Firsthand experiences XI: Saw palmetto & nettle

Why do men turn to the extract of palm tree berries to try to stop hair loss? Prescription drugs may be unavailable or too costly, while the plant-based supplement can be bought over-the-counter, avoiding a consultation with a doctor. Some see the natural option as having a lower risk of side effects.

The supplements are derived from the saw palmetto, a small palm whose botanical name is Serenoa repens. The capsules contain a powdery extract of its dried berries. Since it is considered a supplement in the United States, product purity and concentration are not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration. Some blended hair loss supplements, such as Nutrafol, include saw palmetto.

Saw palmetto berries. The supplement bought over-the-counter contains powder of the dried berries. Image credit: Fanatic Cook blog

Saw palmetto has been confirmed to have the same effect as finasteride, which is to inhibit an enzyme that produces a male sex hormone. The supplement has been widely used to try to stop hair loss, as well as treat symptoms of an enlarged prostate. Research has identified other plants with the same inhibitory effect on the enzyme, including turmeric, stinging nettle and acacia bark (Srivilai et al., 2019).

Research and regulatory reviews have not identified significant safety concerns linked to saw palmetto. A U.S. health agency advises that it “may cause mild side effects, including digestive symptoms or headache.” Yet online, it is not difficult to find reports of men with adverse experiences which resemble post-finasteride syndrome. The same experiences have been reported after using dutasteride. This would suggest that the disorder is caused not specifically by finasteride, but by any inhibitor of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, whether a pharmaceutical or plant-based product. (A more accurate, albeit awkward term would be post-5-alpha reductase inhibitor syndrome.)

Below are reports from men who said they developed a post-treatment syndrome which they link to previous use of saw palmetto, plus one report linked to nettle seeds. As mentioned earlier, research has demonstrated that stinging nettle is, along with saw palmetto, finasteride and dutasteride, an inhibitor of 5-alpha reductase.

See also: Research on saw palmetto and other natural 5-AR inhibitors

“I’d ask for help but I don’t think anyone can”

I want to inform you that after 7 months, I am still experiencing genital numbness, shrinkage and rely on cialis to achieve erection. Libido is almost completely gone. All after quitting Saw Palmetto, which I tool for a year. I’ve done excessive testing (urological, neurological, endocrinologist…) and everything turned out fine. Yet, I am suffering from these extreme side effects. I seem to be one of the unlucky ones who got hit with PFS because of Saw Palmetto, which I didn’t think was possible at all. I’d ask for help but I don’t think anyone can. I only hope this information might be helpful to you about the dangers of 5AR-i.

Reader email to BaldingBlog, Mar 19, 2022

Libido is almost completely gone.

Saw palmetto – no libido and more side effects…

Hey guys.

About a year ago I was taking saw palmetto 320mg twice daily for about 1-2 months. This was the moment my life has changed completely – for the worse. My libido drastically went down, I can still do sex, but it is way worse, not that pleasant anymore and erections way weaker. But there are more side effects. I am now a completely different person – I don’t feel emotions, I don’t care about things. Life has lost its “magic”, just like that.

Before I took SP my libido was so high, I had to do the thing minimum once a day, I could not resist any single day. I often had great and happy days, I was so energetic, motivated to do many things, way more confident. I also had very good body (I worked out hard) and now I lost so much muscles – people who haven’t seen me for about a year they say “Your so skinny” or “What happened to you?” or this one hit me “you were the kind of guy nobody would mess, what happened to you?”. Hearing these things and knowing that something is wrong hurts.

Well yeah – I stopped working out (it was the time I was taking SP). I feel internally that I can’t do the things I could do. This shit fucked me up. I need help please, I’m 27 old male.

Post on r/LowLibidoCommunity, Jul 31, 2017

zero sex drive… no emotions… penile shrinkage…
I was a completely different person. I was only 17 at the time! Utterly destroyed me.

Saw Palmetto Utterly Destroyed my Life

Hello

I am making this post to hopefully save some lives that would possibly be ruined over vanity, despite the odds.

When i was 17 years old i started balding rapidly so i visited this site. I was far too young for propecia and i [read] propeciahelp so i was well aware of PFS [post-finasteride syndrome] and didn’t want to ruin my life. I was very close to becoming a professional athlete and hairloss was only bothering me because i was still in school. 

I read some saw palmetto horror stories on the web and i didn’t beleive it. I knew that PFS was very rare so i didn’t even consider that saw palmetto would ruin my life. 

I started taking SP extract 4 years ago. After 4 weeks i started getting terrible Testicular pain and lowered libido. At the time i didn’t connect the dots so i kept taking it. The Testicular pain got so bad that i quit the saw palmetto. 

For the next 2 weeks i felt incredible. Libido was sky high, Testicular pain was gone. Then bam i woke up one day a completely different person. I had full blown PFS like 20 other men ive found that used SP.

The effects i was dealing with 
-zero sex drive  
-Brain fog
-no emotions 
-Fatigue 
-body hair fell out
-Penile shrinkage 
-loss of wood

I was a completely different person. I was only 17 at the time! Utterly destroyed me. I lost my professional career. I lost my girlfriend. I lost my identity and i lost my life. All my hope’s and dreams shattered. 

That was 4 years ago. Im no better only worse. I tried TRT and it did nothing. 

All over vanity. Im NW6 now at age 21 and i couldn’t care less! Its honestly heartbreaking that one small mistake ruined my life. 

Im housebound, unemployed and have lost literally everything i [live] for. The only thing that cannot be stolen from me is hope that one day PFS will be solved. 

I hate to fear monger but i just thought id share my story. Even if it stops one guy from risking his life over vanity. Most people will quit finasteride/SP and recover but thousands won’t. I thought it could never happen but it did. 

Hairloss is so insignificant. You only realize when your entire body is ruined. 

Please be safe

Post by Ple*** on HairLossTalk, Feb 3, 2016

So I am the first victim [from] eating nettle seeds… A full year has passed, I have many symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, numbness of the penis, lack of sexual desire, curvature of the penis and poor sperm quality…

A case after using nettle seeds

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been demonstrated to have 5-alpha reductase inhibitory activity (Nahata & Dixit, 2014).

So I am the first victim who happend this to him after eating nettle seeds, as I saw i didn’t find any […]

A full year has passed, I have many symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, numbness of the penis, lack of sexual desire, curvature of the penis and poor sperm quality, I did not see any improvement except in the sensitivity of the penis, it became a little better

Thank you for your time .. I jus so sad [this] happend to me at a young age i just hope to get better someday

Personal communication with user @jafar_alaboody via Twitter direct message on Apr 8, 2023. User lives in Jordan in the Middle East. Posted with the user’s permission.

Saw Palmetto Killed My Friend

I met a young guy through a friend who was going through minor hair loss in his late teens. He was scared straight by the finasteride horror stories, so decided to use saw palmetto instead, only briefly. Beta-sitosterol is the active ingredient – a phytosteroid. He stopped the saw palmetto but the damage was done. What followed was 18 months of gradual deterioration of muscle, bone, collagen, complete baldness, aggressive acne, impotence, no libido, physical weakness, awful sleep, awful digestion, anxiety and depression.

He committed suicide two days ago.

Post by muj*** on Ray Peat Forum, Sep 7, 2016

Video: Post Finasteride/Saw Palmetto Syndrome: The Dangers of 5AR Inhibitors

This video is by the person referred to in the post immediately above. RIP.

Video posted on PFS Recovery channel – Feb 28, 2016

I’ve been a eunuch for basically two years now with deformed numb genitals. I’m giving it an extra couple of months but then I’m done.

“All the hallmark pfs symptoms”

I only took saw palmetto and have all the hallmark pfs [post-finasteride syndrome] symptoms. Utterly destroyed my life.

I’ve been a eunuch for basically two years now with deformed numb genitals. I’m giving it an extra couple of months but then I’m done.

Comment by gun*** on r/tressless, Oct 25, 2021

More firsthand experiences