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Reduce PCOS Thinning Hair & Excessive Body Hair Growth With Saw Palmetto

Reduce PCOS Thinning Hair & Excessive Body Hair Growth With Saw Palmetto

One of the most difficult side effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) for some women is hair thinning and/or excess facial and body hair growth, known as Hirsutism. Not all women with PCOS experience this, but many do. It can be extremely hard to control and embarrassing, lowering the quality of life for these women.

“Over 95% of women who have all three of the classic signs of obesity, hirsutism and/or irregular menses, have PCOS,” according to Dr. Tori Hudson, N.D. In women with Hirsutism related to PCOS, there is a link pointing to excessive androgenic hormones. These androgenic hormones include testosterone, androstenedione, and DHEA. Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of the androgen testosterone. Testosterone present in excessive levels, as found in some women with PCOS, is converted to much stronger dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase. DHT is thought to be responsible for male pattern baldness in men, but also thinning hair in women. This may also cause excessive hair growth in unwanted areas in women, especially on the face.

A study performed in 2009 by the Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, at the University of Birmingham, UK, found that both obese and normal weight women with PCOS had higher levels of 5 alpha-reductase than women with the same BMIs that do not have PCOS. The study shows that women with PCOS have the ability to convert testosterone to DHT more easily than women who do not have PCOS. This creates excessive levels of DHT in women with PCOS. This is why women with PCOS often have Hirsutism.

The berries of Saw Palmetto have been found to inhibit DHT production by reducing 5 alpha-reductase production, which may help prevent Hirsutism in women with PCOS.

What is Saw Palmetto?

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a small palm. It is the only plant species classified in the genus Serenoa. It is native to the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains of the United States. This plant is a 70 million dollar-a-year industry for the state of Florida due to its medicinal actions. Parts of the Saw Palmetto that are used are the berries, heart of the palm, and the fronds. The berry looks much like an olive. The berry has been said to taste like an intense sweet, slight vanilla flavor at first, then like a very strong blue cheese ending in tobacco or pepper juice flavor. This sounds pretty disgusting and may be why this plant is most often taken by capsule or liquid extract.

Coastal Native American Indians ate Saw Palmetto berries regularly to sustain health. They are very high in essential fatty acids and natural sugars. The berries were used to treat debilitating conditions as a general tonic. Older Seminole Indians called the berries the “spring of life”. Today Saw Palmetto is most popular for being used as a natural medicine for improving prostate health in men.

How Does Saw Palmetto Work to Reduce the Incidence of Hirsutism?

It appears Saw Palmetto may aid PCOS Hirsutism in the following ways…

  • Increases DHT breakdown
  • Inhibits DHT production
  • Reduces 5 alpha-reductase activity
  • Inhibits DHT binding to androgen receptor sites

Many naturopathic physicians have found that Saw Palmetto greatly helps women grow their thinning head hair back, while also reducing unwanted facial and body hair growth.

Other Ways Saw Palmetto May Help With PCOS
Women with PCOS usually have high levels of estrogen, and low levels of progesterone; known as estrogen dominance. This may cause uterine hypertrophy, also known as endometrial hyperplasia. Excessive levels of estrogen may cause excessive cell proliferation of the endometrium. The endometrium is the inner-most layer of the uterus. Saw Palmetto is strengthening for the body tissues, aiding in proper formation and function of the uterine cells. It has also been found to lower the incidence of acne associated with PCOS.

Suggested Dosage for Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto takes time to be effective. It is suggested for use over a 6-week period, taking notes of any improvements over that time. If improvements are noted, it may be continued on for best results.

Suggested Dosage Capsule: 400mg capsule a day
Suggested Dosage Liquid Extract: 1 tsp. liquid extract a day

*Saw Palmetto combines well with Vitex, Licorice Rt. and Nettles Root for reduction of PCOS. Licorice has also been found to reduce serum testosterone levels in women with PCOS.

*Saw Palmetto also combines well with Damiana to support healthy libido at an equal ratio 1:1 for increasing libido.

Because this plant has anti-androgenic effects, manipulating some hormone levels in the body, it is not suggested for combination with any type of medications for fertility that also affect hormone levels. Speak with your doctor prior to using Saw Palmetto if you plan on taking medications for PCOS. Do not use Saw Palmetto prior to getting hormone testing for any fertility issue. Saw Palmetto may affect the test results. Do not use Saw Palmetto during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Saw Palmetto has been found safe for long-term use in most cases. Talk to your doctor or natural health care practitioner to see if Saw Palmetto is right for you.


Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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  1. Avatar

    Thankyou for sharing this information

  2. Avatar

    Thank you for providing this good piece of information.

  3. Avatar

    I am 45 years old and have PCOS, my acupuncturist has prescribed me the Blossom phase 1, 2, 3 & 4 fertility supplements as I’m trying to conceive. I’ve noticed my hair has been thinning for some time. Is it safe to use Saw Palmetto or will this affect my hormones? I am also taking Ubiquinol. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Dear Samantha,

      It is going to be best to discuss taking Saw Palmetto with the supplements she/he has you on… to ensure the combination is fine and that it’s not already in one of the phases. I am not an expert in the products or Chinese herbs.

      My best!

  4. Avatar

    I have had laser surgery on the sides of my neck 4 years ago. Hair has regrown in other areas of my face (chin, upper lip, cheeks).
    I don’t have PCOS but I have had a fibroids diagnosis 6 years ago. My periods are normal, with some cramps here and there when I ovulate.
    I went to a laser clinic last week and the doctor advised me to try Saw Palmetto (+Vitex) to rebalance my hormones. The Pharmacist told me to go with SP first, as combining 2 supplements would not give me clarity about which of the 2 is effectively working.

    I have been taking 2x160mg SP pills since then, and the facial hair is already very thin and slow to grow. This is a more manageable rate for me.
    I recommend SP! 🙂

    • This is great to hear Ana!

    • Avatar

      Several years ago, I tried taking saw palmetto, and it made my eyes extremely dry. I had to quit taking it. Now taking maca powder in my coffee and taking a spearmint capsule in addition to taking prescription Metformin. The maca and spearmint help, but not with the dark hairs at my upper lip area. Wondering if saw palmetto tea topically applied would be of benefit?

    • Dear Jan,

      I have not heard of the topical application of Saw Palemtto working the same way it works when taken internally.

  5. Avatar

    I am a 32-year-old woman with PCOS (high testosterone, androstendion, lh) and I am suffering from hair loss pretty bad. I can already see my scalp through my hair and I feel that my scalp is irritated quite often. I’ve already added peppermint and teatree-oil into my shampoo.
    I am ttc and I’m on Metformin for 4 weeks now. My question is:
    Could I take Saw Palmetto and Metformin and my medication for the thyroid? (along with b12, biotin, omega and zinc) to stopp the hairloss?
    I can not ask my endocronologist and my gynocologist, because the honestly don’t have a clue what to do about the hair loss (and about pcos).
    Thank you very much for your help in advance! Greetings from Germany!

  6. Avatar

    Hi, I’m a 31yo. I came across your site in search of alternative means from OC and SPIRO. All my life I have had horrible acne due to my PCOS, I have not found relief from any dermalogical agents either. I have been on countless forms of OC for many years, main problematic issue depression, along with other side effects experienced. I recently had my Dr call in spiro for me to try, within a few days my heart beat was irregular, an I didn’t feel comfortable taking the medicine any longer. I was considering ACCUTANE to combat my acne once and for all, but then read articles where women’s pcos acne would just return after accutane course treatment. Any suggestions? Thank you

  7. Avatar

    I am 30 year old women and suffering from moderate- severe cystic acne which is more on the jawline and cheeks. I also have Hirsutism and Dandruff problem. I am taking Saw palmetto from last 3 weeks, 1st week it seems to be helping but from last week I am getting very inflamed acne on my jaw line. I am confused, if I should continue it or not. I was taking the whole herb in capsule form and now I bought standardized gel form. Please suggest.

    • Dear Ankita,

      I am sorry to hear this! Well, there can be a period of time of adjustment, where what is called a “healing crisis” happens… things may get slightly worse before they get better. This is often why people quit herbs, yet we herbalists know that in most cases things get better because herbs take time to be as effective and nourishing to the body as they can be.

      I can not know though if this is the case for you. It could be that there is a dietary or added hormonal factor (depending upon where you are at in your cycle). It could be that cutting back on the daily dose will help a bit. Might you try that first before stopping? If you have any known plant allergies, it would be best to stop Saw Palmetto. If the acne gets worse quickly, this is also a sign to stop the herb and seek guidance from an herbalist near you.

      I am not familiar with standardized Saw Palmetto gel.
      I hope you see improvement.

  8. Avatar


    I am a 22 years old girl. I have high levels of dhea which causes excess body hair and acne. I would like to know if Saw Palmetto reduces also DHEA levels in females or not?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Dear Rima,

      Do you know the cause of your elevated levels of DHEA? Women’s DHEA can range from 65 to 395 ug/dL when they are between the ages of 18 to 29. Did your test show more than this? Elevated DHEA is often related to poor/low, or impaired adrenal gland function.

      In trying to explain this simply, some DHEA is transformed by chemical reactions in the body into testosterone, some testosterone is then reduced to DHT. It is believed that elevated levels of DHT in women lead to hirsutism. Saw Palmetto is known to inhibit the reaction that turns testosterone into DHT and this is how it can work to support women with male-patterned hair growth or loss, elevated androgens (male hormones) and cystic acne.

      All that said, will it work alone for you, I can not know for certain. It will be helpful to know why DHEA levels are high.

  9. Avatar

    Saw Palmetto was recommended to me for hair loss. I have been diagnosed as estrogen dominant and use a progesterone cream. Will Saw Palmetto further increase my estrogen dominance?

  10. Avatar

    Hi, I’m 22 years old and have been struggling with hirsutism for about 5 years now. The hair on my head has been gradually thinning over the past 2 years. The dermatologist said my hair follicles are shrinking and that it’s just “female pattern baldness,” and that there’s no cure. Could it still just be from PCOS? Do you think I can treat it and stop the follicles from shrinking and grow my hair back? Thanks.

  11. Avatar

    Hi, I’ve been taking saw palmetto in a liquid form and want to switch over to a capsule. I found one that contained 690 mg of saw palmetto. Is that too much? Thanks.

    • Dear Michal,

      General suggested use of Saw Palmetto is 400mg capsule a day in capsule form for at least 6 week period, up to 6 months before discontinuing the use of this herb to see how the body is functioning on its own.

  12. Avatar

    Hello, I came across your site in my quest to discover reasons why my hairline is receding and I have quite a bit of thinning all over. I am 50 and am not looking to conceive 🙂 However, I do appreciate your information on Saw Palmetto. Since doing my own research as to why I am experiencing hair loss, I have begun eliminating gluten, eating whole and unprocessed foods, and supplementing with saw palmetto and stinging nettle root with hopes of stopping any further hair loss. I was just concerned that the saw palmetto may further disrupt my natural menopausal hormones, possibly causing further chaos for my hair. My ferritin is at 47…I have read that the optimal storage for hair is 70. Help?

    • Hello Carol!

      Hormonal imbalance between estrogen and progesterone, excess androgens or male hormones (namely testosterone), thyroid health, nutrient deficiencies (one of which is iron) and stress can all impact hair health and cause hair loss. Hormones naturally shift in menopause and the production of estrogen by the ovaries declines.

      It may be most helpful to reach out to a healthcare provider or nutritionist to work with who specializes in supporting women in menopause as we specialize is supporting those still in their fertile years. This being said, it may still help to consider the following…
      – sticking with that whole food diet while taking a quality women’s whole food multivitamin and omega 3 supplement
      – eating plant foods rich in iron (Nettles are)
      – exercising daily and
      – working to manage stress

      All my best to you!

    • Avatar

      Thank you so much! I appreciate your response 🙂 Happy New Year!

  13. Avatar

    Hello, can I take maca with saw palmetto? I am trying to conceive. Thanks

  14. Avatar

    I am 40 years old and facing hair fall since last 5 months. One doctor said it’s telogen but other doctor said it’s androgenic alopecia as my DHT is 1200.
    You know for many years I been taking amla and lemon juice as I thought it’s good for hair. But I read citrus fruits are bad for DHT . So should I avoid that or can I take that? I have high DHT.


    • Dear Sushmita,

      Thank you for reaching out to us!

      I have not read conclusive evidence that citrus fruits have a negative effect on DHT levels when taken internally. There are many studies in which Vitamin C is applied topically. This may be a better question to ask your healthcare provider.

      Consider however learning more about Saw Palmetto. The berries of Saw Palmetto have been found to inhibit DHT production.

      I hope this is helpful!

  15. Avatar

    I purchased Saw palmetto by Natures Bounty and it says Promotes prostate & urinary health in men. It has 450mg per tablet. But in the back it says in the warning area “This product is intended for use by men and is not intended for use by women.”

    • Hi Melanie,

      That is so odd! Saw Palmetto is well known for prostate health in men, but I have never heard of it being used exclusively for men. If it contains other ingredients, that may be why. If it is just pure Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) berries, than it is fine for men and women. You may want to call up the makers of that product and ask them why they say it is only for men. Learn more about Saw Palmetto here…

  16. Update 2014 – We are back! We have been away for a while and we sure have missed all of your wonderful questions and thoughts on our articles. Moving forward, one of our staff herbalists will be here to respond to comments! We look forward to connecting with our readers once again!

  17. Avatar

    In response to MW’s comment. I have PCOS, and I have practically the same conditions as you. I am 5′ 6″ and weighed 125 before the birth of my daughter in Oct 2011. (It took many things to get her here!) Now I am on about 10 lbs away from my pre-birth weight. I have had acne for a long time, and a bit of hirtuism. But that was it, I did have a doctor tell me that I didn’t have PCOS because I wasn’t overweight… which I don’t agree with. I didn’t ovulate either, and I don’t have cycles.

    Anyway, I think that you should consider PCOS as very possible diagnosis. To be truthful, the only way that I have ever knowingly ovulated is with clomid. But I actually think that I may have naturally ovulated today; I have been taking all of the suggested herbs on this site and I think that it may worked. Good luck on your journey!

  18. Avatar

    I want to a naturalist and he recommended YAMS, they help the body ovulate naturally.

  19. Avatar

    Hi, i have pcos i have taken several homonal drug yet i dont ovulate,pls i need a solution. Thanks

  20. Avatar

    I would like to order saw palmetto but is unable to find it among the list available on your site. I am about to place an order now and would love to include this.

    • Hi Claudette,

      We do not carry Saw Palmetto in our Natural Fertility Shop. You can find it at your local health food store. I apologize for any inconvenience. In the future, please contact customer service for urgent emails!

      Best Wishes,


  21. Avatar

    I can’t believe with all the informations I got! This is such a very interesting infos….I hope many will get the chance to be informed about this PCOS thing and how the side effect can be combated. Thank you very much for this!

  22. Avatar

    I have been taking vitex for about a year now. We have figured out what my problem is–I do not ovulate. Last month, I went in for an ultrasound on day 14 and I had a 22 mm follicle so they did a trigger shot and I still didn’t ovulate. My doctors says he has never seen the trigger shot not work. For some reason my body doesn’t produce the LH surge to kick the egg out of the ovary (I never get a positive OPK). He says it may be some form of PCOS, but I don’t think it is. I weigh 120 pounds and am 5 ft. 7 in. I do have acne, but not hirsutism. Is there any natural way to make myself ovulate? My doc says IVF is the only thing left to try . . .
    Thank you,

    • Hi MW,

      It may still be possible to have PCOS even when you are thin and do not have all the symptoms. PCOS has a wide range of symptoms and is a very hard to understand syndrome. If you feel you are not getting the best options from your current doctor, you may want to seek a second opinion. Because I am not sure what your entire fertility or health history, including lifestyle is like, there is no real way for me to say if there are natural options that can help you to ovulate regularly. If your doctor is not a Reproductive Endocrinologist, I would suggest getting a referral to one.

      Best Wishes,


  23. Avatar

    How much does Saw Palmeto cost and is it dangerous taking it when trying to conceive?
    Thank you.

    • HI LUCE,

      I am not sure how much Saw Palmetto costs, I am sure it varies by company. Be sure you are getting the highest quality organic product available, or sustainably wild-crafted. It is best to use Saw Palmetto prior to trying to conceive in preparation for pregnancy. Saw Palmetto takes time to be effective. It is suggested for use over a 6 week period, taking notes of any improvements over that time. If improvements are noted, it may be continued on for best results.

      Best Wishes,