Saw palmetto is a small palm plant found in North America. Also known as Serenoa repens, this natural herb is obtained from the red-colored, berry-like fruit of this plant. It is a rich source of various types of fatty acids such as, oleic acid, lauric acid, palmitic acid, etc., which makes this herb very beneficial. Native Americans used it for the treatment of urinary disorders and enlarged prostate gland in men, since ancient times. It is only in very recent times, that the effects of this herb on hair loss have been discovered in various research studies.
Saw Palmetto as a Hair Treatment
Saw palmetto is highly effective for androgenic alopecia or male pattern baldness. This can affect both men, as well as women. In this condition, hair loss occurs in the middle of the scalp and near the temples. This kind of balding happens when the level of dihydrotestosterone (or DHT) hormone in the scalp becomes high. This hormone attaches itself with the hair follicles and prevents proper nutrient supply to hair roots. As a result, the size of the hair follicles decreases, resulting in the growth of thinner hair. Eventually, new hair growth from the affected follicles stops completely.
This kind of hair loss can be prevented only by lowering the DHT level in scalp. The enzyme Type II 5-alpha reductase, released by the oil glands present in the hair follicles, helps convert testosterone into DHT. When it is consumed, its fatty acid components block the secretion of the type II 5-alpha reductase enzyme and inhibit the formation of DHT. It also creates blockade at the receptor site of the cell membranes so that DHT is not absorbed into the scalp cells, thereby reducing hair fall.
This herb is available in the form of tablets, capsules, and liquid extracts. Whole berries or powdered form of the dried berries can also be used. It is a key ingredient of a number of over-the-counter medicines that are used to promote hair growth. Dosage varies between 160 milligrams and 320 milligrams. It largely depends on the body weight and health condition of the concerned person. The correct dosage is decided by a doctor. Before using the extract or any medicine that contains this herb, it is advised to read the label to check the contents. It must be taken as per the prescribed dosage. Along with the oral medicines, using saw palmetto oil extract topically at the site of hair loss will also help. When applied on the bald spot, it is readily absorbed into the scalp, which in turn revives the hair follicles. Thus, it strengthens hair roots and prevents hair fall.
As such, there are no major side effects. However, some people may experience mild side effects like stomach-related problems, or headache. Women can safely use the extract for hair loss but, it is not suitable for pregnant women, and lactating mothers. People affected by hormonal problems should also avoid this herb.