Can Women Take Saw Palmetto?

Saw palmetto is a popular herbal supplement that men and women can take for several different health conditions. 

Many people swear by saw palmetto, but is it beneficial for women?

We know saw palmetto extracts are commonly used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). 

It is an excellent aid for men with urinary problems. 

One of the reasons is that saw palmetto prevents the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. 

Is this feature useful for women, too? 

How much should you take if you’re a woman, and what are the benefits?

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits and uses of saw palmetto for women.

What is saw palmetto?

Saw palmetto, also known as Serenoa repens, is a native plant of North America. It grows in coastal marshes, prairies, and sandy soils. 

It’s commonly found in Florida, Georgia, and parts of Alabama. Its berries grow in clusters and look like other berries found in palm trees.

The fruit and seeds of saw palmetto are often used medicinally and are popular for their benefits in benign prostatic hyperplasia supplements. The berries are dried and made into tea or tincture. 

Saw palmetto berries contain components known as estrones, which behave like a hormone and can be found in other plants as well. It also has beta-sitosterol, fatty acid content, protein, carbohydrates, polysaccharides, and amino acids.

Saw palmetto supplements are usually available in pill form. However, you can also prepare a tea or infusion with berries. For that purpose, you can find them dried and as ground fruit. 

You can also consume saw palmetto berry powder in smoothies and other foods, but the most common use is as a natural supplement for BPH. 

More recently, the herb has been used in hair care and saw palmetto cream products, especially for women with alopecia (1).

saw palmetto benefits for men

Can women take saw palmetto?

In recent years, women have increasingly turned to natural products for their health. Saw palmetto is a popular natural remedy for prostate health, but it is not only reserved for men.

Most people consider saw palmetto a supplement for men’s health. They believe that women will have consequences and undesired effects if they take a supplement meant for men. 

But that’s not the case for saw palmetto. 

The supplement counters testosterone activation into dihydrotestosterone, which may benefit women with an excess of testosterone. 

However, studies show that women should not take saw palmetto while pregnant because it can lead to uterine contractions. Thus, pregnancy is the only contraindication of saw palmetto for females (2).

What does saw palmetto do for women?

Saw palmetto blocks the conversion and activation of testosterone in males and females. This sex hormone can be found in women because the adrenal glands produce it. 

High testosterone levels can cause hair loss, facial hair, and other masculine traits in women. By changing the hormonal profile, saw palmetto is often used to treat female hormone imbalance, such as PMS and menopause.

Does saw palmetto help women’s hair loss?

Men usually have much higher levels of testosterone than women, and this testosterone affects hair growth. Simply put, testosterone stimulates body hair growth, but too much testosterone causes alterations in hair follicles and leads to alopecia.

There is an enzyme in the hair follicles of the scalp known as 5-alpha-reductase. When testosterone comes into contact with this enzyme, it is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). 

This metabolite of testosterone is responsible for shrinking the hair follicle and causing baldness. An increase of DHT in the scalp is associated with androgenic alopecia. The hair loss process is gradual and starts with a thinning stage in which the hairs become brittle and prone to falling. 

Saw palmetto inhibits DHT through multiple enzyme blocks and interactions. That’s how saw palmetto works for hair loss in men and women.

Many studies have evaluated saw palmetto and its effects on male pattern baldness. Some have compared saw palmetto and finasteride, which is considered the mainstream therapy. The studies show that saw palmetto is a promising agent to reverse hair loss in women.

However, we should remember that the thinning process mentioned above takes a very long time and sometimes results in irreversible destruction of the hair follicles. Thus, the recovery process usually takes longer and depends on the severity, extension, and type of hair loss.

Unlike finasteride, saw palmetto does not have side effects such as sex drive problems or impotence. As such, it is an excellent option to try if you’re looking for natural remedies for hair loss (3).

How does saw palmetto affect female hormones?

Saw Palmetto contains sterols, which are compounds with hormone-like effects. Some sterols modulate estrogen levels, while others interact with androgens. 

Saw palmetto sterols and other components affect female hormones through various mechanisms:

  • It inhibits the 5-alpha reductase enzyme activity, preventing the activation of testosterone. This mechanism restores the balance between estrogen and androgen levels in women with high testosterone.
  • The liposterols in saw palmetto reduce the uptake of androgens by 40% in most tissues. Thus, even if the reduction of DHT is not enough, it will also be compensated by a decrease in the uptake.
  • According to animal studies, saw palmetto plant extract for women will also regularize follicle maturation in women with high prolactin levels. The mechanism involves the inhibition of the prolactin receptors in women. This enzyme is secreted in breastfeeding women to produce breast milk and causes menstrual irregularities that saw palmetto will probably solve.

Through these mechanisms, saw palmetto can restore the hormonal balance in women. Thus, people with hyperandrogenism and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can use it. 

Moreover, patients with PCOS can benefit from the anti-inflammatory effects of saw palmetto, which reduces pelvic pain, low-grade inflammation, and bloating (4).

saw-palmetto

What are the benefits of saw palmetto?

Saw palmetto is commonly used as a remedy for males with benign prostatic hyperplasia. It reduces urinary symptoms and slows prostatic growth by countering DHT through the mechanisms discussed above. However, saw palmetto also has plenty of benefits for women. 

It is a potential health supplement for hair loss

Studies with topical solutions and oral supplements show some promise in hair loss. However, its applications in clinical practice depend on the severity of alopecia and the extent of the damage to the hair follicle (5).

Studies show that it also reduces urinary symptoms in women

A recent study in Japanese women shows that saw palmetto may also benefit the urinary system. Women with overactive bladder and lower urinary tract symptoms such as nocturia and increased daytime frequency may find significant relief from saw palmetto extracts (6).

It prevents and treats hirsutism

Women with facial hair, acne, and other problems triggered by high testosterone levels can also benefit from saw palmetto. According to studies, the treatment can be administered orally or topically with a high success rate (7).

How much saw palmetto should a woman take a day?

Saw palmetto is considered a safe supplement. The usual dose is around 320 mg daily. This dose has been found to have no toxicity or severe side effects in males.

Studies in women follow the same dose with excellent results and no recorded side effects. For instance, the Japanese study mentioned above used 320 mg daily without adverse effects (6,8).

How long does it take for saw palmetto to work?

The time it takes for saw palmetto to work depends on what you try to solve and your current health conditions.

Most human studies are held in 6 to 12 weeks, enough to achieve a high concentration of saw palmetto sterols in the blood. However, other studies show promising results from the first month (6,7).

Conclusion

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is commonly known for its prostate benefits. However, saw palmetto can also be of use in women’s health with high testosterone levels.

The lipid components of this plant have anti-androgen effects. They lower testosterone and reduce the conversion to a more active metabolite called DHT.

Does saw palmetto work for women with PCOS, hair loss, hirsutism, and other hormonal issues? According to the studies, there’s a high chance that it will work. 

By countering DHT, saw palmetto can also be used for hormonal acne, fertility issues, and estrogen dominance. However, we need more research in those fields.

Explore More

how to lower testosterone with pcos

How To Naturally Lower Testosterone If You Have PCOS.

Sources

  1. Kalwat, J. I. (2019). The use of Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto) in hair care products. Biomed J Sci Tech Res, 13(1), 9725-9728.
  2. Jaafari, M., Fotoohi, A., Razavi, N., & Abdian Asl, A. (2016). Herbal medicine in pregnancy. Advanced Herbal Medicine, 2(1), 54-66.
  3. Chatterjee, S., & Agrawala, S. K. (2003). Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) in androgenic alopecia An effective phytotherapy.
  4. Pachiappan, S., Ramalingam, K., & Balasubramanian, A. (2020). A review on phytomedicine and their mechanism of action on PCOS. Int. J. Cur. Res. Rev, 12(23), 81. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/347430059_A_Review_on_Phytomedicine_and_Their_Mechanism_of_Action_on_PCOS
  5. Evron, E., Juhasz, M., Babadjouni, A., & Mesinkovska, N. A. (2020). Natural Hair Supplement: Friend or Foe? Saw Palmetto, a Systematic Review in Alopecia. Skin appendage disorders, 6(6), 329-337. https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/509905
  6. Yamada, S., Shirai, M., Ono, K., & Kageyama, S. (2022). Beneficial Effects of Saw Palmetto Fruit Extract on Urinary Symptoms in Japanese Female Subjects by a Multicenter, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients, 14(6), 1190. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8953103/
  7. Maryam, Y., Behrooz, B., Soudabeh, G., Hamideh, M., & Roxanna, K. (2009). The Effectiveness of the Extract of Serenoa Repens (Saw Palmetto) In Idiopathic Facial Hirsutism. Iranian Journal of Dermatology, 12(4), 139-140.
  8. Avins, A. L., Bent, S., Staccone, S., Badua, E., Padula, A., Goldberg, H., … & Kane, C. (2008). A detailed safety assessment of a saw palmetto extract. Complementary therapies in medicine, 16(3), 147-154. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2518869/

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4 Comments

  1. Lea Hammel

    If u were sort of finding a hair or two on ur face (Iam a females) which I am afraid more will grow but saw palmetto will stop that process of hair growth on the face? How is it in anti aging?

    • Ben's Natural Health Team

      Hi Lea,

      Thanks for your comment.

      We have formulated our Saw Palmetto supplement to help men with BPH to urinate more comfortably. I can’t see any evidence to suggest it would help eliminate hair growth on the face, quite the opposite it can help hair growth in men by suppressing DHT production which can cause hair loss. The studies into Saw Palmetto’s anti-aging effects are limited at this time.

      Wishing you good health,
      Ben’s Natural Health Team

  2. MAUREEN PARRISH

    I had breast cancer 17 years ago at age 35. I cannot take birth control pills or any form of estrogen. Is this safe for me to take?

    • Ben's Natural Health Team

      Hi Maureen,

      Thanks for your comment. I’d recommend consulting with your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet.

      Wishing you good health,
      The Ben’s Natural Health Team

 
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