How Saw Palmetto Works, Results, Usage, and Side Effects

Hair loss is a prevalent issue impacting people across various demographics, prompting the exploration of a myriad of treatment options, from medical interventions to natural remedies. Among these, saw palmetto has gained prominence as a natural approach to combating hair loss. Extracted from the fruit of the Serenoa repens palm, saw palmetto is primarily known for its potential to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone often implicated in androgenetic alopecia. Its rising popularity stems from its natural origins and the increasing interest in holistic, non-invasive treatment alternatives. This article aims to delve into the potential of saw palmetto in the realm of hair care, exploring the scientific basis for its use, its effectiveness, and how it can be incorporated into a routine for those seeking to address hair loss.

Bundle of berries from saw palmetto as a natural hair loss treatments

What Is Saw Palmetto?

Saw palmetto is a natural supplement often touted for its potential in treating hair loss. It’s derived from the fruit of the Serenoa repens palm, which is native to the southeastern United States. The primary mechanism by which saw palmetto is thought to combat hair loss lies in its ability to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase. This is an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High levels of DHT are linked to androgenetic alopecia, a common form of hair loss in both men and women. By potentially reducing DHT levels, saw palmetto is believed to slow or even reverse hair thinning and loss. While its efficacy in hair regrowth is a subject of ongoing research, it remains a favored option for those seeking natural alternatives to conventional hair loss treatments.

How Saw Palmetto Treats Hair Loss

Saw palmetto is believed to treat hair loss primarily through its action on certain hormones and enzymes. These hormones and enzymes are linked to hair thinning and baldness. The key aspects of how saw palmetto might influence hair loss include:

  • DHT Inhibition: The primary mechanism through which saw palmetto is thought to combat hair loss is by inhibiting the activity of 5-alpha-reductase. This enzyme is responsible for converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone associated with androgenetic alopecia, a common form of hair loss. By reducing the conversion to DHT, saw palmetto may help in slowing down the hair loss process.
  • Reduction of Hair Follicle Miniaturization: DHT is known to contribute to the miniaturization of hair follicles, which leads to thinner, weaker hairs and eventually hair loss. By limiting DHT production, saw palmetto may reduce this miniaturization and thus help in preserving hair thickness and density.
  • Anti-inflammatory Properties: Saw palmetto also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation of the scalp and hair follicles can contribute to hair loss, so by mitigating inflammatory processes, saw palmetto can potentially support a healthier scalp environment conducive to hair growth.
  • Hormonal Balance: By influencing the levels and activity of certain hormones related to hair growth and loss, saw palmetto might help in creating a more favorable hormonal balance for maintaining hair health.

Empirical Evidence

Empirical evidence and studies on the efficacy of saw palmetto in treating hair loss are limited and mixed, but there are some key research efforts that have explored its potential:

  • Small-Scale Clinical Trials: Some small-scale clinical trials have indicated positive effects of saw palmetto on hair growth. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2002) reported that 60% of participants who took extract experienced improved hair growth.
  • Comparison with Pharmaceutical Treatments: A few studies have compared it with conventional hair loss treatments like finasteride. For example, a study in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology (2017) found that saw palmetto was less effective than finasteride, but it still demonstrated some improvement in hair growth.
  • Research on 5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibition: The potential of it in inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, thereby reducing DHT levels, has been a subject of interest. Research published in the journal Prostate (2001) showed that saw palmetto effectively inhibits this enzyme, supporting the hypothesis that it can be beneficial for hair loss.
  • Combination Treatments: There is also research into the efficacy of it as part of combination therapies. A study in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology (2012) looked at the effect of a topical formulation containing saw palmetto, which showed positive results in treating male pattern baldness.


User-reported results of using saw palmetto for hair loss vary, reflecting a range of experiences shared through personal accounts, online forums, and product reviews. Some of the common observations made by users include:

  • Reduced Hair Loss: Many users report a noticeable decrease in hair shedding after incorporating it into their regimen. They often attribute this to the supplement’s potential DHT-blocking properties.
  • Hair Regrowth: Some individuals claim to have experienced regrowth of hair, particularly in areas where thinning was prominent. However, these outcomes are often gradual and require consistent use over several months.
  • Slower Progression of Balding: Users, especially those dealing with male or female pattern baldness, frequently mention that it seems to slow down the progression of balding, although it might not completely reverse the condition.
  • Improved Scalp Health: Some users observe improvements in overall scalp health, including reduced scalp irritation and dandruff, which they attribute to the anti-inflammatory properties of it.

How to Use Saw Palmetto

Using saw palmetto for hair loss can be approached in various ways, as it’s available in multiple forms. Here’s a guide on how to incorporate it into your routine:

  • Oral Supplements:
    • Itis widely available in capsule or tablet form. The recommended dosage can vary, but it’s commonly between 160 to 320 mg per day.
    • Take the supplement as directed on the package or as advised by a healthcare professional.
    • Consistency is key; it may take several months of regular use to notice any changes in hair growth or reduction in hair loss.
  • Topical Treatments:
    • It can also be found in various topical forms, such as shampoos, conditioners, and hair serums.
    • Apply these products according to the instructions. Usually, they should be massaged into the scalp and left on for a period before rinsing.
    • Regular use is important for achieving the best results.
  • Combination Products:
    • There are hair care products that combine it with other ingredients known to support hair health, like biotin, caffeine, or essential oils.
    • Using combination products can enhance the overall effectiveness of your hair care regimen.
  • Tea Infusions:
    • Although less common, some people use it in tea form.
    • Brew the tea as per instructions and consume it regularly.

Safety and Side Effects

While saw palmetto is generally well-tolerated, it can have side effects, particularly when taken in larger doses or by certain individuals. Here are some potential side effects to be aware of:

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Some people may experience digestive discomfort, including stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea.
  • Hormonal Effects: It can have an effect on hormone levels, as it interferes with the conversion of testosterone to DHT. This could potentially lead to changes in libido, erectile function, or other hormone-related effects, especially in men.
  • Headaches and Dizziness: A few individuals might experience headaches or dizziness when taking it.
  • Allergic Reactions: As with any supplement, there’s a risk of allergic reactions, which could manifest as skin rashes, itching, or respiratory symptoms.
  • Blood Thinning Effect: It may have a blood-thinning effect, which could be a concern for those taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications.
  • Liver and Pancreas Effects: Although rare, there have been reports of liver damage and pancreatitis in people taking it.
  • Interactions with Other Medications: It can interact with certain medications, including hormone therapies, contraceptives, and medications for blood thinning. It’s important to consult a healthcare provider if you are on any medication.
  • Effect on Surgical Outcomes: Due to its blood-thinning properties, it might affect surgical outcomes. It’s generally recommended to stop using it at least two weeks before any planned surgery.


In conclusion, saw palmetto presents itself as a potentially effective natural alternative for those grappling with hair loss, particularly due to its ability to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to DHT, a key factor in androgenetic alopecia. While it offers a less invasive option compared to pharmaceutical treatments, its effectiveness and impact can vary among individuals. The existing research, though promising, calls for more extensive studies to fully ascertain its efficacy and optimal usage. Those considering saw palmetto should approach it as a part of a comprehensive hair care strategy, keeping in mind the potential side effects and the importance of consulting with healthcare professionals before starting any new treatment. As the quest for effective hair loss solutions continues, saw palmetto stands out as a noteworthy option in the realm of natural remedies, meriting consideration and further exploration.


  • Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2002)
  • Australasian Journal of Dermatology (2017)
  • Prostate (2001) 

Note: This piece serves as an informative overview. Individual responses may vary, and consultation with a qualified medical professional is indispensable before initiating any therapeutic regimen.

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