5 Promising Benefits and Uses of Saw Palmetto
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a type of palm native to the southeastern U.S.
The berries of the plant are commonly used in supplements to improve prostate health, balance hormone levels and prevent hair loss in men.
It's also associated with other benefits, including decreased inflammation and improved urinary function.
Here are 5 promising benefits and uses of saw palmetto.
1. Prevents Hair Loss
Hair loss is a common condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, certain medical conditions, hormonal changes, and the use of medications, such as stimulants and blood thinners (1).
Saw palmetto is often used to balance hormone levels and combat hair loss.
According to one review, saw palmetto may help block the activity of 5-alpha reductase (5α-R), an enzyme that converts testosterone into a hormone linked to hair loss called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
In one study, saw palmetto was effective at improving hair growth in 60% of men with male pattern baldness between the ages of 23 and 64 (3).
Another study in 62 adults showed that applying saw palmetto topically for 3 months increased hair density by 35% (2).
Saw palmetto may ward off hair loss and increase hair density by decreasing levels of a specific enzyme related to hair loss.
2. Improves urinary tract function
Saw palmetto may improve urinary symptoms associated with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) — a condition that causes an enlargement of the prostate gland and results in decreased urine flow.
One 12-week study in 92 men showed that taking two capsules daily of Prostataplex, a mix of herbal supplements that includes saw palmetto, helped improve urinary tract symptoms associated with BPH (5).
Similarly, another study in 85 men over the age of 45 found that treatment with 160 mg of saw palmetto twice daily reduced lower urinary tract symptoms, increased urine flow, and improved overall quality of life after 6 months (6).
However, more research is needed to determine whether saw palmetto may also improve urinary tract function in the general population, including for those without prostate issues.
Saw palmetto may improve urinary tract function and could aid in the treatment of urinary tract symptoms caused by BPH. Still, more research is needed.
3. May Support Prostate Health
Some research suggests that saw palmetto could support prostate health and may aid in preventing issues like BPH and prostate cancer.
According to one test-tube study, saw palmetto berry extract was able to decrease the growth of prostate cancer cells (8).
Another test-tube study showed that saw palmetto blocked the spread and growth of prostate cancer cells by deactivating specific receptors involved in cancer development (9).
Further high-quality research is needed to evaluate how saw palmetto may affect prostate health in humans.
Test-tube studies show that saw palmetto may help decrease the growth of prostate cancer cells. It may also help improve symptoms of BPH, but research is inconclusive.
4. May Decrease Inflammation
Some research shows that saw palmetto may have anti-inflammatory properties, which could be beneficial in treating certain conditions.
For example, one study observed that giving saw palmetto extract to mice with enlarged prostate glands decreased swelling and several markers of inflammation, including interleukin 6 (IL-6) (10).
Although these results are promising, additional studies are needed to determine how saw palmetto may impact inflammation in humans.
Saw palmetto is high in antioxidants and has been shown to decrease inflammation in some animal studies. Nonetheless, more high-quality human studies are needed.
5. May Help Regulate Testosterone Levels
Saw palmetto is often used by men looking to boost testosterone levels naturally.
Regulating testosterone levels can impact several aspects of health, including body composition, sex drive, mood, and cognition (17).
Testosterone levels decline with age, and some research shows that low levels of testosterone could contribute to conditions like heart disease (18).
Saw palmetto works by decreasing the activity of 5α-R — an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), another sex hormone, to help preserve testosterone levels in the body (19).
One test-tube study found that the effectiveness of saw palmetto extract was comparable to finasteride in preserving testosterone levels. Finasteride is a medication used to treat hair loss and BPH by reducing the activity of 5α-R (20).
Another study in 40 men observed that treatment with saw palmetto decreased levels of DHT by 32% after 6 months, suggesting that saw palmetto was effective at maintaining testosterone levels (21).
Test-tube and human studies show that saw palmetto could decrease the activity of an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT, helping to maintain testosterone levels naturally.
Forms and Dosage Recommendations
Saw palmetto is widely available in supplement form, making it incredibly easy to add to your daily routine.
Less commonly, it can also be found in ground, dried, liquid extract, or powdered tea form.
Most research is conducted using saw palmetto in dosages of 320 mg per day, often divided into two doses.
Some recommend taking the supplements with food, which can help minimize digestive issues and prevent adverse side effects.
Saw palmetto is available in capsule, softgel, and tablet form, which can be taken in doses of 320 mg per day. It can also be found in ground, dried, liquid extract, or tea form.
Potential Side Effects
Saw palmetto is generally considered safe and has been associated with very few side effects.
Note that saw palmetto is not recommended for everyone.
For example, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking saw palmetto, as it may impact hormone levels (24).
Because it may alter hormone levels, saw palmetto may not be suitable for those taking hormone replacement therapy or hormonal contraceptives either. More research is needed to evaluate its potential effects (25).
Saw palmetto may also interfere with blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin or Coumadin, which can increase bleeding risk (26).
If you have any underlying health conditions, are taking certain medications, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before supplementing with saw palmetto.
Saw palmetto may cause mild side effects and should not be taken by those on certain medications or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The Bottom Line
Saw palmetto is a species of palm used to produce a supplement that's packed with health benefits.
Promising research shows that saw palmetto may help increase testosterone levels, improve prostate health, reduce inflammation, prevent hair loss, and enhance urinary tract function.
However, some studies have turned up mixed results on its effectiveness. Additional large-scale human research is needed to understand how saw palmetto can impact health.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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By Tara Lohan
Warming temperatures on land and in the water are already forcing many species to seek out more hospitable environments. Atlantic mackerel are swimming farther north; mountain-dwelling pikas are moving upslope; some migratory birds are altering the timing of their flights.
Numerous studies have tracked these shifting ranges, looked at the importance of wildlife corridors to protect these migrations, and identified climate refugia where some species may find a safer climatic haven.
"There's a huge amount of scientific literature about where species will have to move as the climate warms," says U.C. Berkeley biogeographer Matthew Kling. "But there hasn't been much work in terms of actually thinking about how they're going to get there — at least not when it comes to wind-dispersed plants."
Kling and David Ackerly, professor and dean of the College of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley, have taken a stab at filling this knowledge gap. Their recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the vulnerability of wind-dispersed species to climate change.
It's an important field of research, because while a fish can more easily swim toward colder waters, a tree may find its wind-blown seeds landing in places and conditions where they're not adapted to grow.
Kling is careful to point out that the researchers weren't asking how climate change was going to change wind; other research suggests there likely won't be big shifts in global wind patterns.
Instead the study involved exploring those wind patterns — including direction, speed and variability — across the globe. The wind data was then integrated with data on climate variation to build models trying to predict vulnerability patterns showing where wind may either help or hinder biodiversity from responding to climate change.
One of the study's findings was that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics and on the windward sides of mountain ranges are more likely to be vulnerable, since the wind isn't likely to move those dispersers in the right direction for a climate-friendly environment.
The researchers also looked specifically at lodgepole pines, a species that's both wind-dispersed and wind-pollinated.
They found that populations of lodgepole pines that already grow along the warmer and drier edges of the species' current range could very well be under threat due to rising temperatures and related climate alterations.
"As temperature increases, we need to think about how the genes that are evolved to tolerate drought and heat are going to get to the portions of the species' range that are going to be getting drier and hotter," says Kling. "So that's what we were able to take a stab at predicting and estimating with these wind models — which populations are mostly likely to receive those beneficial genes in the future."
That's important, he says, because wind-dispersed species like pines, willows and poplars are often keystone species whole ecosystems depend upon — especially in temperate and boreal forests.
And there are even more plants that rely on pollen dispersal by wind.
"That's going to be important for moving genes from the warmer parts of a species' range to the cooler parts of the species' range," he says. "This is not just about species' ranges shifting, but also genetic changes within species."
Kling says this line of research is just beginning, and much more needs to be done to test these models in the field. But there could be important conservation-related benefits to that work.
"All these species and genes need to migrate long distances and we can be thinking more about habitat connectivity and the vulnerability of these systems," he says.
The more we learn, the more we may be able to do to help species adapt.
"The idea is that there will be some landscapes where the wind is likely to help these systems naturally adapt to climate change without much intervention, and other places where land managers might really need to intervene," he says. "That could involve using assisted migration or assisted gene flow to actually get in there, moving seeds or planting trees to help them keep up with rapid climate change."
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis. http://twitter.com/TaraLohan
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.
The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.
"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."
The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.
The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.
The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.
To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.
Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.
It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.
"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.
"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."
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For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.
"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."
To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.
"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."
So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.