If you’re coping with common concerns such as prostate issues or hair loss, you may wonder whether any natural supplements will help.

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), a type of palm native to the southeastern United States, is commonly used in supplements to improve prostate health, balance hormone levels, and prevent hair loss in men.

Plus, it’s associated with a variety of other benefits, including decreased inflammation and improved urinary function.

Here are 5 promising benefits and uses of saw palmetto, along with some key risks and side effects.

Hair loss is a common condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, certain medical conditions, hormone changes, and the use of medications such as stimulants and blood thinners (1).

Saw palmetto is often used to balance hormone levels and combat hair loss.

According to one study, saw palmetto may help block the activity of 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into another sex hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that is linked to hair loss (2).

Saw palmetto may also prevent hair loss by reducing the uptake of DHT in your hair follicles, which decreases DHT’s ability to bind to specific hormone receptors (2).

One review of 7 studies found that oral and topical supplements containing saw palmetto improved hair quality by 60%, raised total hair count by 27%, and increased hair density in 83% of people with hair loss (3).

Even though some study results suggest that saw palmetto may have beneficial effects on hair growth, more research is needed (4).

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Saw palmetto may ward off hair loss and increase hair density by decreasing levels of a specific enzyme related to hair loss.

Urinary tract symptoms such as incontinence and difficulty urinating are common among older adults (5).

Saw palmetto may improve urinary symptoms associated with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), a condition that causes an enlargement of the prostate gland and results in decreased urine flow.

In one small 12-week study, men who took 1,000 mg daily of saw palmetto oil enriched with beta-sitosterol, a compound found naturally in many plants, experienced significant improvements in BPH symptoms compared with those who took unenriched saw palmetto oil (6).

Similarly, a 24-week study in 354 men found that taking 320 mg of saw palmetto decreased symptoms of BPH and improved urinary flow, quality of life, and sexual function compared with a placebo (7).

On the other hand, a recent review of 27 studies concluded that saw palmetto had no significant impact on lower urinary tract symptoms when used alone (8).

Therefore, more research is needed to determine whether this supplement aids urinary tract function in the general population, including in those with and without prostate issues.

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Saw palmetto may improve urinary tract function, particularly for those with prostate issues. Still, more research is needed.

The prostate is a small gland located between the bladder and the penis. It’s responsible for maintaining sperm health (9).

Some research suggests that saw palmetto can support prostate health and help prevent issues such as BPH and prostate cancer (10).

Other human and animal studies also indicate that this supplement may reduce urinary symptoms and inflammation related to BPH (7, 11, 12).

What’s more, a 15-year study in 30 men concluded that taking 320 mg of saw palmetto extract daily may help prevent the progression of BPH (13).

Yet some studies don’t associate saw palmetto with improvements in prostate health or BPH symptoms (8).

For this reason, further high quality research is needed.

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Some studies indicate that saw palmetto may help improve symptoms of BPH, but research is inconclusive.

Some research suggests that saw palmetto has anti-inflammatory properties, which may help treat certain conditions.

For example, one study in mice with enlarged prostates observed that saw palmetto extract decreased swelling and several markers of inflammation, including interleukin 6 (IL-6) (12).

Another study in rats with BPH found that saw palmetto decreased inflammation and improved antioxidant status (14).

Although these results are promising, human studies are lacking.

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Saw palmetto is high in antioxidants and has been shown to decrease inflammation in animal studies. Nonetheless, high quality human studies are needed.

Saw palmetto is often used by people looking to naturally boost testosterone levels.

Testosterone levels affect several aspects of health, including body composition, sex drive, mood, and brain function. Levels decline with age, and some research suggests that low levels contribute to health conditions such as heart disease (15, 16).

Saw palmetto works by decreasing the activity of 5-alpha reductase — an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone to DHT — to help preserve testosterone levels (2).

One test-tube study found that the effectiveness of saw palmetto extract was comparable to finasteride in preserving testosterone levels. Finasteride is a medication used to treat hair loss and BPH by reducing the activity of 5-alpha reductase (2).

According to one review, saw palmetto may help block the uptake of DHT and decrease its ability to bind to androgen receptors by nearly 50%. In turn, this may help regulate testosterone levels (3).

One 14-day study also noted that taking 1,200 mg per day of Resettin — a supplement made with saw palmetto and astaxanthin, a type of antioxidant found in algae — increased serum testosterone levels by 38% compared with a placebo (17).

Furthermore, a study in rats showed that saw palmetto increased testosterone synthesis, muscle endurance, and sperm count by altering hormone regulation (18).

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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.

The active compounds in saw palmetto are believed to help block the activity of 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone to DHT (19).

This process may help maintain testosterone levels as you get older, which may lead to improvements in body composition, libido, and mood (15).

Because DHT is also involved in the enlargement of the prostate gland, decreasing your levels of DHT by using saw palmetto may also improve prostate health and BPH (20).

Furthermore, saw palmetto may help support hair health, as DHT regulates hair growth and may contribute to hair loss and balding (21).

However, research is mixed. As such, it’s unclear whether saw palmetto is effective for any of these conditions.

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Saw palmetto helps block the activity of 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. In addition to preserving levels of testosterone, it may reduce levels of DHT, which may be involved in prostate enlargement and hair loss.

Saw palmetto is widely available in supplement form and is therefore incredibly easy to add to your daily routine.

It comes in capsule, softgel, and tablet forms and is often combined with other ingredients that help enhance prostate health, such as pumpkin seed extract (22).

Less commonly, it can also be found in ground, dried, liquid extract, or powdered tea form.

Most research is conducted using saw palmetto in dosages of 320 mg per day, often divided into 2 doses.

Some experts recommend taking the supplement with food, which may minimize digestive issues and prevent adverse effects.

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Saw palmetto is available in capsule, softgel, and tablet form, which can be taken in doses of 320 mg per day. It’s also found in ground, dried, liquid extract, or tea form.

Saw palmetto is generally considered safe and has been associated with very few side effects.

Some of the most commonly reported side effects are headache, dizziness, nausea, and constipation (19).

However, saw palmetto is not recommended for everyone.

For example, those who are pregnant or nursing should avoid this supplement, as there is limited research on its safety and long-term effects (23).

Because it may alter hormone levels, saw palmetto may likewise be unsuitable for those taking hormone replacement therapy or hormonal contraceptives. More research is needed to evaluate its potential effects (24).

Saw palmetto may also interfere with blood thinners, such as warfarin or Coumadin, to increase bleeding risk (25).

If you have any underlying health conditions, are taking certain medications, or are pregnant or nursing, be sure to consult a healthcare professional before trying saw palmetto.

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Saw palmetto may cause mild side effects and shouldn’t be taken by those who are pregnant, nursing, or taking certain medications.

Saw palmetto is a species of palm used to produce a supplement packed with potential health benefits.

Promising research suggests that saw palmetto may help increase testosterone levels, improve prostate health, reduce inflammation, prevent hair loss, and enhance urinary tract function.

However, some studies have turned up mixed results. Additional large-scale human research is needed to understand how saw palmetto affects health.