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Hormones, especially testosterone, are definitely involved in the health of hair and skin. Testosterone is found in practically every type of tissue including hair, skin and breast. As discussed in Chapter Seven, testosterone is converted in skin and hair into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more potent hormone. An excess of DHT production is linked to a variety of skin disorders such as acne, and even male pattern baldness. An excess amount of DHT interrupts the hair-growth cycle on the scalp by gradually shrinking hair follicles. A condition known as idiopathic female hirsutism (basically, excess hair in the wrong places) is also believed to be due to an overproduction of DHT.

As mentioned earlier, SP is known not only to go to prostate tissue, but to also find its way to skin. In fact, a study in 1984 did show that extracts from SP were able to inhibit androgen metabolism and binding in human foreskin fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are special cells found in skin, specifically connective tissue, that help make collagen. It is likely that SP could have an influence on a variety of skin cells, including sebaceous glands, those little glands that can grow into annoying big pimples. I, personally, have had occasional pimples ever since my teenage years. Although in the past few years the problem has been minimal, I noticed that hardly any pimples developed since I began taking SP. I'm only 40 and don't have prostate problems, but I was taking it while writing this book. I wanted to see if it had any side effects and how it would influence my hair and skin. Also, some reddish areas of my face have turned a healthier skin tone. As to the influence of SP on hair, it is too early to tell. Hair loss takes several months, sometimes years to manifest itself. It is too soon to know what kind of influence SP has on hair loss.

Donald Brown, N.D., a specialist in herbal medicine from Seattle, Washington, thinks SP may play a role in skin, "I have used SP clinically with male and female acne patients with some help," he says, "Tea tree oil applied topically works well, too. I use a concentration of 5 to 15 percent."

Use Alschuler, N.D., Chair of the Botanical Medicine Department at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington, reports, "I've prescribed SP for cystic acne. Since I use a variety of naturopathic remedies, it's difficult to say whether SP had a major role to play in the improvement. I don't think the effects of SP have been remarkable, although patients report that it helps. Perhaps acne requires a much higher dose than 160 mg twice a day. I'm still experimenting."

What about SP's influence on oily skin? Anecdotal reports point to some benefits. One patient tells me, "I've been taking saw palmetto in combination with Pygeum africanum twice a day. I don't know if it does a thing for my hair but it has cleared up a perennial problem with oily skin.

Do Monkeys Need Toupees?

Just like humans, monkeys do get bald, too. In fact, stumptail monkeys have been found to lose their frontal hair in a manner similar to humans. The DHT level in the skin of their frontal scalp is very high. The activity of 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT, is also very high in the frontal scalp of humans.


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The information contained herein is for educational purposes only. It is not medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals. Consult your physician before beginning or making changes in your diet, supplements or exercise program, for diagnosis and treatment of illness and injuries, and for advice regarding medications.