Saw palmetto is an herb and supplement that has some outstanding benefits, particularly for men's health. It comes from a tree that has been used as a source of food, medicine, and building materials for thousands of years.
Although it certainly has a history of use more for men than women, saw palmetto can help to balance hormones and support reproductive health regardless of gender.
Here's more about saw palmetto and how it may benefit you.
What Is Saw Palmetto?
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) comes from the berries of a specific type of palm tree native to southeastern parts of the U.S. and the West Indies.
The fruit of the tree is harvested, dried, and ground to make an extract, although it has also served as a fresh food source for those who live where it grows. In fact, records show that the Seminole Indians would harvest the berries and use them to make a nutritious flour (among other uses).
Other parts of the saw palmetto tree are also valuable, although they aren't available commercially.
For example, the inner bark of the tree was used in the past to treat snake bites and insect bites, and the palms were used to make baskets, rope, brooms, brushes, and other items.
Throughout the years, saw palmetto has gained a well-earned reputation as an herb that supports male health, but that doesn't mean it can't support women as well, especially during hormone-related issues.
Main Health Benefits of Saw Palmetto
Supports Prostate Health
One of the most well-researched uses for saw palmetto is to boost prostate health.
The prostate gland is responsible for maintaining sperm health and can become enlarged or inflamed as men get older. This can lead to uncomfortable symptoms, including difficulty urinating and bladder infections.
Several studies have shown that saw palmetto can hep prevent or reduce symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is a form of non-cancerous enlarged prostate gland. Specifically, it may help prevent the progression of BPH and reduce urinary symptoms. (1)(2)
Some preliminary research also shows that saw palmetto may help fight against prostate cancer. In lab studies, it has shown action against prostate cancer cells and inhibits their growth. (3)
This just goes to show how well a traditional use for saw palmetto (prostate support) is confirmed by research.
Supports Kidney and Urinary Health
Another traditional use for saw palmetto is for urinary tract infections and overall bladder health. By supporting proper urination, it also benefits kidney health and may reduce the risk of kidney infections.
Most studies have focused specifically on the health benefits of saw palmetto for helping urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate. In general, they've found that it helps reduce symptoms of urinary tract infections, particularly urine flow. (4)
One study also found that saw palmetto extract reduced the symptoms of interstitial cystitis (a painful bladder condition), but this hasn't specifically been studied in humans yet. (5)
Helps With Hair Loss
Hair loss can happen for many reasons, but one possible factor is changing hormone levels, usually associated with age.
Saw palmetto has shown a lot of potential for helping prevent or mitigate hair loss, most likely because it helps bring hormones back in balance.
In fact, studies have shown that it can help improve hair quantity, hair count, and hair density in people with hair loss when used either as a supplement or applied topically to the scalp. A few small trials also show that it can be effective for both men and women. (6)(7)
Supports Healthy Testosterone Levels
There are several herbs for boosting low testosterone, but saw palmetto has a unique role to play when it comes to this hormone.
As you may know, testosterone is a hormone that plays a key role in things like sex drive, sexual development, mood, and body composition (particularly muscle mass). It's naturally present in higher levels in men and lower levels in women but can decline with age, leading to various problems.
Saw palmetto has benefits for testosterone because it decreases the activity of 5-alpha reductase, which is an enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. DHT is an important hormone for men while they are developing, but it contributes to prostate enlargement later on, and the conversion process lowers testosterone levels.
By decreasing this enzyme, saw palmetto helps keep testosterone at the right levels, which can also help with sex drive and fertility. (8)
Supports Reproductive Health
As you can probably tell, saw palmetto has positive health benefits on the reproductive system as a whole and can help boost things like libido and fertility. In fact, it has frequently been used as a reproductive "tonic" throughout the years for both men and women.
Normally, saw palmetto is indicated when there seems to be a hormonal imbalance that is causing other problems. It has amphoteric properties, which means it helps to normalize the body, bringing it back into balance.
How to Use Saw Palmetto
Saw palmetto is most often used as an extract in capsule form, although you can also find the whole dried berries and use them to make your own preparations.
For certain health issues, you may be better off using saw palmetto combined with other supportive herbs.
For example, these Male Libido capsules contain saw palmetto and other herbs that support the male sex drive, and these Prostate Health capsules feature saw palmetto and other herbs like nettle and green tea.
Another option is to buy saw palmetto powder and use it to make your own capsules (with no worry of unwanted fillers) or add it to smoothies, etc.
Saw palmetto is a very safe herb and most people don't notice any ill effects from taking it. Remember, it has been (and still is) used as a food and can safely be taken in food-like quantities, although you don't need to do so to get the benefits.
Rarely, saw palmetto may cause symptoms like headaches or nausea in individuals who are sensitive to it.
Because it does have an effect on your hormones, some practitioners recommend against using it alongside conventional hormone treatments, especially anti-androgenic medication.
Discover the Health Benefits of Saw Palmetto
As you can see, saw palmetto is a powerful herb that particularly provides support to healthy hormone levels and reproductive health. It has been used much more frequently to support men's health, but that doesn't mean you should overlook it if you are a women.
Try saw palmetto on its own or blended with other herbs to help bring your body (and hormones) back into balance!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.