Saw Palmetto and PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment
PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is considered the most prevalent metabolic disorder in women that causes a wide variety of hormonal symptoms. While the frontline strategies involve lifestyle modification and nutritional intervention, women who want to get support from supplements to restore their hormonal balance naturally might consider using saw palmetto for PCOS.
Saw palmetto has historically been used in traditional and folk medicines for centuries. Over the last few years, there has been a growing interest in the benefits of saw palmetto for PCOS. Keep reading to know the effects of saw palmetto on PCOS according to scientific studies.
But before we get into the facts of saw palmetto for PCOS, it’s important to learn the basics of PCOS and saw palmetto in a little bit of detail. So, let’s get started.
Table of contents
- What is PCOS?
- Signs and symptoms of PCOS
- Causes of PCOS
- Health complications of PCOS
- What is saw palmetto?
- How saw palmetto can help with PCOS
- How to use saw palmetto
- Precautions and side effects
- Final words
What is PCOS?
PCOS refers to the polycystic ovarian syndrome, the most prevalent reproductive as well and endocrine disorder in women at reproductive ages. It is mainly caused by high androgen (male hormone) levels and is characterized by serious hormonal imbalances, affecting the functionality of ovaries that lead to various symptoms and health complications.
Signs and symptoms of PCOS
Signs and symptoms may vary depending on the health conditions and may show up more severe in women with excess fat or obesity. Major symptoms include:
Irregular menstruation - Infrequent, irregular, and prolonged menstrual periods are the most common signs in women with PCOS.
Polycystic ovaries - Ovaries may develop small cysts that affect their normal function and cause several irregularities in the reproductive cycles.
Excess androgen (male hormone) levels - Excess androgen levels may cause develop certain male characteristics such as hirsutism in which unwanted hair is grown in the face or other parts of the body in women with PCOS.
Causes of PCOS
Though the exact causes of PCOS are under research and yet to be known, scientists assume that several factors might contribute to developing PCOS, including:
- Excess androgen (male hormone) levels that cause serious hormonal imbalances
- Low-grade inflammation
- Excess insulin levels or insulin resistance
Health complications of PCOS
If left untreated, PCOS may lead to various health complications, such as:
- Premature childbirth
- Sleep apnea
- Prediabetes or diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome with high cholesterol levels and hypertension that may increase the risk of life-threatening cardiovascular diseases like stroke or heart attack
- Emotional issues such as mood swings, depression, and irritation
- Fatty liver or liver inflammation due to excess body fat
- Even certain types of uterine cancer
What is saw palmetto?
Saw palmetto, botanically known as Serenoa repens, is a small palm tree endemic to the south-eastern parts of America especially Florida and Georgia. It has a long history of medicinal use for centuries in traditional and folk medicines used by native Americans in the southeast parts of the U.S.
The herbs, berries, and extracts are used to prepare saw palmetto supplements. It has been found to be highly beneficial in the treatment and prevention of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hormone imbalances (testosterone or estrogen), and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
Besides, saw palmetto has an incredible ability to promote genitourinary health in both males as well as females. It can improve sexual vigor, libido, and chronic pelvic pain syndrome as well.
How saw palmetto can help with PCOS
Saw palmetto contains liposterols (a group of certain fatty acids) such as linoleic, oleic, myristic, and lauric acids. All of these fatty acids play an important role in inhibiting the 5 alpha-reductase enzyme that transforms testosterone into its most potent form DHT (dihydrotestosterone).
Excess androgen levels are the hallmark of PCOS. Saw palmetto has been found to be effective in reducing the uptake of androgens, including both testosterone and its active form DHT.
Another causative factor of PCOS is prolactin, which has been found generally high in women with PCOS and is a dominant cause of infertility and amenorrhea. Excess prolactin can restrain follicle maturation, and ovulation, and increase the risk of developing ovarian cysts. Studies suggest that saw palmetto is capable of blocking prolactin receptors on ovarian cells.
Saw palmetto can prove highly beneficial for women with PCOS by inhibiting 5 alpha-reductase enzymes and reducing elevated androgens and prolactin which are leading causes of PCOS.
How to use saw palmetto
Saw palmetto supplements are available in various forms including liquid extraction and dried extract capsules. Though dosages of saw palmetto may vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and other associated health conditions, it appears most effective at 160 mg to 320 mg daily doses.
But it’s recommended to consult with a naturopathic doctor to ensure what doses would be the best for your specific health conditions.
Precautions and side effects
Saw palmetto supplements are generally considered safe for most people. Common side effects are mild and reversible. They may include headache, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, decreased libido, fatigue, and vertigo. But these side effects are not common for all.
Saw palmetto may interact with other supplements or medications even though there is no evidence. Pregnant, breastfeeding women, children, and those with medications should consult with their healthcare providers before taking any supplements.
Saw palmetto has been used for centuries in folk and traditional medicines of southeast America. Though it is mainly indicated for prostate-related issues, it has an incredible ability to lower elevated androgens and prolactin, two leading causes of PCOS in women. It can reduce both testosterone as well as its most active form DHT (dihydrotestosterone), making it highly beneficial for the treatment and prevention of hormonal imbalances seen in women with PCOS.
Saw palmetto may interact with other supplements or medications and may also cause some mild side effects like vertigo, nausea, and vomiting. Therefore, consult with a professional naturopathic practitioner before starting the saw palmetto.
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