Saw palmetto has been used as in herbal medicine by various cultures over the years. Apart from its antiseptic properties, it has also been used to treat urinary problems and help people with reproductive difficulties. Like any other type of natural treatment, it is also being explored as an option for treating other ailments. One of these is as a treatment for hair loss.
What is Saw Palmetto?
It is extracted from a fruit called Serenoa repens from a small palm which generally reaches no higher than six feet. It is found mainly along the coast but can occasionally be found inland as. The fruit, which is of a reddish black color, is known to be an excellent source of fatty acids.
Saw Palmetto for Hair Loss
The most common type of baldness is linked to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a metabolite of testosterone. When DHT attaches itself to hair follicles, it gradually becomes weaker until the hair falls out. The presence of high levels of DHT prevents the hair follicles from absorbing nutrients necessary for growth.
Saw palmetto help to inhibit the buildup of DHT. More studies need to be done to determine exactly why it is effective in dealing with baldness. One school of thought is that it interrupts normal hormonal flow. This is important since it is the male hormone testosterone that is converted to DHT.
While some clinical trials have shown promise, it must be noted that saw palmetto is considered effective at treating a particular type of baldness. This is male pattern baldness, also referred to as androgenic alopecia. This type of baldness is easy to recognize by its distinctive “M” pattern at the top of the head. This condition can also affect women, at which point it is referred to as female pattern baldness. For women, the hair loss occurs in a different manner than it does with men.
To date, very few studies have been done to determine the effectiveness of saw palmetto at treating female hair loss. The majority of women with this problem encounter its onset after menopause, which can affect the production of hormones. Since this type of baldness in women occurs due to the presence of testosterone, it is logical to assume that it could be beneficial for them as well.
Using Saw Palmetto
There are external preparations made from saw palmetto that can be applied to the scalp. It is readily absorbed into the skin, which explains it effectiveness. It can also be taken orally and like many other herbs there is the risk of side effects. The most commonly experienced ones are:
These side effects have not been noted to be severe or experienced often. Most of them can be prevented or alleviated by taking saw palmetto with food.
While saw palmetto is believed to slow or prevent hair loss it is not considered effective at helping lost hair to grow back. Studies continue to be done in this area, so at some juncture new data will be released. Based on studies and clinical tests however, saw palmetto offers a clear alternative to prescription drugs for preventing hair loss