Ayurvedic Medicine or Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic healing systems with roots in ancient India. Ayurveda is defined as the science or knowledge of life, Ayur meaning life and Veda meaning science/knowledge. Ayurveda is commonly known in conjunction with a hair care routine, but its roots are much deeper than just hair care. Ayurveda is a whole-body approach centered on healing our bodies from the inside out. But for now, we will focus on ayurvedic medicine for hair care. Over the next few weeks, we will delve into the ayurvedic herbs that help strengthen and nourish the hair. We’ll begin our series with Saw Palmetto.
Saw Palmetto botanically known as Serenoa Repens is a small fan palm that produces yellowish flowers with a purple fleshy, pitted fruit. The fruit is used for traditional medicines today. The fruit extract contains essential fatty acids and phytosterols. Some of the fatty acids are lauric acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid and myristic; the Polysaccharides include galactose, arabinose, and uronic acids.
Saw Palmetto is used in the medical community for treatment of bladder infections, low libido, hair loss, and currently being researched for the treatment of an enlarged prostate gland (benign prostate hyperplasia). Researchers have learned that the principal male sex hormone, (prostatic androgen) DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is created by a reduction of testosterone by the enzyme, 5-alpha-reductase. Simply put, patients with enlarged prostate glands tend to have high levels of DHT which is made by the enzyme. Why is this important?
Well, male-pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia is believed to be linked to having high levels of 5-alpha-reductase in the frontal scalp. This enzyme converts testosterone to DHT and DHT, in turn, shrinks the hair follicles on your head.
How does Saw Palmetto work?
Saw palmetto is believed to work in two ways. “First, it blocks the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Secondly, saw palmetto is believed to interfere with the production of estrogen and progesterone, hormones associated with DHT production.” The benefits are said to be effective in both males and females with male pattern baldness.
What Does the Research say?
In one small clinical trial, only 10 males, researchers measured the effectiveness of saw palmetto to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase and treat male pattern baldness. The study used an extract from the saw palmetto fruit; the results showed that 60% of the subjects who used the formulation had improved at the final visit.
In 2012, another comparison study measured the effectiveness of saw palmetto with Finasteride (a hair loss drug). This two-year study involved 100 men with male pattern baldness. 50 men were given saw palmetto and 50 were given Finasteride; both were given these supplements in pill form. The results, 38% of patients in the saw palmetto group saw improvement while 68% of the patients taking Finasteride had positive results.
Most recently in 2015, a study was done using saw palmetto topically for 24 weeks. During this time, the average hair count and terminal hair count increased at weeks 12 and 24 weeks. However, because there was no control group in this study, the scientists could not compare their findings in men not using saw palmetto.
Though these studies show some success in using saw palmetto for slowing hair loss and regenerating hair growth, the science community is not convinced because of the varying results. Personally, I think that the current findings are worth investigating if you are experiencing hair loss. As always, please consult with your physician before beginning any supplement.
Guest Blogger Deidre shares how to use Saw Palmetto in her regimen:
Saw Palmetto helps to nourish the scalp and encourages hair growth. In order to see the benefits of less shedding Saw Palmetto must be used regularly for 2-3 months to notice significant differences.
How to use it in your regimen
Saw Palmetto comes in a powder, whole fruit, extracts, or capsules.
-infuse the powder with a carrier oil for frequent scalp massages to attack shedding directly
-mix the powder with a deep conditioner, or other powders to apply directly to your scalp.
-mix the powder with water, aloe vera juice, for a herbal tea and use that herbal tea to mix a DIY deep conditioner
-the capsules can also be ingested
Have you tried Saw Palmetto?