Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto

Get essential information about saw palmetto for hair loss.

The Science

What Is Saw Palmetto?

Saw palmetto is a plant which is native to the United States. Extracts of saw palmetto berries are used as a natural treatment for male pattern baldness.

It can be taken in tablets, liquid, or by eating the berries of the plant.

Saw palmetto is reported to be a natural alternative to Finasteride, as it works in much the same way. Studies so far have shown that it may have less side effects than synthetic hair loss treatments. 

What Does Saw Palmetto Do?

Saw palmetto is an inhibitor of 5-alpha reductase. This prevents the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), helping to halt the progress of male baldness.

The active parts of saw palmetto are phytosterols and fatty acids contained in the plant berries.

Long-term oral supplementation of saw palmetto is required to show beneficial effects on hair loss. Like most male baldness treatments, any progress will be lost if you stop taking it.

Saw Palmetto Results

Researchers have focused on using saw palmetto in both oral and topical forms:

  • 100 male patients with androgenetic alopecia received 320 mg of saw palmetto extract every day for 2 years. 38% of patients had an increase in hair growth.(1)
  • In a small study of 10 men, 60% reported an improvement in hair appearance after taking saw palmetto extract.(3)
  • A review of clinical trials using either topical or oral saw palmetto found a 27% improvement in total hair count, and increased hair density in 83.3% of people studied.(2)
  • Using topical saw palmetto increased average hair counts at 12 weeks and 24 weeks of treatment.(4)

It appears that oral and topical extracts of saw palmetto have the ability to encourage hair regrowth. 

As a non-patented natural product, there is no standardised formulation available. This may mean that using an extract from one brand may work better or worse than another brand’s product.

Weight Of Science

Since 2000, sporadic research has been conducted. As a result, there are a limited amount of studies, and large scale trials with robust high-quality data are lacking.

Side Effects

Saw palmetto is well tolerated and isn’t usually associated with serious side effects.

Unlike the synthetic DHT blocker finasteride, serious sexual side effects have not been reported by users of saw palmetto.

Most of the common adverse events seem to be minimal, but if they persist it’s wise to discontinue use.


When oral finasteride and saw palmetto were compared, 3 patients stated they had suffered from headaches when taking saw palmetto.


Nausea and stomach discomfort are side effects that may occur. Taking the medication after food rather than on an empty stomach may help to resolve this.

What Does It Cost?

Saw palmetto tablets and extracts are generally inexpensive. Studies for hair loss commonly use a dosage of 320mg per day, so a £14 bottle like this one should last 6 months.

Liquid saw palmetto supplements tend to have the highest concentrations of both fatty acids and phytosterols. It’s therefore reasonable to assume that they would also be the most effective products to use.

Beware of ‘high-strength’ formulas. It can be very confusing seeing supplements with thousands of mg in various extract ratios. Just search for 320mg products with the best reviews.

A good topical saw palmetto product is harder to find. Ideally it needs to be combined with alcohol and other ingredients to penetrate the skin barrier. Broken open soft gels rubbed into the scalp are unlikely to be the optimum method of application.

Vogel saw palmetto products are usually good but could prove expensive.

Are There Similar Alternatives To Saw Palmetto?

Finasteride acts in a very similar way to saw palmetto by reducing levels of DHT in the hair follicles. It actually outperforms saw palmetto when it comes to regrowing hair.

However, as a synthetic treatment it also has some significant side effects to be aware of. It’s also only available on prescription – you won’t be able to get it without seeing a Dr.

If you would prefer a topical treatment rather than internal, minoxidil and ketoconazole are worth considering.

Other natural treatments to try include scalp microneedling and scalp massage.

Our full list of science backed effective hair loss treatments can be found here.