Does Saw Palmetto Work?
While saw palmetto is claimed to be useful for a number of conditions, many people may still wonder, "Does saw palmetto work?" In clinical studies on the effectiveness of the supplement for enlarged prostate treatment, conflicting results were found. As for other uses of the herbal supplement, there is little scientific evidence supporting the safety and effectiveness of saw palmetto.
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is an herbal remedy that is frequently used to treat an enlarged prostate (known medically as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). In addition to this use, saw palmetto is sometimes claimed to be useful for the following conditions:
- Hair loss (known medically as alopecia)
- Low sex drive or other sexual problems
- Nonbacterial prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (problems caused by long-term inflammation of the prostate not caused by bacteria)
- Prostate cancer
Of all the possible saw palmetto uses, only one has convincing scientific evidence proving the supplement's effectiveness. Even so, studies have shown conflicting results. Many studies have shown saw palmetto to be quite effective for treating the symptoms of an enlarged prostate (often as effective as prescription medications), and many studies have shown that saw palmetto is no more effective than a placebo (a "sugar pill" with no active ingredient). There does not yet seem to be a consensus in the scientific community about this matter.
Even though there is little scientific evidence supporting the use of saw palmetto for hair loss, it may work for this use, based on the way saw palmetto works. In particular, the herbal supplement may work for male pattern baldness. Only one preliminary study has suggested that saw palmetto, in combination with beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol, may help with male pattern baldness. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that saw palmetto would work for other types of hair loss, however, such as hair loss in women.
There is little reason to believe that saw palmetto would work for a low sex drive or other sexual problems. In fact, saw palmetto may actually decrease sex drive or cause impotence, based on the way that the supplement works.
There is not enough evidence to recommend saw palmetto for nonbacterial prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome, prostate cancer, or acne.