Testosterone is classified as a sex hormone found in both men and women. Production of this hormone is regulated by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, and it plays a role in muscle size and strength as well as supporting a healthy sex drive, or libido. Saw palmetto is a popular herb among men because preliminary research has found it beneficial for prostate health. Supplementation with saw palmetto may increase certain forms of testosterone, but do not begin taking this herb without first discussing its use and safety with your physician.
Saw palmetto belongs to the Serenoa repens plant species, and it is native to the southeastern United States. The primary active compounds of this herb includes fatty acids, phytosterols, carotenes, polyphenolic compounds and tannins. Saw palmetto may help reduce inflammation, promote urination and potentially protect the prostate from cancer development.
Effects on Testosterone
Preliminary research has found that saw palmetto hinders the conversion process of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone by more than 40 percent. These findings suggest saw palmetto may have anti-androgenic activity, which means this herb can possibly effect male sex hormones, or androgens. This suggests that saw palmetto may increase testosterone levels by inhibiting up-conversion to dihydrotestosterone. While proponents of this herb claim it can affect testosterone levels and other male hormones, a study outlined by Drugs.com found no change in plasma testosterone levels after supplementing for 30 days.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests consuming saw palmetto in standardized capsule form. While this herb can be taken as a tea, its primary active compounds are not water-soluble, so they may not be transferred from the herb into the water. Consume 160 mg of saw palmetto up to two times per day. Make sure the supplement contains 85 to 95 percent fatty acids and sterols.
As with any natural supplement, discuss the use of saw palmetto with your physician before starting a supplementation routine. While saw palmetto is generally considered safe for healthy adults, side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and gastrointestinal discomfort have been reported. Do not take saw palmetto if you are on anti-coagulants, oral contraceptives or if you are taking iron supplements as this herb may cause adverse reactions.
- National Institute on Aging; Frequently Asked Questions About Testosterone and the IOM Report; August 2009
- MayoClinic.com; Saw Palmetto (Serenoa Repens [Bartram] Small); August 2011
- Drugs.com; Saw Palmetto; 2009
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Saw Palmetto; August 2011
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Saw Palmetto; Steven D. Ehrlich; February 2009