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Does Saw Palmetto Help Prevent or Reverse Hair Loss?


saw palmetto baldness cure The Saw Palmetto

What is Saw Palmetto? It's scientific name is Serenoa repens or Sabal serrulata and it is a type of small palm with large fan shaped leaves that is found growing in lowland areas and in the undergrowth of forests from the Mexican Border to Georgia. it was named for the botanist Sereno Watson.

The berries, which are the most common form of the herb used commercially, were a part of Native American medicine as well as part of the general diet.

Saw palmetto berries contain a high concentration of compounds known as phytosterols. These are thought to be responsible for the reduction of the baldness causing hormone DHT or Dihydrotestosterone. DHT is also thought to be responsible for BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia,) or enlarged prostate syndrome which is common in many men over 40.

The commercial drugs Propecia and Proscar, are used to treat baldness and enlarged prostate syndrome respectively. Propecia is just a smaller does of the drug Finasteride which is found in Proscar. Because Propecia inhibits the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which is converted in the body to DHT, which causes hair loss, it is effective against baldness. Because saw palmetto has a very similar effect on 5 alpha reductase it is thought that it could be effective against alopecia or male pattern baldness as well. Saw palmetto is available both in whole herb form, which consists of ground up berries, and standardized extracts which are guaranteed to contain a certain amount of phytosterols.

Extracts of saw palmetto contain more of the active ingredient thought to be responsible for fighting hair loss. Saw Palmetto Extract has been shown in numerous studies to work as an antiandrogen. Saw palmetto extract is the liposerolic extract of the Saw Palmetto fruit. Saw Palmetto has shown to effectively block the formation of DHT and is also believed to prevent the binding of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) to androgen receptors which are also found at the follicles. There are also topical treatments such as Revivogen that contain saw palmetto extract.

Studies On Topical Saw Palmetto Extracts

A study was recently conducted at the University Of Naples on a mixed group of 34 men and 28 women experiencing various degrees of baldness. Some subjects received oral and topical saw palmetto, some only topical and some a placebo.

At the end of the study subjects using the lotion and oral supplements containing saw palmetto extract had an average 35% increase in hair density compared to what was measured at the beginning of the study. The subjects in the lotion only group showed a 20% increase in hair density compared to the group using the placebo which saw no new growth. While this increase is not necessarily exciting, it does show that saw palmetto extract most likely reduces hair loss in some people.

Not Enough Studies On Saw Palmetto

Many sites on the internet as well as alternative healing books tout saw palmetto as a cure for baldness. There have been several small studies done on the effect of saw palmetto extract on male pattern baldness such as the one at the University of Naples.  The reason that more studies have not been conducted on saw palmetto is that there is little financial motivation to do so. Highly potent drugs such as Proscar and Propecia can be mass produced much cheaper than saw palmetto berries can be harvested and processed into standardized extracts. Why would a drug company want to spend millions on a clinical trial of a natural compound that is expensive to produce when a pharmaceutical equivalent exists that is proven to be effective and is cheap to produce.

There have been a number of studies conducted on the effect of saw palmetto extract on BPH. Most of these studies were done in Europe. They show that the effect on BPH from using saw palmetto was virtually identical to that of the drug Proscar. One would think that since both conditions are caused by the same enzyme that there would be a similar effect on baldness.

 "The systematic review of the clinical trials also showed that saw palmetto provided similar response as finasteride (Proscar) in terms of urine flow measures and urinary symptoms. A large, double-blind study (neither the patient nor the doctor knew which drug was used) involving 1,069 participants with moderate BPH was recently conducted with subjects treated with either saw palmetto or finasteride for six months. Similar efficacy was found between the two treatments in terms of self-rated quality-of-life scores and urinary symptom scores. The symptom score improved by 37% with saw palmetto and by 39% with finasteride; and the quality-of-life score improved by 69% with saw palmetto and by 73% with finasteride. Thus, it appears that the saw palmetto extract is more effective than placebo, and the extract is similar in effectiveness to finasteride for symptoms of BPH." Source:


Important Note

Thought some studies show saw palmetto to be effective against baldness others are inconclusive. One major study was done by the pharmaceutical company Merck and showed no reduction in serum DHT levels. Other researchers have argued that saw palmetto works by stopping the re-uptake of DHT into tissues such as the prostate and scalp and it does not matter if serum DHT is reduced. Saw Palmetto appears to work in a different way and because of this it takes longer to see results.

So, does saw palmetto cure baldness? There is some evidence that it could be a valuable part of a holistic, or multi pronged approach to the problem. Laser combs, Rogaine, Propecia and other baldness remedies might be considered in tandem. Rogaine for example does not reduce DHT, only increases circulation to the hair follicle. A plan of DHT reduction involving saw palmetto pills, topical solution or the drug finasteride may help you see more results from using Rogaine alone

Hopefully there will be more clinical trials of the effect of saw palmetto on male pattern baldness in the future.

Side Effects Of Saw Palmetto

Like any other herbal supplement there are some possible side effects to saw palmetto. Some users have reported bad breath, upset stomach, loss of sex drive, breast tenderness, constipation, nausea and diarrhea among other symptoms. Rare cases of liver inflammation, jaundice and depression have been reported however these symptoms have not been proven in any case studies to be a result of saw palmetto. The evidence of side effects of saw palmetto is as lacking as any evidence of benefits due to lack of clinical trials. Saw palmetto is used by millions of people around the world and is one of the most popular over the counter herbal supplements, however you should always consult your physician before taking any nutritional supplement, especially if you have any health conditions.

Propecia Results:

Below is a one year time lapse video of one person's success with the drug Propecia. Results are not from saw palmetto but It is worth noting the power that DHT blocking agents can have on hair growth;


For information on frontal hair loss see: Can Frontal Baldness Be Reversed?

The information in this article is editorialized and in no way should be a substitute for medical advice. Always consult with your physician before taking any supplement.




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