In a previous post I have discussed the main drawbacks of Propecia, which are the potential side effects that come with it. This led me to stop taking Propecia a few years ago and search for other male pattern baldness (or androgenic alopecia) treatments. One of them is Minoxidil, which is great, however it doesn’t completely solve the hair loss problem because it doesn’t lower DHT levels in the scalp. Natural DHT blockers are perhaps another good treatment option to consider taking with Minoxidil since they work similarly to propecia but have far less side effects, if any.
Saw palmetto and hair loss
Saw palmetto is a plant with small berries that grows in the subtropical area of southeastern United States. It has been used by Native Americans for hundreds of years for treating all sorts of problems such as urinary and reproductive system problems. It is perhaps the most popular natural DHT blocker, and although research is limited, there have been researches that show its effectiveness in preventing or slowing down hair loss. It is believed saw palmetto works similarly to propecia by binding to alpha 5 reductase and blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Saw Palmetto is also used widely as a treatment for symptoms of an enlarged prostate in men, called Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH). In fact, finasteride was first used as a treatment for enlarged prostate in men, and one of its side effects was hair regrowth in patients, which led to its discovery as a male pattern baldness treatment. The connection between prostate health and hair loss might suggest saw palmetto is effective in treating hair loss, and it has been approved in Europe as a treatment for hair loss and for men’s prostate health. Saw palmetto exists in a tablet, capsule, liquid extract, or whole dried berries form. The most common forms are tablets and capsules, and they are also the easiest to consume and the only ones that have been examined by researches. A normal dosage would be 1 or 2 tablets/capsules per day.
Side effects and warnings
Saw palmetto is generally considered safe for use in men and shouldn’t be used by children and pregnant or breast feeding women. Although it is a supplement and not a medicine, it might cause some minor side effects such as stomach irritation, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, or mild headaches. These side effects tend to be mild and reversible. You should consult your doctor before taking it and you must notify your doctor before having any operation or surgery, because saw palmetto has been shown to thin blood, and it may cause excessive bleeding during surgery. It also shouldn’t be taken with other blood thinners.
Saw palmetto vs Finasteride (Propecia)
Since it is a supplement and not a medicine, research is limited and it is not a proven treatment as propecia is. In one two year study, men were given 320 mg of saw palmetto daily or finasteride. About one third of those taking saw palmetto reported an increase in hair growth. It’s pretty good, but it was only half as effective as finasteride. Another study showed a 12 percent increase in hair count after four months of use, in more than half of the 25 participants. It is safe to say that saw palmetto is not as effective as propecia in treating hair loss. It is believed to lower DHT levels but not as much as finasteride. That is why it is better to take it as a complementary treatment and not as a main treatment. For example, taking saw palmetto with minoxidil might be a good combination and one that guarantees results with less side effects than with taking propecia.
Other natural DHT blockers
- Pygeum bark – Pygeum is a herb that’s extracted from the bark of the African cherry tree, and is usually available as a herbal supplement taken orally. There is little research on its effectiveness as a DHT blocker for hair loss, however it is commonly used as a treatment for enlarged prostate and is believed to block some DHT.
- Pumpkin seed oil – Has shown to be successful in blocking DHT. One study found that men taking 400 mg of pumpkin seed oil daily for 24 weeks have experienced an average of 40 percent increase in scalp hair count
- Caffeine – Surprising, isn’t it? While it probably does not block DHT, caffeine has been found to extend and stimulate the life cycle of hair follicles, causing hair to grow longer and healthier.
- Vitamins B-12 and B6 – like caffeine, they don’t block DHT, but they are essential nutrients that improve blood flow to scalp follicles, and as a result promote healthier and thicker hair growth.
Capsules containing a combination of these supplements with saw palmetto are available and are usually the most effective and easy to use option.
Though natural DHT blockers are not as effective and clinically proven as propecia, they have been found to slow hair loss and promote hair in many cases, with less serious side effects. I would not recommend taking these supplements alone though, but rather adding them to a proven treatment such as minoxidil to guarantee results.
Get your natural DHT blocker here.
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