The Science of Herbal Wellness: Saw Palmetto
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a common ingredient included in many men’s herbal supplements on the market—and for good reason! Often considered a “man’s tonic,” saw palmetto has long been relied upon by Indigenous peoples in the Southern U.S. for its ability to treat urinary tract problems and increase sperm count. From its success with a variety of men’s health concerns, including prostate issues like benign prostatic hyperplasia and cystitis, impotence, and testicular atrophy, to its ability to strengthen and tonify the natural weakening of urinary systems, saw palmetto’s attributes are significant.
One of saw palmetto’s most notable strengths is its ability to inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which is responsible for converting testosterone to a more potent metabolized form, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). While DHT plays an important role in male development, too much of it can be a contributing factor to many middle-age-onset male health issues, including hair loss, enlarged prostate, and low sex drive.
Further, the free fatty acids (caprylic, palmitic, and lauric acid) found in saw palmetto have been shown to have positive effects on inhibiting 5AR, 3-ketosteroid reductase, and receptor binding of androgens. This is especially helpful for those suffering with conditions related to excessive androgen activity, including prostate enlargement and male pattern baldness.
Not Just for Men
While saw palmetto is a fantastic supplement for male health, it isn’t just a boys’ club basic! This amazing herb has shown itself to be beneficial in dealing with women’s hormonal concerns as well. Testosterone is produced by both men and women and is required for many of our bodies’ processes. When it is out of balance, it can lead to hormonal issues and a host of not-so-nice symptoms, like adult acne and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is a condition marked by excess facial and body hair, irregularities in menstruation, infertility, and in some cases, weight gain and trouble losing weight. There are still many unknowns around PCOS, but we do know that excess testosterone and DHT are typically at the root. Therapeutic supplementation of saw palmetto has been shown to be effective at reducing elevated DHT and testosterone levels, thereby reducing, or eliminating, the associated side effects. Saw palmetto may be beneficial in addressing adult acne, hair loss, and the excess hair growth common in those suffering from PCOS.
Saw palmetto has also shown to be helpful for women as they transition into menopause. During menopause, the body produces much less estrogen and progesterone, which can lead to a host of symptoms such as the atrophy (thinning) of reproductive tissues, including vaginal and uterine. This results in irritation, dryness, and an increased risk of infection, as well as pain during sexual activity.
Dosing: Saw palmetto berries are found to be therapeutic in many different forms.
Tea: 2 tsp per cup, three times daily
Tincture: 1:5 5 ml, three times daily
Capsule: Therapeutic range starts from 500 mg 2-4 times daily, depending on concern
Caution: Do not use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. As with any new supplement routine, discuss with your healthcare provider first to ensure that it is best and safe for you and your specific concerns.