Originally used by Seminole Native Americans in the southeastern region of the United States, saw palmetto is now one of the most widely purchased herbal supplements today. It’s typically used by men, as saw palmetto is known to help with men’s health issues such as hair loss and prostate health. Not many people realize, however, that there are plenty of benefits of saw palmetto for women, too. Let’s take a look at how saw palmetto can improve your health, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman.
What is Saw Palmetto?
Saw palmetto is also known by its scientific name, Serenoa repens. It is a type of fan palm that usually grows together in clumps and it primarily grows along the Gulf Coast of the United States. The health benefits of saw palmetto come from its berries, or drupe fruit. Saw palmetto extract is derived from these berries and is widely available over the counter in capsule or tincture forms. Saw palmetto is also an ingredient in a number of prescription medications commonly prescribed by doctors in Europe.
Saw Palmetto and Your Hormones
While saw palmetto may help men and women in slightly different ways, one of the main reasons the herb is so beneficial is due to the way it balances hormones. An enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase is responsible for converting testosterone into DHT, or dihydrotestosterone. Too much DHT can contribute to health issues in both men and women. (2)
Therefore, many of the health benefits of saw palmetto for both women and men can be attributed to its inhibition of DHT. This goes to show how important hormone regulation is for many aspects of our health.
Saw Palmetto for Men
As saw palmetto has been growing in popularity due its effectiveness in treating men’s health issues, it’s likely that you’re already aware of at least a few of these benefits. For those still unfamiliar with the herb, though, let’s take a look at why you might want to consider taking saw palmetto supplements if you’re a man. Especially if you’re approaching middle age or beyond. Then further below, we’ll go into the benefits of saw palmetto for women.
Saw Palmetto Improves Prostate Health
The prostate is an important organ for men, as it is one of the main organs responsible for semen production. Though the prostate is typically the size of a walnut, it’s not unusual for the prostate to swell in size in older men, especially those over the age of 50.
Some symptoms of an enlarged prostate include trouble with urination, as a larger prostate can interrupt urine’s flow between the bladder and the urethra. This can cause the bladder to contract more frequently than it needs to, resulting in a feeling of constantly needing to urinate. (3)
Over a period of time, an enlarged prostate can result in even more negative health consequences like urinary tract infections or bladder stones.
It’s widely believed that an enlarged prostate is caused by too much DHT in the body. As mentioned, saw palmetto is known to inhibit DHT production. That’s why it’s become a very widely used remedy for an enlarged prostate and other associated health problems related to the urological system.
Saw Palmetto Helps With Hair Loss
Another issue plaguing men which is caused by too much DHT is hair loss. It should be no surprise, then, that many men are turning to saw palmetto due its role in reducing the amount of DHT in the body. Unfortunately, though, saw palmetto’s effectiveness at treating hair loss is not as widely proven as its usefulness for prostate health.
Some men have reported little to no results after long periods of saw palmetto supplementation. On the other hand, quite a few men have also reported that their hair grew back thicker and denser thanks to saw palmetto.
Though the verdict may still be out on saw palmetto’s role in hair loss prevention, there are few side effects associated with the herb and it’s also very affordable. Before opting for expensive prescription hair loss medications or shampoos, why not give saw palmetto a try to see if it works for you? Saw palmetto extract, in fact, is one of the ingredients in many hair loss products anyway.
Saw Palmetto for Women
There are plenty of potential uses of saw palmetto for women. Especially older women and those suffering from certain hormone-related issues.
Saw Palmetto Helps Prevent Hirsutism
Some women suffer from a condition known as hirsutism, in which unwanted hair grows in areas such as the face or abdomen to varying degrees. Again, saw palmetto’s effectiveness at treating this issue is related to the way it binds to 5-alpha reductase, thus helping balance the hormones. (4)
Saw Palmetto Helps Prevent Hair Loss in Women, Too
Men aren’t the only ones who worry about hair loss. Some women, especially as they age, also experience thinning hair or occasional patches of baldness. In this situation, saw palmetto is just as helpful for women as it is for men, for exactly the same reasons.
Saw Palmetto is Beneficial for Menopausal Symptoms
Saw palmetto can benefit women suffering from menopausal symptoms by working to prevent the weakening of uterine or vaginal tissue. It can also help strengthen urinary organs in women, too. It’s also believed to help balance estrogen levels in older women as well as increase libido. (5)
Saw Palmetto May Help Regulate Ovulation
According to Natural Fertility Info, saw palmetto may “help stimulate suppressed ovulation by promoting healthy testosterone levels and encouraging the body to release luteinizing hormone (LH) which is the hormone that causes ovulation to occur.” (6) Consider a dosage of around 4 to 6 drops in tincture form if you’re taking saw palmetto for ovulation. (7)
Saw Palmetto Helps Fight Acne
Sure, acne effects both men and women, but acne in women is more likely to be caused by too much DHT. Too much DHT in women is known to result in more oily skin, which can eventually result in acne. Women suffering from acne may want to look into saw palmetto supplementation for clearer skin, but it may take a couple of weeks before any improvement becomes apparent. (8)
In addition to these ailments, saw palmetto is also believed to help women with polycystic ovarian syndrome and also with maintaining regular menstruation cycles.
What Kind of Saw Palmetto Extract Works Best?
It appears that not all saw palmetto extract is created equal, as there are concerns regarding inconsistent potency and quality, sometimes even among a single brand. This can be attributed to things like the ripeness of the berries at the time of harvest or improper extraction methods. (9)
Therefore, it can be difficult to recommend one particular type of saw palmetto extract. You may want to read through the reviews of the Amazon best sellers to see what people have said about each particular brand.
Be aware that some of the dosage amounts are very high in the list linked above. It’s best to avoid the varieties that come in 500mg capsules (see below).
For women: Women suffering from one of the issues mentioned above might want to try a dosage of 160mg of standardized extract a day.
For men: The general recommended dosage for men is around 320mg daily for help with issues such as BHP (enlarged prostate). However, if your prostate is already quite enlarged then you may want to take three doses of 320 mg every day for up to four months. Be sure to consult with your doctor about what amount is right for you.
Men want to be especially careful with getting too carried away, as having some DHT is still good for you.
Potential Side Effects of Saw Palmetto
Saw palmetto is not known to have any serious side effects. Some reported issues include upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea. To prevent potential problems, it’s best to consume saw palmetto supplements together with food.
Also be aware that saw palmetto extract may interact negatively with certain prescription medications. If you’re taking other types of medication, definitely consult with your physician before consuming saw palmetto supplements.
There’s still a lot of research that has yet to be done on saw palmetto. For example, there have been much fewer studies based around saw palmetto for women in comparison to men. This is despite the fact that there seems to be plenty of potential for saw palmetto when it comes to a wide variety of women’s issues.
In regards to supplementation for men, there seems to be much debate on exactly how saw palmetto effects regular testosterone, and not just DHT. While some claim saw palmetto will help increase muscle mass in athletes, others warn that long-term usage may have the opposite effect.
Furthermore, others point out that healthy men do not want to mess with their DHT levels. Maintaining a certain amount of DHT is perfectly normal and vital for men’s energy levels and libido. Therefore, until we know more, saw palmetto for men is perhaps best left for specific issues such as prostate health and hair loss.