Saw palmetto is often found in many commercial testosterone boosters but there is a clear divide by many in the fitness industry as to whether or not it should be used to increase t-levels.
While studies have shown that saw palmetto may be beneficial for men’s health, there is the question of whether or not it can be used as an effective testosterone booster.
Let’s take a look at what saw palmetto is, where it comes from, and what the science says about its reported benefits.
What is Saw Palmetto?
The supplement form of saw palmetto is an extract of the fruit with the same name.
Saw palmetto is a popular supplement that is marketed as a way to improve prostate health in a safer way than commercial prescription strength medications such as finasteride, which is known to cause several side effects.
Health Benefits of Saw Palmetto
Before I discuss the potential benefits as they relate to boosting your testosterone levels, let’s take a look at some other ways that saw palmetto may be able to better your health.
May Improve Prostate Health
- In particular, saw palmetto supplements are commonly used by men with benign prostatic hyperplasia, more commonly referred to as an enlarged prostate.
Men with prostate cancer also take saw palmetto, which I’ll talk more about below.
Studies show that saw palmetto is able to block the conversion of testosterone into its far more androgenic counterpart dihydrotestosterone.
DHT has been linked to several male androgen issues including balding and an enlarged prostate. (1, 3)
May Decrease Risk of Prostate Cancer
- Studies are still not in complete agreement about this but some experts believe that saw palmetto is able to reduce the risk for prostate cancer.
As mentioned above, testosterone is converted into DHT, which is suggested to play a part in the development of an enlarged prostate as well as prostate cancer.
Some studies show that since saw palmetto is able to block the conversion of testosterone into DHT, it may be able to decrease the risk of prostate cancer. (2, 3)
May Boost Urinary Tract Health
- Most men who have an enlarged prostate suffer from difficulty urinating and needing to urinate more frequently.
Saw palmetto has been found in several studies to be a natural and effective way to decrease the frequency of urination.
It’s also been shown to support the urinary tract, allowing men to urinate normally. (4)
May Stop Hair Loss
- When you visit your dermatologist at the first signs of balding, the doctor is going to write you a prescription for a DHT-blocker, typically finasteride or minoxidil.
The brands you’d recognize from these medications are Proscar and Rogaine.
While both have been found to be successful at halting hair loss, they also come with a longer list of potential side effects.
Saw palmetto is a natural alternative to these costly medications.
Saw palmetto has been shown to block the conversion of testosterone into DHT, which has been linked to male and female pattern baldness. (1)
Clinical Studies of Saw Palmetto and Testosterone
While saw palmetto clearly has benefits that are specific to men, what impact does it have on testosterone levels?
As discussed above, we know that saw palmetto can effectively block testosterone from being converted into DHT.
The more DHT you have, the greater your chances for hair loss, enlarged prostate, and urinary tract issues.
In theory, if testosterone isn’t converted into DHT, you should have higher levels or at least healthy levels of testosterone. Does the science back this up?
In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, saw palmetto successfully increased testosterone levels while decreasing DHT levels.
What’s unique about this study is that it demonstrated that the usage of saw palmetto is not dose dependent.
In other words, you will get the same results if you use 1,000 mg compared to 2,000 mg. This makes it an affordable and effective way to support testosterone levels. (5)
In another study published in Prostate, this human-based study surrounding prescription DHT-blockers demonstrated a correlation between stopping the conversion of testosterone into DHT and higher levels of total testosterone in the body.
Since saw palmetto captures the same benefits of prescription DHT-blockers without the side effects, it is an excellent choice for a natural and effective way to increase testosterone levels. (6)
Does Saw Palmetto Decrease Testosterone?
No, saw palmetto does not decrease testosterone levels in men. It does prohibit the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, allowing you to avoid DHT-based conditions such as hair loss and an enlarged prostate while supporting healthy t-levels.
What are the side effects of Saw Palmetto?
Side effects of saw palmetto are rare.
The side effects that you’re most likely to experience are the following:
Isn’t Blocking DHT a Bad Thing?
One of the primary reasons that many anabolic focused websites and resources swear off saw palmetto is due to the fact that is blocks DHT production.
DHT is more anabolic and androgenic than testosterone; however, this comes at a price.
High levels of DHT have been associated with hair loss, an enlarged prostate, urinary tract complications, and a higher risk for prostate cancer.
Testosterone, on the other hand, has not been linked to any of those conditions.
Also, just because you have higher levels of an androgen in your body doesn’t mean you’ll look like a bodybuilder overnight.
Higher levels of DHT may be useful for guys who are actively chasing after muscle building but, again, it’s not guaranteed.
Decreasing your levels of DHT to support healthier levels of testosterone shouldn’t be viewed as a negative.
You’ll have more hair, a healthier prostate, and the same chance at building muscle mass.
A decrease in DHT will not impact muscle building; however, having low testosterone levels will.
Saw Palmetto and Testosterone – The Bottom Line
If you want a natural way to support testosterone levels while avoiding androgen-based side effects from DHT, saw palmetto is the way to go.
Don’t listen to the bro-science about how a slight decrease in DHT will kill your gains.
With more testosterone and slightly less DHT, you’ll still be able to build serious muscle in the gym and you’ll have more hair to show for it.
- “What You Should Know About Saw Palmetto for BPH.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/men/prostate-enlargement-bph/supplement-guide-saw-palmetto#1.
- Opoku-Acheampong AB, Penugonda K, Lindshield BL.
Effect of Saw Palmetto Supplements on Androgen-Sensitive LNCaP Human Prostate Cancer Cell Number and Syrian Hamster Flank Organ Growth. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.
2016;2016:8135135. doi: 10.1155/2016/8135135. Epub 2016 May 4.
- Bonnar-Pizzorno RM, Littman AJ, Kestin M, White E.
Saw palmetto supplement use and prostate cancer risk. Nutr Cancer.
- Suzuki M, Ito Y, Fujino T, et al.
Pharmacological effects of saw palmetto extract in the lower urinary tract. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica.
- Angwafor F, Anderson ML.
An open label, dose response study to determine the effect of a dietary supplement on dihydrotestosterone, testosterone and estradiol levels in healthy males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr.
2008 Aug 12;5:12. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-5-12.
- Di Silverio F, Monti S, Sciarra A, Varasano PA, Martini C, Lanzara S, D’Eramo G, Di Nicola S, Toscano V.
Effects of long-term treatment with Serenoa repens (Permixon) on the concentrations and regional distribution of androgens and epidermal growth factor in benign prostatic hyperplasia. Prostate.
1998 Oct 1;37(2):77-83.