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Saw Palmetto for Hair Loss?

10/9/2007 6:36:44 PM

There are a number of herbal supplements out there that claim to work as a hair loss treatment. Whereas there is no question that marketing is over-reaching at best in order to sell a product, the real question for any hair loss sufferer is: will this product help combat hair loss or is there any chance that it will regrow hair? To date however, it is important to understand that there is no hair loss cure, therefore realistic expectations must be kept when considering any hair restoration product.

Below I decided to take a look at an herbal supplements that is said to combat hair loss. This product is the primary active ingredient in a number of hair loss remedies including Provillus and Procerin and others.

Saw Palmetto (Sereona Repens)

Saw Palmetto is said to be an inhibitor of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). These berries are a deep red fruit that grows wild on palm trees in warmer climates typically found in the Southeastern United States. Saw Palmetto liposerolic extract is typically used as an herbal supplement for the promotion of a healthy prostate.

Studies have shown that saw palmetto taken orally is an effective anti-androgen in that it lowers DHT levels in the body by blocking 5 alpha-reductase enzymes. Additionally it is said to block receptor cites on cells which is required for cells to absorb DHT. There have been no studies indicating the efficacy of Saw Palmetto applied topically for anything.

The Study:

No formal tests have been performed on saw palmetto and its relation to hair growth however, tests have been performed on its use in the treatment of benign prostatic disease, which simiarly to Androgenetic Alopecia depends on the production of DHT.

It is also noteworthy to state that a small preliminary study in 2002 was performed as reported by The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2002;8:143-52) that shows a select group of 19 men between the ages of 23 and 64 taking either (400mg of Saw Palmetto and 100mg of Beta-sitosterol) or a placebo. Those who took the herbal combination had 60% improved hair growth over those who took the placebo.

There are two problems with this study:

  • The control study was way too small to determine any real efficacy and could have happened by chance. A larger study is necessary to determine any level of real efficacy.
  • The words “improved hair growth” do not indicate new hair growth, hair regrowth, or stopping hereditary hair loss

In theory therefore, Saw Palmetto may in fact have some level of efficacy as a means to combat hereditary hair loss however:

  • This theory has never been formally tested
  • The preliminary tests that were performed only indicate “improved hair growth” which is not the same thing as combatting hair loss or regrowing hair.
  • There are no regulations or suggested daily value as to how much Saw Palmetto would be required to combat hair loss. In other words, it is speculation as to whether an oral or topical treatment would work better if at all, and the number of milligrams required is unknown.
  • Topical Saw Palmetto has never been tested for anything.

The Dosage:

There is a general theory out there that MORE is BETTER which simply isn’t always true.

The difference between Saw Palmetto Berry and Saw Palmetto Berry Extract:

Clinical studies on Benign Prostrate Hyperplasia (BPH) have used a dosage of 320mg of Saw Palmetto berry extract daily (either one 320mg pill or 2 X 160 mg pill). A daily dosage of 480 mg of Saw Palmetto berry extract was not found to be any more effective in a six-month study of dosages. If the entire berry was used, up to 1000mg or 2000mg would be required to reach the same potential level of efficacy. Currently there are no standards on dosages of herbal medications in the United States.

Many hair loss products use the entire berry so 1500mg of Saw Palmetto berry. Keep in mind that 1500mg of the Saw Palmetto berry is only equivalent to about 240mg-320mg of Saw Palmetto Extract.

Side Effects and Warnings:

One false assumption is that “all natural” hair loss products don’t have potential side effects. This is not true. It is stated that use of Saw Palmetto has not proven to be safe for women during pregnancy and lactation. Medical supervision is suggested for women of childbearing age. Sound familiar? Similar yet stricter warnings are listed on Propecia’s website.

Conclusions:

In theory alone, Saw Palmetto might work as a treatment for hair loss because of its tendencies to act like finasteride by helping those suffering from BPH. However, there are no studies to date that support this claim. Additionally, because there has been no formal studies, dosage and how it should be used (orally or topically) is also a guess.