I read in a health magazine I respect that saw palmetto, available in healthfood stores can reduce facial hair in some women. I don’t know whether it’s true or not! Has anyone tried it?
Saw palmetto has been touted as a cure for both male pattern baldness and excess body hair. I’d like to hear the promoters explain that one. How can it do both?
Because these promotional claims are based on leaps in logic, the promoters hope that logical people like you don’t question their claims!
epilobium roseum (willowherb)
These herbs have been investigated clinically for use in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is worsened by the presence of 5-alpha reductase, a chemical that also influences hair growth. These herbs have been shown in clinical studies to affect levels of 5-alpha reductase in some men.
Here’s where herbalists make their leap in logic. When they read a legitimate scientific study about an herb’s effects under controlled conditions, many assume (without proof) that it must work under other conditions. Rather than subjecting the product to testing for that specific use, they mix some up and claim (without proof) that it works for other purposes.
That’s what we have here. Some classic quackery. Here’s their logic:
- BPH is partially affected by 5-alpha reductase
- Some herbs improve BPH by reducing 5-alpha reductase
- Hair growth is partially affected by 5-alpha reductase
They take these three scientific facts and make an unscientific leap into quackery. They assume without rigorous testing that if a product inhibits BPH, it must also inhibit hair growth, since both are partially affected by 5-alpha reductase.
That’s the flaw in their logic, and where they become unscientific.
[ June 02, 2002, 08:18 AM: Message edited by: Andrea ]
A very good analysis. And they don’t make a distinction about what strength or concentration is necessary to achieve therapeutic results.
After all, Naturally Smooth by jergens has sodium hydroxide in it. At least they didn’t make the claim that it would eliminate hair like electrolysis, which produces sodium hydroxide in the hair follicle.
If you do a search on Maureen77 or look under “Alternative Remedies” on www.soulcysters.net, you will find posts from various women who say that Saw Palmetto has helped them to inhibit facial hair growth. So it seems that it may work for some women – I don’t think it works for me however.
I managed to reduce my facial hair substantially using prescription anti-androgens. I stopped taking them a few months ago (they started to have other unpleasant side effects) and replaced them with Saw Palmetto. Unfortunately for me, my facial hair does seem to be growing back (not sure, but I think so) – but the acne hasn’t returned, which is a plus!
Oh, and to answer the question about how it is supposed to be able to help both male pattern baldness and excess facial body hair: testosterone and its analogues have different actions at different receptor sites. So hair growth on the head can be inhibited by androgens in sensitive males, whereas hair growth on other parts of the body is increased. Therefore, a substance which inhibits androgen production (or its uptake at the receptor) can have both effects – it’s not a quack claim at all. Many women who suffer both hair loss and hirsutism experience improvement in both symptoms by taking prescription antiandrogens such as cyproterone acetate, spironolactone, flutamide, etc. If Saw Palmetto does indeed have an anti-androgenic effect, there’s no reason why it couldn’t do the same.
[ March 22, 2003, 08:55 PM: Message edited by: Cato ]
The main issue with saw palmetto is that dosage and potency varies wildly, even in batches from the same manufacturer. There isn’t much regulation, so it’s usually more reliable to go with a prescription product. There’s going to be more data and long-term follow-up.
I am a male unfortunately. I have been taking massive amounts of saw palmetto IE 2500 MG a day (Whatever dosage that is) for the last 5 years, and I feel doubtful that it’s had all that much of an anti-androgenic effect. I still have lots of facial hair and still have experienced some hair loss on top. I agree completely with Andrea. If it’s anti androgens you want it’s probably better to get a prescription. They are highly effective and proven. Here are a few to consider…
What are some of the unpleasant side effects of anti androgens like Cato mentioned? How bad does the hair need to be to warrant taking them? I don’t want to get in over my head but I have alot more dark hairs now and lots of ugly blond ones on my chin/throat area. If its genetic will antiandrogens still help or is it not worth it? I took spironalactone years ago but not for long and I didn’t notice much of a difference.
I was wondering about saw palmetto, too… From what I understand, it is EXTREMELY effective in inhibiting DHT formation in prostate tissue. However, it does not change the body’s level of DHT, and there is no (that I know of) rigorous research on whether it affects hair follicles. I’ve also heard that the saw palmetto available in the US has questionable potency, but that european saw palmetto is “the good stuff”. No idea there…
Well, I’ve been taking it (160 mg/day) for about 9 months. I have a LOT of 1 to 4 inch fresh new hairs on my scalp line. However, I did not have a problem with balding to begin with. IMHO, I would suspect that it may help people with low levels of DHT to begin with, but is not effective enough to prevent or reverse hair loss in the typically more agressive hair loss in males.
It does not seem to be affecting my body hair growth at all though - in fact it seems that the sparse chest hair and cheek hair I have is just continuing to develop. However, it may just seem that way, since I have been doing my own electrolysis the last couple of months and have been paying much more attention to it. Sometimes it’s really hard to judge what effects are actually ocurring…lol
Morgan - if saw palmetto works at all, it’s not going to decrease your facial hair noticeably. And the thing is, there’s no way to know how much more hair you may have lost on your scalp if you DIDN’T take saw palmetto.
Also, for any MTF’s reading, “saw palmetto classic” may not be the best idea as zinc inhibits aromatase which converts testosterone into estrogen.
Anyway that’s my 2 cents worth
I don’t know if Natrol makes Saw Palmetto, but they are a great company for supplements. They actually manufactuer them to prescription drug standards and have quality controls to make sure that the amounts listed on the bottle are actually in the product and bio-available in every batch.
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I have had laser hair removal on my legs, arms, and stomach with GREAT results, but I did not want to do it on my face for a number of reasons. I started taking saw palmetto (2160mg/day) TWO DAYS ago and have already noticed a reduction in my facial hair and much clearer skin. Is this even possible? Keep in mind, otherwise, I would have to pluck EVERY DAY for 10-15 minutes and bleach twice a week. My face has also cleared up. I didn’t have bad acne before, but now my face looks much clearer. Really wasn’t expecting anything like this. I am also taking Fenugreek, Fennel Seed, Dandelion Root, and Mexican Wild Yam–so I am not 100% sure if this effect is solely from the saw palmetto.
“I started taking saw palmetto (2160mg/day) TWO DAYS ago and have already noticed a reduction in my facial hair … Is this even possible?”
No, it’s not possible!