Saw palmetto is the powder and/or extract of the saw palmetto palm tree (also known as serenoa repens) that is a popular dietary supplement among men, thanks to its powerful anti-hair loss benefits.
Where does saw palmetto come from and what does it do?
The saw palmetto tree is a small palm tree that grows in the coastal subtropical regions of the Southeastern United States. Commonly found throughout all of Florida, they can also be found in southern Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi, along the Gulf Coast. These little yet hardy plants can live as long as 700 years, and for centuries, Native Americans have been using them to treat many of the same issues people use saw palmetto for today.
Saw palmetto is unique in that it has berries that can be powdered; the berries can also be turned into an extract that boasts powerful plant sterols that promote a wide range of health benefits. Saw palmetto fights hair loss, balances hormone levels, helps with prostate issues and other urinary tract disorders. Its wide range of benefits make it a popular choice among men in particular since many of these problems cluster together in men, and it’s sort of a one-and-done supplement solution.
Saw palmetto benefits for hair growth
The biggest thing that saw palmetto does for your hair is it prevents testosterone converting into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This is crucial for men suffering from male pattern baldness (also known as androgenic alopecia). Male pattern baldness is genetic. At a certain time in your life, your genes tell your hair follicles to shrivel up and go dormant when exposed to DHT. This is an overreaction to DHT, so it’s reasonable to correct it whenever possible.
For a long time, people have believed male pattern baldness is caused by having too much testosterone, but that’s inaccurate. The problem isn’t too much testosterone—the problem is your body converting your testosterone into DHT and using it against you (i.e. making your hair fall out).
By blocking DHT, you maintain your testosterone levels and your hair follicles are never exposed to the harmful effects of DHT, which can prevent new hair loss. At the same time, when your hair follicles are no longer being attacked by DHT, they have a chance to reawaken from their semi-permanent slumber and start growing new hair again. If turning back the biological clock sounds too good to be true, consider that maintaining (or returning to) your youthful testosterone levels benefits your whole body in loads of different ways from a healthy sex drive to a healthy prostate to energy and endurance and more—so, why can’t it do the same for your hair?
Additionally, people tend to think of saw palmetto as this one magical thing, but they often forget the beneficial fatty acids that are quietly at work in the background. The fatty acids in saw palmetto boost circulation in the scalp and around the follicle as well as contain key micronutrients your body needs to produce new hair. And with that improved circulation, those precious micronutrients have a much better chance of making it to your follicles, which greatly ups the odds of not only stopping hair loss but promoting new hair growth.
Saw Palmetto for hair loss – Does it work?
Yes, saw palmetto does work for hair loss. Its main strength lies in being a DHT blocker. When your body is able to maintain its testosterone, thereby preventing it from being converted to DHT, you can hack your genetics and prevent your body overreacting to DHT exposure. Additionally, for those already experiencing some noticeable hair loss, it’s quite likely your follicles will actually be able to bounce back, because they’re no longer being exposed to the thing that causes male pattern baldness in the first place.
Saw palmetto is also rich in phytosterols (aka plant sterols) and healthy fatty acids. These aspects are great for reducing inflammation and promoting better circulation. While genetics is the main cause of hair loss, auto-immune disorders, illnesses and stress can cause inflammation-induced hair loss. Likewise, if you have poor circulation, your body will divert blood to your internal organs; after all, hair isn’t a priority in that situation. (The same reason why those with bad circulation may have blue fingertips, for instance—it’s going to more important places.) Even remedying minor circulation issues via healthy fatty acids can cause more blood flow to go to the scalp; blood, is of course, the carrier of oxygen and essential nutrients that fuel your follicles with what they need to produce new hair.
Best saw palmetto supplement reviews
Pattern hair loss—also known as androgenic alopecia—is easily the most common cause of hair loss in men. It’s all down to your genetics and how your genes tell your body to react when exposed to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). In men with the male pattern baldness gene, their hair follicles are triggered to become dormant and stop producing hair when exposed to DHT. (When this happens in life varies greatly, but the general rule of thumb is that 50% of men experience male pattern hair loss by age fifty.) Saw palmetto is a natural DHT-blocker, which prevents your follicles from ever being exposed to DHT. This, in term, makes your genetics a moot point. If DHT can’t interact with your follicles, then your genetic code can’t trigger hair loss.
One of the lesser known benefits of saw palmetto is that it promotes prostate health. Because hair loss becomes more likely as we age, as do prostate problems, it’s nice that one dietary supplement can help prevent both issues.
Havasu Nutrition’s Extra Strength Saw Palmetto Supplement contains a mixture of 45% saw palmetto fatty acid extract and the rest is pure saw palmetto berry powder. The reason for the combo is that they both have DHT-blocking ingredients, and they complement each other, naturally boosting their own synergistic effects. The combined dosage of the extra strength formula ingredients is 500mg of pure saw palmetto.
Havasu Nutrition’s saw palmetto supplement is made in an FDA-approved facility, which means the FDA has determined that the facility is safe enough to manufacture dietary supplements. Additionally, the facility and manufacturing process are Good Manufacturing Practice-compliant, a third-party organization that ensures dietary supplements—which, themselves, are not regulated by the FDA—meet certain quality standards, and Havasu Nutrition’s supplement stands up to third-party quality testing, as well, for extra peace of mind.
There are 100 capsules in each bottle, which is great for those who have GERD or other issues that make swallowing large tablets difficult.
Zhou Nutrition’s Saw Palmetto Supplement fights hair loss by naturally blocking DHT. Specifically, the berry powder portion of the formula blocks the enzyme known as 5-alpha-reductase. If you’ve never heard of that enzyme until today, you’re not alone, but it’s the very thing that is responsible for converting your own body’s testosterone and using it against you (or at least your hair follicles) by converting it into DHT.
This 100% saw palmetto is made of both the extracts and the berry powder to deliver the full and effective benefits of saw palmetto. Newer research shows that this is the way saw palmetto is meant to be taken since only taking the extract gives you only half the benefits.
Beta-sitosterol is one of the many plant sterols found in saw palmetto; it’s becoming more and more popular as a supplement, thanks to its hair-healthy benefits.
Because beta-sitosterol is one of the active plant sterols in the Zhou Nutrition formula, you get an extra boost for prostate health. This is great, because the older we get, the more likely we are to experience hair loss, and for many, these two issues go hand-in-hand.
The Zhou Nutrition Saw Palmetto Supplement contains a whopping 500mg of saw palmetto, being comprised of both the berry powder and the extract. The extract ratio is 45%, so you get just the right amount of each part of the saw palmetto plant to reap the benefits.
NOW Saw Palmetto 320mg is a pretty self-explanatory thing. While it may contain a lower saw palmetto dosage than other supplements, it makes up for it in additional fatty acids and phytosterols, as detailed in the next section.
Pumpkin seed oil acts as a natural and healthful base for the NOW Saw Palmetto formula. It helps reduce inflammation thanks to its extra dose of fatty acids, as well as promoting better circulation. Both inflammation and poor circulation are lesser-known causes of hair loss that occurs even in men who don’t have the genetics for pattern baldness. Additionally, like saw palmetto, pumpkin seed oil benefits a healthy prostate.
Since pumpkin seed oil is plant-based, the NOW formula is naturally vegan, containing no animal products whatsoever—great for those with dietary concerns.
NOW’s formula is 100% free of common allergens like milk, eggs, shellfish, wheat and gluten, so it’s a good choice for men with allergies to these ingredients, or who are prone to developing new allergies and want to limit ingredients as much as possible to avoid new allergy triggers.
The formula is delivered via a soft gel, which is small and easy to swallow, and there are 90 per bottle, which equals a three-month supply
Saw palmetto side effects
The good news is that most people don’t experience any side effects with saw palmetto, and when they do, the side effects are typically mild. That said, there are some side effects to be aware of. Most side effects are related to the GI tract: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Some people have also experienced headaches and dizziness.
There isn’t any solid information in regard to more serious side effects. There has been some suggestion that a small number of people may experience liver issues when taking saw palmetto for long periods; however, because those who experienced liver problems were never tested to see if other supplements or even prescription or over-the-counter medicines were causing the problem, it’s highly possible that saw palmetto wasn’t even the cause. Because this issue is an unknown until further studies are done, ask your doctor or pharmacist if this is something you need to be worried about, as only they can advise you on your own personal concerns.
Another important thing to note that because it contains circulation-improving fatty acids, saw palmetto may thin the blood, much in the way fish oil supplements can. Always let your doctor know what supplements you’re taking, and if you’re having surgery, be sure to let the surgeon know as well. In healthy people, this side effect isn’t a big deal, but it’s always a good idea to keep your doctors up-to-date in case you do have surgery, for instance. Also, if you’re taking any other supplement or medication that thins the blood, ask your doctor if it’s okay to take saw palmetto together with it.
Saw palmetto dosage for hair loss
For hair loss, saw palmetto dosage is higher than for other issues, such as prostate problems. For hair loss, you need a minimum of 400mg of saw palmetto (preferably a mixture of the powder and the extract). You can take it in one dose a day or if it upsets your stomach, try dividing the dosage. Maximum or extra strength formulas of saw palmetto for hair loss tend to contain around 500mg of saw palmetto (the powder, the extract or both), which is still within the widely-regarded safe range.