Propecia Vs. Saw Palmetto

Propecia is the leading prescription treatment for hair loss, while saw palmetto is the most common herbal hair loss treatment. Only Propecia has the backing of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a viable method to combat hair loss. While saw palmetto is frequently chosen over Propecia due to the published side effects of Propecia, adverse effects may happen with any supplement and it's advisable to see your physician first.

A lead of the saw palmetto plant. (Image: cturtletrax/iStock/Getty Images)

DHT and Hair Loss

When it comes to pattern hair loss, a major culprit is a hormone known as DHT. The body produces an enzyme, 5-alpha-reductace, which converts testosterone into DHT. DHT attaches itself to hair follicles, which shortens the length of the hair growth cycle. Over time, this shrinks the follicle to the point where it is unable to produce hair that is visible.

Propecia

Propecia is a 1 mg tablet of finasteride. Finasteride was originally developed as a treatment for enlarged prostates. An unintended side effect was that some men in the initial study grew hair. After clinical trials and the approval of the FDA, Propecia was introduced as a hair loss treatment in 1997. Propecia works by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone into DHT and, according to the American Hair Loss Association, can lower DHT levels up to 60 percent when taken daily. The most common side effects from Propecia include erectile dysfunction, a decrease in semen and a reduction in libido. These side effects occurred in less than two percent of the men who took Propecia and disappeared when the drug was discontinued.

Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is an herb used frequently in Europe to treat prostate problems. Like Propecia, saw palmetto is believed to inhibit the production of DHT. However, unlike Propecia, there are no significant clinical studies to support saw palmetto's claim as a hair loss treatment. Saw palmetto has not been tested by the FDA for safety and there are reported side effects. The most common side effects are considered minor and consist of gastrointestinal irritation, including vomiting, constipation or diarrhea and nausea. As saw palmetto is not an approved hair loss treatment, there is no recommended dosage for hair loss.

Which is Best For Hair Loss?

Those wishing to combat hair loss would be better served taking Propecia, as it has been clinically proven to be effective for that use. Its safety is well-established in clinical tests and consumers can feel confident they are getting exactly what they are paying for. Propecia has been proven to be effective in approximately 85 percent of the men who have taken it for hair loss and the odds are in your favor if that is the route you elect to go.

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