Saw palmetto is believed to be an effective natural ingredient that can help to support hair growth. Learn more about how it may help to reduce hair loss below.
Studies on the effects of saw palmetto on hair loss still remain limited, and more research is necessary to determine how effective it is and optimal standards for administration. However, existing research is promising.
In one placebo-controlled double-blinded study, men between the ages of 23 and 64 suffering from mild to moderate androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness) were provided either a placebo or 200 mg 85-95% saw palmetto extract and 50mg beta-sitosterol. Investigators found that 60% of the men given saw palmetto extract and beta-sitosterol had improved hair growth compared to 11% of the men receiving a placebo.1
In one study that was presented at a cosmetic dermatology conference, 34 men and 28 women were broken up into three groups to test shampoo, lotion, and dietary supplements enriched with saw palmetto extract. Researchers used various evaluation methods, including computerized analyses of the scalp and macroscopic photos, recorded before, during, and after the three-month study.
Results showed that the group that had used saw palmetto enriched lotion, shampoo, and pills showed a 35 percent increase in in hair number and density and a 67 percent decrease in superficial sebum. The third group which used saw palmetto lotion and shampoo and pills without saw palmetto had a 20 percent increase in hair number and mass. The group that used all 3 products without saw palmetto had no improvements in hair growth.2
From this study it would be reasonable to assume that using more products with saw palmetto would be better for hair loss. However, this study has not been published in a peer reviewed journal. It was only presented at a conference. Studies on saw palmetto for hair loss are limited but promising.
DrFormulas offers a line of saw palmetto enriched supplements, shampoos, conditioners, and hair loss treatments for hair growth.
How Does Saw Palmetto Work for Hair Loss?
Hair loss comes in a variety of forms, but it is mainly caused by excess dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. DHT is an androgen hormone that is necessary in normal levels, but excess DHT can cause hair follicles to shrink, resulting in shortened hair growth periods. This can normally be treated by finasteride, a DHT blocker.
Saw palmetto is similar to finasteride in that it also inhibits DHT, but their mechanics and modes of operation are different. Studies show that finasteride effectively blocks DHT production throughout the entire body. That means reduced DHT levels in blood and other tissues, and not just in the scalp. Saw palmetto has been shown to have a more localized effect on DHT. Saw palmetto inhibits DHT production only in tissues. The more localized action of saw palmetto extracts may allow for safer use and fewer side effects compared to finasteride.3
In one study, men with benign prostatic hyperplasia, a common condition caused by excess DHT, were given finasteride, a saw palmetto herbal blend, or a placebo control. While results of this study did find that finasteride was effective, inhibiting DHT in prostate tissues by 80 percent, saw palmetto was found to reduce prostate DHT levels in prostate tissues 32 percent. Placebo groups saw no change in their DHT levels.4
Another study looked at the effects of long-term treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia with a branded saw palmetto extract. The study evaluated the regional distributions and concentrations of androgens and epidermal growth factors in the prostate. Results of the study showed statistically significant reductions of DHT in the prostate along with increased testosterone values.5
These studies demonstrated that saw palmetto can effectively lower DHT levels in tissues. Other studies have demonstrated that saw palmetto does not influence DHT levels in the blood which could explain why it has less side effects than prescription DHT blockers.6
Saw Palmetto Blocking DHT Mechanism
One study proposed that saw palmetto’s DHT blocking abilities to be only at the localized and not systemic level. Saw palmetto extract is are the concentrated oils of active ingredients from the saw palmetto berry. Oils naturally like to group together with other oils.
Biochemically, this means that saw palmetto extracts are selective and more likely to bind to the oily lipid membranes of cells. The enzyme 5-alpha reductase which converts testosterone to DHT is also membrane-bound.
Since both saw palmetto and 5-alpha reductase enzyme both tend to aggregate in the cell membrane, saw palmetto oil can effectively inhibit this membrane-bound enzyme, which would explain its ability to reduce DHT levels in tissues.7
There is histologic evidence for this. In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, 44 men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia were given either a placebo or a saw palmetto herbal blend. Researchers evaluated blood chemistry, prostate volumetrics, prostate biopsies, and routine clinical measures.
By the end of the six-month study, results showed a statistically significant decrease in prostate epithelium from 17.8 percent to 10.7 percent in the group that had taken the saw palmetto herbal blend. Prostate epithelium generally enlarges in the presence of DHT.
Results also showed an increase in atrophic glands from 25.2 percent prior to the study to 40.9 percent after the study in the saw palmetto herbal blend group. The lack of DHT causes glands to be less active and more atrophic.8 This means that saw palmetto is able to block DHT and support normal prostate tissue.
Hair loss is another condition caused by excess DHT and saw palmetto may be a helpful natural remedy for it. Studies have demonstrated that hair growth pills, shampoos, and conditioners enriched with saw palmetto are better than products without saw palmetto for hair growth.
HairOmega with Saw Palmetto