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Does Saw Palmetto Prevent Baldness?

Extracts from the berry of the dwarf palm plant serenoa repens – better known by the common name saw palmetto – have traditionally been used to treat urinary tract infections. Its use can be traced back to the Mayans, who used it as a tonic, and the Seminoles, who employed its antiseptic qualities.

There is some evidence that saw palmetto, which takes its botanical name, sabul serrulatum, from its serrated leaves, can have a slight beneficial effect upon the symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy (enlarged prostate), and this is its most common modern usage. Leading on from the research that has been undertaken into the mechanism by which saw palmetto works to relieve the symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy, it seems likely – though still unproven – that it can also be of benefit in the treatment of androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness.

Androgenic alopecia is caused by the effect of male hormones (androgens) on genetically predisposed hair follicles. Within these follicles, testosterone is converted into the androgen DHT (dihydrotestosterone) by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. DHT inhibits the growth of new hair cells, causing the follicles to shrink with each growth cycle until the follicles become dysfunctional and hair no longer grows.

5-alpha reductase enzymes are present primarily in the scalp and the prostate, and research suggests that saw palmetto has an inhibitory effect on the enzyme, thereby blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT. It also has a direct inhibitory effect on androgen receptors, as well as anti-inflammatory properties.

To date there has been only one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (the ‘gold standard’ of clinical trials) into the effectiveness of saw palmetto in treating androgenic alopecia. The report by Prager et al. (2006) was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

The pilot study used male subjects between the ages of 23 and 64, in good health, with mild to moderate androgenic alopecia. 60% of the subjects dosed with the active formulation were rated as improved at the end of the study. However, the study was very small in scope, and therefore much larger clinical trials are needed to further substantiate any claims for saw palmetto’s efficacy.

At present, only two pharmaceutical products are clinically proven to stabilise hair loss and promote regrowth. The Belgravia Centre bases its comprehensive hair loss treatment programmes around Propecia and Minoxidil, both of which are licensed for this use, due to the substantial body of evidence that they are safe and effective.

Belgravia also uses various hair growth boosters, including Hair Vitalics, a daily supplement that contains saw palmetto as well as many other nutrients selected to enhance the hair’s health. It is designed to complement treatment based around our tried and tested primary medications. You can see how effective our treatment programmes can be by viewing some of our many success stories.

To book a free consultation with one of our specialists who can assess your individual hair condition and advise on the best course of treatment, call 020 7730 6666 or send us a message with any enquiry you might have. If you can’t get to the London centre, you can complete the online diagnostic form and an advisor will be happy to recommend a home-use treatment course, available worldwide.

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