Saw palmetto scientifically known as Serenoa repens or Sabal serrulate, is a plant used in herbal medicine. Saw palmetto supplements usually contain extracts of the fruit of the plant. Often used to fight hair loss in men, saw palmetto is also commonly used for conditions affecting the prostate health and balances hormone levels. It’s also associated with other benefits, including decreased inflammation and improved urinary function.
What is saw palmetto?
Saw palmetto, is a palm tree that is dwarf in nature native to the southeast regions of North America. Dark berries are obtained from saw palmetto tree which contain large seed. The saw palmetto fruit has long been used by Native Americans for its nutritional, diuretic, sedative, aphrodisiac, and cough-reducing properties. Nowadays, the berries are eaten whole or dried and used to make tea. Saw palmetto is dried and ground that can be purchased in capsule or tablet form. It’s widely available, including online, the most common form on the market is oily extracts of the fatty portions of the dried berries. These supplements contain 75–90% fats depending on the extraction method. They usually provide higher amounts of beneficial plant compounds like vitamin E and other antioxidants compared to the raw fruit.
Health benefits saw palmetto
- May support prostate health
The prostate is a small gland located between the bladder and the penis in men, which is responsible for maintaining sperm health. Some studies suggest that saw palmetto could support prostate health and may aid in preventing issues like BPH and prostate cancer. Saw palmetto may help treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) — a medical condition characterized by a slow, noncancerous yet abnormal enlargement of the prostate. BPH is common in older men, affecting up to 75% of men in their 70s. If left untreated, the prostate can enlarge to the point of interfering with the ability to properly empty the bladder. However, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
- Improves urinary tract function
Urinary tract symptoms are common among older men and can include issues like incontinence and difficulty urinating. Saw palmetto may improve urinary symptoms associated with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) — a condition that causes an enlargement of the prostate gland and results in decreased urine flow. A study found that treatment with 160 mg of saw palmetto twice daily reduced lower urinary tract symptoms, increased urine flow, and improved overall quality of life after 6 months. Still, more studies are needed to determine whether saw palmetto may also improve urinary tract function in the general population, including those without prostate issues.
- May reduce male pattern baldness
Saw palmetto may help prevent hair loss in men and women known as male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness, it is also known as androgenic alopecia. It works by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an androgen-type hormone believed to cause this form of hair loss. Higher levels of androgen hormones like DHT are thought to shorten the hair growth cycle and lead to the growth of shorter and thinner strands of hair. While the studies on saw palmetto’s effect on hair loss is limited. However more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
- May decrease inflammation
Saw palmetto contains the antioxidants epicatechin and methyl gallate — compounds that prevent damage to cells, decrease inflammation, and protect against chronic disease. Various studies show that saw palmetto may have anti-inflammatory properties, which could be beneficial in treating certain conditions. However, these results are promising, additional studies are needed to determine how saw palmetto may impact inflammation in humans.
- May help regulate testosterone levels
Saw palmetto is regularly used by men looking to boost testosterone levels naturally. Regulating testosterone levels can influence several aspects of health, including body composition, sex drive, mood, and cognition. Testosterone levels decline with age, and some research shows that low levels of testosterone could contribute to conditions like heart disease. Saw palmetto supplement decreases the activity of 5α-R — an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), another sex hormone, to help preserve testosterone levels in the body.