Saw Palmetto Extract for Men's Health
Saw palmetto extract is best known for its use in alleviating symptoms of an enlarged prostate, hence, improved men’s health. You may also be curious to ask - can women take saw palmetto to improve their health? Let us learn more about it.
What is Saw Palmetto?
Saw palmetto, is a small palm tree found in southeast regions of North America. The plant borrows its name from the sharp, saw-like teeth characteristic of its stalks.
Image credit: greenspringweb.com
Saw palmetto tree bears dark berries, are made into a supplement or extract for nutritional diuretic, and sedative properties.
The oily extracts of the fatty parts of the dried berries are effective in treating urinary and reproductive disorders in men.
What are the benefits of saw palmetto?
Following are the top 8 health benefits of saw palmetto extract:
1. Saw palmetto effects on testosterone levels
Saw palmetto extract may regulate testosterone levels. This finding was confirmed in a study indicating that men who took the product for two weeks had higher testosterone levels, compared to other participants who did not take it.
However, not all studies link saw palmetto directly to improved testosterone levels. Instead, many suggest that this herb inhibits the conversion of testosterone, enabling the body to retain a positive mood and promote better sexual function.
What causes a weak erection and can saw palmetto help erectile problems?
Saw palmetto extract is suitable for erectile response. Older men tend to suffer from an enlarged prostate, leading to a drop in libido or even difficulty to acquire or retain an erection.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is associated with lower testosterone levels in men, among other causative factors.
Testosterone treatment does not always give you a stronger erection, but studies have shown that saw palmetto extract can reduce the production of 5-alpha reductase.
5-alpha reductase is responsible for changing testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an androgen hormone, which helps to develop male characteristics.
DHT can also cause a weak erection in middle-aged and older men as it is linked to prostate enlargement and loss of libido.
By taking saw palmetto, you can, therefore, slow down the production of 5-alpha reductase, leading to a stronger erection.
Saw palmetto helps alleviate symptoms of sexual dysfunction in men, thus improving their overall quality of life.
This herb can also improve sex drive and fertility for both men and women as it affects the production of sperm and eggs.
2. Saw Palmetto helps to shrink the prostate
Saw palmetto extract has prostate supporting properties. It may help to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a medical condition associated with an abnormally large prostate. Scientific evidence and accounts of herbalists show that the herb can alleviate symptoms of an enlarged prostate by shrinking its inner lining, and improving sexual activity. Saw palmetto can also help with prostate cancer as it can lower the growth of cancerous cells. Therefore, some men suffering from prostate cancer take saw palmetto extract in combination with other traditional treatments. Patients suffering from an enlarged prostate should still consult the doctor for a more accurate diagnosis.
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3. Saw Palmetto helps treat certain urinary problems BPH.
BPH (a condition describing an abnormally enlarged prostate) occurs in approximately 75% of men in their 70s.
It can affect the ability to empty the bladder properly, as well as increase the urge to urinate at night. It can, therefore, disrupt sleep. BPH is a part of many lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) affecting body organs, such as the prostate, bladder, and urethra. Some studies have shown that saw palmetto extract can help to improve the flow of urine, hence, reducing the frequency of nighttime urination. This effect can be derived when the product is taken alone or in combination with traditional therapeutic drugs. For better results, combine the herb with antioxidants or supplements, such as lycopene, selenium, and tamsulosin. This recommendation borrows from a 2014 randomized study involving 225 men. The research showed that combined therapy is more effective than single treatments for urinary problems.
4. Saw palmetto and hair loss
Saw palmetto extract can block the action of hormones responsible for hair loss, hence, accelerating hair growth.
The product inhibits male pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia), a condition attributed to the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
High levels of DHT and other androgen hormones can shorten the cycle of hair growth, causing the growth of thinner, shorter hair.
In a 2014 study on 25 men, the use of topical saw palmetto and other supplements showed an 11.9 percent increase in hair count, after 4 months of treatment.
5. Saw palmetto is good for skin
Saw palmetto extract inhibits the harmful effects of substances in the body or androgens, such as hormonal acne. Androgens enhance the production of sebum, which is an oily secretion that causes the development of acne.
This herb has essential fatty acids, such as laurate, oleate, palmitate, and linoleate, to keep the skin hydrated and nourished. These components also reduce skin irritation, making saw palmetto beneficial for oily skins and those prone to acne.
According to a 2007 study on 20 people, applying an extract from organic oil, sesame, and saw palmetto helped lower sebum levels in the majority of study subjects.
Hormonal fluctuations arising from menstruation and menopause can also cause acne. You can regulate the effect of these hormones by taking saw palmetto extract.
6. Saw palmetto helps to balance female hormones
There is evidence to indicate that saw palmetto extract may help to regulate some female hormones. It may adjust estrogen, balancing out the effects of high levels of testosterone in women.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have high levels of hormones, such as prolactin and androgens, which cause them to have elevated male hormones. Some of the PCOS symptoms include heavy and irregular menstrual periods and excess facial and body hair.
Though taking saw palmetto may not increase estrogen levels, it may alleviate the over-expression of testosterone in women.
Indeed, this herb can lower the effect of estrogen in the body; hence, it is not recommended for pregnant women or as an accompaniment for birth control pills.
7. Treats minor ailments
People also take saw palmetto extract to treat minor conditions, including:
- Sore throats, colds, and coughs
Though there is no scientific evidence linking the herb to the ability to treat these ailments, its use is based on tradition.
8. Other benefits
In a small study conducted in Switzerland in 2010, saw palmetto was found to be essential in treating chronic pelvic pain syndrome (chronic prostatitis). This condition affects men’s genital and urinary organs. It is characterized by unpredictable episodes of pain and may also cause inflammation and difficulties urinating.
The 2010 study involved 102 patients who underwent eight weeks of treatment. The group that used saw palmetto alone showed a significant improvement compared to the one that combined the herb with other drugs.
If you are undergoing prostate surgery, taking saw palmetto extract may also lower the time spent in operation. Additionally, it may lower blood loss, the development of complications during surgery, and the time of hospital stay.
Saw palmetto dosage & interactions
- The recommended dosage for saw palmetto extract is 2 capsules taken 2-3 times every day.
- You can take the herb with water or food. Daily dosages of 160-320 mg are ideal for men, but it is unclear if the same is appropriate for women.
- For patients scheduled for prostate surgery, they can take a dose of 320mg daily for two months.
- Look for extracts with 85% to 95% levels of fatty acids and sterols (the fat-soluble and medicinal ingredients in saw palmetto berries).
- The product can be used with other male hair growth drugs. You can also combine it with other prostate-health herbs, such as pumpkin seed, pygeum africanum, and nettle.
- Remember to consult your doctor before combining supplements with prescriptions.
- Women under birth control pills should not take saw palmetto as it may interact with other hormones.
- Pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers should also not use the product, as well as children below 12 years of age.
- You should avoid taking the herb if you are using antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs, such as aspirin, as the former can slow down blood clotting.
- People with bleeding disorders should avoid taking saw palmetto extract 2 weeks before or after surgery.
What is the best time to take saw palmetto?
To lower the risk of stomach upset, you should take saw palmetto extract with breakfast and dinner.
Avoid taking tea made from the dried herb because the plant’s medicinal oils are insoluble in water.
Saw palmetto side effects
Saw palmetto extract has no severe side effects on users. However, oral intake of this product can cause mild side effects, including:
- Mild abdominal pains
- Stomach pain
- Bad breath
Additionally, saw palmetto extract may cause problems with the liver. However, people who reported liver damage after using the product may have had other underlying conditions.
While there is limited research showing a direct link between saw palmetto and positive effects on testosterone levels, many studies show that the herb reduces the conversion of this hormone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is an androgen hormone responsible for enlarged prostate, male pattern baldness, urinary problems, low libido, and acne. The use of saw palmetto extract in combination with other therapeutic drugs is, therefore, recommended for better health outcomes.
Hyumi is a certified nutritionist under the Singapore Nutrition & Dietetic Association (SNDA), she has 8 years of professional experiences in providing health consultations & advice for clients and corporates alike, all the while researching & developing new functional ingredients for better formulation. Hyumi obtained her Degree in Food Sciences & Nutrition from University Malaysia Sabah
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