Saw Palmetto for Hair Loss: Does It Really Work?

Medically reviewedby Dr. Amy Revene M.B.B.S.
WrittenbyLuat Duong
Last updated

Curious about how saw palmetto for hair loss might benefit you? 

Saw palmetto extract is increasingly popular among those looking for natural remedies to enhance hair growth and prevent hair loss. 

Let's explore the potential benefits of this natural supplement and why it might be a worthwhile addition to your hair care routine.

What is saw palmetto?

saw palmetto for hair loss

Saw palmetto, scientifically known as Serenoa repens, is a small palm tree native to the West Indies and widely found across the United States. Traditionally used by Native Americans for its healing properties, it serves various medicinal purposes today. 

Primarily, it's known for aiding urinary symptoms in the treatment of men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or an enlarged prostate. 

Besides its role in prostate health, saw palmetto oil is also utilized for conditions like chronic pelvic pain, migraines, and notably, treatment of androgenetic alopecia

Despite its humble beginnings as a folk remedy, saw palmetto has been embraced in modern supplements, particularly for men's health. 

Studies have supported its effectiveness in managing symptoms of BPH, and saw palmetto supplements are increasingly recommended for hair regrowth as it's thought to block 5-alpha-reductase. 

This is an enzyme involved in the conversion of testosterone to DHT, a principal cause of male pattern baldness.

The different forms of saw palmetto

Saw palmetto comes in various forms, each with its unique benefits and drawbacks. Here's a quick look at the most common preparations:

  • Whole dried berries: Natural form, less processed, but less convenient for consistent dosing.
  • Tablets: Easy to consume, ensure a controlled dose of active ingredients, and are a primary focus of research.
  • Liquid extracts: Versatile and can be mixed with other liquids, but dosing can be less precise.
  • Powdered capsules: Similar to tablets in convenience and dosing accuracy.

While it might sound appealing, it's generally ineffective. The active compounds are not water-soluble, making the tea a less viable option for health benefits.

Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement to determine a safe and effective dosage.

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Does saw palmetto work for hair loss?

Saw palmetto for hair loss

Saw palmetto may help with hair loss by targeting DHT (Dihydrotestosterone), a hormone linked to androgenetic alopecia. A study showed that nearly half of the participants using a topical formula containing saw palmetto extract and a 10 percent trichogen veg complex experienced an 11.9 percent increase in hair count after four months.

Saw palmetto works by inhibiting the enzyme 5α-reductase, which converts testosterone into DHT. This mechanism is similar to Finasteride, a proven hair loss medication, suggesting saw palmetto could be a natural alternative. 

While more extensive clinical studies are needed for conclusive evidence, existing research and anecdotal reports are promising. 

The potential of saw palmetto in slowing the balding process highlights its role as a noteworthy option for those seeking natural hair loss treatments.

Effectiveness of saw palmetto for hair loss

The fruit of the saw palmetto plant, and its extract contains various biologically active compounds that can potentially influence hair growth. 

These include fatty acids, phytosterols, and flavonoids, which are thought to inhibit 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme-linked with hair loss. 

Such components might also have cytotoxic effects on human prostate cells, which ties into its use for prostate health and possibly impacts hair follicles similarly. 

Despite its intriguing components, the effectiveness of saw palmetto in treating hair loss remains a topic of debate. 

According to a survey by the International Society of Hair Restoration (ISHRS), saw palmetto is less commonly prescribed than other treatments like Finasteride and Minoxidil

While some studies show promise, others have found it no more effective than a placebo in treating symptoms related to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which raises questions about its impact on hair loss. 

Nonetheless, the unique composition of saw palmetto continues to make it a subject of interest for both researchers and those affected by hair loss. 

How to use saw palmetto for hair loss

It's crucial to know that simply consuming the berries won't be effective. For real results, you should use the extract, typically available in capsules or tablets, as these forms concentrate the active components needed to potentially benefit hair health.

Before starting any new supplement, including saw palmetto, always consult with your healthcare provider to ensure it's safe for you, particularly in relation to your current health and other medications you may be taking. 

Here’s how to use saw palmetto effectively for hair loss:

  • Consult a doctor: Your doctor can confirm whether saw palmetto is a safe option for you.
  • Take with food: This can help prevent stomach irritation.
  • Dosage: Typically, one to two capsules per day are recommended, depending on the extract's potency

Are there any side effects of saw palmetto?

While saw palmetto is generally safe for most adults, it's important to be aware of its potential side effects and interactions:

  • Mild side effects: These can include mild headaches and stomach aches, though they are relatively rare.
  • Stomach irritation: Taking saw palmetto with food can help minimize this issue.
  • Rare hormonal effects: Some men have reported an increase in breast tissue, although this is extremely rare.
  • Blood thinning: Saw palmetto may thin the blood, which can lead to increased bleeding. This is particularly important to consider if you are planning any medical procedures or surgeries.
  • Not for everyone: It is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding due to insufficient research on its safety in these groups.
  • Interaction with medications: Saw palmetto may interact with blood thinners like aspirin and warfarin. Always consult with your healthcare provider before combining it with other medications.

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Saw palmetto offers a natural alternative for those struggling with hair loss, showing promising results in improving hair count and density.

While it's not a quick fix, consistent use over a few months may yield noticeable benefits. 

However, it's important to approach this treatment with realistic expectations and consult with a healthcare provider to ensure safety, especially due to possible side effects. 

As research continues, saw palmetto remains a hopeful option for many seeking to enhance their hair health naturally. 


Does saw palmetto really work for hair loss?

Yes, saw palmetto shows promise for treating hair loss. Studies indicate that both oral and topical applications can improve total hair count by 27% and increase hair density in 83% of individuals with pattern hair loss. 

What is the negative effect of saw palmetto?

While generally safe, saw palmetto can cause some side effects such as headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and dizziness. Rarely, it has been linked to significant bleeding during surgery and isolated cases of liver and pancreas damage. 

How long does saw palmetto take to grow hair?

Oral supplements like saw palmetto is not an instant solution for hair loss. It typically takes up to three months of consistent use to start noticing any significant improvements in hair growth, with mg of saw palmetto tailored to individual needs. 


Luat Duong

Luat Duong is a Copenhagen-based writer and content strategist specializing in hair loss and health. His work has been featured in MyHealthGuide, The Right Hairstyles, and Woman's Era. He is a graduate of Vaasa University. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.