People Are Using Saw Palmetto To Help With Hair Loss - But Does It Work?

You might wake up one day and see an unusual collection of hairs on your pillow, or maybe notice your shower drain is starting to clog at an alarmingly frequent rate. These are signs that you might be experiencing hair loss. And while you should always check in with your doctor if you are concerned about hair loss, you are not the only one experiencing these issues. 

According to NYU Langone Health, 80% of men will have pronounced hair loss in their life, and almost 50% of women will as well. Dermatologist and hair loss expert at NYU Langone Health Jerry Shapiro wrote on the health center's site, "When shedding outpaces growth ... the result is alopecia." Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, MD, explained to Everyday Health that "excess androgens, or male sex hormones, and hormonal imbalances are the most common cause of hair loss." 

However, there are a handful of potential causes of hair loss, such as pregnancy and stress. Depending on the trigger of your fading follicles, there are a few prescriptions that aim to target specific issues. However, a number of natural supplements claim to offer a solution to balding and thinning. One popular remedy people swear by is saw palmetto.

Saw palmetto is a natural remedy

Saw palmetto could be a potential form of herbal treatment for hair loss. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) gives a brief background on saw palmetto. The publication explains that in its original form, it is a plant species of palm that comes from the southeast. They report that it has been used throughout history to treat ailments, especially those pertaining to the reproductive system. Today, research continues to be done on the effects of saw palmetto.

The Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, explained how saw palmetto works to Byrdie. Zeichner said, "saw palmetto is a botanical extract that has been shown to block the effect of androgen hormones. We know that high levels of these hormones are associated with hair thinning, so blocking them may theoretically improve hair growth." 

Gretchen Friese, a certified trichologist, told the outlet that saw palmetto could serve as a scalp anti-inflammatory, which could, in turn, improve hair retention and growth.

Is saw palmetto an effective treatment for hair loss?

Several studies have been done in an effort to determine whether saw palmetto can actually treat hair loss. In a small study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that out of 10 men with androgenetic alopecia taking saw palmetto, six of them saw their problems subside. In another study by the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, researchers had a group of men with androgenetic alopecia take 350mg of saw palmetto daily for two years. As a result, 38% of these subjects saw improvements in their hair loss.

Despite this research, the NCCIH states that there isn't sufficient evidence to prove that saw palmetto can be used for problems with hair loss. In addition, the national organization warns that most of what we know about saw palmetto comes from studies of male subjects with BPH. Because of this, we don't know the possible risks and effects it could have on other genders and children. In addition, there is not much information on how the supplement may interact with afflictions other than BPH. 

If you are considering trying saw palmetto as a way to address hair loss, it is best you consult a physician first.