The effects of saw palmetto extract are still under research. We know more and more about the extent of this effect, and at what levels it contributes to supporting the hormonal system in men. You can read about the promising research results below, by topic.
A fraction of testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in men. During an erection, lower DHT and higher testosterone levels are required for optimal blood supply. Saw palmetto extract reduces the conversion of testosterone by suppressing the enzyme alpha-5-reductase.
Among men taking 320 mg of saw palmetto extract daily, the so-called International Erectile Function Index was higher, which came with improved sexual performance.
A more detailed examination is available in several animal experiments. In laboratory rabbits and rats, regular consumption of palm tree extract reduced the so-called PDE5 enzyme, which, in a similar way to Víagra, caused an increase in blood flow.
Other herbs support sexual function as well. According to a study published in 2021, consuming Tongat Ali extract combined with regular exercise improved erections. There are studies on Tibetan caterpillar fungus (scientifically known as Cordyceps Sinensis, but also called the Aphrodisiac of Himalayas), which have been shown to increase libido in both women and men.
A higher testosterone level is motivating in competitive situations and can also lead to striving for dominance, while a low level is a risk factor for depression. Vitamin D shortage also leads to decreased motivation.
Therefore, vitamin D and testosterone-boosting herbs have beneficial effects on motivation in general.
Tibetan caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps Sinensis) has an energizing and antidepressant-like effect, which also supports stronger motivation.
You can read more about the role of this herb in sports in our article: Sport and endurance support with folk medicine herbs
Saw palmetto extract reduces the conversion of testosterone to DHT and also interferes with DHT binding to hair follicle receptors, thus helping in two ways.
According to a study summarizing the current knowledge on the anti-hair loss effect of saw palmetto in 2020:
100-320 mg extract taken daily has increased hair quality by an average of 60%, hair growth by 27%, and hair density by 83%. All without side effects.
Prostate enlargement (also called benign prostate hyperplasia, BHP) can develop in every second man over 50 years. Saw palmetto extract supports prostate health and relieves the symptoms of BHP.
One study followed men who took 320 mg of saw palmetto extract daily for 15 years. Subjects did not develop prostate enlargement and urinary problems and reported good quality of life.
Testosterone is considered to be the most important male hormone. It regulates libido and supports sexual function in men from erection to sperm formation. It helps build strong muscles and bones and increases muscle mass.
Testosterone also affects human behavior: in a competitive situation, it increases risk-taking and willingness to win, and it can motivate one to reach dominance.
Free testosterone levels can begin to drop as early as at age 25-30. The decline is a slow process, thus most people do not experience the symptoms until the age of 35 or 40. One of the most common signs is erectile dysfunction, which is when the erection is not as durable or as strong as it used to be. Loss of hair and body hair can also occur, and the beard can grow slower. Significant decreases in testosterone levels in older age may be associated with poorer muscle strength, fatigue, frequent erectile dysfunction, and possibly depressive mood.
Some of the testosterone in the body is converted to dihydrotestosterone (which is DHT for short). DHT can bind to androgen receptors with much higher affinity than testosterone, eliciting a partially different response from testosterone to cells in the body. Although small amounts of DHT are needed, large amounts can be a problem, even leading to coronary heart disease or an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. Unlike testosterone, the amount of DHT can increase with age, which is why prostate enlargement is so common in men over 50 years of age.
It is heard a lot that high testosterone levels can lead to hair loss, which is not true in this form. DHT is the hormone that is responsible for male pattern baldness (in scientific terms: androgenic alopecia). This kind of baldness develops when the amount of DHT in the body is increased. The hair follicles contain androgen receptors, which, when activated with high levels of DHT, initiate a process that weakens the hair follicles and ultimately leads to hair loss. Testosterone, on the other hand, has no such strong effect on the follicles. The onset of male pattern baldness in an individual is also influenced by genetic factors – some people have receptors inherently more sensitive to DHT.
Interestingly, testosterone is also an important hormone in the female body that is produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands. Quantitatively, it is present in the body of women at an almost 10 times lower level. Such as in men, it increases libido and helps maintain stronger bones and muscles. If too much testosterone is converted to DHT, which can also happen in women, rapid baldness can occur. Disruption of the balance of estrogen and testosterone can cause mood swings.