Saw Palmetto for Acne

Acne is one of the most common and widely spread chronic skin disorders affecting millions of people around the globe.

In the United States alone, it affects 17 million people every year.

The symptoms of acne include a breakout of pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads along with inflammation and redness or scarring of the skin.

At times these inflammations reach deep down under the skin developing cysts and nodules and causing a more severe form of cystic or nodular acne respectively.

A lot of methods and medications have been introduced with time which ranges from anti biotic to various herbal and home remedies.

The aim of this article is to discuss the effectiveness of the herbal remedy of saw palmetto in treating acne and to elaborate its mechanism of action towards the same.

What is Saw Palmetto?

Saw palmetto is basically plants resembling a palm tree that produces flowers with berries. Its maximum length can be 10 feet in very warm climate.

It is the berry of this plant that serves the medicinal purposes of the plant and has long been used as an herbal remedy for many ailments.

It is used as an alternative medicine widely around the world to treat symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

It has also been known to treat various bladder and urinary problems.

It has been largely recommended as a treatment of acne because of its ability to inhibit the rising testosterone levels thereby attacking hormonal acne and the very root cause of acne breakouts.

Saw palmetto - How does it treat acne?

The ability of saw palmetto has been attributed to two qualities that it possesses.

Firstly, it is effective in inhibiting the action of 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme that facilitates the conversion of testosterone antibiotic active form of dihydrotestosterone.

This is known to cause the excessive secretion of sebum from the sebaceous glands.

Thus by interfering with the activity of 5-alpha reductase, it tends to attack the problem of acne from its very root cause.

Secondly, it contains fatty acids and flavonoids which help towards the improvement if the health of the skin while fatty acids keep the skin moisturized.

Saw Palmetto Dosage

Though the dosage of saw palmetto may differ from age to age and between genders depending on the severity of the condition and the kind of condition being treated, its standardized dose has been estimated at 320 mg per day.

Since it usually comes in a capsule form with the concentration of 160 mg, 2 capsules can be taken in a day.

Benefits and possible side effects of saw palmetto

Saw palmetto is used not only for acne problems but also to treat various other medical conditions and as such its benefits in general have been enumerated below:

  • It is used as a sexual rejuvenator and often as a treatment for impotence
  • It is effectively used to treat prostate enlargement. This condition if untreated might cause problems in urination and sensation of swelling in the pelvic
  • It is often used to treat weak urinary organs in older men and women
  • Since it strengthens the urinary organs, it has been recommended in the treatment of kidney stones
  • Athletes often use it as a substitute for steroids in order to increase their muscle mass
  • It may be effective towards improving weakness and weight loss

Possible Side effects

The side effects related to saw palmetto are very rare and minor. They have been listed as below:

  • It might cause dizziness and nausea
  • It may result in headache and vomiting
  • On the one hand it can cause constipation while on the other it may result in diarrhea
  • Very rare cases of impotence have also been reported
  • Two reports of liver damage have come up because of in taking saw palmetto capsules
  • One case of pancreas damage has also been reported after saw palmetto dosage

Precaution while using Saw Palmetto

In order to ensure maximum effectiveness of saw palmetto and also not suffer the abovementioned side effects, the following precautions must be maintained:

  • Because it affects the activity of the hormones, it is not safe during pregnancy or while breast feeding. Therefore, it is advised that you do not take saw palmetto during pregnancy or while breast feeding
  • It might slow blood clotting and therefore must not be used 2 weeks before and after a surgery as it may cause extra bleeding
  • You must consult a doctor before using saw palmetto
  • The doctor must be informed about all other prescriptive and non prescriptive drugs that you are taking along with any other herbal supplements
  • Saw palmetto might interfere with the absorption of iron in the body.

Drug interaction

Saw palmetto is known to react with the following medicines and herbal supplements and therefore either should not be taken with them or one must be careful while taking them together:

  • Birth control pills: Since saw palmetto decreases the effect of estrogen, it might also decrease the effect of contraceptives and therefore it is not enough usually to take only one kind of contraception. You must take other kinds of birth control as well, for example, condoms
  • Estrogen pills: Since saw palmetto tends to decrease the effectiveness of estrogen pills
  • Anti coagulant/ anti platelets: it is known to slow blood clotting and therefore might not be taken with other medicines which have the same effect as it may increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. These medicines include aspirin and warfarin among others.

It should not be used along with other herbs that slow blood clotting because of the same effect. Such herbs include garlic, clove, ginger, turmeric, among others.

What users say about using saw palmetto for acne

We did an analysis of online consumer reviews to determine the effectiveness of saw palmetto in treating acne breakouts based on the experience consumers have had.

Here is a summary of what they liked and disliked about it:

What they liked about it:

  • Oiliness: Many consumers experienced an ample reduction in the oiliness of their skin. This was really helpful as extreme oiliness of the skin often adds to the frequency and severity of acne breakouts. Curbing oiliness is an effective way of controlling acne breakouts.
  • Reduces spots: Saw palmetto was seen to result in a rampant reduction of spots in many consumers. They were very relieved with this because it meant that they could rely just on this one product to deal with both the breakouts and the acne induced scarring and the pimple marks
  • Soft skin: A lot of consumers experienced softer and suppler skin than before on using saw palmetto. This is because while its interference with the hormones assisted in cutting out the excessive oil, the presence of fatty acid at the same time helped in keeping the skin moist and retaining its moisture.

What they did not like about it:

  • Headache: A few consumers experienced mild to moderate headache on the consumption of saw palmetto capsules. This might result from the changes in internal hormones. The cases however have been relatively few and rare.
  • Breakouts: Some consumers said that they had breakouts even worse than before when they started using saw palmetto. This might be because of the interference with hormones. However these out breaks are extremely rare and the consumer need not be worried about it.


Saw palmetto is an herbal supplement with extremely rare and mild side effects.

It attacks acne vulgaris at the very root of the cause and has been extremely effective in its treatment.

It will cut out the production of excess sebum correcting the excessive oiliness of the skin and go on to make your skin soft, supple and glowing.

The moisture provided by fatty acid will further protect the skin from damage due to exposure to local pollution, thereby curbing irritation of the skin.

If you have a long history of hormonal acne, this might just be the solution to your problems.

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