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In the realm of women's health, the prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) cannot be underestimated, with statistics revealing that 6-12% of women of childbearing age in the United States are affected by this condition. Contrary to popular belief, PCOS is not a rare disease but rather a more pervasive issue than many might realize. On a global scale, estimates suggest that anywhere from 4-20% of women worldwide grapple with PCOS, making it one of the most common challenges in women's reproductive health. Regardless of race or ethnicity, PCOS can impact women across the spectrum. At the core of PCOS is the overproduction of androgens, male sex hormones that are normally present in smaller quantities in women.
One supplement that has been found to be wildly successful in counteracting the overproduction of androgens has been Saw Palmetto.
In order to shed light on the impact and effectiveness of Saw Palmetto for women in PCOS management, let's delve deeper into what Saw Palmetto is, its use cases, and how it can be used to treat PCOS.
Saw Palmetto's Origins and Uses
American dwarf palm tree, more commonly known as Saw Palmetto is native plant of the southeast United States.
Traditionally, it was used in the early 1900’s to treat issues with the urinary tract as well as increase sperm production and boost libido. It’s also been used to treat enlarged prostates, aid in hormonal balancing, and increase hair growth.
The benefits of Saw Palmetto for women, specifically, cannot be understated.
PCOS is a hormone disorder that elevates the male hormones (androgens) in women; specifically testosterone, Androstenedione, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S) and Dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Saw Palmetto has anti-androgenic properties by reducing 5-alpha-reductase which the enzyme that creates DHT. Testosterone is made by DHT. When DHT is reduced, testosterone is reduced thus reducing the symptoms of PCOS.
The symptoms of PCOS include:
- Hair loss/thinning hair
- Acne and oily skin
- Excessive body hair growth
- Irregular periods
- Difficulty becoming pregnant
By supplementing with Saw Palmetto, you can tap into the benefits of Saw Palmetto, which include reducing PCOS symptoms and promoting overall health improvements such as:
- The reverse of thinning hair/hair loss and improve hair growth
- Urinary tract improvements
- Hormone balancing
- Decreased acne and oily skin
- Decreased inflammation
Evaluating Saw Palmetto's Role in PCOS
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting Saw Palmetto is a viable treatment for PCOS as most studies done on Saw Palmetto were done on men and very little on women.
Most of the research on Saw Palmetto was found on its treatment of enlarged prostates in men.
That said, a study found in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in July 2004 highlighted the efficacy of 5-alpha reductase (5AR) inhibitors naturally occurring in saw palmetto extract as a newer approach to tackling male pattern baldness. Although the study primarily focused on men, the anti-androgen properties of Saw Palmetto also demonstrate effectiveness in treating women with PCOS.
Some argue that there just isn’t enough evidence to push the use of Saw Palmetto and even against PCOS, there are more viable options.
Dosage and Safety of Saw Palmetto for PCOS
Knowing everything we know about Saw Palmetto, we now get to discuss dosage and safety. There are a fair amount of questions such as, “what’s the dosage for Saw Palmetto”, “how much Saw Palmetto is too much”, and “is Saw Palmetto safe for women”?
We will answer that for you right now.
As it pertains to the safety of it, Saw Palmetto is shown to be safe for most people but some people can experience headaches, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, decreased libido, and dizziness.
While the literature is lacking for pregnant and breast-feeding women, some would say because of its hormone-altering properties, it is best to not take it. It may also not be best for women on hormonal contraceptives.
If you are to take Saw Palmetto, 160 to 450 mg two times daily of an extract containing 45-95% fatty acids is a good range and improvement should be noticeable around week 6.
Summarizing Saw Palmetto's Impact on PCOS
Saw Palmetto is a herbal remedy used to treat an array of imbalances and issues in both men and women. Specifically for women, it used to treat hormonal imbalance due to PCOS. While it has been shown to be safe and effective for most women, there are still groups of women this may not be a suitable option for it due to pregnancy, breast-feeding, or being on hormonal birth control.
It’s very important that you seek medical advice from your general physician before taking any medication or supplement to treat a medical condition.
While there is a plethora of information online about Saw Palmetto and PCOS, you must learn the necessary information to best make an informed decision for you and your health.
While there is no cure for PCOS, treatment is available and this could possibly be part of the treatment plan you need.