Testosterone is classified as a sex hormone found in both men and women. Production of this hormone is regulated by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, and it plays a role in muscle size and strength – as well as supporting a healthy sex drive, or libido.
Saw palmetto is a popular herb among men because preliminary research has found it to be beneficial for prostate health. Supplementation with saw palmetto may increase certain forms of testosterone, but it is recommended that you do not begin taking this herb without first discussing its use and safety with your physician.
WHAT IS SAW PALMETTO?
According to WebMD, saw palmetto is a plant that is most commonly used for decreasing symptoms of an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy, BPH), but can also be used to prevent complications from prostate surgery and for treating certain types of prostate conditions, such as long-term prostate inflammation and pelvic pain that is not caused by an infection (chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome).
Saw palmetto belongs to the Serenoa repens plant species, and it is native to the southeastern United States. The primary active compounds of this herb includes fatty acids, phytosterols, carotenes, polyphenolic compounds and tannins.
SAW PALMETTO’S LINK TO TESTOSTERONE
According to Medicalnewstoday.com, scientists have found that saw palmetto can slow down 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme converts testosterone into a potent androgen hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Androgen hormones regulate the development of male characteristics.
The production of androgen hormones occurs in the testes, ovaries and adrenal glands. These hormones are also responsible for the development of primary sex organs in the womb and secondary male characteristics in puberty.
By slowing down 5-alpha reductase, saw palmetto could reduce the effects of DHT as men get older.
While proponents of saw palmetto claim that it helps to regulate testosterone levels, there is little evidence confirming this. Much of the research on the connection between saw palmetto and testosterone levels is also very outdated.
One old report of multiple studies on saw palmetto in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition did find that men taking saw palmetto over a two-week period had higher levels of testosterone than those in the placebo control group.
REDUCES THE PROSTATE LINING
According to IAST.net (Information About Supplements Today), the biggest benefit of taking saw palmetto is that it helps reduce the lining of the prostate. During the teenage years, the cells that form the prostate have to multiple quickly in order for a young man to become sexually mature.
Unfortunately for most men, this continues into their later years, usually resulting in an enlarged prostate. Studies have shown that almost all men who reach the age of 85 develop BPH. The most obvious symptom of this condition is the inability to initiate a urine stream when you feel that sensation that the bladder is full, but you are unable to urinate – leading to severe pain and discomfort.
Another symptom is the inability to finish urinating once you get started, meaning that you constantly feel like you need to urinate. These symptoms usually become extremely bad at night and lead to loss of sleep. This is unhealthy in the elderly, as it strains their minds and bodies unnecessarily.
Saw palmetto is widely used by medical practitioners in Europe. Doctors in the United States are more skeptical of its benefits.
The American medical community does not strongly embrace saw palmetto. However, it’s still the country’s most popular herbal treatment for BPH. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commonly recommends saw palmetto as an alternative treatment to BPH. According to the Mayo Clinic, more than two million American men use saw palmetto to treat the condition.
The fruit of saw palmetto is available in several forms, including liquid tablets, capsules and tea.
Saw palmetto is also sometimes used to treat the following:
- • Low sperm count
- • Low sex drive
- • Hair loss
- • Bronchitis
- • Diabetes
- • Inflammation
- • Migraine
- • Prostate cancer
SIDE EFFECTS OF SAW PALMETTO
While saw palmetto is widely used, it does occasionally cause side effects in some people.
These side effects include:
- • Dizziness
- • Headache
- • Nausea
- • Vomiting
- • Constipation
- • Diarrhea
Research on the safety of saw palmetto is ongoing. However, the FDA urges pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid using saw palmetto. According to the American Pregnancy Association, it’s probably unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding women because it affects hormone activity in the body.
As with all supplements, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor about whether saw palmetto might be right for you before you begin taking it.