Hair loss is a big problem for pretty much every person (unless you win the genetics lottery). Unfortunately, this problem is often ignored and remains untreated. The lack of diagnosis and proper supplementation can contribute to complete hair loss. Luckily, you can find both natural and chemical additives on the market that can help prevent baldness and other related issues. One of the most used nutrients for this purpose is saw palmetto. What exactly is saw palmetto and what are its impressive benefits? You will find out everything about this incredible herb in the article below.
What is saw palmetto?
It’s a plant that belongs to the palm family and comes under many different names. Names such as the already mentioned saw palmetto, but also dwarf palm, sabal serrulata, and serenoa repens. It has been known in traditional medicine since the beginning of the 19th century. Researchers at that time observed that the indigenous people of Florida consumed it as a remedy for prostatic hyperplasia, problems with the testicles (swelling, atrophy), or even erectile dysfunction. These researchers then very quickly created its manograph and put saw palmetto on the market almost immediately.
You can easily find this plant in the Americas and Western India, but it is especially fond of wet, marshy areas. This is why in the USA it grows mainly in the southern states. These include Texas, Alabama, Florida, or North Carolina.
The most valuable component of this extract is the lipid-sterol fraction. As part of it, we distinguish triglycerides and phytosterols. Scientists suspect that it’s these phytosterols that possess such a powerful effect on male health issues.
The chemical composition of saw palmetto includes:
Fatty acids in the lipidosterol extract of saw palmetto:
Although we have known for a long time how saw palmetto can affect the body, the health benefits of this extract are still being studied. First of all, scientists are looking into what diseases and their symptoms they can treat with it. So far results of the research indicate that saw palmetto extract can be a very valuable supplement, especially for men.
The therapeutic properties of saw palmetto, however, focus mainly on the anti-androgenic effect. That’s because the extract of this plant contributes to the reduction of the level of enzymes responsible for the conversion of testosterone into DHT (especially the 5α-reductase enzyme). Increased DHT levels, in turn, can lead to infertility, hormonal failure of the male or female reproductive organs, as well as polycystic ovary syndrome.
A few words about the saw palmetto palm tree
Saw palmetto has the form of a palm that resembles a shrub and can grow up to 2 meters high or even up to 7.5 meters high in a form of a tree. It belongs to the long-lived plant species – some of them can live up to 700 years!
Saw palmetto palm tree blooms from April to July. It then produces small, white flowers that can be gathered in panicles in the axils of its leaves. They produce tiny, shiny fruits, initially green, and as they mature, they change their color to darker, almost black. These fruits are berries the size of olives with a single seed.
After drying, these berries are used as a medicinal substance. Interestingly enough, you can obtain the fruit intended for medical purposes only from wild palms. The plant itself is now a common landscape element, used, among others, by architects in seaside resorts.
Health benefits of saw palmetto
This inconspicuous, bushy palm tree hides a lot of valuable properties that can improve the functioning of our body and alleviate the symptoms of many diseases. Although we still have to wait for a bit more detailed research, there are already at least a few positive benefits of saw palmetto.
1. It can prevent hair loss
The saw palmetto’s anti-androgenic effect can significantly reduce hair loss, which is often associated with hormonal changes in women and men. They become more and more serious with age, which is why the onset of weakness and hair loss in women is often menopause. In men, DHT additionally slows down the growth of new hair. That’s why the ingredients of saw palmetto which block the production of this substance and can reduce the uptake of DHT by the hair follicles, are often considered a good supplement for alopecia.
In studies looking at the benefits of saw palmetto, researchers were especially interested in its effect on alopecia. Their results showed that the use of preparations containing the fruit extract of this plant gives real effects, both in terms of hair growth and increasing its density. That is why saw palmetto is already used today for hair, mainly in the form of cosmetics.
2. Has a positive effect on the prostate
Initially, prostatic hyperplasia may be asymptomatic. With time, however, men develop disturbing and, above all, troublesome issues of the urinary system. Issues such as difficulty urinating, nocturia, and urinary incontinence.
Prostatic hyperplasia is directly related to the increase in the level of DHT in the male body. This is why saw palmetto fruit extract, which blocks its production, can stop this disease process. Because the extract also has an anti-inflammatory effect, it can help to reduce swelling within the prostate. This, in turn, can eliminate symptoms related to urination in men.
More detailed research is still needed as the results obtained so far are often contradictory. Unfortunately, researchers are still unable to determine the main mechanisms of action of saw palmetto on the prostate. That’s why it shouldn’t be considered to be effective in every case. At least not until there’s more research on the topic.
As for the tests on saw palmetto, researchers’ opinions indicate that perhaps its anti-inflammatory properties and plant phytosterols contained in it reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. It’s also known that saw palmetto does not affect the level of the PSA antigen.
3. May affect testosterone levels
Hormones and their levels in the body have a large impact on its operation and our mood. One of the most important hormones in our body, especially in men, is testosterone. Fluctuations in its level can have a negative impact on the functioning of the body and cause various types of disorders.
Saw palmetto, on the other hand, has a significant influence on hormones. That’s precisely the reason why it’s often used by men. As I mentioned earlier, it’s thought to be a DHT blocker as it may reduce the activity of 5-alpha reductase that converts testosterone into this harmful substance. Moreover, its effectiveness in regulating the level of this hormone is often compared to that of finasteride. Finasteride is a prescription drug standardly prescribed to patients with testosterone fluctuations.
4. It can improve the functioning of the urinary tract
The substances that contain saw palmetto fruit may reduce the symptoms of dysuria, which often accompany prostate enlargement. New research shows that taking a supplement from this plant can help men fight urinary incontinence and voiding dysfunction in particular. Saw palmetto can also increase peak urine flow by up to 40% and is well tolerated by our body.
5. It can support sexual function in men
Very often saw palmetto is also recognized as a natural erection remedy. The truth is, however, that this plant mainly eliminates other problems in the male urogenital system that can cause disorders in the sexual sphere.
First of all, saw palmetto fruit regulates testosterone levels. This, in turn, is responsible for the proper production of sperm and the male libido. That’s why there is talk of how good saw palmetto is for potency. Additionally, the extract of this plant reduces the symptoms of prostate enlargement, especially those related to urination, which may cause erectile dysfunction.
Preparations containing saw palmetto
Currently, saw palmetto extract is available in the form of various preparations. This means we can choose to take it in a way that is most convenient for us. What products containing the extract of this plant are the most popular and what are they characterized by?
When it comes to products where saw palmetto is the most important ingredient, tablets are by far the most popular choice among men. Above all, they are easily accessible and convenient to take. The research conducted so far has also been based primarily on the use of saw palmetto orally. Just remember to take these tablets with meals as it boosts their absorption.
Natural saw palmetto tablets are a far better choice than a typical prescription drug, like finasteride mentioned earlier, which can usually cause far more side effects. Supplements of this type usually also contain ingredients that additionally reduce the ailments eliminated by the saw palmetto, such as L-arginine.
Even if we do not currently have to deal with any ailments that could be overcome by saw palmetto, it’s always worth using it conservatively. That’s because taking preparations containing the extract of this plant may also have other positive effects, like increased libido, which is the effect of an increase in testosterone levels.
Liquid saw palmetto is a great alternative for people who have trouble taking tablets or simply don’t want to. Oil from saw palmetto or its berries is absorbed faster because there is no problem with dissolving the capsule shell. What’s more, drops can also be added to drinks, although hot ones should be avoided so that its properties remain unchanged.
In the case of saw palmetto extract in this form, we can modify its doses to a greater extent and to get more benefits. It is especially important for people who intend to add it to cosmetics. At the same time, however, the active substances are less stable in this form. This forces a situation in which we usually have to use 10-15 drops of the product at a time, which is sometimes inconvenient.
Cosmetics containing saw palmetto for hair and skin are intended for topical use. These are mainly rubbing preparations that you’re supposed to keep on the skin for a long time.
When it comes to hair products limiting baldness, in which saw palmetto was used, the lotion is their most popular form. Cosmetics designed to eliminate skin problems, such as creams are good for acne, among others. The substances contained in this plant may locally affect the androgens responsible for the production of sebum, which contributes to the formation of acne. Reducing the amount of sebum and additionally the ability to regulate the level of hormones can significantly alleviate this issue.
It’s also worth adding that this plant is rich in fatty acids, such as lauric, linoleic, and linolenic acid. As a result, cosmetics containing it perfectly moisturize the skin and hair, and can also soothe irritations. Moreover, in this type of product, we usually find other ingredients that have a positive effect on the hair and skin.
Dosage – depending on the form of the product
The dosage of saw palmetto products to reap its incredible benefits may vary. In the case of supplements and fluids, the dose that seems to work best is around 160-320 mg.
When it comes to cosmetics, there is no specific data on this subject. The best solution is to consult a specialist, such as a trichologist. Of course, the most reasonable thing is to start with a slightly lower dose and gradually increase it when the reaction of our hair and skin to the product is positive.
Potential side effects and contraindications
It’s true that saw palmetto fruit and products containing it are considered healthy and safe for our body, but as in any other case, some people may experience side effects. Usually, however, they are associated with improper use or its overdose.
When it comes to products that contain saw palmetto, the side effects of their use may include:
- Intestinal problems.
It should also be emphasized that saw palmetto is not for everyone and there are some contraindications to its use. Since it affects the level of hormones, it is not intended for pregnant and breastfeeding women and those using contraceptive pills. Saw palmetto may also interfere with the effect of blood thinners (can increase bleeding after taking warfarin, for example).
Saw palmetto still needs some more careful examination, as not all its effects have been 100% confirmed. Having said that, preliminary test results clearly indicate that its use can positively affect our health, sex life, and the condition of the skin and hair. Saw palmetto is perfect evidence that treatment with natural ingredients can be as effective as synthetic medicines. That’s why it’s very much worth considering the use of this amazing plant, especially as men.