The use of saw palmetto for acne treatment has anecdotally proven successful for some people. This herbal supplement has reported potential to treat a variety of ailments, including hormone imbalances, which may also be responsible for some cases of acne. How saw palmetto works is not fully understood, and its medicinal qualities are not scientifically proven. The efficacy of saw palmetto for acne is therefore questionable.
The saw palmetto tree is small with long, narrow palm leaves. It is native to the eastern coastline of the United States and is found particularly in the southeastern regions. Saw palmetto produces a fruit historically used by the Seminole Tribe of Florida to treat various ailments. Today, those deep red berries are often sold commercially in capsule, tablet, liquid extract and infused tea varieties. Some people take saw palmetto supplements for its healing properties, believed to treat numerous ailments from urinary disorders to hormone imbalances.
Hormones may become imbalanced at different points throughout a person’s life. Puberty, menstruation periods, pregnancy and menopause are key times for these changes. While the exact cause of acne is essentially unknown, some health care professionals speculate that it is linked to hormone surges. Androgens such as testosterone are male hormones present in the bodies of women and men which may produce an oil surplus that ultimately clogs hair follicles and spurs bacteria growth, thus leading to acne.
One of the most effective ways to treat acne may be to determine its underlying cause. Some reports indicate that acne sufferers have increased activity of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. This is the substance that chemically converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Activity of this enzyme may indicate hormone imbalances that lead to acne, and people with such conditions may benefit from saw palmetto use. It is often difficult to understand hormonal imbalances, however, without diagnosis from a licensed health professional.
Saw palmetto is sometimes taken for treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia. This is because the supplement may inhibit the conversion of testosterone into DHT. DHT is reportedly more potent than its predecessor and may promote acne in excessive amounts. As saw palmetto is thought to help regulate hormone production in the body, some people believe it may be a natural treatment for acne.
In some cases, saw palmetto supplements seemed to clear and even prevent skin pimples or blemishes. Despite the continued use of saw palmetto for acne, health experts caution that no scientific studies have demonstrated its efficacy. Saw palmetto is sold as a dietary supplement, so it is not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The effects of this supplement on the body are not fully understood, and people are advised to exercise caution with its use.
Those who use saw palmetto for acne treatment need to understand that it may not produce desired results. The causes of acne are likely different for each person, and solutions must often be tailored to accommodate individual needs. In addition to hormone fluctuations, other sources of acne may include stress and diet. For these people, saw palmetto may not be an effective remedy because the underlying cause is not related to hormones.