Treatments for hair loss exist — both prescription-based and natural. As far as natural treatments, saw palmetto a popular options. But does this natural alternative really work for hair loss? Here's what you need to know about saw palmetto's origins, its potential and info on the best products featuring saw palmetto.

Hair Loss Explained

First things first: While pattern baldness and hair loss are most often associated with men, hair loss issues do impact women as well. Hair loss in women is more than common than you might think. In fact, 40% of those struggling with hair loss are women, according to the American Hair Loss Association. And recently, it's come to light that hair loss may also be one of the lingering side effects of COVID-19, leaving more people than ever struggling with hair heartache over the past year. 

Hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is fairly common as we age. Hair loss is a health condition that is caused by fluctuations in hormone levels. The hormone testosterone and its conversion into a molecule called DHT, which causes the hair follicles to shrink, results in, you guessed it: hair loss

As men have more testosterone than women do, balding is more common in men. This is seen in the M-shaped pattern of thinning hair, known as male pattern baldness. In women, thinning hair tends to occur all over the scalp rather than complete female pattern hair baldness. As for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia, there are many options. From medical professional prescribed prescriptions to over-the-counter remedies, when it comes it comes to treating hair loss and promoting hair regrowth, most products are either topically applied and/or taken orally.

See: What Is Alopecia Areata? One Type of Hair Loss Explained

Saw Palmetto: What You Need To Know

Serenoa repens, commonly known as saw palmetto, is a plant that is a member of the palm family. This shrub-sized plant is natives to the West Indies and grows within the Southeast United States. The saw palmetto features small berries, which have been used historically as an alternative herbal remedy by Native Americans in both medicine and food. Saw palmetto has been and continues to be used as an alternative remedy for a range of health issues. Typically, saw palmetto is used to:

  • Treat hair loss
  • Improve bladder infections
  • Aid in prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate
  • Increase decreased sex drive

Most saw palmetto preparations feature the powder extract of the plant's berries, whether they are taken as oral capsules, included in a supplement powder or applied topically to the scalp and head. In the treatment of hair loss, saw palmetto is thought to work well when used with pumpkin seed oil and niacin by minimizing hair loss and promoting hair growth and hair regrowth.

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Saw Palmetto as a Plant-Powered Hair Helper

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Saw palmetto supplements are a popular choice in combatting thinning hair. Saw palmetto is believed to support hair and scalp health in these ways:

  • Promoting hair growth: A reduction of inflammation in the scalp can also contribute to new hair growth. A healthy scalp is one of the keys to new growth, and less inflammation translates to an improvement of hair growth. 
  • Preventing hair loss: Saw palmetto prevents the conversion of testosterone into DHT, a leading cause of hair loss.
  • Fighting inflammation: Saw palmetto has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation in hair follicles or the scalp can cause hair growth problems

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The Science Behind Saw Palmetto

The scientific evidence supporting exactly how saw palmetto works in treating hair loss is limited, yet hopeful, in its potential to help those experiencing hair loss. According to a 2019 study published in the BIOMEDICAL Journal of Scientific & Technical Research, saw palmetto is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects that may offer protection from some of the causes of hair loss. This research explored the use of saw palmetto in hair care products.

Some research also suggests that saw palmetto extract may block 5 alpha-reductase. This is an enzyme that is responsible for the conversion of testosterone into the androgen hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). An androgen hormone is a sex hormone that contributes to the development of sex characteristics in men, such as body hair and hair growth. Conversely, it can also cause hair loss at a quicker and/or earlier rate.

As DHT is derived from testosterone, these androgen hormones contribute to traits such as:

  • Increased body hair
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Changes in how fat is stored in the body
  • Improved sexual health and/or fertility

DHT is also a primary cause behind hair loss and is involved in the enlargement of the prostate. Having too much DHT flowing freely flowing through your bloodstream may link to the receptors on hair follicles in your scalp. In turn, this causes hair follicles to shrink and may shorten the hair growth cycles, causing hair to grow out looking thinner, more brittle or fall out at a quicker pace. By preventing the conversion of testosterone into DHT and its corresponding absorption of DHT in the body, utilizing saw palmetto may be an effective treatment to help in the reduction of hair loss.

Also: How to Grow Your Hair Out, Stat!

Always Talk to Your Doctor Before Taking a New Supplement

As with any supplement or vitamin, always talk to your doctor before adding something new to your routine especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a medical condition or are taking medication.

Other Options for Boosting Hair Wellness

Besides saw palmetto, you may want to consider incorporating other self-care practices into your routine that can help strengthen your strands and visibly increase your hair density. After all, your overall health, including that of your hair, is directly connected to how you care for your physical body along with your emotional wellness. Besides eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in essential vitamins, minerals and proteins, consider using other hair care supplements and make managing your stress levels a priority.

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Other Hair Care Supplements To Consider

"We tend to think of hair care and helping generate hair growth and thickness as only using products that nurture it on the outside like an amazing shampoo or conditioner," said New York City hairstylist Jasmine Anna Galazka. "However, you should treat your hair beginning from the inside. Taking supplements such as multivitamins including biotin or other hair health boosters will help you to nourish your hair from the inside out."

Biotin, for example, is one of the most popular vitamins that is commonly taken for the health care of hair, skin and nails. Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that is a necessity for the breakdown of food into fatty acids and amino acids. Supplements such as vegan GRO Biotin Gummies, which contain essential ingredients such as biotin, folic acid, zinc, vitamins A, B-5, C, E, 6 and 1, can also make hair less susceptible to damage, such as breakage, split ends, hair thinning or hair loss.

Consider combining the use of other hair benefiting products such as GRO+ Advanced Hair Serum and GRO+ Advanced Gummies, which include biotin and hemp seed oil, to make use of the power of CBD. The hair serum contains full-spectrum CBD, along with other beneficial ingredients for the scalp and hair.

Ways To Manage Stress Levels

Too much stress is bad for your health and has been connected to hair loss. Here are some ways to actively manage it, which can be used in tandem with natural hair care supplements.

  • Practice yoga to help ease digestives woes that are linked with hair loss or thinning hair.
  • Do yoga poses that help with hair growth.
  • Improve circulation throughout your body with scalp massage.
  • Dry brush before you shower to promote lymphatic drainage.
  • Engage in meditation and mindfulness.
  • Spend time outdoors in nature.
  • Minimize screen time on digital devices.
  • Block out time to do activities that bring you joy and calm.
  • Practice regular self-care activities.

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Is Saw Palmetto Helpful for Hair Loss?

Research shows that saw palmetto may be an effective treatment in reducing hair loss due to its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to block DHT. However, it's important to check with your doctor before using it, especially if you're pregnant or nursing, use birth control, take blood thinners or other medications — or if you have other health issues.

No matter if you choose to use saw palmetto as part of your hair care routine or not, you can also consider other plant-based supplements and healthy lifestyle changes to optimize your hair's wellness.

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Photo credit: Tyler McRobert/Unsplash

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