What Is Saw Palmetto?Saw palmetto – scientifically known as Serenoa repens – is a palm tree commonly found in Florida and other south-eastern states of America. It has been used in medicine for hundreds of years. From the plant, supplements using the herb, extract, and berry are made that are capable of inhibiting androgens, or male hormones - a key indicator of PCOS in women. But what does this mean?
Well, seeing as many of the symptoms you're likely experiencing are being driven by high levels of androgen hormones, saw palmetto can help to lower these androgen levels thus improving many of your symptoms. This is why saw palmetto is such a popular supplement for women with PCOS.
So how does saw palmetto work?
It’s thought to work by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) - one of the most potent androgens, and is a major proponent in the masculine-presenting symptoms of PCOS. The most common symptoms include hair loss, facial hair growth, acne, and menstrual irregularities.
One study found that a high DHT to testosterone ratio is present in those diagnosed with PCOS, so any treatments that are able to normalise that ratio will help ease the condition.
Related: Common PCOS symptoms & causes
4 Benefits Of Saw Palmetto For PCOS
1. Lowers Testosterone in Females / Reduces Androgen Levels:Saw palmetto contains fatty acids known collectively as liposterols. Individually, they're named lauric, oleic, myristic, and linoleic. It is these fatty acids that are responsible for the inhibition of 5 alpha-reductase enzyme. Through this function, saw palmetto can help reduce the intensity of PCOS symptoms that are associated with excess androgen levels, including acne and hair loss.
Because elevated androgens is the hallmark of PCOS, supplementing with saw palmetto is one of the most beneficial things you can do.
Related: How to lower testosterone levels
2. Prevents Male-Like Hair Loss, Also Known as Androgenic Alopecia:Higher levels of androgen hormones like DHT are thought to shorten the hair growth cycle and lead to the development of shorter and thinner hair strands.
However, by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone to its more potent form - DHT, saw palmetto lengthens the hair growth cycle thus helps to prevent male-like hair loss and potential balding. Out of all of the unwanted PCOS symptoms, time and again I will hear from my clients that this symptom is truly one of the worst.
3. Reduces Hirsutism, Preventing Excessive Hair Growth:Again, hirsutism is driven by DHT - the more potent form of testosterone. By blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT, saw palmetto helps to reduce the amount of unwanted hair growth.
And hirsutism, or unwanted hair growth, usually develops on the lip, chin, chest, back, and thighs.
4. Helps to Regulate Estrogen in Women With Estrogen Dominance:Estrogen dominance refers to a woman having too much estrogen in their system compared to progesterone and other sex hormones. Like with all of your hormones in your endocrine system, it relies on a healthy balance. And when there is an imbalance, there are issues.
Women with PCOS will often have high levels of estrogens - estrone (E1) and estradiol (E2). This is due to, at least in part, lower levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). This hormonal state of high estrogen leads to a positive feedback of increased LH (luteinizing hormone) production, and a negative feedback of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) production; two hormones essential for a healthy and regular menstrual cycle.
However, high LH levels contribute to the development of ovarian hyperplasia (ovarian enlargement), which directly increases androgen production and leads to chronic anovulation. And remember: when the ovaries do not release an egg during the menstrual cycle, ovulation does not take place.
Fortunately, the plant sterols in saw palmetto also act on progesterone receptors; an action that causes a reduction in estrogen levels. Thus, saw palmetto helps to maintain a healthy balance between LH and FSH production, which is essential for ovulation.
Recommended Dosage For Saw PalmettoSaw palmetto appears to be most effective when taken in daily doses of 160–320 mg. Just a couple of quick guidelines to follow if you wish to start supplementing with saw palmetto:
- It should not be taken if you're currently pregnant or breastfeeding
- Always consult your healthcare provider before taking saw palmetto to ensure your safety and appropriate dosage.
Where Can You Get Saw Palmetto?Local chemists and pharmacies generally stock saw palmetto as a supplement. However, there are plenty of brands and dosages which tends to cause complexity and confusion when trying to find the perfect supplement for you.
Luckily, we at Healthy PCOS have in stock high-quality saw palmetto capsules, which contain the recommended dosage for PCOS effectiveness.