Palmetto & Hair Loss
Updated for 2012
For some time now, natural cure & herbal activists
and some medical researchers believed in the premise
that the herbal supplement, saw palmetto, contained
anti-androgen properties and was effective in treating
men with enlarged prostrates, or benign prostatic
hyperplasia (BPH). Their logic also reasoned that
if saw palmetto was effective against BPH, it might
also be effective against male pattern baldness.
Since the discovery of finasteride (Proscar, Propecia)
in the 1990s, researchers have understood that overproduction
of an androgenetic hormone in men called dihydrotestosterone
(DHT) is responsible for not only enlarged prostrates,
but male pattern baldness as well, the cause of 95
percent of all hair loss in men.
Finasteride was found to terminate the production of DHT
in men by blocking an enzyme called 5 Alpha Reductase. When
5 alpha reductase combined itself with normal testosterone,
it produced dihydrotestosterone, - the culprit behind BPH
and male hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia.
Saw Palmetto, (Serenoa repens or Sabal serrulatum,),
is an extract taken from the small fruit of the American
Dwarf Palm Tree that inhabits the eastern coast of the United
States. It was first discovered for medicinal purposes by
the Seminole Indians of Florida.
However, the question is, does saw palmetto actually work
for BPH and/or male pattern hair loss?
Well, some studies say yes, and the most recent large study
says no, definitely not.
A 2003 study review published in the Journal of the American
Academy of Family Physicians, American Family Physician,
clinical investigators went back and looked at all the studies
done on Saw Palmetto up to that time.
"In a Cochrane Review, investigators conducted
a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies comparing
saw palmetto with placebo or other drugs. ... The review
combined the results of 21 trials with durations of four
to 48 weeks. The 21 studies included a total of 3,139
men with a mean age of 65 years (range: 40 to 88 years).
...In the 13 studies that reported symptom scores, saw
palmetto improved symptom scores, individual symptoms,
and flow measures more than placebo. Patients and physicians
were more likely to report improvement in symptoms with
saw palmetto treatment than with placebo. In the12 studies
that reported nocturia results (excessive urination
at night), saw palmetto reduced nocturia by 25 percent
compared with placebo." (1).
So the logic for many years is that the anecdotal evidence
reports that saw palmetto is an effective treatment for
BPH (and subsequently, hair loss).
Not so fast says the National Institute of Health's - National
Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. Their
2006 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine,
concedes that in the past, several "...small studies
suggest t that saw palmetto may be effective for treating
But their own 2006 study conducted on 225 men with moderate
to severe BPH "...found no improvement with 320 mg
saw palmetto daily for 1 year versus placebo." (2)
NCCAM cofunded the study with the National Institute of
Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
In Summary, NCCAM reported the following
- There is not enough scientific evidence to support
the use of saw palmetto for reducing the size of an enlarged
prostate or for any other conditions.
- Saw palmetto does not appear to affect readings of
prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. (2)
Taken together, the NEJM published study seems to be as
strong in it's negative conclusions for saw palmetto and
BPH as the Cochrane Review is in favor of Saw Palmetto published
3 years earlier. However, both studies do report that saw
palmetto offers little in the way of side effects (minor
stomach discomfort). Saw Palmetto is a relatively low cost
natural supplement and those who want to believe in it's
anti-androgen, pro-BPH, or anti-hair loss properties, will
not suffer financially or physically. However, if it doesn't
work for them, they may lose valuable time needed to regrow
one's hair with more accepted treatments such as minoxidil
and/or finasteride. ###
[See how many different natural cure internet hair loss
treatments performed in this Continuing Medical Education
Loss Remedies - Seperating Fact from Fiction. -
Spoiler Alert, they didn't do very good.]