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Saw Palmetto Benefits for Men

Kristin Hall, FNP

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 06/20/2023

Wondering about saw palmetto for men and its potential benefits for erectile dysfunction (ED)? You’ve come to the right place.

Saw palmetto is one of those things you never hear about as a kid, and then — like Roth IRAs and money due at signing — it can quickly become a big part of your life. 

You’ve probably made your way to this article with questions about hair loss, prostate conditions, ED or testosterone, and whether saw palmetto extracts or supplements can help with those issues. We’ve got some so-so news for you: its proven benefits are fairly limited. 

While saw palmetto has shown a lot of promise in studies over the last decade, much of the research isn’t as reliable as it might seem. 

We’re here to set the record straight. Below, we’ll cover the facts on saw palmetto, as well as the truth about its effectiveness for various health problems, including:

  • Prostate health issues

  • Hair loss

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Low testosterone

We’ll also go over the potential side effects and suggest some alternatives to saw palmetto. But before we dig into the fact and fiction questions, here’s what you need to know about this strange little tree.

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Saw palmetto is a dwarf palm tree — basically a shrub-sized version of a regular palm tree. It’s sometimes called a dwarf palm or a cabbage palm and grows in the Southeastern United States.

Saw palmetto has been used in traditional and natural medicines for a long time to treat reproductive issues for men and women, as well as coughs. But these days, its benefits are concentrated into dietary supplements for things like hair loss, migraines and prostate issues, among other ailments.

Unfortunately, as you’ll see, saw palmetto might not be as beneficial as some corners of the internet claim it to be — at least not so far as trustworthy studies show.

When it comes to the prostate, saw palmetto can be seen as a general or specific treatment, depending on who you ask. Some researchers have found it to be a promising treatment option in need of further study. But major scientific organizations? Not so much.

For instance, it’s commonly used to treat pelvic pain and unidentified reproductive organ issues in natural medicine contexts.

But recently, saw palmetto has been explored as a beneficial treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) — a condition commonly known as enlarged prostate in which the prostate is swollen but not cancerous.

The results of studies looking at different preparations of saw palmetto for this purpose haven’t been all that encouraging, unfortunately.

Two studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found it no more effective than placebos. And while other studies have yielded more impressive results, the NIH refers to them as low-quality in terms of the ways they were conducted.

While the prostate question may not yield any promise yet, saw palmetto does offer benefits for people trying to combat hair loss.

Studies have explored saw palmetto’s ability to combat androgenic alopecia, telogen effluvium and other types of hair loss, and generally, it has shown to be effective at improving hair growth. 

Around 60 percent of users saw their hair quality improve, and nearly 30 percent saw an increase in total hair count in a collection of seven studies examined by a 2020 review.

If you want to know more about saw palmetto and hair loss, check out our coverage. Generally, it’s an option for people who may not respond well to first-line treatments, but it might be effective when combined with other treatments or blended into topicals, like saw palmetto shampoo.

Erectile dysfunction is a complicated issue that occurs when the smooth muscle contraction in your penis is interrupted or prevented, either by overwhelmed androgen receptors or the conversion of testosterone into phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5).

PDE5 is a testosterone derivative thought to cause erectile dysfunction when present in excess volumes in the erectile tissue of your penis.

We’re quite far off from establishing a saw palmetto dosage for erectile dysfunction, but some early research shows that saw palmetto may help moderate the presence of PDE5. However, the mechanism of action isn’t entirely clear.

Studies will need to continue to explore the benefits of saw palmetto for erectile function. At this point, only animal studies have started to show results of augmented erectile function from a saw palmetto extract.

Saw palmetto may offer benefits to the regulation of testosterone in the body, which could, in turn, offer both hair and prostate benefits.

While a few studies have looked at the effects of saw palmetto on testosterone, it’s generally believed to offer anti-androgenic effects. This means it can reduce the presence or conversion of certain forms of testosterone. 

One of the most important examples is a testosterone derivative called 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) — a compound linked to hair loss and prostate issues in men. Saw palmetto has been shown to reduce the levels of this compound by inhibiting its conversion. 

Science is unclear on whether there’s a way to use saw palmetto to help your body return to a normal testosterone level if you’re producing too much right now. But saw palmetto use doesn’t appear to cause symptoms of low testosterone for users, which is promising for men seeking healthy, symptom-free hormone balance.

Saw palmetto benefits for men may range widely in the future. Already, studies have looked at urinary system diseases beyond benign prostatic hyperplasia to see what else might be managed or cured with saw palmetto treatment.

But for now, saw palmetto and hair loss is really the only relationship with an established benefit to speak of — and even this link still calls for further research.

In time, we might see saw palmetto as a treatment for:

  • Bladder cancer

  • Inflammatory diseases

  • Tumor management 

But as of today, you’re wise to limit your usage to what a healthcare professional advises alongside other proven treatments.

Oh, and you’ll want to keep an eye on frequent or daily use for potential side effects.

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Saw palmetto is generally considered safe and well-tolerated for most users, but side effects like digestive symptoms (diarrhea, nausea) and headaches have been reported.

Still, these adverse effects are considered mild. In fact, some view saw palmetto as a second-tier alternative to hair loss medications like minoxidil and finasteride because its side effects are much less common than what these medications may cause.

Since it’s often used similarly to medications for erectile dysfunction and hair loss, you should be careful if you’re taking these medications. Additionally, speak with a healthcare professional about the risks of side effects.

Luckily, saw palmetto hasn’t been shown to interact with medications or modify prostate-specific antigen screening results — though most research is focused on men, and there are still questions about whether it’s safe for pregnant women.

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Depending on what you wish to treat, alternatives are available for pretty much every use case for saw palmetto. And in most cases, what’s out there has a better track record.

Erectile dysfunction treatments include:

You might also consider our chewable hard mint ED meds if you’re looking for a convenient and discreet option for ED.

For information on how to increase testosterone without saw palmetto, as well as premature ejaculation treatments that can help you last longer, check out our guides.

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Clinical trials happen every day in various circumstances, and if the last few years are any indication, saw palmetto is going to continue to be a recurring character in men’s health research.

Whether palmetto berries or palmetto supplements make it to the drug counter as FDA-approved treatments for sexual dysfunction issues or diseases of the prostate gland in the future is unclear. For now, this is what we know for sure:

  • Saw palmetto offers numerous potential benefits to alleviate several health conditions that plague men.

  • However, potential does not always convert into success.

  • Hair loss is a problem that already has proven, FDA-approved treatments, and for many men, products like minoxidil and finasteride can be effective in protecting the hair you have.

  • Sexual function is something your healthcare provider can treat with a number of known, proven medications like sildenafil or tadalafil.

Palm trees offer a lot — shade, logos for tropical bars — and maybe one day, a cure for prostate cancer. Until then, stick with what’s proven.

Explore sexual dysfunction treatments and connect virtually with a healthcare provider from Hims today.

3 Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.-b). Saw palmetto. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
  2. Evron, E., Juhasz, M., Babadjouni, A., & Mesinkovska, N. A. (2020). Natural Hair Supplement: Friend or Foe? Saw Palmetto, a Systematic Review in Alopecia. Skin appendage disorders, 6(6), 329–337.
  3. Liu, M., Yin, H., Wang, F., & Tian, Y. (2021). The Therapeutic Potential of Saw Palmetto Extract in Urological Disorders. Natural Product Communications.
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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