Are you dealing with unwanted hair on your face and your body? Is it also coupled with male pattern baldness that has less hair on your head while there’s more hair clogging your bathroom sink? Blame it on your PCOS! Both excess body hair and hair loss are caused by excess androgens or male hormones. You can cure both these depressing and highly unwanted symptoms of PCOS with Saw Palmetto, a herbal remedy that’s been used for years.
What is Saw Palmetto?
Saw palmetto is a small palm that is native to South-Eastern U.S.A, primarily grown in the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains. The reddish brown/blackish berries along with the fronds and heart of the palm are used to make a herbal medicine. It has been used by Native Americans for centuries to improve prostate health. High in essential fatty acids, this herbal remedy naturally treats health problems related to DHT. DHT or dihydrotestosterone is a male hormone.
How Does Saw Palmetto Work For PCOS?
Women with PCOS have higher levels of male hormones, namely testosterone, androstenedione, and DHEA. Excessive testosterone gets converted into DHT by an enzyme known as 5 alpha-reductase (5AR.) Now here’s the bad news – DHT is a more powerful hormone than testosterone, and a bigger problem-creator for women with PCOS.
A study performed at the University of Birmingham, UK found increased 5AR activity in women with PCOS. In the study, scientists compared women with PCOS with healthy women of the same BMI. They found enhanced androgen and increased 5AR activity in women with PCOS, which cannot be explained by obesity alone. These women were converting excess testosterone to DHT more easily than women without PCOS.
A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, July 2004 also shows promising results. The study establishes the effectiveness of naturally occurring 5AR inhibitors, derived from the extract of saw palmetto against male pattern baldness for the first time. This positive outcome justifies an expansion to larger trials. While this study was conducted on men, the same anti-androgen activity of Saw Palmetto extract works for women with PCOS too. DHT is responsible for male pattern baldness in not just men, but also in women with thinning hair.
Another French study investigated the inhibition of androgen metabolism and binding using Saw Palmetto extract. The study found that saw palmetto could potentially control 5AR and receptor binding of androgens in humans. Researchers concluded that as an anti-androgenic compound, Saw Palmetto extract could be used as a treatment for excess body hair.
Since Saw Palmetto works as a DHT inhibitor by reducing the production of 5AR, it is a useful herbal remedy for PCOS related male pattern baldness and excess body hair. It appears that an herbal remedy made with Saw Palmetto extract may:
- Reduce DHT production
- Accelerate DHT breakdown
- Inhibit 5AR activity
- Prevent DHT from binding with androgen receptor sites
All of these actions of Saw Palmetto extract encourage hair growth on the head, while reducing undesirable facial and body hair in women with PCOS.
Additionally, the anti-inflammatory properties of Saw Palmetto extract can also be helpful to combat bloating, pelvic pain and low-grade systemic inflammation in women with PCOS.
Why Saw Palmetto May Be Better Than Drugs For PCOS Symptoms?
Doctors commonly prescribe Spironolactone (commonly sold as Aldactone), and finasteride (commonly sold as Propecia and Proscar) to treat male pattern baldness and excess body hair in women with PCOS. Both these drugs perform the same task as Saw Palmetto extract – namely, inhibiting 5AR production. However, like with most allopathic drugs, these come with a myriad of unwanted side-effects like fatigue, nausea, indigestion and sometimes irregular periods as well.
On the other hand, saw palmetto extract is free from these side effects, 100% natural, and less expensive as these treatments. If you believe in holistic treatments, saw palmetto for PCOS is the right way to go. It is believed to be a safe herbal supplement, with a primary side effect of mild gastrointestinal distress.
How To Use Saw Palmetto for PCOS: Dosage & Interactions
The recommended dosage for Saw Palmetto extract is a 400mg capsule/day, or 1 tsp. liquid extract/day, post meal. Like most herbal treatments, saw palmetto takes time to show positive results. It can take up to 6 weeks before you see any improvements in your male pattern baldness and excess body hair. Discuss continued usage with your PCOS healthcare provider.
Saw Palmetto works well when combined with Vitex or Chasteberry and Licorice root to treat PCOS symptoms. No significant drug interactions or side effects have been associated with the use of Saw Palmetto extract. However, it’s advisable to take this herbal supplement after food, as it may cause slight gastric distress when taken on an empty stomach.
If you are on allopathic anti-androgen drugs, do not take saw palmetto without discussing with your health practitioner first, as it may have an additive effect. Also, we don’t recommend saw palmetto if you are currently undergoing allopathic fertility treatments.
Final Thoughts On Saw Palmetto For PCOS
Even though Saw Palmetto for PCOS is a relatively safe herbal remedy, we do not recommend its use without guidance from a naturopathic physician or a certified herbalist. A rare case reported by University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences found an intraoperative hemorrhage associated with the use of extract of Saw Palmetto herb in a 53 year old male. An intraoperative hemorrhage blood loss exceeding 1000 mL. So while Saw Palmetto may not have any adverse reaction for most of us, a handful of us could experience some adverse effects. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, don’t you think?