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. But is it true that saw palmetto can also prevent male pattern baldness?
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 (BPH – 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 hair loss from androgenic alopecia, better known as male pattern baldness.
Saw palmetto effect on DHT
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 as a natural DHT-blocker.
Hair health and hair loss treatment options
At present, only two pharmaceutical products are clinically proven to stabilise hair loss and promote regrowth. The Belgravia Centre bases its comprehensive male hair loss treatment programmes around finasteride 1mg 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 for Men, a daily hair growth supplement which 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 Male Pattern Hair Loss Treatment Success Stories.
Even if you do not follow a Belgravia hair loss treatment programme, it is still possible to use Hair Vitalics for Men to help boost your hair’s health. These premium hair growth supplements can be purchased directly from hairvitalics.com and can be delivered worldwide.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.