Saw palmetto is a health supplement that is the extract of the fruit from the serenoa repens plant. This is a hardy bush that grows naturally in certain states in the southern USA, particularly the ones that have warm climates.
It has long been regarded as a rather special plant; the plant itself is extremely tough and can survive for an estimated 500 years, and at some point humans learnt how to obtain an extract from it.
The Native Americans, who were kings of natural medicine, made use of saw palmetto for treating reproductive problems. A medical practitioner by the name of H. W. Felter claimed that it was useful as a nerve sedative.
Saw palmetto has a long history of being used for all sorts of ailments and the latest on the list is acne. Saw palmetto has gained a reputation in recent years for curing oily skin and sharply reducing the overall amount of pimples. The acne-sphere is full of testimonials and former acne patients are labelling it as a miracle supplement. Some claim it to be just as amazing for acne as vitamin A, the second best acne vitamin ever.
Is this hype or is there science behind this herb? The answer is that saw palmetto can be a very effective supplement for acne, but it should only be used by women. Read on and find out why…
Saw palmetto is a potent DHT inhibitor
By far the most notable acne ability of saw palmetto is its ability to inhibit the most powerful androgen in your body, DHT. It is so notorious for this that saw palmetto is widely used by doctors as a treatment for an enlarged prostate.
In case you’re unaware, traditional medicine believes that a huge prostate is due to too much DHT. Most doctors just laugh at herbal remedies, so the fact that saw palmetto is widely used shows just how effective it really is.
Saw palmetto’s ability to reduce DHT has been confirmed by several studies.
- This study compared two groups of men, one supplemented with saw palmetto and one given a placebo, and found that after six months the average DHT levels in the saw palmetto group had fallen by 32%. The improvements were comparable to Finasteride, a pharmaceutical DHT reduction drug.
- This study found that administering saw palmetto (or serenoa repens extract, as they call it) to humans caused a big drop in DHT after three months, which was apparently “statistically significant”.
- This study found that saw palmetto inhibits the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, which is responsible for the creation of DHT. The scientists said that there was a significant “therapeutic advantage of Serenoa repens (saw palmetto) over other 5-reductase inhibitors”.
Saw palmetto accomplishes this by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to DHT. All DHT in your body is manufactured from your existing testosterone, and there’s a specific enzyme in charge of this, which is called 5-alpha reductase.
The studies show saw palmetto inhibits this enzyme and thus reduces the amount of DHT produced. This is helpful for your acne as it reduces the amount of oil produced by the sebaceous glands.
Androgenic hormones are widely known to stimulate your sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, which thus blocks your pores and creates acne, but it is actually only DHT that does this. Testosterone is an androgen as well but its only real functions are to help you build muscle mass, and to create DHT.
All the other classic androgen effects are due to DHT; these include facial hair, sex drive, and aggression, and importantly for us, DHT is the only androgen that stimulates your sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Higher levels of testosterone will do this as well, but only because they cause a greater amount of DHT to be created.
Therefore if you take saw palmetto and inhibit the conversion process, you have the same amount of androgens in your body (because less testosterone is being converted and it thus increases) but overall lower sebum production.
This is helpful for acne as it prevents your skin pores from getting blocked, it prevents p.acnes bacteria from getting involved, and it prevents pimples from forming.
Why only women should use saw palmetto
The fact that saw palmetto cures acne by lowering DHT means two things: it is a fantastic supplement for women, but an awful one for men. Both men and women will have good acne clearing effects from the drug, as high DHT causes oily skin and acne in both genders.
However men should never use it for acne anyway because unlike with women, having good levels of DHT is absolutely vital for the rest of their health.
A man relies on DHT for his sex drive, his mental health, his energy levels, and just about every masculine attribute he has.
Basically, reducing DHT will improve your acne, there’s no doubt about it, but the side effects are just not worth it. This study found that men taking saw palmetto experienced minor sexual dysfunction, including reduced libido. If you’re a man, you might be trying to cure your acne to get more women but if you reduce DHT, you won’t even be interested in women anymore!
These problems wind up affecting acne too, not just your health. For instance, testosterone and DHT are essential for a happy mind. A happy mind is superb for keeping stress at bay.
Without testosterone and DHT your stress hormones like cortisol will go through the roof. That’s bad news, because stress has been confirmed by science to be a massive cause of acne.
There’s also plenty of other ways to improve your acne that don’t destroy your life in the process. You can take all sorts of other steps to reduce your sebum production, most notably reducing insulin levels. Insulin itself stimulates the sebaceous glands and it also enhances the stimulating effect of DHT, meaning that by reducing it, having high levels of DHT will be less of a problem.
There’s far more strategies for preventing oily skin than dermatologists will tell you. In my eBook Annihilate Your Acne there’s a big section on sleep deprivation and how that can indirectly increase sebum production.
Take saw palmetto for acne if you want, but I strongly advise that you don’t get tempted into it.
If you’re a woman on the other hand, then taking saw palmetto is perfectly safe and will not have side effects. Unlike men, you are not supposed to have high levels of androgens and you will not experience any side effects from reducing them.
In fact saw palmetto is a particularly good supplement for women because women are far more sensitive to the effects of androgens; consequently female acne is more commonly caused by high DHT and you are more likely to see benefits by reducing it.
As for the side effects of saw palmetto, they seem to be non-existent. There have been reports of vomiting, nausea, and dizziness but they only occurred at high doses and have not been commonly reported.
It is possible that you could have an adverse reaction to it, but that’s possible for just about anything; if you don’t run the risk sometimes then you get nothing done. For women saw palmetto is almost certainly safe.
Conclusion – is saw palmetto worth taking?
If you’re a man then I definitely do not recommend taking saw palmetto for acne.
It may well cause improvements in your acne but the side effects are not worth it and besides, there’s a whole world of strategies to heal your acne that benefit your health rather than destroying it. You’d do much better to buy my 167 page eBook Annihilate Your Acne and learn the entire dietary and lifestyle strategy for acne. If you do want some kind of miracle pill then you’ll find this article interesting.
If you’re a woman on the other hand then saw palmetto is an excellent supplement. If you believe that your acne is primarily due to excessive sebum production then it could have a very strong effect.
Keeping androgens low is very important for an acne prone woman and saw palmetto is one of the best ways to achieve that; few other supplements have such a proven track record of reducing DHT.
I also recommend that if you do decide to use saw palmetto for acne, you be patient and use it for several months, as the studies showing a fall in DHT were all long term. It is possible that it takes effect very quickly but even if it does it will take at least a few weeks for your skin/acne to noticeably improve.
Also remember that DHT will only remain low for as long as you take the supplement; if you stop taking it 5-alpha reductase will no longer be inhibited and both DHT and acne will creep back up again. Whether you take saw palmetto forever is up to you, as after a few months you may have improved other acne areas enough to no longer need it.
If you decide to take saw palmetto for acne then I recommend a supplement that is both organic, pure, and in an easily absorbed form. The supplement which meets these requirements best is this Oregon’s Wild Harvest Organic Saw Palmetto.
Thanks for reading!