The most common saw palmetto effects include reducing the size of the prostate and reducing inflammation in the bladder. To a lesser extent, saw palmetto is also used to increase breast size and prevent hair loss, although the effectiveness of these uses is unclear. Europeans most commonly use saw palmetto for medical and personal needs, but other countries are starting to see how positive these saw palmetto effects can be, and its use is increasing in other locations.
Among the different saw palmetto effects, prostate health receives the most attention and study. As men age, the prostate turns testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which encourages the growth of prostate cells. As this happens, difficulty or painful urination can result, and an enlarged prostate may prompt fears of cancer. While DHT is responsible for a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), it is not malignant. Saw palmetto extract, which comes from saw palmetto berries, is thought to help this condition by preventing the testosterone from being turned into DHT, thus preventing the enlargement of the prostate as a natural result.
Reducing inflammation in the bladder is another benefit of saw palmetto. Saw palmetto extract may have some anti-inflammatory properties, which could help with nearly all types of inflammation, although bladder inflammation is one of the most common uses. Thus, reduction of inflammation in the bladder should help improve urine flow and lead to better continence overall. Depending on the cause of the inflammation, however, saw palmetto may not be the most effective choice.
Another one of the saw palmetto effects often mentioned is the prevention of hair loss. Although the connection between saw palmetto and hair loss has never been proven completely, some believe the extract can have an effect on androgen receptors, which could play a role in hair loss, especially in male and female pattern baldness. The exact nature of how androgen receptors affect hair loss, and how saw palmetto may interact with those receptors, has never been clinically proven.
Of all the common saw palmetto effects, its use in women to promote increased breast size, and as a hormonal treatment, may be the most controversial. Saw palmetto extract may have an effect on the hormonal balance of both men and women. For women who are tempted to use saw palmetto for bladder inflammation or other reasons, care should be taken especially if pregnant, breast feeding, or using hormonal forms of birth control. The effects of saw palmetto may increase breast size as the result of hormonal manipulation, but could also cause other hormone imbalances.