Does Saw Palmetto Increase Testosterone? (From A Dietitian)

Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD
Published by Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD | Medical Doctor
Last updated: July 18, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Dr. Kristy Dayanan, BS, MD
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As a dietitian, I've likely encountered various strategies for increasing testosterone. Saw palmetto often surfaces in discussions as an effective means to boost T levels.

To enhance my existing expertise, I invested hours in researching online and also had an in-depth conversation with our fitness trainer about this interesting fruit and its relationship with testosterone levels.

Let's explore further.

Quick Summary

  • Saw palmetto may naturally boost testosterone levels, offering a natural alternative for those seeking to increase their testosterone.
  • It's known for benefits like improving prostate health, promoting hair growth, and reducing inflammation.
  • Individuals might start seeing the benefits of saw palmetto within 4 to 6 weeks of usage.
  • From my perspective, saw palmetto presents a promising, natural option for testosterone regulation, though individual results may vary.

Does Saw Palmetto Increase Testosterone?

A buff male holding a bottle of Saw Palmetto pills

Saw palmetto, or Serenoa repens, may naturally boost testosterone.

Let's first understand what saw palmetto is before exploring its connection with testosterone.

As low testosterone impacts libido in both men and women, saw palmetto isn't just for men.

What is Saw Palmetto?

Saw palmetto, or Serenoa repens, a medicinal palm native to the southeastern U.S., grows up to ten feet.

It's sold as berries, powder, liquid, and commonly in extract capsules.

Recently, it's also been used topically for hair loss.

Always buy from trusted sources, ensuring a standardized product with 85–95% fatty acids and sterols.

Bioavailability and Absorption

Saw palmetto is mainly absorbed in the small intestine, where its fat-loving compounds enter the bloodstream.

Its absorption can be boosted by eating it with fatty foods. Taking it with meals rich in healthy fats might improve its effectiveness, but absorption varies from person to person.

Sticking to a regular dosing schedule is key.

Yet, everyone's different, so it's wise to chat with a healthcare professional for advice on the best dosage and use of saw palmetto supplements.

How Does Saw Palmetto Work?

A person holding a saw palmetto pill

According to WebMd, saw palmetto might block 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme that turns testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), affecting muscle mass, hair growth or loss, and prostate health [1].

I also found that it hinders DHT's binding to androgen receptors, possibly tackling hair loss by regulating testosterone levels.

While Europe and Asia widely recognize its benefits, the U.S. medical community is more doubtful.

Let's dive into how it potentially regulates testosterone.

Testosterone

Opinions vary on whether palmetto extracts boost testosterone.

A study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) revealed that men taking a saw palmetto supplement experienced higher testosterone levels after two weeks [2].

Another study by the NIH found a 38% hormone level increase in men using Resettin®, a saw palmetto and astaxanthin supplement, over 14 days [3].

“Test-tube, human, and animal studies show that saw palmetto could help regulate testosterone levels by decreasing the activity of an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT.”

- Rachel Link MS, RD

Libido

A couple happy in bed smiling at each other

Low testosterone can lower sexual drive. It's thought that saw palmetto, by slowing testosterone's conversion to DHT, boosts libido. Numerous studies I found explored its potential to enhance sexual desire in men and women.

Consider for instance, this notable study I saw:

Over two years, researchers tracked 120 patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) to test saw palmetto's impact on sexual function and prostate symptoms [4].

They monitored:

  • Urine flow
  • Blood prostate-specific antigen
  • Prostate symptoms
  • Erectile function
  • Quality of life

The study showed significantly improved sexual function and BPH symptoms after the first year.

Other Benefits

A doctor holding a green pill with confusion

Besides the perceived benefits of regulating testosterone and libido, there are a few other potential benefits of saw palmetto worth mentioning.

1. Prostate Health

The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland that sits just below the bladder, and it helps produce and transport semen, making it a vital part of male reproductive health.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

Saw palmetto may be beneficial in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate enlargement, as shown by a 2014 randomized controlled trial by the NIH that found this particularly true when combined with other natural therapies [5].

Prostate Cancer

Palmetto might inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells.

A 2001 study by the NIH looking at the effects of the extract of saw palmetto berries, further supports its ability to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells [6].

Saw palmetto could be an effective treatment for individuals with prostate cancer, showing the potential to slow the growth.

“Evidence related to saw palmetto’s ability to improve prostate health and urinary function is mixed. Some studies report that it may improve urine flow and reduce nighttime urination, but others find no effect. More research is needed.”

- Alina Petre, MS, RD

2. Hair Growth

A man with a receding hairline

According to the NIH, male androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, is the top hair loss type in men, affecting 30–50% by age 50 [7].

Excess DHT often leads to hair loss by shrinking hair follicles, making hair thinner or brittle.

Saw palmetto's ability to block DHT may help combat this. A study from the National Library of Medicine with 50 men, aged 20 to 50, found that applying saw palmetto extract topically spurred hair growth [8].

Additionally, a mouse study by the NIH revealed saw palmetto aids hair regeneration and repairs hair loss by triggering TGF-β and mitochondrial pathways [9].

3. Inflammation

There are minimal human studies, but animal studies show promise when evaluating the efficacy of saw palmetto in decreasing inflammation.

A study by the NIH in rats with enlarged prostates showed that saw palmetto oil reduced swelling and several other indicators of inflammation [10].

4. Female Health

A female doctor and patient discussing with each other

While we've mainly discussed men's health issues, we saw palmetto might also benefit women, potentially affecting their testosterone differently.

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) often have high testosterone levels, leading to issues like irregular or heavy periods, excessive body or facial hair, and acne.

According to the National Center for Biotechnological Information, research is ongoing to determine how saw palmetto and similar plant-based anti-androgens might alleviate PCOS symptoms [11].

Side Effects

Taking medications and natural supplements has a risk of side effects and saw palmetto is no different. Most of clients report that any side effects they experience are mild.

They include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Bad breath
  • Constipation

Interactions With Medications

A doctor pointing to a notebook

If you consider supplementing with saw palmetto, you should know about a few drug interactions.

Saw palmetto can interact with:

  • Finasteride (Proscar) or other medications treat benign prostatic hyperplasia.
  • Antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs (blood-thinners), like Warfarin (Coumadin), Clopidogrel (Plavix), and Aspirin.
  • Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy may decrease the efficacy of oral contraceptives and increase the risk of an unplanned pregnancy.

Saw Palmetto in Combination Therapies

Integrating saw palmetto with other natural therapies or supplements may offer a multifaceted approach to managing Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) symptoms.

Saw palmetto exhibits potential synergy in treating symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

  • Lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, complements saw palmetto's anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Selenium contributes to prostate health, enhancing its therapeutic impact.
  • Tamsulosin, a medication commonly prescribed for BPH, may work synergistically with saw palmetto, collectively addressing urinary symptoms.

FAQs

How Quickly Does Saw Palmetto Work?

Saw palmetto may work as quickly as four to six weeks when taking 320 mg daily; though there is no recommended dose, 320 mg daily is standard [19].

What Is the Best Time to Take Saw Palmetto?

The best time to take saw palmetto is with a meal, which can minimize digestive upset or other adverse side effects.

Can Saw Palmetto Help With Erectile Problems?

Saw palmetto can help erectile problems by acting as a phosphodiesterase 5 (an enzyme) inhibitor, promoting vasodilation and increasing blood and oxygen flow [20].


References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-971/saw-palmetto
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8538516/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4151021/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21304222/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25154739/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11913955/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278957/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26010505/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29949176/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25683150/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693613/
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About The Author

Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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