When experts hear “saw palmetto,” they often think of it as a treatment for men. That’s because saw palmetto has been most studied for its ability to treat male conditions, particularly benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement of the prostate).
However, what many people don’t know is saw palmetto is just as useful for women. The hormonal balance it provides aids women with many conditions.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, typically have high levels of estrogen and low levels of progesterone, a steroid hormone involved in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. This condition could cause an enlarged uterus or excessive cell proliferation of the endometrium. Saw palmetto could strengthen tissue and aid proper formation of uterine cells.
PCOS is also characterized by testosterone imbalance. Saw palmetto’s effect on hormone levels could reduce symptoms of PCOS due to hormonal imbalance, such as hirsutism, infertility, and irregular menstruation.
Hirsutism is defined as excessive hair growth in androgen-dependent areas, such as the face, arms, and abdomen, and is caused by elevated testosterone levels.
Saw palmetto binds with 5-alpha reductase before it can combine with testosterone to worsen hirsutism, thus preventing excessive hair growth.
Saw palmetto is thought to increase estrogen secretion, which naturally plumps the breast. It may also stimulate production of prolactin, which promotes milk production, so some women take saw palmetto to stimulate production of breast milk.
However, it’s recommended women avoid saw palmetto while breastfeeding, as it may upset the proper hormonal balance necessary for a healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding experience.
Fluctuating hormone levels can trigger skin breakouts. In addition, a build-up of dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, causes excess oil production of the skin, which leads to clogged pores and acne.
Saw palmetto stabilizes and lowers testosterone levels, as well as blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT, so it could reduce the chance of acne from hormonal causes.
DHT buildup can cause thinning of the hair shaft and death of hair follicles. This could lead to hair loss, including thinning and balding.
Because saw palmetto inhibits 5-alpha reductase, which aids conversion of testosterone to DHT, saw palmetto can stop DHT from interfering with hair follicles.
Saw palmetto may support women through times of high bodily stress, which can affect menstrual cycles, hormonal balance, and other conditions.
Some people have reported greater energy, a better mood, and a sense of wellbeing from taking saw palmetto.
Menstrual Cycle Regulation
Saw palmetto has a reputation for easing cramps and regulating the menstrual cycle, although this effect may vary for each user.
At menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels decline. Some herbalists say saw palmetto may prevent atrophy of vaginal and uterine tissue, but further clinical evidence is needed to validate these claims.
Some people have reported better libido, sexual response, and vitality from taking saw palmetto during menopause.
-  Dalene Barton. “Saw Palmetto for Improved Male & Female Fertility.”
-  Stephanie Draus, MD. “Benefits of Saw Palmetto for Women.”
-  Erika Henritz. “The Effects of Saw Palmetto on Women with Too Much Androgens.”
-  “What Are the Benefits of Saw Palmetto for Women?”
-  Bryan Cohen. “Precautions for Saw Palmetto in Women.”
-  “Saw Palmetto for Women.”
-  “aw Palmetto.” WebMD.com.