s considered safe, if you want to try it, you should consider talking to your doctor first.
That’s because it can interfere with other drugs, such as birth control pills, NSAIDs, or blood thinners. According to WebMD, it’s also contraindicated for individuals who have uterine fibroids, hypertension, or diarrhoea.
It should also be avoided if there’s an increased risk of bleeding. For instance, if you’re planning to get a hair transplant in Istanbul (you can see the results in hair transplant Turkey before and after gallery) while on saw palmetto supplementation, you’ll be advised to discontinue them. They’ll increase the risk of bleeding during surgery and recovery.
Apart from the risk of bleeding, it can also cause some side effects, such as:
- Stomach pain
- Gynecomastia (enlarged breasts)
According to research published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, self-medication also poses the “risk of missing early detection of prostate cancer.”
Therefore, before you consider trying this treatment, make sure to consult a board-certified medical professional.
Saw Palmetto For Hair Loss Before And After
A few researches show the benefits of saw palmetto for hair loss in combination with other drugs.
Considering that both these patients received finasteride and galenic lotion (which contains minoxidil, among other things), hair growth can’t be entirely attributed to saw palmetto.
How To Take Saw Palmetto For Hair Growth?
Saw palmetto is commonly used in its supplement form. However, it can also be applied to the scalp topically.
You can buy saw palmetto oil for hair or shampoos, conditioners, serums, powders and lotions.
Even its teas are available. However, that is unlikely to be of any help with hair loss because fatty acids don’t dissolve in water.
It’s all easily available in the market, and it’s not too expensive either.
Keep in mind that many products are marketed as “best saw palmetto for hair loss,” but there’s not enough evidence to suggest that.
Does Saw Palmetto Prevent Hair Loss?
If saw palmetto blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, it may prevent hair loss. However, that would mainly help in the case of androgenetic alopecia.
And since the benefits of saw palmetto for that aren’t exactly well-established, it’s unlikely to be recommended as a preventative treatment.
Hair loss can be a very distressing problem. While experiencing it, many people turn to supplements for help. Among the many that are available in the market, saw palmetto is just one.
While there’s small (and promising) evidence that suggests its effectiveness for hair loss, it’s not enough to be used as a treatment for it.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, you should get in touch with a qualified medical professional. There are different surgical and non-surgical treatment options that you can choose from.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr Hassan Souied
How much saw palmetto should I take for hair loss?
The recommended dosage of saw palmetto for hair loss is 320mg/day. However, you should first talk to your doctor.
Is saw palmetto good for hair loss?
Research on the efficacy of saw palmetto for hair loss is quite limited. While it’s promising, it’s not enough to say that this plant extract is good for hair.
Does saw palmetto thicken hair?
There’s not enough evidence to suggest that saw palmetto can help thicken hair.
Does saw palmetto increase oestrogen?
According to WebMD, saw palmetto can decrease oestrogen levels in the body.
Can saw palmetto cause depression?
The hormone-like effects of saw palmetto may have the potential to affect your mental health.