Saw palmetto is a palm plant. The plant’s berries can boost prostate health, regulate hormone levels, and stop hair loss in men. Saw palmetto can also provide other health benefits, including improved urinary function.
Here are 4 health benefits of saw palmetto supplements.
1. May Increase Testosterone Levels
Saw palmetto is commonly used by people who naturally seek to increase testosterone levels. Regulating testosterone levels can affect various health aspects, including the composition of the body, sex drive, mood, and cognition (1).
Testosterone levels decrease with age, and some research has shown that low testosterone levels may lead to conditions such as heart disease. Saw palmetto works by reducing the 5α-R activity to an enzyme that transforms testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) (2, 3).
One test-tube study found that the benefits of saw palmetto extract in the conservation of testosterone levels was equivalent to steroid finasteride. Finasteride is a steroid drug used to treat hair loss and BPH by reducing 5α-R activity in the body (4).
Another 40-men study found that saw palmetto treatment decreased DHT levels after 6 months by 32 percent, showing that saw palmetto was successful in controlling testosterone levels (5).
2. Prevents Hair Loss
Hair loss is a common condition a variety of factors can cause it, including genetics, certain medical conditions, hormonal changes, and medication use such as stimulants (6).
However, saw palmetto regulate hormones and prevent hair loss. As it is shown in the above study, saw palmetto can help block the 5-alpha-reductase (5α-R) activity.
The 5-alpha-reductase (5α-R) enzyme converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Thus, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) hormone is responsible for hair loss.
As a result, saw palmetto can prevent hair loss by reducing hair follicle uptake of DHT, which decreases its ability to bind to specific receptors of hormones (7).
3. May Improve Prostate Health
The prostate is a small gland in males, which maintains sperm health. It is located between the bladder and the penis. Some research suggests saw palmetto may support prostate health and may help prevent problems such as BPH cancer of the prostate (10).
One test-tube study showed that palmetto berry extract may decrease prostate cancer cell growth. Another test-tube study found that saw palmetto prevented the spread and development of prostate cancer cells by deactivating specific cancer receptors (11, 12).
Other humans and animal studies show that it can also be effective in reducing urinary symptoms and BPH-related inflammation. But some studies do not correlate saw palmetto benefits to a lower risk of prostate cancer. Therefore, they consider it unsuccessful in reducing BPH symptoms (13, 14).
4. Improves Urinary Tract Function
Symptoms of the urinary tract are common among older men. It may include problems such as incontinence and urination difficulty (15).
Saw palmetto can ease urinary symptoms associated with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) a condition that causes prostate gland enlargement and leads to decreased urine flow.
A 12-week study of 92 men found that taking two capsules daily of Prostataplex, a mixture of herbal supplements that include saw palmetto, helped improve the symptoms of BPH-related urinary tract (16).
Likewise, another study in 85 men over the age of 45 found that treatment with 160 mg of saw palmetto twice daily decreased symptoms of the urinary tract, increasing the flow of urine, and improved overall quality of life after 6 months (17).
However, we need more research to determine whether saw palmetto in the general population can also improve urinary tract function, including those without prostate problems.
Saw palmetto is widely available in an alternate form. Adding it to your daily routine is easy. These supplements come in unique forms such as capsules, soft gel, or tablets.
It is often combined with other ingredients, such as pumpkin seed extract, to help improve prostate health. It can also be found less common in the form of roasted, dried, liquid extract, or powdered tea.
The studies are carried out using 320 mg daily saw palmetto, also split into two doses.
Possible Side Effects
Saw palmetto is safe and has very few side effects associated with it. In research studies, headache, dizziness, vomiting, and constipation are some of the most common side effects of saw palmetto.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, for instance, should avoid taking saw palmetto because it can affect hormone levels.
Saw palmetto may not be suitable for those taking hormone replacement therapy or hormonal contraceptives. To measure its potential effects, we need further research.
Saw palmetto may also interfere with blood-thinning drugs, which may increase the risk of bleeding.
If you have any underlying conditions, such as taking other drugs, pregnant or breastfeeding, be sure to consult with your health care provider before adding a saw palmetto supplement into your routine.
The Bottom Line
Saw palmetto contain many health benefits. Research shows that saw palmetto can help increase testosterone levels, improve the health of the prostate. In addition, it reduces inflammation, avoids hair loss, and improves the function of the urinary tract. Some studies, however, have reported mixed results on its efficacy. To understand how saw palmetto could affect health, we need a large-scale human research.